Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, November 24, 2021

So tell me: Why would anyone pay for an answering service, in this age of voicemail, answering machines, and cellphones?

I understand that doctors and certain other professionals need to be reachable at all hours. But why have some telecom center relay the incoming calls? It’s an extra level of access, and even if that filter is desirable, I don’t see how it’s more worthwhile than the aforementioned modern-day options.

This comes to mind because of one of the more frustrating aspects of calling into one of these services: They don’t initially reveal themselves as a third-party go-between, and they never have any specific information about who you’re calling. In the past, I’ve wasted several minutes talking to one of these drones, who couldn’t tell me a thing about basic information like office hours, services offered, etc. All they could do was take a message — which is something so basic that you don’t need a live person to cover.

It seems that part and parcel of having an answering service is fooling non-probing callers into thinking that they’ve reached the office at odd hours. I can’t believe that holds up for long. I also wonder if this is a modern adaptation — I believe that back before answering machines became widespread in the ’80s, declaring that you used an answering service was a mark of distinction, and therefore not something you tried to keep secret. In today’s over-saturated IVR landscape, I guess any use of third-party telecom services needs to be shrouded.

The only justification I’ve run across is the phobia some businesses have over potential customers calling in and being put off by having to leave a message via voicemail. I guess there’s a psychological reassurance in leaving your info with an actual human being — even if that human being provides no additional information and, again, does nothing that an automated system couldn’t do.

Personally, I’d prefer talking to a machine in appropriate instances. It’s way more efficient, and I don’t get lulled into the illusion that I’m talking to an interested party.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/24/2006 08:58 PM
Category: Business, Tech
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A frenzied atmosphere is a given for Black Friday. But things have gone astray bigtime when shoppers feel compelled to leave the house armed and dangerous:

Alarmed by a recent shooting of a customer waiting outside a Connecticut Wal-Mart for the highly sought Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console, [West Hartford's Brian Clark] had tucked his Glock pistol in a holster under his jacket and put extra ammunition in his pocket before heading out early Friday.

“You never know these days,” he said, quickly adding that he has a state permit for a concealed weapon.

Know what I know? I’m staying the hell away from the throngs this weekend, and sticking to Amazon et al to satisfy my shopping impulses. Everybody’s gotta go sometime, but I don’t want my ticket punched as a result of a tussle over some deeply-discounted TV set.

Incidentally, a pretty succinct explanation over why Black Friday is still significant these days, even in the context of etailing and last-minute shopping:

While Black Friday officially starts holiday shopping, generally it’s no longer the busiest day of the season. That honor now falls to the last Saturday before Christmas. Stores say Black Friday sets the tone for the weeks ahead, however: What consumers see that day influences where they will shop for the rest of the season.

It’s a concerted sales event that doubles as brand enforcer. I’m not sure how realistic that is, though — it’s not like people are being introduced to Wal-Mart and other major retailers during the holiday season. But it’s a nice concept.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/24/2006 08:28 PM
Category: Business, Society
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It’s not online, but Chuck Klosterman has a sidebar piece in the latest Esquire about some biochemical advice he picked up from Bill Romanowski’s autobiography, “Romo: My Life on the Edge-Living Dreams and Slaying Dragons”:

Romanowski started taking magnesium supplements in 1995. “From then on,” writes Romo, “my dreams were so real and so vivid that the only way I can describe it is this: It was as if the rare dreams I had [in the past] were broadcast in black-and-white. The new ones were being transmitted in high-definition TV.”

Amazingly, this seems to be a very real phenomenon. I’ve started “mag loading” before going to bed, and my dreams have become memorable, dynamic, and beautiful; taking magnesium is akin to ingesting Michel Gondry in tablet form.

Better dreaming through chemistry, as it were. Not one of the benefits touted by BALCO, I’m guessing.

This resonates with me somewhat. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had problems retaining what I experience during my dreamstate. Very rarely — literally, once a year — I’ll recall what I dreamt about the night before. The rest of the time, the best I’ll get upon waking up is the impression that I had, in fact, dreamt, but with absolutely no memory of what it was about.

I’ve always figured that a chronic lack of sleep was the reason. That, and timing: It seems that the closer my dream episodes were to my actual wakeup time, the better the chance that I’d remember something. From that I gather, Romanowski is a big advocate of using magnesium to achieve sounder sleep — an essential for professional atheletes’ well-being — and from that, the enhanced dream experience follows.

So, will I run out and get me a bottle of magnesium? I don’t see it. Once you start playing chemistry lab with your body, you’re asking for all sorts of unforeseen developments. I’ll stick with the hit-or-miss of my usual sleep patterns.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/24/2006 06:14 PM
Category: Football, Publishing, Science
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