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Fear and Loathing in Manila – How I Outsourced Mother’s Day

May 8, 2014

This Is Your Brain On Outsourcing

(Reposted from

I tried to order flowers this afternoon from 1-800-FLOWERS for Mother’s Day.  It was kind of complicated though because Mom’s staying in a physical rehab facility which may not accept UPS deliveries.  So I called customer service and immediately recognized by the twangy English accent on the other end that I’d been routed to the Philippines — which has recently surpassed India as the number one outsourced call center in the world.

Now I have nothing against Filipino customer service, which is generally polite, full of cheer, and knowledgeable.  However, in this case, since my order was so uncertain (800 Flowers doesn’t deliver to hospitals, but Mom’s not technically staying in a hospital, she’s staying in a healthcare facility, etc, etc, etc.) I really, really needed to speak to an American so we could drill down and discuss an American situation filled with American factors and nuances, like rush hour New York City deliveries, UPS policy on drop offs to certain buildings, hospital and rehab center rules on accepting deliveries from florists versus UPS or FEDEX, whether nurses typically take the time to un-box and arrange flowers etc., etc., etc . . .

I’m sorry. The brightest, most brilliant, Einsteinesque Filipino, or Indian, or Chinese person in the world simply could not have adequately addressed my issue, not because Americans are particularly smart, but because these agents don’t have the proper context or prior knowledge to deal with this particular AMERICAN situation.  To make matters worse, my customer service agent had a very harsh accent, and I had to expend considerable effort to make out what she was saying.  I mean she was reeeally sweet, but the conversation was painfully awkward, and I had to fight reeeally hard not to get too frustrated.

But, I did NOT ask to be transferred because I couldn’t understand her English.  That’s a no-no in today’s cold blooded, outsourced corporatist world, and she could easily be fired for not mastering her Master’s language (the Philippines is a former US colony , and we killed over 200 thousand of them in the Spanish American War.  Why isn’t that taught in school?  Hmmmm … )  Anyway, 1-800-Flowers wouldn’t fire her if I complained.  Their third tier sub contractor, of a sub contractor, of a sub contractor would, and I wasn’t about to put a hard working mother on the street.

So I politely asked to be transferred to a higher up, and while I waited on hold, I was treated to a soothing, totally professional American voice-over specialist blowing sunshine up my ass for five minutes about how happy mom would be if I bought certain arrangements, or threw in some extra chocolates for Mother’s Day – but I’m not allowed to speak to an American about a tricky American delivery in an American city from an American company.  Okay.

So I hung up.  When I redialed and asked to be transferred to an American agent, I got a floor manager who told me there was no way to do that, even after I asked if he ever communicated with ANYONE in the United States, and if so, to transfer me to THAT number.  Apparently, he doesn’t and so couldn’t.

My next move was to call the only non-800 number on 1-800-FLOWERS’ website, which was listed as “Media Inquiries” and had a Long Island area code.  A pleasant sounding AMERICAN woman picked up immediately, and after I threatened to go to the press with my story, she promptly gave me a number for – are you ready folks?  VIP CUSTOMER SERVICE!!

Wow.  There’s a secret hotline for 1%ers, while us 99% bottom feeders get to listen to garbled English on the other end of the world.  But still, it was sort of cool.  I guess I’m a VIP now.   So I dial the number and . . .  low and behold!  A total pro answers, who not only knows EVERYTHING, but is also AN AMERICAN, probably making ten times what the poor girl working the night shift in Manila is coining, but ten thousand times less than the CEO of 1-800 FLOWERS.  Nice . . .

Long story short, this guy totally solves my problem in about ten minutes, and I can finally, after a f&%*ing hour in never-never land, make my purchase in confidence.

Moral of the Story

My little anecdote not only reinforces that we live in a two tiered society where the 1% rules, it also illustrates how sad it is that we continue to outsource good paying, decent jobs overseas when the unemployment rate in some states is still around 10%.  I mean WTF man?!

And of course, this little tale also speaks to how addicted to cheapness Americans are.  I’m guilty too folks.  I lost an hour of my life today trying to lock in a great price on fifty lilies in a vase – but at what cost?  How about precious time, an outsourced job, and one more florist out of business.

Happy Mother’s Day…


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