Illustration: Simon Letch
I WRITE this on behalf of the 3 million Australians who, like me, are fed up trying to have our domestic problems solved by doubtless well-meaning, but culturally challenged, people sitting in small cubicles in Third World countries. I am referring, of course, to the modern phenomenon of the call centre.
In my day (to use an old fogey's expression), when you needed help or advice from a company with which you were doing business, you could telephone it and be put through to someone who understood your problem and could help you solve it.
Not any more. It's almost as if businesses these days don't want to know you once they've sold you their product.
Here's a perfect example. My Outlook Express email suddenly refused, for no apparent reason, to accept my password, one that I had been using with no problem for three years.
After several attempts to solve the problem, I rang my service provider. A woman answered my call. ''Are you in Australia,'' I asked. ''No,'' she said, ''I'm in the Philippines.''
After 15 minutes of fruitless fiddling, the woman said the problem was beyond her and would have to be passed on to a higher-grade technician who would contact me in three to five working days. After I told her (in a somewhat ungentlemanly fashion) what I thought of the service, the waiting time was reduced to the next day.
Needless to say, no call came and the day after that I rang again. This time I got a man, also in the Philippines. ''Can I speak with someone in Australia please,'' I politely asked. ''Why?'' he replied. ''Because the lady I spoke to in your country didn't seem to know what she was about.'' ''Oh,'' he said, ''I can assure you I can deal with the problem'' - which I thought was a bit rash since I hadn't yet told him what the problem was.
To his credit, he did solve the password problem.
That wasn't the end of the saga, however. I had foolishly mentioned in passing that I wondered if the problem could be connected with an inordinate amount of spam I had been receiving. ''Probably not,'' he said.
The next day nothing worked: no email, no internet. Back on the blower to the Philippines again. Why wasn't it working, I asked. ''Oh, we cut it off,'' was the reply. ''Why?'' I asked. ''Because you said your computer was sending out lots of spam.''
I rest my case.