Armenian Customer Service and the “Obizhnik”

December 5, 2009 at 6:35 pm (Armenia, media) (, , , , , , , , , )

My friends over at ruffled some serious, post-Soviet corporate feathers with a recent mock-news post about Armenia’s ArmenTel/Beeline mobile phone and internet service provider.  ArmenTel was Armenia’s first and only telecommunications provider until 2004 and was notorious for poor quality services at high prices.   ArmenTel was re-branded as Beeline in 2006 after being sold to Russia’s largest telecommunications provider.

ArmComedy specializes in satirical news stories (a-la Onion) that poke fun at politicians, corporations, political correctness, and Armenian society.   Recent posts include: Ukraine sends Winter Boots to European Subscribers of Russian GASPROM; Armenian Ministry of Education to Remove Phrase “Turkish Assholes” from School Manuals; Council of Europe Pushes Minorities into Armenian Parliament.  While ArmComedy takes some substantial risks by referring to politicians, oligarchs, and local celebrities by name, the premise of critiquing the society in which they live through satire is long over due.  Comedy is often at the front lines of breaking down social taboos and getting people acclimated to discussing real issues.  It this respect, ArmComedy has been very successful.

Case in point: their recent post entitled Armentel Director Commits Suicide Amid Orange Mobile Success attracted the attention of a Beeline employee.  The heated exchange that takes place in the post’s comments section gives readers insight into the still bellicose nature of Armenian customer service today.  From the Beeline rep we see some attempts at civility interspersed with low blows regarding IQ levels and consumer responsibility.  My favorite quote:

Your fault that you didn’t tell (our) company that you had interent (sic) only 15 days . of course . automated bill generation doesn’t have spiritual ability to understand your mental and in house problems.

Indeed.  Now, I am going to need some help from my Armenian/Russian friends to fully grasp the meaning of the word “obizhnik” but, from what I can gather from the ArmComedy-Beeline exchange, this is a term used for rude, apathetic customers who haven’t fully thrown off their Soviet mentality to embrace 21st century capitalism.  It also appears that labeling consumers “obizhnik” allows corporations to write off their more demanding customers as post-Soviet hicks and avoid fully satisfying their demands – or treating them with respect.

I am not sure that the ArmComedy team fits this label, but the duo have been invited to tour Beeline HQ and are planning to report on their experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: