At your service Sir..?

One of the first things I learned in Sociology was all about Fordism, and Industrialism, and Post-Industrialism… And how we are, in Late Modernity moving to this situation of a Post-Industrial Society; characterised by, among other things, the decline of manufacture and the proliferation of Service Industries.

OK, the Luddites saw the decline of the manufacturing industry, or at least the decline of the human input into it in the early 19th Century, way even before Fordism brought the wonderful job security and high wages in the factories. And Daniel Bell was right, in his thoughts of post industrialism, but I am beginning to have my concerns with this description of a “Service” Industry.

Now the more astute of you will have seen through this already and be expecting the ensuing rant about NTL, Powergen, and lately Virgin Mobile.

I will get the vitriol out of the way and recap: Powergen fucked me over by messing up my bills, leaving me in £300 debt despite my best efforts to tell them accurately how much Gas I have used.  This took 3 weeks of my being on the phone for about an hour a day and 4 levels of management for them to get their heads round my problem.

NTL left me without a phone for 3 weeks, whilst they took 4 missed appoinments before fixing my line.

More recently, Virgin Mobile have so far taken months of procrastination and mis-information (and endless call centre staff who don’t speak fucking English) to get me codes to unlock my phone so I can use a network that doesn’t cost a bomb and actually works! At this point I think why bother? Why: because I see no point in throwing away a toxic piece of waste and buying a new one. Sorry. I am a hippy!

Aside from the obvious “service indsutry, where’s the service?” question, I am beginning to see an ambiguity between product and service which puts a different spin on the Post-Industrial Service Industry paradigm.

Which is which?

I would say, when I buy gas, I am buying a product. Yes, there is a service inherent in my receiving that product, but Amazon get it sorted when I buy a book.  However, First Direct (with whom I also have a beef about their stuck up behaviour to anyone who takes an income cut) permanently advertise their range of financial products. 

Of course this is where, when it gets to Virgin Mobile it gets even more complex, as I would admit that a telephone connection is more of a service. But am I buying a product really… I think so.

OK satellites are not cheap, but there’s over 9000 of the buggers spinning round the planet to date. This is why when I try and get my phone unlocked I have to speak to someone who can’t understand me, ‘cos overall it’s cheaper to route my call via a spinning Iridium to someone working on a tiny wage in Bangalore, that pay someone in the UK to take my call. Part of this shows greed. Part of this shows the fact that actually making a telecommunication connection costs bugger all.

Handsets are not cheap either. Even with the mass production that they appear relentlessly in.  Half of what you pay on your phone bill is paying for the handset. Which is why they are locked, so you can’t escape.

What I don’t understand is why the fuckers don’t get that if I got the service I wouldn’t need to escape? But then we have a service industry, and is that the product, ‘cos otherwise there is nothing for many people to do?