Thank you for calling……

In the travel business we spend a lot of time on the phone.  That is why most travel websites will feature a photo of a young attractive and happy travel consultant with a headset….

Where is this marvellous girl?  I will tell you where – she is living  inside a computer.  She’s not real.  More often now I find myself talking to Ms Computer Voice when I phone an airline or a tour company.  But wait – it get’s worse.  In the “good old days” you would listen to Ms Computer Voice who would guide you through the prompts with “Press 1” or “Press 2”.  Nowadays you have to speak back to the computer.  How embarrassing and demeaning is that?  Do they honestly think we are fooled into thinking we are speaking to a real person?  Then why continue with this charade? 

It get’s even worse when you have a client sitting at your desk.  You offer helpfully to phone the tour company or airline so you can put a special request on file or ask for a change or whatever.  The companionable silence is broken when you suddenly blurt out “Agent” into the phone.  The client jumps nervously and wonders who you are talking to because it certainly doesn’t sound like a real conversation.  Several other orphan words and phrases float around over the desk.  “Travel agent”, “Go back”, “Something else”.  All the while the client on the other side of the desk is looking at you warily….  No wonder.  And don’t try to be discreet.  Ms Computer Voice will just tell you firmly but rather critically “I’m sorry I can’t hear you.  Please try to speak a little louder”.

Technology is out to get us people!  Our new car has blue tooth for the cell phone.  The only problem is Ms Blue Tooth doesn’t understand my husband’s South African accent.  She will often chastise him, “I’m sorry please repeat command”.   Naturally she doesn’t give him a chance to repeat his command but then launches into a full run down of all the menu options.  I am telling you, there is no stopping here once she gets on a roll.  A couple of days ago after three attempts to “call home ET” my husband broke down into hysterical laughter and told her she was a bitch.  She was not perturbed in the slightest.  She came right back at him – “USB2 – is that correct?”

So don’t feel bad about shouting at computers – they can stick up for themselves.

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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