An Insider’s Look at Helicopter Spray Operations

Fascinating work with a lot of very specialized equipment.

My friend Sean runs a helicopter spraying operation. (You might know about this kind of work by another name: crop dusting.) The business is highly regulated not only by the FAA to ensure that operators and pilots have the skills and knowledge to do the work safely from an aviation perspective, but also by state and local agencies concerned with the safety of the chemicals being sprayed. It also requires a ton of very costly specialized equipment, from spray rigs that are semi-permanently installed on the helicopter to navigation equipment that helps the pilot ensure chemicals are spread evenly over crops to mixing and loading equipment to get the chemicals into the helicopter’s spray tanks.

Sean's Helicopter with Spray Gear
Sean’s helicopter with spray gear. He was running rinse water through the system on the ground here.

A lot of people have asked me why I don’t go into this business. Although I’d love to fly spray jobs, I have absolutely no desire to invest in the required equipment, start selling spray services to potential clients, or deal with the government agencies that need to get involved for each job. Or have employees again.

Sean is just getting his business off the ground (no pun intended) after over a year of spending money on equipment and jumping through hoops with the FAA. While I wouldn’t say he’s struggling, he’s certainly motivated to complete contracts and collect revenue. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of work a pilot can do cost effectively without help. He needs at least one person on the ground to mix and load chemicals, refuel the helicopter, and keep the landing zone secure.

Sean was having trouble finding someone to do the job. It’s not because he isn’t paying — I think he’s paying pretty good. Trouble is, a lot of folks either (1) don’t want a job that doesn’t guarantee a certain number of hours a week or (2) don’t like physical labor. Because the job depends on when there’s a contract to fulfill and what the weather is like when the job needs doing, hours are irregular. And it is tough physical work.

Spray Gal
Here I am in my coveralls, hamming it up for a selfie between loads.

I know because I stepped up to the plate to help him with his first two big jobs. I thought I’d spend a bit of time talking about this work from the loader’s point of view.

The Job

The pilot’s responsibilities are to spread the loaded chemicals over the crops to be sprayed using the tools in and on the helicopter. I can’t speak much about that because I haven’t flown a spraying mission. I can tell you that in a light helicopter like the R44, the pilot is doing a lot of very short runs — sometimes only a few minutes — and is often spending more time getting to and from the spray area than actually applying the spray. For that reason, the landing/loading area needs to be as close to the crops as possible — usually somewhere on the same property. The pilot is taking off near max gross weight for most flights and landing relatively light. And there are a lot of take offs and set downs. As I told Sean the other day, doing spray runs is a lot like doing hop rides at fairs and airport events — you just don’t need to talk to your passengers.

The loader’s responsibilities — well, that’s something I can address since I’ve been wearing that hat for the past two weeks.

When the pilot is warming up the aircraft for the first flight of the day, the loader is mixing the first batch of chemicals. Sean’s current setup includes a mix trailer that holds 1600 gallons of fresh water, a Honda pump, a mix vat, and a dry mix box. With the pump running, I turn valves to add 50 gallons of water to the vat, which is constantly mixing. Then I add about 4-6 capfuls of an anti-foam agent (which is not HazMat) to the vat, followed by a specific amount of chemical provided in 32-ounce bottles.

Mix trailer
Sean’s mix trailer onsite at an orchard near Woodland, CA. This is the “business end.” The mix vat is on the left.

Luna Sensation
This is how the chemical we’re using is shipped: in 32-ounce bottles.

The chemical we’ve been using is a “broad spectrum fungicide for control of plant diseases” made by Bayer (yes, the aspirin people). It is highly regulated and must be kept under lock and key when not in use. It looks a lot like Milk of Magnesia, which was a constipation remedy my grandmother gave us when I was growing up. It doesn’t smell as good, though. (And I’m certainly not going to taste it.) If you’re not familiar with that, think of an off-white Pepto Bismol. We’re spraying this stuff on almond trees and there’s a definite deadline to getting it done.

Here’s where some math comes in. The guy who wrote up the specs for our client’s orchard wants 6.5 ounces of the stuff applied per acre. The helicopter can take 50 gallons of chemical mix at a time. That 50 gallons covers 2.5 acres. So how much do I need to put into the vat for each 50 gallon load? 6.5 x 2.5 = 16.25. Round that down to the nearest whole number for 16. This is an easy mix because the chemical comes in 32 ounce bottles and there are measuring tick marks on the bottle at 8, 16, and 24 ounces. That makes it easy to add half a bottle and get it right. But if it didn’t work out so smoothly, we could use a big measuring cup Sean has to get the right amount.

