The Perils of Calculator Dependency

Via bOINGbOING comes the last twenty-odd minutes of a Verizon customer trying, without much discernible success, to explain to several successive customer service representatives that there is a difference between his quoted rate of 0.002 cents per kilobyte and the rate of 0.002 dollars per kilobyte he was actually charged. The customer deserves a medal for his patience in trying to teach Verizon math.

Here’s the link to audio that bOINGbOING supplied; I note in the address a subtle clue that the victim may be the author of a certain webcomic that frequently treats of things mathematical.

I was struck by the way all the Verizon reps were unable to grasp the fundamental mistake they were making by confusing the units, but only  when the actual quantity was less than a unit and expressed decimally. They would all agree that 1 cent was different from 1 dollar, or half a cent different from half a dollar, yet they would dispute that 0.002 cents was different from 0.002 dollars.

Most of all, though, it seemed that when they saw 71 appear on the calculator and the bill said 71, there’s a short circuit in their heads; same number, must be the same answer, and the change of units happened while they were looking at the magic rabbit.

What's gonna disappear?

What's gonna disappear?

Amazing! Now I’m off to watch the politicians debate AIG bonuses…


~ by B.T. Murtagh on March 19, 2009.

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