Headmaster’s Thoughts – April 2006

If you call York Prep, you get a courteous response from one of our two delightful receptionists. A real person answers the phone. Lest you think this is usual, let me suggest you try other schools. Most likely you will get one of those horrendous automated voice answering and call directing systems.

There is usually a history as to why the unusual continues. In our case, it is my frustration with trying to get a modicum of service from giant corporations and failing. We recently bought a Panasonic television from Circuit City. It never worked. All right, mistakes occur. We called. Someone picked it up. That was over a month ago. I have the tracking numbers. I have the model number. I have the serial number. What I do not have, and will not get, is a live person who can answer the question: Where is the television now? I called Panasonic. I had to go through the soothing automatic voice menu. In fact, I had to go through four specific menus before I got “Brad”. Hi Brad! Brad didn’t speak English very well. Brad, at least, was honest. His name wasn’t Brad (he was told to say it was Brad to appear more American), and Brad was in the Philippines. Brad had no idea where my television was. He suggested another number. That number had a menu that beat me. Plain and simple, I got licked. I never made it to a real person.

So I tried Circuit City and got “Nick”. And where was Nick, you may ask? Nick was in India. No, he wouldn’t tell me where in India (Why did I ask? What difference would New Delhi or Madras have made?), and I never asked him if it was his real name. He also had no idea where my television was. He referred me to their headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. But when I called the number he gave me, I got another menu system. And when I pressed my selection, I got a busy signal. Eventually (third try) I got through, not to Richmond but to Canada, and I didn’t ask where in Canada. Her name was Kimberley, and I think that might have been her name.

I used to think of stories like these as being rare and sad, but they are now occurring on a regular basis to you and me. Again and again. Jayme tried to get help from our phone service company. Among other problems, the phone wasn’t kicking over to the second line when the first was busy. Avaya is the phone service company. Jayme tried to call for service, which is what they sell. She got a menu. This started back in October. A soothing female voice offered her options that took fifteen minutes to get through to……India again. Hooray for India! But how does that help with phone service here? Our phone still will not kick over to the second line.

I could give other examples. Too many.

It is our fault (or at least I feel partly that it is mine). I remember when we had small, user friendly stores selling—at quite a markup, I suppose—televisions and phone systems and books and aspirin. And I, foolishly I admit, went to larger stores where the prices were lower and the selection seemed better. And I forgot about service. I forgot they had a helpful person who could offer, well, hmmm, help! So I and my ilk are responsible for the loss of these local stores and the success of the Circuit Cities of this world. I should have suspected any store that calls itself a city.

I apologize to all those small stores. Forgive me! Come Back! I miss your personal touch. I’m sorry.

So now you know why we don’t have a menu driven automatic phone answering system. Yes, it is true at night time we rely on the robotic forwarding system, but during the day, when we are all here, then we are all here. And one of us will answer your call. Courteously, optimistically, humanly. Bliss!

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org