So I add the chemical and the mixer mixes it up. If I’ve finished the bottle, I need to rinse it, which I do by dipping it in the mixer and then swishing it around a few times before dumping it into the mix. Then I put the empty bottle away in a box; even the empties are accounted for at the end of a job.

As you might imagine, I’m wearing protective gear: rubber gloves and coveralls. This particular chemical isn’t very nasty and I’m not likely to breathe it so I don’t need to wear a respirator or anything like that. (If I did, I probably wouldn’t be helping out.)

All this tank filling and mixing takes me less than 2 minutes.

I timed one of our cycles. Lap 1 was skids down to skids up: my loading work. Lap 2 was skids up to skids down: Sean’s flight. Less than 4 minutes for a cycle.

When Sean is ready for chemical, I turn the valves on the trailer’s mix system to direct mixed chemical into a thick long hose with a specialized fitting at the end. I bring the fitting over to the helicopter, drop down to my knees (which is why I also wear knee pads), and mate the hose fitting to a fitting on the helicopter’s tank. I then turn a valve on the hose fitting to get the mix flowing into the helicopter. I watch the mix vat the whole time and turn the valve off when it gets near the bottom so I don’t run it dry. Then I get back up and use a pull cord on a pump on the same side of the helicopter to start up his pumping system. When that’s running, I give Sean a thumbs up and head back to the trailer, gently resting the hose fitting on the hose along the way.

I timed this once and it took just over a minute, but that’s because it took two tries to get the helicopter’s pump going.

Sean lifts off immediately — often while I’m still walking away — and I get back to work mixing the next batch. When I’m done with that, I wait until Sean returns. It’s usually less than 4 minutes. Then I’m turning valves on the trailer quickly, sometimes before he even touches down. My goal is to minimize load time so he can take off again quickly.

Here’s Sean coming in for a landing beside the trailer. And yes, his approach route for a while was under a set of wires. (The rest of the time, he was departing under them.)

I usually leave the pump on the whole time I’m in the loading area, although if Sean’s work area is more than a minute or two from the landing zone, I sometimes shut it off. I wear ear plugs or earbuds so I can listen to music while I work. I keep a radio in my pocket so I can hear Sean if he calls for something or warn him if there’s a problem with the landing zone.

Beyond Mixing/Loading

Every six or seven runs, Sean needs fuel. He often radios ahead, but if he doesn’t or if I don’t hear the radio, I can tell he needs fuel because he throttles down to idle RPM (65%) after landing or makes a hand signal. In that case, I’ll fill the chemical first and return the hose to its resting position, then turn on the fuel pump on his truck, and walk the hose over to the passenger side of the helicopter. Sean said fueling is usually done by walking around the back, but no one can pay me enough money to walk between a helicopter’s exhaust pipe and tail rotor while it’s running. So I walk around the front, dragging the hose under the spray gear to get into position. Then I pump fuel until he gives me a signal to stop. It seems to me that he’s half filling the main tank each time — that’s about 14 gallons less whatever he already has in there.

When I’m done, I cap the tank, carefully walk the hose around the front of the helicopter to the truck, and then go back to start that pesky helicopter pump. Thumbs up and he takes off. I usually remember to turn the fuel pump off. Then I mix another batch of chemical so I’m ready when he returns.

Occasionally his pump or mine needs fuel. He uses helicopter fuel — it’s just 100LL AvGas — for both pumps. He keeps a jug of it at the mix trailer. I do the fueling.

Keeping the landing zone secure is pretty easy. On our last job, we were in a nice concrete loading area for a hay operation. Trucks did come and go, but in most cases, they saw Sean landing or sitting in the landing zone and waited until he was safely on the ground or had departed. Twice I tried to signal trucks to stop when I saw him coming in but they didn’t — both times they didn’t see the signal until it was too late and Sean aborted the landing. In our current landing zone, which is a dirt patch at the edge of the orchard, there’s a truck that comes and goes to haul out dead trees cut into firewood; the driver of that rig seems to pay attention and stops when I signal him.

