Back in the good ol’ days, we just shouted at the photocopier that we were sure was out to get us, as it ate the only hand-typed copy of our document. Then dawned computers – albeit without luxuries-cum-necessities such as Windows. I remember writing business letters in DOS.
Now, our lives are controlled by machines, and to a large extent, like proverbial frogs in a boiling pot of water, we don’t even recognize the fact – or if we do, we simply don’t know what to do about it. But we have an advantage that we didn’t have way back then: A voice on an international platform… blogs.
What’s brought this topic up recently is a string of frustratingly pointless emails back and forth with algorithms. Around Christmas, Pinterest introduced a new feature – sections within boards. It’s a great feature, theoretically, especially if you have tons of boards or tons of pins in said boards. Theoretically. While migrating my massive collections of pins to new sections, Pinterest constantly blocked me with their “spam filter”; when I did get things done, after the fact, they simply LOST three entire sections (not all at once… one here, one another day, one two days ago)! Now comes the useless algorithmic runaround. They have a limited number of options which you are required to choose from among; if your query is out of the “beginners problems” categories, you’re out of luck. I have never, not once, reached an actual human on Pinterest Help. I did once receive a response from some “one” named “Charlie” – but from the response, it was not human – just another algorithm. They neither help solve problems, take responsibility, or offer an apology. It is what it is, take it or stuff it.
When did “customer service” become pointless? The moment companies realized that they could make money off of the masses without actually bothering with them, that’s when. If that sounds cynical, it probably is – and I don’t often let things ruffle me, but honour is one area that will always get up my nose, as I have a strong sense of justice: When companies or people stop honouring those around them with common courtesies, they will hear about it from me. If Pinterest refuses to add customer service (not just “customer processing”) to their list of skills, it will only be a matter of time before someone comes up with an alternative service with that issue as their strong point; and every disgruntled person of the “mass” will leave Pinterest in the dust, including me. Because despite what some of these online upstart companies seem to think, humanity and human customers should always be the top priority; after all, we can and will make our own decisions, and we will go where we feel wanted, and taken care of.
Algorithms are everywhere; some are more intelligent than others. If you have any amount of online presence, chances are that mega-sites like Google know more about you than your own mother. So what can we frogs do? Unless you’re willing to jump off-grid and become a cyber recluse (which isn’t an option for authors, writers, or most people in the civilized world these days), then let your voice be heard: Write about it on your blog, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – wherever you have a voice. When we’re loud about it, we will be heard; it will stir others to action; it may be a single drop of water, but it may be the one that eventually causes the dam to burst.
If you don’t want to make those waves, then I’d suggest you just pour yourself a piña colada, topped with one of those little bamboo umbrellas, lean back and enjoy the sauna while you can. And if you decide to go for a swim while you’re in there, just watch out for the phishing lines…