Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Corporate talking

451 words

The way corporations ‘talk’ through their employees is difficult to handle for me. Surprisingly they manage to be bland, hapless and inconsistent.

While I appreciate them training their staff to consistently ‘qualified’ levels, I frequently get the impression that those are more soundbites than competence they are serving. Often the phrases people use don’t sound natural (‘human’ if you wish) but like they come from a training phrasebook. That always makes me feel uncomfortable.

I am not exactly sure why, but I think it is because too much, too specific training always suggests that the people I am dealing with don’t really know what they’re talking about and don’t really understand the problem they’re supposed to solve for me. That can totally work. But if the problem at hand is non-trivial – and why would I see their staff rather than just clicking a button on a web site if it weren’t – it may be beneficial if the person handling it actually knew what they’re doing. Besides that it’s the difference between speaking to a person and a robot. I have difficulties taking robots seriously. Yet they put people there, so you can’t treat them as badly as robots and just interrupt and reboot them when you see things won’t succeed.

A wonderful example for inconsistency (and a strict no-service attitude) is given by banks. While one of my banks once paid out several hundred Euros to me in cash just for showing them my expired ATM card – no ID whatsoever asked for – another bank surprised me by being all uptight when I had forgotten my ID. I didn’t even want to get any cash out of them but just make sure some account is renewed and won’t expire. After at least presenting some pseudo IDs (stuff like bank and uni cards which are used as IDs in other countries…) they let me do that but I was informed that this was for my own good because banks are sworn to secrecy to protect my privacy – after all I wouldn’t want my neighbours to know about my accounts.

To which I had to answer that I coudn’t care less about what my neighbours know. Instead of pointing out that people having to hide things in that way are probably crooks, I used my surprising ability to at the same time sneer at people and yet remain polite, to just say that I don’t have any accounts in Liechtenstein that I need to hide. I figured that local bank staff might appreciate that: the harmless local saver. Yet, the clerk – with a complete lack of irony – countered that it would be nice to have those accounts…

April 25, 2008, 9:38


Comment by Simone Manganelli: User icon

Instead of pointing out that people having to hide things in that way are probably crooks [emphasis mine], I used my surprising ability to at the same time sneer at people and yet remain polite, to just say that I don’t have any accounts in Liechtenstein that I need to hide.

I’m sorry, but no. People have a right to privacy, including honest people who don’t have “things to hide”. To assert that these protections shouldn’t be in place because honest people shouldn’t need these protections is a slippery slope. If you have nothing to hide, then the police can come into your house anytime they want to make sure you don’t have any dead bodies in your house, right?

No, that is a very bad position to take.

April 25, 2008, 10:53

Comment by Simone Manganelli: User icon

Err, the first half of that quote before “[emphasis mine]” should have been italicized, not the latter half.

April 25, 2008, 10:55

Comment by ssp: User icon

Oh, I’m totally in favour of privacy. But I tend to think that most other areas of privacy are more important than that of finances. Yet, financial privacy is much better protected than those other areas. And it always seems like that is the case because a lot of money considers it more profitable to remain unseen.

I don’t have first hand experience with it, but somewhere in Scandinavia that do that public tax record thing. I haven’t heard about big problems arising from that.

(Emphasis is a concept, italics are a font variant – perhaps that’s irritating you.)

April 25, 2008, 11:15

Comment by LKM: User icon

But I tend to think that most other areas of privacy are more important than that of finances.

Wha? That strikes me as quite an odd position to take. For example, I’m actually quite happy my employer doesn’t know I donated money to wikileaks, you know, given how [deleted]. And that [deleted] and [deleted] [deleted] [deleted]. And [deleted]. On second thought, I probably shouldn’t post that. Wait, let me go back and delete most of what I just wrote.

