Just Say No to Outsourcing

Alamo and National lose a rental customer.

I’m going to Austin, TX in April to attend an Apple Computer event. I had to do the usual things to arrange a trip like that: airline reservations, hotel reservations, car rental reservations. I did the airline stuff on the Web — it really is easier. I did the hotel reservations by phone, calling two of the three hotels close to where I had to go. And then I did the car rental reservations by calling toll-free phone numbers.

Hertz and Avis phones were answered by folks who were obviously American based in US cities. I only had to make my request once. English is their primary language and they had no trouble understanding me. I got rates from each — Avis was $22 cheaper.

But that wasn’t enough. I also called Alamo and National. And in both cases, I was connected to someone at a noisy desk in India.

Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about outsourcing US jobs for US companies serving US citizens to foreign countries. When I make a reservation with a US company for service in the US, I fully expect the entire transaction to be conducted in this country.

Yet Alamo and National, in their attempt to save a few bucks an hour on employee costs, are willing to sacrifice good customer service. Both representatives had heavy Indian accents that were difficult to understand and, in both conversations, I had to repeat my requests several times. I told both of them that I didn’t do business with companies that outsource customer service labor and hung up on them.

Months ago, I cancelled all of my AT&T service and sold all of my AT&T stock because the company had turned over customer service to representatives in India. I’ve also cancelled several credit cards when I learned that customer service was handled overseas. I’ve stopped doing business with companies I know are outsourcing.

There’s something wrong with outsourcing US jobs to overseas employees. Every time a US citizen loses his or her job to someone in another country, the US economy gets a little weaker. There’s one less person with an income, one less person able to buy goods and services. When that person has to take a lower paying job — like as a checkout person in a Wal-Mart — the weakness remains despite the replacement job.

Am I alone in feeling this way? Are American companies so greedy that they’re willing to lose potential customers — not just people like me with principles but the people they’re leaving on unemployment lines? When is it going to stop? I’d rather pay more for goods or services to know that in doing so I’m keeping other Americans employed.

Do your part. Stand up for what you think is right. And just say no to outsourcing US jobs overseas.

Now don’t get me started on goods made in China.

10 thoughts on “Just Say No to Outsourcing

  1. I was wondering how you’d feel about jobs outsourced to Canada? Or Mexico? Or to a US-based correctional facility? I haven’t made up my mind on this issue. Like our trade with China, I understand that many manufacturers there are parts of the Red Army. Are we aiding and abetting a foreign power, or making an attack by the Chinese less likely, since they own so much of our debt, it’d be like shooting one’s self in the foot? As to the individual Indian citizen, am I better off to offer a job or just charity? I can’t get far enough away to see the big picture and make a reasoned decision. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  2. My Honda was built in Japan. Honda is a Japanese company and has excellent quality products. I made my split with US auto makers a long time ago, preferring to spend my money on a quality vehicle that would last a long time. My 1987 Toyota MR-2, which was probably also made in Japan, is still going strong with 133,000 miles and its original clutch. (And I learned to drive stickshift on that car!) When US automakers can consistently build a car with the same level of quality and reliability as a Honda or a Toyota, I’ll buy one. But so far, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.

    My Yamha motorcycle was probably built in Japan. My Ducati was definitely built in Italy. My helicopter was built in Torrance, CA. My Jeep was probably built in the US. The only reason I bought it was because I needed it.

    Some people confuse outsourcing with purchasing products built by foreign companies. They’re VERY different.

    When I do business with a US company, I expect their customer service representatives to be based in the US. I don’t want to call a phone number and be connected to someone who barely speaks English with a heavy accent in India or any other country. While I understand the need for such outsourcing with 24-hour support — call Apple support very early in the morning and your call might be answered by someone in Ireland — there’s no excuse for it in the middle of the day. The only excuse is cheapness. Why pay someone in the US $8/hour plus benefits when you can pay someone in India $2/hour?

    Yes, I know this is improving the bottom line of these companies, but it is defintely not improving our economy as a whole. And who is getting that bottom-line money? Stockholders? Think again. Check on the compensation packages for the top executives in big companies. They’re raking it in.

    Take, for example, my sister. She worked for CitiBank (then CitiGroup) for 19 years. It was her first job out of college. Little by little, the company was downsizing all around her, sending one customer service job after another to India. She was laid off once when her job was outsourced and instead of taking the very generous severence package and running with it, she found another job at CitiGroup. Two years later, they laid her off again. The severence package wasn’t as good and there were no other jobs. She was unemployed for six months because her job had been sent to India.

    Now look at the bigger picture. Muliply my sister’s situation by thousands — because that’s how many jobs are going overseas. Now you’ve got lots of people who are unemployed or forced to take lower paying jobs. (My sister took a 20% pay cut in her new job.) These people have reduced buying power, so they can’t do their part to support the economy by buying goods and services. (That, in turn, leads to a need to lay off more people at companies that simply aren’t doing as well as when the economy is strong.) Some of these people are forced to declare bankruptcy. Some of them go on welfare. Then the burden of supporting them goes to us.

