Sunday, October 17, 2010


Witnessed this at a car dealership yesterday afternoon.

Sales guy needs proof of insurance before he can release car to customer. Customer had bought insurance but email in customer's hand doesn't have all info needed. (Sales guy is a young man named Mikhail, born in southwestern Russia where they grow grapes and drink wine rather than vodka, but that's not relevant to this story.)

Sales guy says he'll get insurance company to fax needed doc. Finds phone number of customer service on customer's what-to-do-if-you're-in-an-accident card. Dials it on speaker phone. When speaker begins to emit robo-voice giving button-push options, sales guy hits the "O" button four times quickly. Robo voice seems confused. Mikhail hits the "O" button four more times quickly.

He might have to do this a third time before he hears a non-robo human voice (I forget). While hitting "O" he tells car buyer some insurance companies set their robo phone systems so that a live human with the authority to get something done only comes on the line only when you start yelling into the phone. This company is not one of those.

He picks up the handset to speak with actual non-robo human and quickly dispenses with ensuing "how-are-you-fine-how-are-you" exchange without being rude. "Good-good-good" he says. He gives his first name, identifies where he's calling from, and says what he needs. Speaks quickly but very clearly and gives only his first name. Gets shifted to a second person and rapidly goes through a second "good-good-good" exchange. Tells second person he needs fax showing name of insured, VIN of vehicle, and statement insurance that vehicle is insured by that person -- gives the fax phone number and his first name again to be put on fax header. Five minutes later the fax is in hand.

Here's an xkcd comic on the same general topic.

The comic's author, Randall Munroe, makes it available with a Creative Commons license. The comic home page is xkcd, a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. xkcd may or may not stand for something. The wikipedia article on the comic discusses this topic: xkcd.

Side note: Watching Mikhail at work reminded me of olden times when, trying to arrange a flight at a travel agency, I would observe quick and efficient phone calls between agents and airline booking reps. This was back when you sometimes flew different carriers to get around and the local agent might be calling two, maybe three, airlines to get things set up.

Second side note: The experience of buying a used car at this dealership was much better than experiences at other dealerships times past. I'll be happy to identify the place if asked.

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