Random Asides

“Executive” is the New “Clerk”

I haven’t been writing lately. I’ve been caught in a perfect storm of demands on my time – end of month/quarter at work, the end of spring term at school, and a few short weeks from an overseas trip. But tonight I make time for a grumpy rant: strictly editorial, unscientific, and inspired by a conversation with Comcast cable.

For the last couple weeks, my Internet has been spotty to nonexistent. I tried to watch the awesome Skepchick videos made for the April contest and I only got a few frustrating seconds at a time. My computer took five minutes to load google, for god’s sake. So, I called up Comcast, who kept me on hold for 40 minutes (no kidding!), in which I had to listen to advertising language about all the awesome things that Comcast has to offer. For real, on the tech support line, they should stick to elevator music.

So every few minutes, a recorded voice would come on the line, promising that a customer account executive would be with me soon. A customer account executive. I couldn’t help but be skeptical.

I don’t know about you, but when I picture an “account executive”, I think of someone in a suit, working late to meet deadlines on accounts for which they are fully responsible. And I’m 99.9% sure that is not what answered the phone after 40 minutes of waiting.

What happened to clerks? They’ve been re-named. They’re “customer care associates” or “customer service professionals” or “customer account executives”. Does that mean that clerks no longer exist? Or is “executive” just the new “clerk”?

Is there any shame in being a clerk? No. Does everyone want to be an executive? Hell, no! But good god, let’s call a spade a spade.

I’m a middle manager. Calling me an executive or a clerk would just be inaccurate. The meaning, or at least the connotation, of words changes over time, based on their use. And applying a word to something it truly isn’t doesn’t change the thing, it changes the word.

At any rate, a week and a half later, I am back online. And one of the first things I did upon getting my delicious Internet access back was to check out Skepchick on MySpace and Facebook. Just FYI. And for a shameless plug.

So that’s the whole point of my spontaneous, tired & grumpy, Lewis Black style rant. Or maybe I’m more Andy Rooney than Lewis Black. I don’t know, but I’m tempted to photoshop one or both of their heads on my body just to capture my mood. I wonder what Comcast would call me then…

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  1. That renaming of titles pervades just about every field. These new titles (e.g. administrative assistant instead of secretary) may make you sound more important than you really are, but at the same time only achieve to confuse others as to what you actually do for a living.

    I have worked for many years as a programmer. You hardly ever see that title nowadays. You’ll see software engineer, systems analyst, IT professional and the like. And yet most people know what a programmer does; not so for the rest.

  2. Not a surprise; many telecom companies rename their phone-drones to “manager” so that it is less likely that they’ll have to elevate a call.

  3. Stacey, speaking as one Skepchick Communications Executive to another, I have to say that manufactured titles like that could give people an over-inflated sense of themselves. And that’s so beneath me.

  4. Perhaps people like to think that they are important enough that discussing problems with a clerk is not good enough anymore. No, we are important enough that an ‘executive ‘answers our calls, every time! People are not employees either in some cases anymore; they are ‘associates.’ I can’t decide if these are to make the workers feel better, or to make the customers feel they are more important. I think it is likely both.

  5. I’ve had problems with Comcast cable internet before. Got so bad that I dumped them for DSL, which I have had hardly any problems with.

    Comcast got so bad that it would go out monthly. For no reason. I could understand weather issues and the like as I’ve had that happen before. But for no reason? And to have to wait two weeks for a tech to come out? BS.

    Haven’t had to call a DSL tech to come in ever.

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees this trend (or has issues with Comcast)!

    If you didn’t click on it, the Comcast link above is to a 60 second video in which a Comcast tech falls asleep in a customer’s house while on hold. It’s pretty funny…and totally believable after my experience.

  7. I think Finch has it right.
    I worked at Charter until recently as customer service, but I don’t remember what idiotic title they gave us.
    But I suspect it’s meant to give employees a sense of empowerment(however false it may be) and customers an inflated sense of worth(however false it may be). The cynical peon on the floor knows the score, but the clueless, overpaid executive(who decides such things) doesn’t.


  8. I hates me some Comcast… Those jerks tried to tell me that having the wrong address in their system couldn’t possibly be the reason I wasn’t getting internet. Piping it to the wrong house couldn’t cause me to not get it? What? Then they said they couldn’t change the address in their system because somehow they thought I owed them money for the internet they were piping to the wrong house…They’ll never see a penny from me, and I try to lose them as much business as I can. I miss Time/Warner.

  9. Changing my title to Freelance Domestic Engineer didn’t mean I had to change any fewer diapers, wash any less laundry, or cook any fewer meals. AND I didn’t get a freakin’ raise.

  10. As a side note, I find the awarding of “software engineer” to anybody who doesn’t have a B.Sci. somewhat annoying. Only because there actually is an engineering discipline that includes computer programming (indeed, several of my friends from college went that route) and, you know, the engineering of software.

    Of course, it’s not as annoying as the term “computer science”. Which is, in turn, not anywhere nearly as annoying as “political science”.

    Anyway, somewhat more on topic, I was a “Technical Support Manager” at my previous job. I found this endlessly amusing, because the tech support department consisted of exactly one person: i.e., me. (That said, I’m entirely content with that mis-titling being my only brush with a management position. Ugh.)

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