Getting Physical

The job is extremely physical. All day long I’m walking around the trailer, truck, and helicopter; climbing up and down on the trailer’s mix station and truck bed; and hauling heavy hoses, fuel jugs, and cartons of chemical. And dropping to my knees (and then getting up) when I load the helicopter. And don’t even get me started with the pull cord on the helicopter’s pump, which I apparently pull too hard half the time.

I move at a quick pace, but I don’t run. Running is dangerous. Too easy to trip on a hose or a skid. Too many very hard things to crack your skull on if you fall. Anyone who runs while doing this job is an idiot.

But it can’t be too physical, right? After all, I’m a 55-year-old woman and I’m not in the best of shape. And I’m doing it all — although I’m exhausted at the end of the day.

Hours and Break Time

The job is weather dependent. We can’t work if it’s raining or likely to rain. We can’t work when the wind is more than 7 or 8 knots. We didn’t work Sunday because it was raining on and off all day and very windy.

But when we can work, we start early. We’re typically at the landing zone about an hour before dawn. Usually, Sean gets there first since he has more to do to get ready. He fills his truck’s fuel transfer tank with 100LL from the local airport. That can take 20-30 minutes. Then he comes back to the landing zone and, if the water tank is less than half full, he hooks it up to his truck and drags it to his water source and fills it. That’s another 20-30 minutes. Then he brings it back to the landing zone and positions it based on the wind direction, slipping 4×4 pieces of wood under the trucks rear wheels to bring the front end of the trailer up.

By that time it’s nearly dawn and I’ve arrived. I prep my work station by setting out chemical and anti-foam bottles in the trays on one side of the trailer and boxes for the empty bottles on the other. I suit up in the coveralls and get my knee pads on. While he’s preflighting the helicopter, I’m mixing the first batch of chemicals so I can load as soon as he starts up.

We work pretty much nonstop until we’re out of water. More math: If the trailer’s tank holds 1600 gallons and we’re using 50 gallons per load, we can do roughly 32 loads (1600 ÷ 50) before we’re completely out of water. That’s two 8-bottle cases of chemical. It’s also 80 acres. If you figure an average of 6 minutes per spray run/loading cycle, that’s about 3-1/4 hours.

When we’re out of water, I get my break because Sean has to fetch fuel and water using his truck. There’s nothing too difficult about doing any of it, but since I can really use a break after working that hard for that long, I won’t volunteer to do it. Instead, I strip off my protective gear, wash my hands (if I can), and take Penny for a walk. (She waits in the truck while I’m working.) Or sometimes I run out and get a bite to eat. Or eat a snack I’ve brought with me. That break lasts about an hour. Then it’s back to work all over again for another 3+ hours.

At the end of the day, we run three rinse cycles through all the equipment. I “mix” batches with just water. The first one usually includes some anti-foam stuff because the foam really gets out of hand if I don’t. The second two are straight water. I purposely overfill the mix tank on the third run to make sure the water gets all the way up the sides. Each load gets pumped into the helicopter and sprayed out to clean the spray rig.

The most difficult thing I did on Saturday was to get this container open so I could lock up two cases of chemical.

Then we wind up the hoses, secure the helicopter — or bring it back to base if Sean is near his hangar — lock up any unused chemicals and empty bottles, and call it a night. By that time, it is night; we often do the rinse cycles in the dark. I bring a lantern so I can see.

It’s long day. A very long day. I’ll start at 6 and finish by 7 with two hour-long breaks in the middle of the day. That’s 11 hours of active work.

On Saturday, we worked for most of the day. Yesterday was Sunday and we would have worked all day if the weather was right. There are no “weekends” in this line of work.

So yeah: this job wouldn’t be very attractive to someone who prefers to sit on his ass all day.

But I’m getting a great workout. I know I am because every single muscle in my body was screaming at me this morning when I got out of bed. No pain, no gain, right?


Why I’m Doing It

Although Sean is paying me for this work and the pay isn’t bad, I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it for two reasons:

  • Sean is a friend and he really needs to get this business off the ground. Without a helper, he’d have to mix and load by himself. He’d likely only get a fraction of the acreage done each day. The first orchard I helped him with was 1,000 acres and he did have another part time helper. This one is about 500 acres and there is no other helper. It would take him well over a week to do it by himself. Together, we’ll knock it off in less than 4 days.
  • I have a natural curiosity about how things work. The best way to learn about something is hands on. I know a lot more about the spray business now than I did two weeks ago and that’s a real motivator for me.

