Fabricated ignorance: The search for good value for money

Rosina Márquez Reiter

Abstract

In this article I examine a negotiating strategy observed in telephone calls made by (prospective) clients to the Latin American call centre operation of a multinational company specialised in holiday time-shares. Through this strategy, which I have termed ‘fabricated ignorance’, the (prospective) clients show an unawareness of how the system works in order to gain access to information, services, or benefits that they are not, in theory, entitled to. They do so, among other things, by formulating pre-sequences designed to address a gap in knowledge as a way of dealing with the possibility of their requests being rejected. Essentially, the callers approach the interactions displaying only partial knowledge of the system and manage the conversations in such a way that the agents will be induced to have a false notion of what is going on. I contend that service operationalization, which positions the (prospective) clients as information-disadvantaged relative to the agents, coupled with unfair commercial practices leads them to pursue ways of counterbalancing such imbalances providing thus fertile ground for the emergence of this strategy. Fabricated ignorance is a (prospective) client’s way of sizing up opportunities. Sizing up entails a participant’s assessment of where the interaction is leading, an estimation of the extent to which is conducive to meeting the participant’s goals and the steps that might be needed to achieve them. One avenue for achieving this aim is judging the moment in the encounter when it might be potentially more convenient to make their move and to act out an uninformed stance.

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