View Full Version : National Archives estore - Your tax dollars at work

Stephen Tashiro
08-27-2010, 2:42 AM
The National Archives has an "estore": http://estore.archives.gov/

They sell some video DVDs that are hyped as "unedited footage of WWII". In fact, all these products appear to be collections of public domain government documentaries or newsreels of the WWII era, which means the footage was thoroughly scrutinized and edited. The usual game of companies that repackaged public domain films is to put the same film on several different products.

Most companies are at least honest enough to say which films are on the products, so you know when you are buying the same film twice. Howver, I noticed that estore doesn't list the films that are on products like "A Century Of War". I decided to play the game of trying to get "the government" to tell me what films were on it. I called "customer service". (The directions on the site are wrong. Forget the part about pressing 8 and dialing an extension.) I got an employee who was at the store and he did offer to read me the titles until he realized that there 25 DVDs and several films on each. I spoke to the manger next. She didn't know how I could get a written or electronic list of the films. She gave me a number of the person in charge of the website. I called her, got an answering machine and left a message, which included the fact that the directions about the customer service extension on her website are wrong. Never got a reply. I emailed customer service twice and got no reply.

I was doing this more or less as an idle pastime, so I found it entertaining to have my expectations of "customer service" fulfilled. I assume third rate customer service is cheaper than the real thing. I'm glad to see my tax dollars at work.

alex grams
08-27-2010, 10:20 AM
Government Customer Service doesn't exist, by answering one simple question:

Does the satisfaction of the customer have ANY affect on the security of the job or success of the product?

There is absolutely no motivation for trying to satisfy a customer when no matter how upset or dissatisfied they are it will have no bearing on if the agency or company (in this instance, government) is successful.

Neal Clayton
08-27-2010, 10:54 AM
so lemme get this straight. it seems reasonable to have a call center employee read the contents of 24 DVDs to you over the phone? and if they don't, it's a government plot to...make bad documentaries?

if you have such a penchant for violence that can be relived over and over again on your DVD player just go buy the clockwork orange DVD. it's well reviewed and the narration is better.

Dan Friedrichs
08-27-2010, 11:36 AM
so lemme get this straight. it seems reasonable to have a call center employee read the contents of 24 DVDs to you over the phone? and if they don't, it's a government plot to...make bad documentaries?

That's kind of what I was thinking.... You're expecting very, very good customer service - the kind of service that is virtually unheard of (government or otherwise).

Mitchell Andrus
08-27-2010, 11:52 AM
I'd rather "The Government" not spend ANY time reading DVD's to people on the "phone".

In all likelihood, this isn't a "government" employee at all. This kind of thing is usually handled by vendors much the way college "bookstores" are run by Barns and Noble.

Can you get "Amazon" to read DVD labels to you? Likely not.

Your "government" run public library can likely get these or something similar for you... for "free". There's your tax dollars at "work".

Stephen Tashiro
08-27-2010, 11:53 AM
It seems unreasonable to have an employee read me hundreds of titles over the phone. I didn't want him to.

It seems reasonable to have some way to view the list of titles online. It's semi-reasonable to have a way to order a printed list of the titles.

(It also seems reasonable to have correct instructions about how to contact customer service on the estore website.)

I suppose I'll have to file a Freedom Of Information request.

It would be interesting to find a library that could get me "something like" "A Century Of War", but I haven't been able to find out exactly what "A Century of War" is like.

No, the titles aren't listed on the Amazon site. That was where I first encountered the product.

If the fact that I'm dealing with a "contractor" hired by the government frees the government of blame, then I think all legislators should hire contractors to do their jobs. It would calm the population.