We’re down in Turlock, CA for this job. It’s 100 miles from Sean’s base near Woodland, which is also where I’m camped out for the next few weeks. Although I wanted very much to bring my camper down here with me and live in the orchard, Sean needed me to tow the mix trailer while he towed his helicopter.

Spray Gear
Here we are on Friday morning, just before dawn, ready to head down to Turlock with the mix trailer behind my truck and helicopter trailer behind Sean’s.

I’m very glad I let him have his way. We’re staying in very comfortable rooms at what’s probably the nicest Best Western I’ve ever stayed in. After months of mostly living in my camper, I admit that it’s nice to have a good, long, hot shower every day. So that’s a bonus.

And isn’t that what life is all about? Doing different things? Seeing different things? Experiencing different things?

That’s what it’s all about for me.

But I admit that I do hope Sean finds a new helper for his next job. I’m not staying in California much longer and I’m ready to hang up my spray loader cap.

Just because You Went to College Doesn’t Mean You’re Entitled to a Job

The Occupy movement and jobs.

My friend Jim called from Washington state today. He was driving through on his way to Chelan from where he lives in Coeur d’Alene, ID. He passed the town I spent three months in this summer, thought of me, and called.

Jim has some very definite political opinions, some of which I agree with, others of which I don’t. We can speak civilly about politics but I often pull the plug when I get bored with the discussion. After all, I’ll never change his mind and he’ll never change mine.

We talked about a bunch of things and then our conversation turned to the Occupy Wall Street movement. He described a video he’d seen that showed two men at an Occupy camp with a table set up to help connect protesters to employers. What struck him was one of the protesters saying “I can’t do that” for many of the jobs listed. She seemed to imply that those jobs were beneath her.

I tracked down the video and watched it. Watch it for yourself:

Now I’m not naive enough to think that creative editing wasn’t involved here. Maybe they edited out a lot of the more positive responses from protesters. And yes, the whole thing could be fake.

But although I do think that creative editing might have emphasized a certain message, I don’t think it’s fake. And I do think there are a lot of unemployed young people out there — possibly many camped out as Occupy protesters — who think that the jobs available to them are beneath them.

And that’s the subject of this post: the feeling of entitlement among recent college graduates.

My Ancient History

I graduated college nearly thirty years ago. I had a degree with “highest honors” (I wrote an honors paper) in Accounting and was a member of the Accounting Honor’s Society at Hofstra University, which was then one of the big private universities for business. You’d think I’d have no trouble getting a job. But like everyone else, I went through the stressful process of interviewing on campus. I had six interviews and got one offer.

I took it.

It didn’t matter to me that I was making $14,097 — 25% less than a lot of my friends who had the same degree from the same college. It didn’t matter to me that I wasn’t working at one of the (then) Big Eight accounting firms. The only thing that mattered was that I had a job that would pay my rent and keep me fed. I assumed (rightly, it turned out) that if I worked hard and did my job the best I could, I’d get raises and promotions and work my way up.

Two years later, at age 22, I became a supervisor. Everyone who worked under me was older than me.

My raises averaged 10% to 15% a year.

After five years, I realized that the only way to move up was either for someone to die or retire or for me to move out. So I went to another company. And I worked my way up in that company, too.

At 28, I was earning more annually than my father had ever earned annually in his life.

Then I decided I didn’t want to be a number cruncher. I wanted to be a writer. So at age 29, I engineered a career change. After two rough years, my income recovered; after five years, I was doing very well. But I worked my ass off to get there.

At age 40, I engineered another career change — this time to be the owner of a helicopter charter business. But because of the cost and financial risk involved, I didn’t let go of that second career. Instead, I juggled two jobs — and I continue to do so to this very day.

Point: When I was a kid, I was taught that to get ahead in life, you had to work hard. I also later learned that you had to work smart. And guess what? It works.


It seems to me — not just from this video, but from the bits and pieces of what I hear young people say — that they think that just because they spent 4 or 5 years and countless thousands of dollars to go to college, they’re entitled to get a job when they graduate.


As if the world will step back and open up thousands of job opportunities a year just for them.

