Polygraph knows all: You've been using our user feedback form

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies...

Still from the movie Zoolander: Derek and a fellow model try to get the 'files' out of the Mac by smashing it to pieces. copyright Paramount Pictures

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I am undergoing the lie detector test and it is not going well. I should have guessed something was up when they affixed the wires: temples and wrists are OK but it seems a little unnecessary to route what suspiciously looks like an AC mains cable to my groin.

Blinking away the sweat under the hot studio lights before a braying audience, I wonder how it all came to this. I mean, the day began normally enough – just another day in the paradise of Customer Delight.

The IT support department where I am occasionally contracted for floor-walking has been renamed – sorry, "rebranded" – several times already this year. It was called the aforementioned "Customer Delight" throughout 2018 but a new CIO in January changed it to "Enablement Masters". This confused everyone, especially the golfers, until his replacement in March came up with "Delivery Disruptives", which made us sound like rampaging postmen.

Following a short-lived incarnation on the "Satisfaction Team" within the "User Pleasuring Department" – imagine having that displayed crisply on your wipe-clean lanyard ID as you drop to your knees to get under a user's desk – we devolved back to "CD". Be thankful.

Roaming the dystopian open-plan field of uncomfortable meeting pods and bleak rows of benches, I spent my first hour as usual trying not to tread on briefcases, knock raincoats off the backs of seats or get my feet snagged on backpack straps. As with all hotdesking sites, the floor is almost completely covered in luggage because users are expected to cart all their equipment and belongings around with them like high street hobos. I half-expect to see one of them pushing a shopping trolley.

A user hailed me over. He was experiencing trouble with email.

Now, email isn't one of my support duties. I'm covering spanky new CMS desktop clients and workflows, not the double-decade-old wreck of incompatible interfaces and routing scripts that masquerades as the corporate email system. I know bugger-all about it other than the fact that everybody has trouble with their email.

After apologising for my ignorance and asking the user to log a call to the standard support extension – still labelled "Pleasuring Hotline: 6699" in the company directory – I went about my business.

Just minutes later, the chorus of Stealers Wheel's Stuck In The Middle With You tinkled gently from my pocket, indicating a call on my mobile from the IT support duty manager's desk. Apparently they'd remoted to the user's computer and found nothing was wrong with his email and would I mind going back to his desk to find out more?

Sure enough, it turned out the user's email problem had nothing to do with email and was also both ingenious in its creativity and utterly self-inflicted. When I asked him to demonstrate, he conjured a personal laptop from the backpack at his feet, opened an email in a program that looked suspiciously like AOL running on Windows 98, selected the message text and pressed CTRL+C. He then turned to the company-issued laptop on the desk, opened an Outlook window and pressed CTRL-V.

Youtube Video

A gentle chat about workflow later and the user was sorted. I closed the call ticket with my comments and the user received the usual feedback invitation.

It’s at this point I was whisked away into a dark backroom by sharp-suited security men wearing sunglasses and earpieces. After waiting there for what seemed like hours but might only have been multiples of 60 minutes, I was hauled back out and ordered to change clothes. Off came my white shirt, tie, slacks and polished shoes. On went the pile of rags thrust into my sternum: tracksuit bottoms adorned with dollar signs ($1 $2 $3 etc), hideously over-elaborate sneakers and a t-shirt adorned with the slogan FSCK in massive letters.

Before I could complain that it ought to be in lower case, I was roughly marched down several unfamiliar corridors and finally pushed through a doorway at the end.

Booooooooo! (yelled the crowd)

I found myself in front of the cameras in a TV studio with a live audience. A man holding a microphone invited me to stumble down the three wooden steps leading to the main stage area, where I noticed they’d put two armchairs. Sitting in one of them was the user who’d been having trouble with his email. I flopped, confused, into the other.

Boooooooooo! (again)

The man with the mic speaks up. "Would you like to tell Phil here why you refused to help – at a time in his life when he needed it most?"

Boooooooooo!

Well, I…

"And even when your superiors forced you to return to him – and to his credit, he took you back in without any recrimination – you simply dismissed his grievances?"

"I don't think that's quite f…"

Boooooooooo!

"So you deny it? Well, ladies and gentlemen, is this couple prepared to face their demons and heal their broken relationship with the aid of [dramatic pause] the Lie Detector?"

Yaaaaaaaaaaay! Oh, and er booooooooo!

So here I am, hooked up to some hokey polygraph and things are not looking good for me, the user with his email problem, or our chances of starting a family together. I mean, lie detectors don't detect untruths, they detect physiological responses. They ought to call them Sweat Detectors, and I perspire like the Trevi Fountain.

They begin with some preliminary questions to set the "control" responses.

"Confirm to me: is your name Alistair Dobbs?"

"No it isn't. It's Da… [bleep]."

Boooooooooo!

"And do you live at Zero Street Name City Postcode?"

"What? No, obviously there's been a mis… [bleep]."

Boooooooooo!

Ah, there are lies. There are damned lies. And there's the one that says: "Your call is important to us." Apparently I can't even answer the control questions without contradiction. There's no way out of this Kafkaesque nightmare.

Then suddenly the user in the armchair next to me blurts out: "I admit it! I clicked on the wrong button in the feedback form!" and bursts into tears.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! (sympathy)

"Does that mean I can go now?"

Boooooooooo!

Security men hold back the mob and I am led away. Out of sight of the cameras, my own clothes are tossed into my face and I'm booted unceremoniously through an exit door.

A large motivational sign on the wall depicting the single enigmatic word "Delighted?" along with a heart emoji tells me I am back in the IT support department. No one bothers to look up but I change clothes behind a stack of backpacks anyway. Then I make my way to a spare desk and retrieve my laptop from my shopping trolley.

Let's have a look at that feedback response. Ah, I see that new boss still hasn't updated the wording.

Thank you for calling the Satisfaction Team and giving us the opportunity of Pleasuring you. Please provide feedback on the assistance you received by clicking on the appropriate response:

(*) Everything is awesome and fabulous and I can't thank you enough for such excellent service that far exceeded all possible expectations within our current understanding of reality.

(*) I’m sorted now, thanks.

Underneath, next to the custom Customer Delight emoji, reads the departmental slogan:

Remember, your call is important to us.

-Ends-

Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He has no wish to appear on TV due to a deteriorating visage and the aforementioned perspiration. Back in the day, he could get away with the occasional: "Oh yeah, Daniel Craig"; these days, it tends to be "Are you Ben Stiller's brother?" He will only go in front of cameras once he has perfected Blue Steel. @alidabbs



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