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Will Your Job Be Sent to Greece?

March 3, 2004

One of the biggest issues this year, particularly with the Presidential election, is the fact that Americans are losing their jobs to English-speakers overseas who can do the same job at a quarter of the salary. Any of you out there that have tried to book airline tickets or talk to a customer service representative on the phone have probably been on the line with someone speaking English with the accent of their native land. People will argue about whether or not outsourcing is a good thing or not for the U.S. Economy, but I donít want to talk about that. My question is, how come these jobs arenít going to our English-speaking cousins in Greece and Cyprus?

If weíre talking about just those jobs where all you need to know is a working knowledge of the English language and basic computer skills, there is no reason why these jobs shouldnít be going to Greece and Cyprus. I understand if youíre talking about those computer programmer jobs, because computer code is pretty hard to write when you speak English and are using an English keyboard, and must be a whole other story when youíre a Greek speaker. 

Letís think for a second why Greeks or Cypriots wouldnít be able to take some of these outsourced call center jobs. It couldnít possibly be the accent. Everyone loves a Greek accent. In fact, all our friends who used to call our house growing up absolutely loved my dadís Greek accent, particularly when heíd ask whoís calling, and scream, ďAris, Themis, Telephono, Dammit.Ē A Greek accent is much more pleasant to listen to than any of these other accents that come from countries where English is actually a frequently spoken language. Who cares if the Greek on the other end of the line may not understand everything that youíre saying. You really donít expect much from a customer service hotline anyway, and they can fix almost everything with just a couple of quick keystrokes. 

I imagine a call would go a little something like thisÖ

Hello, National Airlines, this is Kosta, how may I help you?

Um, yes, hi, my name is Jennifer Johnson and I made reservations last week for a flight to Italy this summer, and somethingís come up and now I need to change them to leave a week later. 

Yes, Jennifer, I have your account information right here. I see you are leaving on July 23 and returning on September 6th. I have a flight leaving on August 1 for Athens that I can put you on. 

Iím sorry, I wanted to go to Rome, Italy, not Greece. 

Why you want to go do that? Italy no good, Greece is better. I went ahead and booked your reservation, so you all set. 

Excuse me, sir, but my vacation plans were for Italy. I donít want to go to Greece. Can you change my ticket for Rome on August 1st, or just give me my old flight if nothing else is available?

Iím sorry, I cannot do it. Whatís done is done. Would you be needing hotel while in Greece?

This is unbelievable. I didnít sign up for this. Is there a manager or someone I can speak to?

Yes, there is a manager. But you cannot talk to him right now. Call back in three hours. 

Excuse me! Why do I have to call him back in three hours? 

Customer service line closed for three hours. 

What kind of customer service line closes at 7:30 A.M. Eastern? I thought you guys just opened a half an hour ago?

Iím sorry, I donít know what time it is back in America, honey, but here it is 2:30, and we closed until 5:30. Time for sleep.

2:30? Where are you?

Greece, of course. 

Are you serious? Argh, this is so frustrating. Fine, fine, Iím going to call back in three hours and speak to your manager and Iím going to tell him how rude youíve been to me. 

Go ahead. Todayís his day off. He wonít be here.

Fine, Iíll just call back tomorrow.

Tomorrow we closed. 

Tomorrow is Thursday, what kind of a call center is closed on a Thursday?

Tomorrow is a holy day. The whole city is closed.

Holy day?! You donít work for three hours during the afternoonÖ youíre closed for a holy day. Do you ever work over there in your country?

When we not on strike, yes, we work a lot. Bye bye. <Click>

And thatís why we donít outsource our jobs to Greece. 

Read past feature articles