My editing business received a call from India recently, offering outsourcing as a way to cut my costs. Guess what I said?
I received a phone call from India this week. It was a telemarketer, although I didn’t realize it at first. In fact, I had a hard time understanding anything she was saying, except for the fact that she wanted to speak with the owner of the small business. My “small business,” as she called it, amounted to little more than one young man struggling to freelance his editing and copywriting skills to other more successful businesses, and so I guess I would be the one stuck listening to her sales pitch. (One of the many downsides of owning your own business.)
So she talked some more, and I’m sure it was a very good sales pitch but I still couldn’t understand more than a few words at a time. I stopped her occasionally to try and figure out what exactly she was offering—I was, after all, in the business of helping others with their English, and perhaps this was a company that needed my copyediting skills. Every time I stopped her, she would back up and begin the same spiel.
She was reading from a script. So I stopped her again and asked her to get to the point since it was becoming increasingly obvious that she wasn’t interested in purchasing my services, but rather wanted me to buy something from her.
“What I’m saying,” she said more clearly, deviating from the script, “is that we would like you to outsource your company to India.”
I couldn’t speak at first. She went back into her script and read off a number of advantages to shipping any jobs I may have overseas: cheaper labor, quality services, low overhead, yadda yadda yadda. I finally stopped her. “No!” I said, and perhaps as a matter of American pride, I repeated my passionate one-word declination.
There are some who believe outsourcing is a good thing, for a number of reasons not limited to the immense savings and competitive edge it creates in markets. I see it as a bad thing, and I have my own arguments to back it up. But both of these sides of the argument can be temporarily set aside for the time being, because the issue at stake is a matter of personal satisfaction. If my small business were to ever grow large enough where I would need to bring on another proofreader or copywriter, I would want someone who is a master of the English language. Perhaps you see where I’m going. For those of you who don’t, allow me to continue.
If this particular representative was any indication of how well her company grasped the English language (after all, she was chosen to contact American businesseses), then how exactly could I trust one of her co-workers to proofread one of my client’s Web sites? I could imagine the call now:
“Mister Brosky, we’re just going over some of the changes you suggested to our Web site and we’re a little confused. At the bottom of this particular page, there is a paragraph circled and a note in the margin that says, ‘Write you better lots.’ Is that a joke?”
The joke, of course, is that I would be willing to outsource my work to a company in a foreign country whose employees sell products over the phone using a script, with absolutely no understanding of American morays and folkways. What’s so sad is that an increasingly larger number of American companies are doing just that. We now live in a society where we have to talk to a woman in Singapore when we need to retrieve bank information, rattling off an account number and listening to her repeat entirely different numbers. Or a man in New Deli when we have to troubleshoot our PC, trying to explain to him that yes, we have already re-booted and yes, we have already tried this and that but he cannot deviate from his script because he cannot communicate without it.
There may be a time when these problems are fixed, and you can speak freely to your representative in from India or China, but by then their skills will be too expensive to use, and outsourcing will begin anew in another much poorer country. And if you don’t agree, then you probably haven’t had to troubleshoot your PC yet.