12/21–The Interview: One-on-One with Kim Jong-un

8/3–VIDEO: Has time run out for Laskin?

3/16–VIDEO: G-rated list of 5 reasons to hire older workers

1/30–VIDEO: I'm Scheduled to Die August 1, 2014

11/19–VIDEO: In which Mr. Laskin takes on Mr. Lincoln

11/2–VIDEO: Rapp Story redux -- an explanation of sorts

10/21–VIDEO: The Rapp Story

9/12–VIDEO: The scariest profession in the world. Really?

7/4–VIDEO: Finally, a movie review without ever seeing the movie

4/18–VIDEO: The 7 words George Carlin would never have used

2/28–VIDEO: Sequester that credit card!

1/16–VIDEO: Don gets the word

10/31–The day social media died

8/6–VIDEO: The secret to viral videos

5/31–We all agree on this, right?

4/5–What's stealing? Really? Me? Shirley, you jest

1/19–VIDEO: The other Goldilocks story

12/11–VIDEO: Accomplishments? Or credentials?

11/7–VIDEO: A few minutes with Don Laskin on Andy Rooney

9/11–VIDEO: The hidden meaning of printer ink expiration dates

8/3–VIDEO: I am a Negro

5/24–VIDEO: It’s the end of the world as we know it

4/11–VIDEO: Return of the Avatar – with handy tips for finding a job

2/28–VIDEO: Laskin names names

2/10–VIDEO: Return of blower man

2/8–VIDEO: The threat of hippos -- and leaf blowers

1/11–VIDEO: Don as you've never seen him before

11/8–AUDIO: Hating the rich. Well, some of them, at least

10/17–VIDEO: He's not sleeping, he's making an important decision

10/1–What Amelia Earhart has to do with marketing management

8/25–AUDIO: The Mosque Ox

8/23–AUDIO: Why Meg Whitman needs to talk with Don en espanol

7/12–VIDEO: Don Laskin gets a spokes-thing

6/21–VIDEO: Why webinars are a waste of time

6/1–VIDEO: Has Don sold his soul to the Devil?

5/23–VIDEO: A message to, well, you know who you are

5/14–VIDEO: Twit, Tweet, Twitter?

5/5–Don unloads on Google

2/24–The sweatsuit answer to Kaiser, or Medicare Part The Deux

2/16–What's wrong with Kaiser?

12/4–What’s as rare as a Raiders touchdown? Laskin knows

10/19–Why Dave prefers vanilla

10/1–God's will -- and other reasons

8/17–AUDIO: Hierarchy of stupid

5/25–AUDIO: Some calm words about a world in PANIC!!

4/28–AUDIO: Why CEOs can ignore everything – except Facebook

4/6–With friends like these…

1/19–When perception is reality -- except when it isn't

12/9–AUDIO: Chased by the devil

10/29–AUDIO: Sine qua non a rant it would not be Don

10/20–AUDIO: Joe the writer, er, Don

10/2–AUDIO: Perp Walk Inc.

2/25–AUDIO: Why people put up with crummy jobs

2/10–AUDIO: Making clients money with advertising

1/2–Tiny weiners on toothpicks

12/19–AUDIO: Don improves with age, he says

12/6–AUDIO: Why telecommuting gardeners are needed

10/1–Don Laskin – Almost human?

7/8–Counting, if not connecting, the dots

5/3–Is your advertising stuck in a silo? So is Don

2/5–It's deja vu all over again for Don

9/10–Observations: Laskin faced end with courage

7/14–Observations Why Don Laskin’s ex-boss hiked up her skirt

6/16–Observations They're baaaack! And don't say you weren't warned

4/28–Be careful what you wish for

4/17–Did somebody just say something?

3/8–Laskin makes his first annual “Moron of the Month” Award*

2/15–Our man Laskin reports from a UFO

1/30–Laskin pioneers podcast idea

1/11–Veteran podcaster Don Laskin offers advice

1/3–The Logic of Illogic (Part 2)

12/16–Festivus greetings

11/15–An easy death

8/22–Autistic Cows


7/14–Making a Better Than Human Human

7/4–A tool of capitalism

6/26–Position Heal thyself. -- Plus: Useful information. For real. No kidding

6/25–Life is Like a box of chocolates with no “i” in team

5/15–A $1,000 fine and five days in jail

4/23–Is spending money on advertising a waste?



Making a Better Than Human Human

by Don Laskin
July 14, 2005

I don’t know if you noticed, but a whole bunch of companies are using voice-activated automated attendants (VAAA or V-AAA*). This is the technology where you say the name of the person to whom you want to speak…umm, to. And, you’re transferred to that person’s extension, where you can leave a message in the voice mail because he or she is never going to pick up because that’s why you didn’t have their number in the first place because they didn’t want to speak to you.

A few years ago when I first came across VAAA (pronounced VAAA or V-AAA), I would say Gupta Reyes and get transferred to the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. Fortunately, these systems have become a lot more reliable. Now, when I ask for Gupta Reyes, I go right into his voice mail without ever bothering the police.

