In the past year, many of the Valley’s low paying jobs have been shipped overseas to the Philippines. More and more companies are moving their call centers out of the area even though wages are among the lowest in the nation.
AT & T is closing its call center in Atwater. About 550 jobs are moving out of the area, supposedly to other states. When I called AT & T to inquire about adding service last week, I reached a call center in the Philippines. Previously, I would reach someone in a call center in Pleasanton. Years ago, Modesto had a call center at 12th and M Streets in Modesto.
The Modesto Bee originally provided subscription service out of its H Street building in downtown Modesto. A few years ago, it moved operations to a call center in Sacramento. Now, subscriptions are handled through a Philippines call center. No other contacts in the United States are listed in the phone book except the newspaper’s news room.
Problems with Philippines Call Centers
In the case of Philippines call centers, employees do not provide their real names to callers. They provide fake anglicized names and try to disguise the fact that they are overseas. They don’t want U.S. callers to know where they are located because customers are growing increasingly angry about outsourcing jobs.
When I had a problem with my Modesto Bee subscription this month, a fellow who identified himself as “Roger” told me that I had donated 17 days of newspapers to charity during my vacation. When I said this was untrue, he changed his story and said that the Modesto Bee no longer credits vacation subscriptions for days the newspaper is not received. When I told him that the Bee’s automated system says days a subscription is suspended does extend the subscription, he changed his story a second time and told me my account would be credited for the 17 days. I had to ask for a supervisor and threaten cancellation of the subscription before I received the credit. This contact created a basic distrust with the call center.
Hewlett Packard in India
I had a problem setting up an HP printer I had bought at Best Buy. When I called technical support, I reached a call center in India. The person in India could not figure out what was wrong with my new HP printer, so he tried to sell me another HP printer, asking for my credit card number. He told me that HP only ships defective merchandise to Best Buy. Needless to say, I did not buy another printer. Instead, I returned the printer to Best Buy, obtained a refund, and bought a different brand of printer.
Are All Call Centers Moving Overseas?
A call this week to the reservation line for Super 8 Motels yielded an interesting exchange. I started a very friendly conversation with a female call center employee. I casually asked her where her call center was located. She said that the company policy was not to provide the information. I then told her that I knew where she is. She said, “you do?” I said “yes, Manila Philippines.” She responded by telling me that she is located in Asia and that I pronounce the name of the city “Manila” perfectly.
Why Are Jobs Moving?
Proposals to increase the minimum wage have undoubtedly increased the rate of call center job exports. Workers in foreign countries are willing to hold jobs for much lower wages and corporations are willing to provide lower quality service to their customers in exchange for labor cost savings. Sometimes, the quality of service is not noticeably different. Other times, the quality is unacceptable. Companies that miscalculate their customer base stand to lose a lot of business, but not if they all send their call centers overseas.