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Observing The Web

Observing The Web
By Mitch Traphagen
Feb 8, 2007 - 6:58:00 PM

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Unless you bury your cash in the backyard, live in a cave in which you generate your own electricity and communicate only with those within walking distance, it's likely you have experienced one of the great joys of modern society:  calling a customer service center.

Apparently there is a shortage of humans to answer the phone these days because many companies make it awfully difficult to reach one.  Instead, you generally find yourself in a labyrinth of telephone hell in which you must perform an intricate dance pressing buttons to finally end up in a 30 minute queue during which you may well be "accidentally" cut off somewhere around the 29th minute.

Look on the bright side, however — without lousy customer service, comedians would have fewer things about which to crack jokes.

The Red Tape Chronicles on the MSNBC Website provides a few tips on handling this horrible reality in our lives.  Among the best tip is simply common sense:  Don't lose your cool.  It's likely the person you will (eventually) talk to isn't actually an employee of the company.  In other words, you're just one of 100 nasty calls they have taken that day and your threats of taking business elsewhere may not have much effect — other than getting hung up upon.  

The next best tip is to checkout the Website  Thanks to volunteers across the country, this site provides information about how to break through the labyrinth to actually get a human.  On this site you'll find several tips and also a database of telephone numbers and instructions to reach humans at dozens of companies.

As with all things in life, there is another side of the coin, of course.  There is also a Website for customer service representatives to share their stories of nightmarish customers.  I can't list the Website name here because of a single word.  As words go, it's not so bad — in fact, you'll hear far worse on prime time television.  But it is a word my editor hates so click here for the link.  Some of the stories are hilarious.  Do you see yourself in any of them?  As a warning, some of the language may be a tad bit offensive — but most of that came from the customers.

A friend of mine, a very successful photojournalist with a major newspaper, once told me, "When you've shot every squirrel in town, it might be time to move on."  After more than five years here, some of the squirrels are starting to look a bit familiar to me.  But then I watched a Web video on photographer Stephen Shore and realized that I haven't even started yet in documenting this place we call home.  

With the digital explosion, it seems everyone has become a photographer.  But this video shows that you don't have to search for the extraordinary to be great, you just have to see and feel the wonder of everyday life.  His photographs reveal typical life — but in a way that you can actually feel them.  I mean really feel what it was like to be there.  

Although I didn't know it at the time, Stephen Shore has had a tremendous influence on me — and he provides an amazing inspiration to think, to see and to record the incredible that exists in the usual.  In this age of digital cameras, it's also fun to see him lugging around his gigantic 8x10 film camera.

For anyone interested in photography - or for that matter, the beauty of everyday life - watch the video and think about what he has to say and what he sees — it is the essence of America.

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