    All because the big company they worked for decided to save a few bucks by sending jobs to India.

    Tell me, is this something you want to continue?

  3. Dear Maria:

    In response: “My 1987 Toyota MR-2,”; I recently gave my 1983 Chevrolet C-10 to a young friend, it had way more mileage than that, still running great, but so what, anecdotal, huh?

    “When US automakers can consistently build a car with the same level of quality and reliability as a Honda or a Toyota, I’ll buy one. But so far, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.” Recent J.D.Power & Associates’ surveys have shown Buick with fewer problems than Toyota.

    “My Jeep was probably built in the US. The only reason I bought it was because I needed it.” Why not a Land Cruiser? BTW, let’s go fourwheeling sometime, I’ve got a Toyota FWD.

    “Some people confuse outsourcing with purchasing products built by foreign companies. They’re VERY different.” I bet not to a layed-off UAW member or a RIF-ed GM middle manager. It doesn’t seem different to me, either: a need exists, one attempts to service that need with the best value at the lowest price.

    I think it is interesting how similar this discussion is to your writings regarding the situation in Wickenburg, where folks “outsource” their purchases to Surprise, Phoenix, etc.

    And you refer to yourself as a liberal, yet seem to share “protectionist” leanings with Pat Buchanan. Politics does make for strange bedfellows, indeed.

    I am sorry for your sister’s situation, and the thousands like her. The marginalized among us become more so everyday.

    I don’t want that to continue, but I’m afraid it’s reality. Tried to buy a Rallys burger or an American Motors Javelin lately? You can’t, they were marginal products produced by marginal people, and the marketplace destroyed them.

    And it certainly seems that the marketplace is far more powerful than government, so what to do?

    Compete? Or complain?

    Thanks again.

  4. It’s interesting to me how people like to put me in categories: a liberal, for example. I don’t think of myself as “A Liberal” but as a more liberal than conservative thinker. Someone else made a comment like yours, telling me that I wasn’t a Democrat but a Libertarian. I don’t remember saying I was a Democrat, either.

    I also object to being put in a box as if a few of my views are similar enough to someone elses that we can be boxed together. I don’t know what Pat Buchanan thinks because I don’t follow politics very closely. Because of that, I’m not even sure what your “strange bedfellows” comment means. Should I be insulted? Enraged? Pleased? I haven’t got a clue. Is it worth looking up Pat Buchanan to find out? I don’t think so.

    Marginal products produced by marginal people SHOULD disappear. That’s the beauty of a free market economy.

    But I also think that the American people should work harder and smarter to make great, innovative products like we once did. That doesn’t happen nearly as much as it needs to to keep us on top.

    Does that sound like a rallying cry for competition? If it doesn’t what would?

    We’re churning out a populace that would rather stuff itself with junk food while watching “American Idol” than spend quality time with their families, learn new things, and think for themselves. Where will we be in ten, twenty, or fifty years?

    And you’re confusing my expression of opinion with complaining. I’m not complaining about these things. I’m bringing them to the attention of readers, explaining my take on them.

    I could whine and complain about outsourcing and continue to do business with companies that practice it. But I’m not doing business with them. I’m doing my part to make it stop. I’m writing to let people know that they can, too. If enough of us just say no to outsourcing, maybe US employers will get it into their heads that it isn’t such a good thing after all.

    You’re free to argue that we should all buy American-made products, too, no matter what the cost or quality is like. Many people will agree with you. But many won’t.

  5. Please accept my apologies, I thought you had identified yourself that way in the past. I don’t recall you saying you were a Democrat, either.

    Pat Buchanan is an old line politico on the right, probably first gained fame as a Nixon speechwriter. Nationalistic in nature, he advocates protectionist policies on off-shoring, border issues etc. I would have thought you might have at least remembered him from CNN’s “Crossfire.”

    Reread my last post, I took no “Buy American” position. Like you, I try to get the best value for our rapidly shrinking dollars. I have a Toyota pickup.

    I don’t think I’m confusing opinion with complaining. Just commenting on your opinions, which I agree with often, i.e. Wickenburg’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Trying to clarify, and point out inconsistencies

    in our thinking.

    BTW, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog, and following your search for an alternate home base last summer. I probably took your efforts for granted. Thanks for all your work here and on Wickenburg-az.com!

    And I finally bothered to open an e-mail account again, so note my latest address. Have fun!