April 27, 2008, 0:49

Comment by ssp: User icon

I think we have a slight misunderstanding here: I didn’t say that your bank should uncover all the details of your transactions to anyone asking (do you disrespect your employer? do they disrespect you? Just wondering…) And your bank’s idea of ‘privacy’ is certainly a different one as well. They’ll just make sure that whatever obvious tax cheating you do the state won’t hear about it. If, however, you have some money coming in, they’ll be very quick to make sure their call-centre apes call you. That much for privacy…

I am sure that anybody who’s interested in it can deduce a good approximation of how much money you have anyway. By where you live, by where you spend your money and so on. It’s just that that ‘privilege’ is restricted to the businesses trying to get their share of your dough.

April 27, 2008, 23:53

Comment by LKM: User icon

Well, I’m Swiss, so my bank respects my privacy ;-)

Do I disrespect my employer? Not sure how the concept of “disrespect” could possibly apply, so I guess the answer is “no” :-) But you can probably figure out why - as an example - giving money to wikileaks is not always something you want your employer and its clients to know about if you’re in Switzerland.

I agree that it’s usually possible to figure out approximately how much money somebody has, but that’s not what you wrote; you wrote:

But I tend to think that most other areas of privacy are more important than that of finances. and I disagree with that.

“Finances” is much more than just how much money you have; your finances potentially can tell somebody pretty much everything about you, and since privacy is a fundamental human right, your finances should be kept private whenever possible.

Now, I will agree that there are huge issues with foreigners illegally moving money to Switzerland. However, the answer is not to give up privacy, but to make sure that courts can get banks to release data in a legitimate trial (which is currently not the case - not that Switzerland is the only country trying to get around this; just the one shown most often in James Bond movies :-).

April 29, 2008, 17:47

Comment by ssp: User icon

As for your employer, you at least seem to be reluctant to trust them to accept you and your opinions about sites like wikileaks if you’d be happy that they don’t know about donations.

I am sure we can find some reasonable middle ground there. If you take such a broad view of ‘finances’ you may have a point. I guess the perspective one has on the topic also depends on how seriously you take money and what you are doing with it. Personally I have neither enough money nor enough debt to feel ashamed about it. And I don’t feel the need to hide my opinions about or support of organisations. Perhaps I’m naïve there, perhaps I’m just not doing exciting stuff, perhaps my environment is just exceptionally tolerant.

We’ll talk about this again when I’m on a big career in the weapons industry. Perhaps that’ll change my opinion…

A general problem are of course the banks. They tolerate – and it seems reasonable to suspect that they also support or even encourage – things like tax evasion if there’s a profit in it. As long as that happens it’s hard to take their statements about privacy as anything than double tounged blather.

In fact, I never had the impression that my bank cared particularly about my privacy. They certainly analyse my account movements to see whether they can make me new ‘offers’ and I have the impression that any of their staff can snoop around my data without my explicit permission. If they really were serious about privacy, I’d expect less casual behaviour in those areas as well.

[I took the liberty to edit your comment, which originally contained part of your text in the blockquote.]

April 29, 2008, 19:20

Comment by LKM: User icon

@ssp: It’s not about opinions, it’s more about conflict of interest. I think the issue with wikileaks should be reasonably obvious; for my own benefit, I’m not going to spell it out for you. If you think your employer needs to know what organizations you give money to, I won’t stop you from sending them your receipts :-)

I don’t think it’s a matter of how seriously you take money. It’s also not (or not only) about debt. Whether you take it seriously or not, the flow of your money says a lot about you (perhaps for you not quite yet, but it will). This is somewhat frustrating for me, since I can’t really get into details here, and I don’t want to ask you to “just trust me.” Instead, I’m going to say: be sceptical. The banks sure as hell aren’t on your side in this, but neither is the government. Just because your particular bank abuses its knowledge of your finances to send you ads doesn’t mean they should give the government the same access. Your privacy is an important asset that you should not give up just to make it easier for the government to collect taxes, because you can be sure that won’t be the only thing they’ll use that power for. There has to be a way of fighting tax evasion without giving up your privacy.

Good luck with your career in the weapons industry, though :-)

April 30, 2008, 10:00

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