I don’t understand what you said

Posted 9/27/23

Like many other “older” people, my hearing has been diminishing.

Hearing aids were prescribed, but during COVID, I stopped wearing them because every time my mask came off, they …

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I don’t understand what you said


Like many other “older” people, my hearing has been diminishing.

Hearing aids were prescribed, but during COVID, I stopped wearing them because every time my mask came off, they would go flying in the air, inevitably landing on the floor, in the toilet, or in a puddle on the ground. They became too much of a responsibility, so I put them away safely.

Unfortunately, my hearing did not improve with age, so it has become mandatory that they once again find their way from my bureau back into my ear canals. Score one for making everything louder. However, even with speech being amplified, understanding what people are saying continues to be a challenge. This became painfully clear when I called the bank because of a payment problem with a new home equity loan.

Although I prefer to handle things on the computer, the bank presented no option to be able to send an e-mail or to have a live written chat with a bank representative. I was forced to call and found myself on hold for forty-five minutes. This is especially annoying for me because my phone is my plaything, and I would normally be playing Solitaire or Words With Friends if I were waiting for something. Being on hold means that my entertainment is inaccessible. Although there is an option to put it on speaker and still access the apps on the phone, I am not clever enough to do this, and instead wait impatiently, tapping my foot and staring at the cobwebs around the room.

Finally, I was rewarded with the presence of a person who spoke so quickly and has some sort of accent that made it impossible to understand what she said. When I tried to explain that I could not understand her, she started shouting into the phone. Making it louder did not help, and only made it sound like she was angry with me. She went on and on and on, and every now and then I could catch a word or two, but the meaning of what she was saying was beyond my comprehension. I asked if I could speak to her supervisor, at which point her voice raised another octave, and she hung up on me.

I called another two times, and each time a representative with an accent started the conversation. Frustrated beyond words, I ended each conversation with a rude “I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING!!” Unable to get my financial situation resolved, I wanted to cry.

 I understand that banks want to save money by moving some of their operations offshore. The countries with the highest number of call centers are the Philippines and India. India is a well-known, popular location because it has the second largest English-speaking population in the world, supposedly making it “ideal” for companies that require strong language skills. The workers may have a great command of the English language, but if they speak with an accent so strong that I cannot understand the words they are saying, all that knowledge is for naught.

 Outsourcing the calls allows the banks to reduce costs. Overseas countries often have lower labor costs that helps banks increase their profitability which can then be reinvested in their banks, or possibly given to bank executives in the form of raises, much like the problem that is currently plaguing the auto manufacturers in Detroit. It costs the banks less to pay workers in India at $2 an hour, or $5,000 a year. A job in a call center is a prestigious job in a country where per-capita income is around $900 a year, so they see no moral dilemma in this.

I should not be criticizing banks, or any industry for that matter, that chose to have services or goods outsourced when it allows their residents to earn a living wage. My problem is the services are not the same as if delivered by Americans…I cannot understand a word they are saying!


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