Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Keep Clear". What's hard about that?

When did the average Australian driver lose the ability to read and comprehend the words KEEP CLEAR painted in letters 2 metres high at an intersection?

You're in a side street waiting to turn into - or perhaps cross - a major road, and the traffic is starting to bank up. With just this scenario in mind, the authorities have thoughtfully painted a large advisory message on the roadway itself... so it's unmissable! But time after time, some idiot keeps on moving and stops right over the KEEP CLEAR sign, blocking your access.

It's a basic rule of driving that you not enter an intersection until there's enough room that you won't obstruct it. But these people are SO stupid that even VicRoads' additional allocation of hours of planning time and labour and several litres of semi-gloss can't get the idea through their skulls.

Or do they think it doesn't apply to them? Are they both dumb AND deluded?

Don't try honking your horn to alert them to their oversight - these days, it doesn't matter if they're at fault, if you complain, you're the one who gets the finger and the abuse.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Q: "How's your day been?" A: "Who the #@!* wants to know?"

I've blogged before about the ever-spiralling deterioration of outbound call centre quality, but I reckon it's reached new depths in the last few months.

Perhaps the most irritating aspect of all is the growing trend for callers to try to curry favour (no pun intended) with the recipient of the call before they've even had the courtesy to introduce themselves. Here's the scenario...

[Phone rings & I answer]
ME: Hello. [2 seconds of ambient call centre noise.] Hello.
CALLER: Is that Mr Downes?
ME: Yes.
CALLER: How's your day been?
ME: Who the #@!* wants to know? It is appallingly discourteous to call me, ask me who I am and then ask me how my day's been before telling me who you are.
CALLER: Well no-one else has complained...

When did I become the bad guy for wanting to know who's calling before I answer a question from a stranger on my phone! And when did this kind of conduct become socially acceptable in Australia? Is this just bad training or a deliberate tactic?

People's natural politeness and the basic human motivation of reciprocity no doubt leads many people (less grumpy than me) to answer this question BEFORE they know who's calling. Doubtless some call centre marketers are counting on this as the "foot in the door". In other cases, it's just plain dumb... and getting dumber.

If we put up with crap like this - and apparently many people do - it will take hold and we'll be stuck with it. This kind of thing is not only dumb, it's also rude and manipulative. Please let's not allow perfectly reasonable social norms to be eroded by ignorant conduct like this.

Real estate agents - "circa" and "art deco"

It should be blindingly obvious - both from the word itself and from the context - that "circa" (often shortened to c.) means "around" or "about", as in Roman ruins, circa 150 AD or Genghis Khan, born Mongolia, c. 1162. Look it up in a dictionary (or, if you must, Wikipedia).

Ignorant Australian estate agents have gotten hold of this word over the last few years and corrupted it, like they do to so much of the language. Now we get ridiculous things in ads for houses like "Art Deco masterpiece, circa 1980s".

Memo to land-rats (1): The word "circa" and a date like "1980s" are completely incompatible. You could look up the records and find exactly - to the day - when the certificate of occupancy was issued, or whatever other marker of construction you wished to choose. There's no bloody "circa" about it... unlike the date of birth of Genghis Khan, for which no certificate or other documentary evidence exists and we have to make do with a best guess, i.e. a year or two either side of 1162.

And don't get me started on "Art Deco". I have seen everything from Victorian to the 1980s (I kid you not) described by real estate agents as "Art Deco". And search eBay for "art deco" and you'll see 1950s and even 1960s furniture described this way. (NB The picture shows an "art deco" boardroom table! Not in my deco books...)

Memo to land-rats (2): Don't use words unless you know what they really mean.


Of course, the real problem is that so many people believe what they see and hear, even if it is from an estate agent, and these two dumbed-down uses are undoubtedly gaining traction. Once they enter the mainstream, we'll be stuck with 'em.