  6. I agree with everything you have said in your blog, Maria. I bought a Dell computer, and have learned the hard way that I will never do so again, because the people in tech support are just down right lousy! I had a problem with my laptop not starting up. I called TS, and they said, “try turning it on.” I politely explained that was why I was calling, I had tried that already. After two more attempts, it was obvious the man I spoke to was reading from a script, and did not know how to help me. I asked for a supervisor, and after him telling me twice he could not get me one, I yelled at him. He then got me a supervisor, who also spoke broken, limited English. When I called in the following week, and got somebody who spoke English, I stated my concerns for the obvious outsourcing that Dell does. The man I spoke to replied: “M’am, most companies outsource.” I told him, “well, I don’t do business with those companies and when I need a new computer, I won’t be buying from yours again, either!” and hung up. I could not believe how rude he was.

    Grrrr….

  7. would like to make a point about what DD said.

    “In response: “My 1987 Toyota MR-2,”; I recently gave my 1983 Chevrolet C-10 to a young friend, it had way more mileage than that, still running great, but so what, anecdotal, huh?

    “When US automakers can consistently build a car with the same level of quality and reliability as a Honda or a Toyota, I’ll buy one. But so far, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.” Recent J.D.Power & Associates’ surveys have shown Buick with fewer problems than Toyota.”

    my 1994 Camaro has 111000 on it my 98 Mustang has 103000 on it and my Dodge dakota had 220000 before selling it. and like stated many of the U.S. products do not get a fair shake. Look in the 2006 December issue of Automobile Magazine and anything import they gloat about while anything U.S. built is bashed with many insults that if on a foreign nameplate would be waxed poetically over. and no I am not kidding.

  8. OMG!!! I did a search called “does Alamo outsource?” as if I had to ask after getting the run around from 5 people today who couldn’t speak English. It was a very frustrating day. Not only is it a bad company with bad policies but they had to add that to the mix. I will not be using them again and you have inspired me to do research regarding other companies that outsource. I was not aware of what it even was until my husband mentioned the possibility after we were frustrated today. We were trying to extend our rental by a week due to family issues. They first in very broken attempted English tried to tells us it would be cheaper to return our vehicle to the original location to close the contract and get a new vehicle for a reduced advertised rate (our current rate is lower but they wouldn’t be nice enough to offer that, would they? Nope). Now, stay with me, if we could get our vehicle back to our original location why in hell would we need to have a rental extension? Then after that I was positive he asked me when I’d like to return my mom. You may think that’s funny but my mother is dead and I’m fairly sure I did not rent a new one from Alamo. On my last call I was trying to explain my situation and a female ( I think) kept interrupting me with some unknown accent (unlike any I’ve heard) over and over and I finally just hung up. I decided instead to look up the number and address to the Sacramento, California location I rented from and take a chance on pushing the option that requests to speak to an agent and thankfully I actually DID get an agent IN Sacramento who could speak perfect English. I don’t care who they are but it’s hard enough to deal with things like this over the phone without trying to understand thick accents, and then to find out they are not even here??? And another thought, a scary one, each of the jerks I talked to today who were no help whatsoever had access to my credit card information. I’m sure the fifty cents they make an hour wherever they are does not give them the incentive to keep that info confidential. I wrote a complaint letter to Alamo today, they won’t care if they lose my business but I do. In fact it probably won’t reach them. It probably landed on a desk in India and someone is having a good chuckle at my expense. Thanks for the blog! Misery loves company :)

    Sara

  9. Maria, Just thought I’d put in my 10 cents on this discussion. What follows is somewhat rambling: First, I wonder if this discussion could be clarified by a slight change in terminology. It was recently pointed out to me that there’s a difference between “outsourcing” and “offshoring”. Both are bad; but, outsourcing can occur both domestically as well as internationally – read contracting out. Second, as far as the car Co’s go, it’s useful to note that the Big-3 have all been multinational companies with profitable operations overseas (Mexico & Canada, too). Third, since the 1970’s they’ve also had minority interest in overseas car companies (GM – 20% of Toyota, Chrysler – Mitsubishi, FORD owns MAZDA). In an age of import quotas, THAT fact has been conveniently ignored. GM closed 17 plants in the 80’s and 90’s and opened a like number in Mexico. The NAFTA effect? There are so many imported parts making up domestic product it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s an “American” car. Finally, FORD offered their entire workforce a buyout last year to just walk away from the production lines – where do they want us to buy a car from, China? Part of the financial crisis can be traced to both FORD and GM finance as they became mortgage companies and made bad loans. Instead of investing in production and improved products, they joined many US companies in seeking to profit simply by moving money around on Wall St. and lending the proceeds of their labor force. I’m all for “free trade” but what we have is “managed trade” with the average worker or consumer being left out of the decision-making. Possible reason for the foregoing? – the means of production (stocks, bonds) are still controlled by a minority of people who call the shots in the boardrooms and on the hill. Solutions? – How about turnover in DC (and the statehouses) and major changes in the business culture (starting with colleges and universities). No more “me first and devil take the hindmost” MO.

What do you think?