"Do We Need a Flat World?"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is a “flat world” really good for us? Thomas Friedman’s book titled, “The World Is Flat” has become a well-known – and often quoted source. It is not unusual to hear someone comment, “Well you know, the world is flat.” I’ve heard it repeated on TV, radio and in idle conversations.

I’m not sure I agree that a flat world benefits those in our country but it sure seems to apply to us. Our digital electronics, satellites throughout the skies, and buried fiber optic cables everywhere connect us with that man who answers the phone saying, “My name is Peggy.” The amusing ad featuring him ran on TV repeatedly. I thought the ad was a little odd until one day when I called a local company. The woman who answered was difficult to understand and when I asked her name, she replied “Mike.” I was not too surprised; she sounded like a female but lacked the personality usually found in conversation with that gender. As a customer with an inquiry, I thought she was very abrupt, almost rude. I also considered her almost ridiculous when she asked many questions unrelated to the inquiry I was making.

It seems many companies like Sirius, Comcast, AT&T, Chrysler and others have replaced telephone operators with “Call Centers” located in countries all over the world. I know my cable company, Comcast, uses them because when I call with a problem, the person I reach goes through a list of questions then recites instructions on how I can make my own repairs. Recently, I had to locate a Chrysler dealer in an unfamiliar area. When I called the customer service number, I not only reached an operator I could not understand, the person who answered had no idea how to help me. On another occasion when calling a large company, I reached an operator who was obviously working from home because I heard a crying child in the background.

If major companies are replacing phone operators AND service technicians with robot-type call center systems overseas to cut their cost of operation, why are the savings not reflected on our bills? Another question is if it is such a savings for the big companies to use overseas phone lines, why do our personal calls overseas cost so much? And, how many U.S. jobs have these outsource connections cost our economy?

A major drive has been put in place to BUY AMERICAN.

I’m certain most of us want to support such an effort. How do we locate companies that are producing goods 100 percent in the U.S.? I was shocked and appalled when I read Senator Carl Levin’s report in a recent weekend edition of the Tribune. He stated many Chinese parts the U.S. military purchases are used but sold as new. He also said parts were found to be defective when placed in the weaponry of our troops, placing them in jeopardy.

As I see it, yes, the world is flat but I’m just not sure that is good for us. Perhaps we should try to keep our business on this end of the plateau. I’m sure qualified people can be found to fill the jobs needed to produce U.S. products on U.S. soil – and answer the telephones.




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