Getty Images


on social media ‘currency’, customer service, and silicon valley’s problem with people

March 11, 2019
111 Picks

Since before my awkward existence, it was always clear to me that people will get preferential treatment from corporations and companies based on obvious things like race, gender, sexuality, faith, ability and etc. But the most obvious was always currency or capital, which was in most cases, money. Cold, hard cash (because capitalism, tuh). And if you had a lot of it, chances are these companies would be more than happy to drop down and lick your butthole if that meant that you would spend your capital with them.

This point about currency, of course, still stands in a post-2000 world, particularly in 2019, but what happens when you learn that the currency that some modern and hi-tech companies are really after in 2019 is good social media clout?

Mind you, this isn’t a new lesson to me post-2010. I’ve long known that since platforms like Twitter changed the way in which you can connect to people on the internet and the speed at which you can get their attention, that it is “easier” — though not pleasant — these days to contact a company through their social media if you are dissatisfied. My various run-ins with credit card companies like Capital One, banks like Regions Bank or even infamous ride-sharing apps like Uber, and cash-sharing apps like Cash App (the latter two of which I will return to) have taught me this. That said, I wasn’t really clued in, however, to the disparities in how customer service — or rather, what is left of it in 2019 – in particularly is doled out or provided according to one’s clout until about a week ago.

To bring you up to speed, a day after my Groupon tweet, I caught wind of my colleague, @Mae_DayJ, her thread about her food never arriving via the app UberEats, how this was the second time this was happening, and how this was particularly damaging to disabled people like her who relied on these apps.

To be clear, Mae had been tweeting about this since February 27th and getting either no response, in-app responses blaming her for the driver never showing or useless automated responses asking or stating the same thing over and over. But UberEats was never really going to answer Mae, because she didn’t have that coveted blue check next to her name and/or enough followers in corporate eyes to shake the table and get some bot to at least ask to take this to her DMs. So, I got involved.

And after hours of seeing if they’d answer my tweet and actually reach out to Mae, who confirmed they had not, I went to their DMs. And just like with the tweets above, it was like 99.9% automated until I was finally provided the opportunity to give them Mae’s email address.

Fast forward to the next day and I awoke to find that Mae had been contacted by them and received her refund and app credit. This means that it took over three days and the involvement of a blue check broad for Mae to get a response from Uber. But that wasn’t the surprising part. The surprising part was that she was contacted (via phone) by Uber’s real, live, and exclusive premium support team—which I didn’t know existed. After some puzzling laughter over the sudden discovery, a mutual of Mae and I pointed out that the premium team was most likely part of Uber’s “rewards program” where you get perks… like apparently good customer service. This is especially the case if you’re a “diamond” member and have wracked up at least 7500 “points”.

The gag, though? I didn’t have those fucking points, because I didn’t use the app that much. But you know what I did have? Social media clout and a verified blue check right next to my nom de plume of Clarkisha Kent. And thanks to my interesting go at name-calling two days prior, I was still appearing in spiked searches and I can only assume that any “bad” or “negative” tweet from me about UberEats during that time was something they just didn’t want happening.

So, to be clear, even though I hadn’t spent enough physical currency — cash — to get my ass kissed by a tech company like Uber, me having tons of currency where social media clout is concerned was enough for me to earn that same preferential treatment. Meaning social media clout is just as good as cold hard cash to these companies and often translates into just that — cash — because of how word-of-mouth could make or break what is essentially free promotion and advertisement. If you have either or, you’re solid. But if you don’t, you’re not and will likely get blissfully ignored by these companies. Which is not good.

Still, though this turn at the intersection of technology, social media, and discouragement of interpersonal interactions either through or outside tech should alarm you, it is perhaps the natural result of these tech bros thinking they’re just too fucking cool (and rich) to operate under any kind of ethics and the steady decline of customer service.


Now, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment where tech bros came in and gave the middle finger to customer service (I will leave that to someone who is smarter than me). But I can hypothesize about what has driven people out of the customer service sector and has made it easier for these techwads to assume that they don’t need more than like three people on their customer service team or that it’s too “expensive” to maintain, even though some of these companies have more money than God themself.

I suspect the high turnover rate may have something to do with long hours. Or stagnant wages that don’t reflect the cost of living. Or mistreatment by the aging and the extremely entitled general populace. Or lack of good benefits. Or doo doo “incentives” like pizza parties instead of tangible incentives like raises or promotions or proper bonuses.

I worked in customer service for nearly ten years. I could go on.

But I would be veering away from my point. And my point is to say that all of the things I mentioned plus the self-centered, capitalistic pursuits of Silicon Valley’s finest make it so that they loathe average people. And since hiring an average person would add too many variables to take care of, they opt to go with machines (or apps/programs). Because of either money or what they assume will increase “efficiency” and cut down on human error. But we know that these machines and programs are only as smart, “good”, or as empathetic as the people who make them (barring they’re not on some Skynet OR V.I.K.I. shit); and if the people who make them only care about the bottom line or “the brand” and can’t be bothered to give a rat’s ass about the customer’s needs, or more importantly people, and address them, what the fuck do we think these machines are going to do?

And it is particularly this disdain of people, or the average person, that has placed these tech companies at odds with the general populace and perhaps the future. Disdain for the average person is the only thing that could explain why tech companies like Uber want to opt-out of certain labor laws and requirements by classifying their employees as “contractors” (thus screwing them royally when it comes to salary and benefits). Disdain for the average person is the only thing that could explain how companies like Facebook have been routinely caught violating people’s privacy and selling, excuse me, giving away that private information. Disdain for the average person is the only thing that can explain tech companies simultaneously phasing out their customer service teams but also creating hierarchies and tiers when it comes to who deserves to receive proper customer service. Disdain for the average and particularly disabled person is the only thing that could explain rideshare companies attempting skirt around ADA laws and avoid dealing with disabled people entirely or purposefully mistreating them when they are forced to deal with them (like you saw with this entire UberEats ordeal).


If this UberEats brouhaha did not already make it clear, Silicon Valley has a people problem (among its many problems). And expecting us to combat these many problems with money or clout that we may not possess is not a viable or ethical solution. Because at the end of the day, you should not be barred from fair treatment because you lack the funds or lack a fancy blue checkmark swirling around your name. Money should not be a prerequisite for the recognition of one’s humanity. And neither should clout.


CLARKISHA CLAPS BACK is a weekly column that humorously and honestly claps back at the world around writer Clarkisha Kent, from culture, politics, sexuality, gender and her personal life.