But its not just any job that they want. They want a cushy job — something that pays more than enough to cover the rent and feed a family. They don’t want to be a “wage slave” — whatever the hell that is. They want to use what they learned in school, that superior knowledge that sets them apart from people who actually work for a living.

I guess you can read the anger in my words. It’s hard to control it sometimes.

I think about my first job, at age 13: a paper route delivering 54 papers a day on foot. I think about my next job, a year later, spent scraping rust off a chain link fence with a wire brush, accompanied by three other underprivileged girls whose families were poor enough to qualify for summer work.

I think about the three part-time jobs I held down while I was carrying an 18-credit load in college just to make sure I graduated within four years. I think about how my weight dropped down to a ridiculous 105 pounds because I simply couldn’t eat enough to meet my energy needs.

I think about my first apartment, a studio four blocks away from a bus station where shootings had become routine. I think about learning how to float checks two days before payday, when the money ran out. I think about buying “no frills” pot pies for dinner at 33¢ each. I think about taking the subway to bad neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx because that’s where the audit I had to do happened to be. I think about the day a bum near Times Square — the old Times Square — grabbed my butt as I walked by during my lunch break and how I swung around and hit him.

And yes, I think about writing a monthly check to pay my school loans for ten straight years.

The hard times didn’t last long. I worked my way through them. I showed my bosses that I was a step above the others, not by waving a diploma and whining that I deserved a raise but by working harder, better, and faster than any of them. I got the promotions and pay raises I needed to move forward.

Why can’t today’s young people do the same?

No one is entitled to a job. You have to earn it. Earn it by being smart, by being a team player, by knowing what the hell you’re doing, by doing it right. Get off the fucking cellphone, stop texting your friends, and stop whining about “the man.”

This is real life, not a television show. You’re no better than the other thousands of young graduates looking for work — until you prove you are. What the hell are you waiting for?

Go Ahead, Make Your Excuse

I cannot support this entitlement attitude in any way, shape, or form. If you have no job, then no job is beneath you.

Comments are open. I’m sure this post will soon be inundated with excuses. Sound off. This is your chance. Just don’t expect me to accept excuses.

Bank of America Support Chat FAIL

It’s actually quite fun to torture them.

This chat transcript says it all.

Current Transcript of the Chat Session
In this window hotkeys have been activated to allow for quick navigation between the chat transcript and the chat text edit areas. Alt + Arrow Up will set focus on the last text message in the chat transcript and Alt + Arrow Down will set focus on the chat text edit. An audible alert will be played when a chat agent has posted a new response.

Welcome to an online chat session at Bank of America. Please hold while we connect you to the next available Bank of America Online Banking Specialist. Your chat may be monitored and recorded for quality purposes. Your current wait time is approximately 0 minutes. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for choosing Bank of America. You are now being connected to a Bank of America Online Banking Specialist.

Alfredo: Hello! Thank you for being a valued Bank of America customer! My name is Alfredo. I will be assisting you with your personal accounts today.  

You: Your Web site times out too quickly, requiring me to log in again and again. This is a huge waste of time and very frustrating. How can I adjust the timeout interval?

Alfredo: I certainly understand your concern regarding the Web Site.
Alfredo: May I have your full name and last four digits of the account?

You: It’s not one account. It’s all accounts. And I already entered my full name.

Alfredo: Please provide me the last four digits of one of your account and your full name?

You: I really wish they’d let you people think for yourselves and not read off a script.
You: #### Maria Langer

Alfredo: Thank you, Maria.
Alfredo: Maria, We need this information to verify your account information, It is for the security of your account.
Alfredo: To increase the timeout level I request you to please contact directly to our Online banking department.

You: The question I’m asking has nothing to do with my account. It’s your Web site.

Alfredo: They will be able to do this for you.

You: So you can’t help me.

Alfredo: Yes, I understand you.

You: So you wasted my time, made me provide information you didn’t need.

Alfredo: I really wish I could resolve this for you via chat, however, I really apologize, I do not have necessary tools to do that.

You: Why did you ask for information you didn’t need? You had my question. You could tell immediate that you couldn’t help me.

Alfredo: I request you to call at the number they will assist you with this.

You: Why did you continue a conversation that would go nowhere?
You: And what number? You didn’t provide one.

