Missed communications

Posted 08.17.07

If I had time for a weekly column, I would have plenty of material just in what arrives in my mailbox, fax machine, and e-mail.

Don't you sometimes wonder who falls for these schemes? The faxes that arrive in my office are so often off the mark that I wonder where they're purchasing their lists.

The e-mails are unrelenting, despite spam filters. "Investment opportunities" alternate with offers for prescription drugs, and the latest scam are pdf attachments for bogus invoices.

Thanks to new technology, our mailboxes are no longer flooded with catalogues. Many of us are still nostalgic for the old Eaton's catalogue (with its promise of "goods satisfactory or money refunded." Now you only receive the Sears catalogues if you order regularly, and other mail-order companies are scarce.

But one intrigues me. Have you received your cheque for $9000?

It looks pretty authentic, until you scrutinize it more carefully. Below the bogus cheque is "a very important communication for Barbara Graham" which repeats my name no less than ten times. On the back is an order form for a bunch of products.

The items look reasonably-priced until you read further. Shipping and handling costs $7.69 for orders under $14.99, then there's a $2.99 insurance charge. You mean shipping and handling of more than 50% doesn't cover insurance?

They also have a $3.99 charge for a subscription to their catalogue. It used to be that when you received this kind of junk mail you could put it back into the postpaid envelope and return it. But with rising postage costs, the return envelopes now require a stamp. I actually did write to one of these companies to complain, but the mailings continue.

They have different names, but the same address, on Cot&ecute; de Liesse in Mount-Royal, and the mailings and products are identical. Do you think they keep changing the name to stay one step ahead of the Better Business Bureau?

There is a voluntary "don't call" list in Canada, but it has little effect because membership is voluntary. That means the legitimate companies are not the ones bothering us. Every spring I get repeated calls from lawn services. When I replied to one man that I have no lawn, he argued with me, saying he'd been in my neighborhood. Why, then, was the call long-distance from Montreal?

This brings me to another question. Can someone explain why so many customer service calls are made from locations far away?

If your Ottawa Citizen isn't delivered on time, you call the local number and are told another one will be sent out. Fair enough. But why, early the next morning, do you receive a phone call from Vancouver asking if your paper arrived?

Even Bell Canada called me long distance last night to tell me a service man would be out to fix my DSL line. The man on the phone confirmed that the technician would arrive between 1 and 5 pm today. He was here this morning at 10:15.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/6.07