Thursday, November 15, 2012

Credit-card companies, women, men, and language -- an editorial

Have you ever noticed this? When you call credit-card companies to report problems, the companies assign women to handle some kinds of problems and men to handle other kinds. (Is that employment discrimination?) And the women and men speak differently. For example:

On many occasions over the last two decades, I have telephoned one or another credit-card company to dispute a charge for a faulty product or to report that I had been charged twice for a purchase. In other words, my money was at stake. In all these cases,

  1. A woman answered my call and handled the problem.
  2. The woman was a Valley-girl imitator, using adolescent speech affectations such as uptalk, baby voice, and vocal fry.

On other occasions, I have called to report that a stranger had used my account number to purchase something (fraud). In other words, the credit-card company’s money was at stake. In all these cases,

  1. A woman answered my call but immediately forwarded it to a man.
  2. The man sounded mature and serious. He used no speech affectations.

The Takeaway: When it is merely your money that is at stake, the credit-card company assigns a woman who talks like a child. But when it is the company’s money that is at stake, the company assigns a man who talks like a grown-up. That is what I have observed (of course, that does not constitute a scientific survey). I leave the interpretation to you; what, if anything, do you think my observations suggest about credit-card companies’ attitudes toward women, men, and language? Please comment.

See disclaimer.

1 comment:

  1. This could be an attempt to soothe angry customers and reassure fearful ones. When your money is at stake, you may well be angry about it. Faced with a stern man or woman, you might take it out on them, or make decisions that reflect your anger with the company. Some men may be less likely to do this when speaking to a woman who is trying to be "cute". It would be interesting to see if female customers get the same treatment--they may get a soothing man or a confident woman instead.