Alfredo: You can call them at 1.800.933.6262. We are available from 7 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Eastern Time.
Alfredo: “Please be assured that we know your time is valuable. We would not direct you to contact us by telephone unless it were absolutely necessary. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

You: Why is it that every time your Web site offers to help with a chat, no help is provided?

Alfredo: ”

You: Nice copy and paste, “Alfredo.”

Alfredo: I really wish that I can resolve this for you, However their is a separate department for this.

You: How long do you expect me to be on hold when I call that number?
You: How many buttons will I need to push?
You: Or will I need to talk to a machine and hope it understands me?

Alfredo: I regret but this is not copy and paste I actually wish I can help you with this.

You: Why is it that Bank of America continues to fail so utterly with Customer Service?

Alfredo: You will get an option to talk with a live person.

You: Is your name really Alfredo?

Alfredo: Yes, My name is Alfredo.

You: Where are you based? India?

Alfredo: I wish I could resolve it for you!
Alfredo: Yes, I am in India.

You: Exactly what I thought. This transcript will make good reading on my blog. Anything else you’d like to add?

Alfredo: I really apologize that I was not able to assist you, I hope you understand that.
Alfredo: I wish your issue would be resolved as soon as possible!

You: What I don’t understand is why BofA has a chat support feature that NEVER seems able to provide any assistance.
You: It’s a complete waste of customer time.
You: Yet so is calling them. I know I’ll be on hold for at least 15-20 minutes AFTER entering all kinds of numbers into my phone.
You: Then they’ll just ask me for the same information — like you did.
You: My time isn’t valuable to the bank.

Alfredo: I really apologies that I am not able to assist you this time but it is not like this every time.
Alfredo: Please be assured that we know your time is valuable.
Alfredo: They will be able to resolve this for you.

You: It’s cheaper to hire overseas “support” personnel in India than to employ Americans who can answer questions without reading a script.
You: Are you happy that you’ve taken away a job from an American?
You: That unemployment here is high because people like you have our jobs?
You: And you can’t even do them very well?

Alfredo: I really apologies if you think so.

You: I really think you should let your supervisor read the transcript for this chat.
You: Maybe someone will understand the frustration of BofA customers in America.
You: Maybe someone will get the idea that we don’t want to participate in time-wasting chats when all we need is someone to pick up the freaking phone and talk to us.

Alfredo: I will provide this chat transcript to my supervisor.

You: I’ll be posting this transcript on my blog. My readers will love it.
You: Anything else you want to say?

Alfredo: I request you to call at the number and they will be able to resolve the issue for you.

You: Sure, I’ll do that.

Alfredo: i apologize that you are not satisfied with our service.
Alfredo: I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you by this.

You: It’s not your fault. You’re just doing one of our jobs. We could do it better.

Alfredo: I hope you understand that it is not me to do so.
Alfredo: I regret I was not able to resolve the issue for you.

You: Well, I’ve wasted enough time with you. Now I’ll waste some on the phone. You’re free to go.

When it became apparent that he would never end the chat, I did.

I need to be clear about something here: I have no problem with Indian people. I do, however, have a problem with companies like Bank of America sending support jobs overseas to places like India just to save money. (I also have a problem with pop-up chat support offers that waste time, but we won’t go there.) This kind of policy has fed our unemployment problem.

My sister, who was in banking at CitiGroup, was a victim of this twice in the span of three years when her job was sent to India. The first time, CitiGroup found another job for her; the second time, they didn’t and she was unemployed for six months. She’s underemployed now after losing another banking job to the financial crisis two years ago.

If all the jobs we sent to India and Pakistan and god knows where else were to come back to the United States, we would have no unemployment problem and no financial crisis. We’d have no deficit, either, because all these people would be earning money, spending money, and paying taxes.

Instead, we have a crisis fed, in part, by big business maximizing profits by sending American jobs overseas.

What’s even worse, however, is the quality of the work done by these people. They often have little understanding of our language and rely on computer scripts to answer questions. The above transcript makes this very clear. My initial question could have been answered in seconds by someone familiar with the language and not required to follow a script. (I almost always get better customer service on the phone when the customer service representative is US-based. I say almost because sometimes even the Americans in the job aren’t very good; it depends on how strictly they’re required to follow a script.)

So, as a result of practices like Bank of America’s we get inferior customer service and fewer jobs for Americans.

Who wins?