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Rants, Not Raves: Expressions That Make My Blood Boil

Finishing up a call with AT&T wireless, the call center rep summarized my transaction by saying that she had "educated" me about several topics. I know she was saying what her script required, but it made my blood boil. Public Relations programs, too, often set out to "educate the public." Why does this phrase send me running for the blood pressure cuff? Because it demonstrates sloppy thinking and arrogance of the highest order.

First, there is no such thing as "the public," one great huddled mass yearning to be set free by our corporate wisdom. Any professional communicator knows that audience segmentation is one of the first steps in planning a communication program. But worse is the unspoken message of these would-be "educators." What they're really saying is "If only those uninformed and ill-informed fools hear our message, then surely they'll support our issues and buy our products." A statement like that is not only arrogant, but it also belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how ideas are bought and sold in the marketplace.

New Rants

  • Any phrase that includes the word "spin," as in "Spin the story this way," or "Oh, you're a spin doctor!" Using this word in the presence of a professional, ethical communicator is roughly the equivalent of calling an accountant a "lying, cheating bean counter." Spin is not a good thing. In common parlance, "to spin" means "to lie."

  • Being asked my telephone number/account number after I've already entered in using the keypad on my phone. (Wasn't that exercise supposed "to better assist me?") If you know that this issue exists in your fancy schmancy telephone system, cut it out! You're wasting my time and telling me that you are not paying attention to the impact your systems have on your customers.

  • Voice mail options that are organized around the way you are organized, not what I am trying to accomplish. When I call your business, I want to do something — get information, update my account information, complain. So when your voice mail system gives me options based on your structure ("For accounting, press one") it's clear to me that you don't know who I am.

  • Slavish adherence to call-center scripts. I swear I was in Oz the other day when I was trying to resolve a problem with one of my accounts. (Not my fault, by the way.) Three times I was transferred through a four-step sequence of people. On the third time, when I told the robot masquerading as a human being that she was about to transfer me to a department that I had had already been to without success, she said, "At your request, I will not transfer you. Thank you for calling." Aaaaaaarrrrgh!

  • People who make that damnable, high pitched "Wooooooo!" sound, which is possibly appropriate at a sports event in which people are sweating and/or bleeding but absolutely not appropriate at a Broadway show, a symphony concert or any other event that does not involve visible bodily fluids.

  • The phrase "comprised of." It is never, ever, ever accurate, under any circumstances whatsoever and I may go insane if I ever hear or read it again. (I'm starting to feel much better now!)

  • Signs in check-out lanes that read, "10 items or less." Didn't anyone go to Catholic school?

  • People who contribute to a discussion by saying, "The bottom line is …"

  • Retail clerks who interrupt an interaction with a live human being to answer the phone.

  • Out-of-control corporate jargon. For example using "around" to mean "about" as in "Let's have a discussion around …" Or "space" to mean market segment or industry. Or "solutions" to mean "products." Or "a leading provider of …" to mean anything.

Add your raves. You'll feel better. I sure do.

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