It’s time for the last installment in my fictitious series involving our hero Dilbert and his view on the state of the Republic. If you haven’t seen them already, the previous stories are here, here, and here.
Our buddy Dilbert had a family wedding coming up, and he realized he didn’t have shoes that he could wear to match his new suit. He needed black shoes, but all his shoes were brown. So he calls Right Wear, his favorite shoe store where he has shopped many times, and orders a pair of black dress shoes. All goes well, the package arrives in a few days and the wedding is a couple of weeks away, so he’s happy and puts the box in the closet.
The wedding day rolls around, and Dilbert gets dressed all nice and snappy, and he gets his new shoes out of the closet. He opens the box and discovers the shoes are brown instead of black! This makes him very unhappy, because he realizes he should have checked when he first received the shoes, but he had trusted Right Wear to always get his order right so he hadn’t bothered. At this point he has no choice but to go to the wedding with shoes that don’t match his suit, which makes everyone laugh at him (but he’s used to that so it doesn’t bother him much). What does bother him is that his trusty shoe company made such a glaring mistake.
So on Monday morning he calls Right Wear and explains that they made a mistake, and that he got the wrong color shoes. The cheerful person on the other end of the phone looks up his order information and comes back and says “Oh, no there is no mistake, we decided to ship you brown shoes instead of black.” This doesn’t seem right to Dilbert, so he says, “What do you mean, you decided? I ordered black.” “Well,” came the reply, “We looked at your ordering history and you always order brown shoes. So we naturally assumed you would want brown shoes this time too, so we changed your order and shipped you the right color.” “That’s absurd,” says Dilbert. “If you thought I was ordering the wrong shoes, why didn’t you just call me and confirm it?” She responds that they have a new computer that looks at a customer’s ordering history and figures out what they really want when they order something, and it changes their order to what they really want. Further, she explains that no humans are involved in this decision (you know, to be fair), and so there was no way for someone to call him to ask to verify the change. “Well that’s ridiculous, why would you treat long-standing customers that way?” he asks. “I’ve been ordering from Right Wear for a long time but this makes me think you just don’t care about your customers the way you used to.” “Oh,” the customer service rep responds, “we do care very much about our customers. That’s why we staffed up the Complaint Department.” “Complaint Department?” asks Dilbert. “Yes,” she answers, “we figure that a few customers might want to complain that we changed their order, so we are making sure that there are helpful people in the Complain Department ready to help them return the merchandise they didn’t want, and get the right merchandise.” Confused, Dilbert asks the obvious question. “Why wouldn’t you just call and confirm the correct product before shipping it, instead of making the customer go through the Complaint Department? Or better yet, just let the customer order what they want and not use a computer to second-guess them in the first place?”
“Well,” she says, “We did a survey and we found that most customers don’t know what color shoes to buy, and they would prefer that we make the decision for them. You see, we care about our customers so much that we send them the right color shoes even if they order the wrong one, and we figure the vast majority of them will thank us for overriding their decision.”
At this point Dilbert is just at a loss for words. While it is true that he doesn’t often make his own decisions about clothing styles and colors, that’s because his wife does the deciding for him, not some faceless computer at the shoe store. “OK,” he finally says. “Just connect me to the Complaint Department.” Dilbert wonders what is happening to the world he lives in. First his favorite restaurant opens a new place and abandons the old one, and now his favorite shoe store seems to have gone a little bonkers. He starts thinking maybe he should start over and look at what other companies are out there. He used to buy his shoes from Victory Horizons, but he left them because their prices were too high and he had to buy more and more shoes for his growing family. But now their prices have come down quite a bit, and their quality has always been the best available. He decides maybe it’s time to go to a Victory Horizons shoe store and see what they have available these days.