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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hello, My Name Is Ahme-- Er, Bob! Schumer Tackles Foreign Call Centers

My neighbor Rod Goeman keeps telling me Madison needs to recruit a big call center to boost local employment. I think a call center would destroy our souls, but I'm a socialist secular humanist, so what do I know?

If you like Goeman's economic development line, then you should love Senator Chuck Schumer's latest proposal. The New York Democrat is proposing legislation to slap a 25-cent excise tax on any domestic customer service call that gets transferred to a foreign call center. He also wants to require every such call to include a message along the lines of, "Your call is being transferred to [insert exotic foreign locale here]."

Let's see, Schumer's proposal raises revenue to fight the deficit, supports keeping jobs in America, and sticks it to companies that hire kids in Mumbai to lie to you about their name and what lovely weather they're enjoying in Miami (I've had this conversation). My conservative friends should be all about the Schumer call center bill!


  1. I've got a better idea. Why don't we actually make stuff in America? Let them have the "information jobs of the future"!

  2. Well, this is one conservative that would support this bill! As long as there are no other strings hidden in it; I haven't read the bill which is common nowadays!

    How about adding a tariff on medical transcription jobs transferred overseas too while he's at it. That would also save a lot of American jobs.

  3. Always suspicious... I suppose that's not an entirely bad quality (it could make you a good blogger, Linda!).

    I can think of one complication: if you want good 24-hour service, would you rather talk to an American with broken circadian rhythms or an Indian fresh off a good night's sleep? A guy I met this weekend works tech support. He works a straight 8-5 shift. When his team goes home, they hand off any trouble tickets they're working on to a team in Australia. That team works its eight hour shift, then hands off to London, which then hands back to Minnesota. Everybody on the support teams gets to work decent day hours, then go home to family and kangaroo races and bangers & mash... and the client gets round the clock service. Global connectivity has its workflow advantages.

    But notice that model boosts jobs overseas without eliminating jobs here. Let's hope Schumer's bill can keep more jobs here!

  4. Heck, let's become the call center capital of the United States right here in South Dakota!

    I work with compositors in India all the time. They're the most competent people in that field that I have encountered in nearly 30 years in publishing.

    I confess to dismay when I contact a customer service department and have trouble communicating because of a heavy accent on the opposite end, or because the other party does not understand the idosyncrasies of the English language.

    However, in my opinion, we don't need any more laws and tarriffs and fees and red tape. We need less.

    Maybe we should loosen the strictures on people who want to start new businesses in the States. An improvement in our own "work ethic" would not hurt either. I know two guys right now, right here, who were glad when they got fired because it meant that they could collect unemployment.

    A little pride, a little juice, how about it, hey?

    Those folks in India get the contracts because they do better work at a lower price. The market prevails, no matter how much governments try to manipulate it.

    Even Communist Russia, even Red China, could not kill free enterprise! Let's get back to our original paradigm, and then we won't need all these tarriffs and regulations.

  5. I do agree, Stan, that when it comes down to brass tacks, we've either got to offer value for the money... or just throw up the tariff walls and abandon the global economy. U.S. automakers got hammered because they got lazy and didn't offer as good a product as Toyota and BMW... and because they had to eat health insurnace costs that German and Japanese automakers did not.

    I've had my share of American call-center drones who don't manage the language or customer service any better than their counterparts in Hyderabad or Panama City.

    I remain undecided on this bill: I've heard enough arguments on other issues about how tariffs and protectionism do more harm than good that I won't jump on Schumer's bandwagon just yet. But can we strike a happy medium like the computer service example I gave above? Can we keep good jobs here while still taking advantage of a 24-hour globally shared service cycle?


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