Don't Assume All Customer Service Reps With Accents Are Overseas

Reader VermillionSparrow reads Consumerist comments and stories, and has a relatively minor beef with us. Yes, you readers, too. She has worked in call centers, and takes a little bit of offense when she reads references to “overseas” or “outsourced” call center representatives. Especially derogatory references. Some of those workers with accents were sitting just a few desks away from her at work: not on the other side of the planet. She warns us not to assume.

She wrote to us back when comments were disabled, but the complaint never goes stale.

This is a minor beef, and if there was still a comments section I’d
put it there, but as someone who has worked in customer service call
centers before, it bothers me that your stories often refer to CS reps
as being “overseas” (as this one did) without any verification as to
whether or not this is the case.

People hear an accent and assume the call center is in another
country, when in fact it might not be (call centers that only operate
M-F 8-5 or similar hours are usually located in North America). Back
when I took “supervisor” calls for Verizon DSL a few years ago, I
would often get calls transferred from someone sitting just a few feet
away from me, just a few cube-rows over, and be asked “OMG, where was
that guy? I couldn’t understand a word!” Customers would refuse to
believe that the person they were previously speaking to was in fact
in the same room as I was, and occasionally one would even argue with
me about this.

Even if you don’t ever encounter people with strange accents living in
the US in person, they do exist, and they can work in call centers
too. The one I used to work in was full of college students, many of
them international; most of those were from India and various African
countries.