Friday, December 27, 2013

You're From Where, Now?

Though no one quite puts it this way, the number-one selling point for the soundboard technology is obvious to Filipino telemarketers: Americans' xenophobia. We want to hear from people who sound just like us.
Alexis C. Madrigal. Almost Human: The Surreal, Cyborg Future of Telemarketing
It's odd. I never found myself being concerned with the foreign-ness of foreign accents, but with the lack of knowledge of circumstances they implied. Some years ago, here in the Seattle area, there was a radio advertisement for some sort of home monitoring company that played up the fact that they were based here in Washington - as opposed to Minnesota. ("Where there are a lot of lakes," the commercial reminds listeners, "But no floating bridges.") The pitch was the people locally would understand some of the issues around living in this specific area, and therefore wouldn't put you in a position of doing something that made sense for some remote location, but not for where you actually live.

It was the same when I would deal with recruiters from the Chicago or New York/New Jersey area. They would often ask questions that betrayed a complete lack of knowledge of local circumstances, like: "I see you live in Kirkland. Can you get to Redmond easily?" This told me that they likely didn't know much about the local area - and hadn't bothered to look it up - and so I was dubious that they knew enough about the jobs or companies that they wanted to set me up with to answer any substantive questions. (Which was often correct.)

And so what goes through my mind when I answer the phone and someone with a foreign accent starts pitching something is: "Here is a person working some outsourced job somewhere who likely has no firsthand experience with the product they're selling, and little to no knowledge of how you'd make the best use of it under the circumstances in which I would use it." Whether that counts as xenophobia, someone will have to tell me. (But, to be sure, if someone were trying to sell me lechón, and sounded like they were from closer to Kansas than Manilla, I'd be dubious about them, too.)

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