As you may already be aware, long-term relationships in advertising are rare; with my personality even rarer. That means I make a lot of cold calls. A lot!? I make so many cold calls my pet parakeet is a penguin. Anyway, cold calls provide a very high level of rejection, which leads to a high level of depression. And, I’m depressed enough already. In fact, I’m depressed at just how depressed I am.

But, as any good passive-aggressive with a strong sense of paranoia will tell you, the secret to avoiding rejection is to reject the rejecter before the rejecter can do any rejecting. In bar fights, they call it a sucker punch. President Bush refers to it as a preemptive first strike on Iraq against weapons of mass destruction that was actually a preemptive first strike on Iraq against a vicious dictator that was actually a preemptive first strike on Iraq to build a democracy that was actually a preemptive first strike on Iraq against a terrorist who was in Afghanistan. Whatever you call it, my preemptive first strike sucker punch is name-calling. Yes. Name calling. But, before you start calling me names like puerile, childish and handsome, you ought to know the strategy not only avoids rejection, it’s yielded some pretty incredible statistics.

First. To cold call, you’ve got to get hold of a cold name. I get cold names and a company’s phone number from its Website. When calling, unless a human answers, if you don’t know the extension, the automated phone system tells you to access the company’s dial-by-name directory. Most times that means pressing the # key**.

As I press the # key, my rejection-avoidance kicks in and, immature as it sounds, I name call. I’ll mutter something like, “Okay, dummy” or “dumbbell.” However, these days instead of receiving the expected prompt, “Using the dial-pad buttons on your telephone, spell out the name of the person you’re trying to reach,” a voice-activated system will connect me directly to a Dom Bell or an O.K. Dummy. As a result, some remarkable statistics have come to light. For instance, did you know that in Silicon Valley companies alone there are 35 Dummys, 29 Dom Bells, 23 Jerks, 14 Morons and an Idiot? Personally, I was shocked by these numbers. I expected a lot larger number of idiots.

At this point you’ve likely concluded this is going to be another rant on how nuanced humans are more effective at human tasks than sterile, Press one for “yes” two for “no” computers and that the whole idea of the computer has veered off from being a tool to get rid of boring, mundane repetitive jobs nobody wants to do like dishes and visiting relatives on holidays and electrolysis and voting; and started replacing people with robotized, synthetic, banal, pale reflections of the real thing. If you thought this, you’d be wrong.

Three things should be apparent to anybody who’s read any of my stuff. 1) They have no taste. 2) They are masochists—unless they forward one for somebody else to read. That would make them sadists. 3) I’m not real fond of people. (I don’t even like dogs.) And, not being overly overjoyed with humanity, give me automation over the real thing any day. “Automized Humans” (AHs*) don’t complain constantly about being overworked and underpaid, are always even-tempered, loyal to a default, available 24/7, never go to lunch, and don’t mind repeating themselves over and over and over and…. Okay, so there may be a glitch or two. But, these can be worked out.

My gripe is this. From a purely mercenary, dollars and cents, hardheaded business perspective, why was automation introduced to the workplace? It wasn’t just to get rid of boring, repetitive tasks. Henry Ford managed to find people who were happy to work on boring and repetitive tasks on his assembly line. And when they weren’t happy, he was happy to call in his private police until they were happy.

No. The reason to automate is to SAVE MONEY! But where is automation applied? Low-paying jobs! And, how much money can you save replacing a receptionist? Or a customer-service rep making minimum wage in Bangalore?

Why not automate jobs that can save some REAL money? Start with the CEO. What does a CEO do anyway? It’s not like CEOs greet strangers, fill-in for the mail boy, answer phones, or run out at the last minute to drop off packages before FedEx closes. And, when was the last time you called a CEO because the product you bought from their company didn’t work right?

From what I understand, when you strip away all the trappings of the CEO’s job like going off to Allenwood*** for a few months or the South of France for a sales conference, the CEO, when he or she is not checking out his/her golden parachute for moths, is making money for the stockholders. What better way of performing a CEO’s function than cutting the corporation’s biggest labor expense?

Besides, as the Chief Executive Officer, whose basic job is saying “yea” or “nay” to proposed courses of action, his is the easiest position to automate. It takes a minimum of hardware and no software. It’s called a penny. “Heads” the corporation expands; “tails” it doesn’t. “Heads” it brings out a new product line; tail…. You get the idea.

But don’t think I want automation to stop with CEOs. Writers are easy to automate. Press 1 for ads that makes customers trip over each other getting to products Press 2 for Richard III Press 3 for a simple declarative sentence; for a declare; sentence simple. Okay, so, there may be a glitch or two, but these can be worked out. worked out. worked out.

* L.M.U. A. (Love Making Up Acronyms)

** When a company’s automated voice system first refers to the # key as the “pound key” then later calls it “number sign,” the company is disorganized. However, call again in six months and it will no longer be disorganized; just disconnected.

***Federal prison for “upscale” criminals.


Don Laskin is a veteran of the advertising and public relations jungle where he really has run into real people, at least from time to time. Reach him at Or give him a call at (408) 406-3574.

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