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Posts Tagged ‘entitlement’

Verizon, No Means No

January 23, 2010 4 comments

No means no. No is always no. If they say no, it means a thousand times no.

~They Might Be Giants

Last night, I heard the dog barking downstairs before I heard the doorbell ring. Which meant that someone unfamiliar was at the door. And since I was trying to rest because of this nagging cold, I decided to just stay in bed and let my oldest son deal with whoever was there.

“Dad, it’s the cable guy. He wants to talk to you about FiOS.”

Now, I’d guessed that Verizon was wiring our neighborhood for FiOS — Fiber Optic Service — because each week for the past year I’ve received at least one piece of junk mail offering me high speed internet, phone and TV via their new service.

I like to think of myself as a savvy consumer as well as a tech geek, so when I first heard about it, I did my homework. I found out that yes I’d probably get somewhat better bandwidth than I was getting with my RoadRunner cable. But without upgrading my home wireless network — which I have no interest in doing — that bandwidth would be wasted on the lowest-def screen in the house, the TV.

And the cost — even the heavily discounted “for the first year” bundle price — was no better than what I’m currently paying for the combination of RoadRunner internet ($50), Time Warner basic cable ($8) and Vonage phone ($35). And while that would get me more programming I don’t have time to watch (thanks in part to Hulu and Netflix), the low introductory FiOS price would definitely go up by an undisclosed amount after the first year of my required two-year contract, which by the way comes with a hefty $350 early cancellation penalty. Yeah, no thanks.

Which is why I told my son to let the guy know we weren’t interested. My son may not be tough looking but standing in the doorway at six foot three — accompanied by an enthusiastically barking dog — I’m sure he presented an imposing figure. So I was surprised when he came back up to pass along the news that this wasn’t a sales call, the guy just wanted to answer any questions I might have about FiOS.

So I dragged myself downstairs to quickly assure the guy I wasn’t interested in hearing his not-a-sales pitch.

“Hi, I’m with…”

“I know all about FiOS, your people have sent me lots of literature. I’m happy with the service I’ve got.”

“I’d just like to tell you…”

“I said I’m not interested.”

“Why not?”

That was it, I was done expending any more energy trying to be nice. “I said I wasn’t interested. Now go take your sales pitch down the road.” And while I don’t think I actually slammed the door, I did close it rather decisively, though not before I noticed the cable guy giving me the stinkeye as he turned to leave.

Now sometimes, when I’m feeling good or in a kindly way, I might actually provide the exit interview. But not only wasn’t I feeling well, but something about this encounter rubbed me terribly wrong. It’s not just that he didn’t listen to my seventeen year old. After all, “can I speak to one of your parents?” is probably the first thing they teach you in sales training. And it’s not that he tried to cloak his sales pitch in the white fluff of “providing information.”

I think what really pissed me off was his sense of entitlement, not just to my time and attention, but to an explanation as to why I wasn’t interested. He acted like one of those guys on OKCupid who get all whiny when women don’t answer their emails, but abusive when the answer they get is “no.”

As a fellow white guy, I know what that entitlement feels like. All my life, I’ve been taught that people will listen to what I have to say. And the popular media reinforce that when educated white guys speak, people are supposed to listen. In trying to be anti-oppressive, I find one of the hardest parts to be just shutting up. Not just waiting for my turn to speak, but not presuming that just because I want to say something anyone else has the responsibility to listen.

And when it comes to white guy entitlement, you can’t really get much whiter than corporate America. So I shouldn’t really be surprised that some Verizon lackey got all butthurt that I would neither listen to his pitch nor tell him why.

And now with corporations being given license to buy all the political speech they can afford, I’m afraid that it’s going to be even harder to convince them that “no” really does mean “no.”