AARP What Are You Really?

It must be me.  It must be.  Either that or I have fallen through the rabbit hole, but…..

I received a robocall from AARP this afternoon.  Someone claiming to be “Mary McDonough” or maybe “Mary McDonald” was wanting to know whether I would be willing to take a five minute survey on the Medicare/Medicaid issue.  I stayed on the line.  The recorded voice proceeded to present the following information: Question number 1 “Medicare cover all medical costs for ten years and then 90% of your hospital stay after that.” Press one if you want to leave things the same; press 2 if you want change; press 3 if you want change but not right away; press 4 if you do not want change.”

Quite honestly, I could not figure out how the options provided related to the statement, nor how the two parts of the statement related to each other, nor how the statement related to the medicare that I am familiar with which presently pays 80% of all medical expense (there is that donut hole with prescription drugs that does not fit the 80%, but….).  So I felt I had no option but to hang up.  But it bothered me and so I re-dialed the number to see if I could get some answers.  A live woman came on the line.

I asked her if she was Mary McDonough.  “No.  But how may I help you?”  I asked her if I could speak with Mary McDonough.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t know who that is.”  “She was the woman on the recorded survey call I received a few minutes ago.”  She told me that these surveys are arbitrarily given and asked if she could help me with any questions. I explained that I did not understand the statement in the survey nor the options provided.  She replied, “Would you like me to send you a written version of the survey?”  I replied, “No.  I am telling you that the way this information is presented does not make any sense and how are we expected to answer when the phraseology does not follow?”  She informed me that I was not the only person dissatisfied with the wording of the survey.  I suggested that AARP might want to consider this and change the way they present their survey.  At that point, she said, “Eight out of 10 people don’t care.”  “Don’t care?”  “Yeah.  They are apathetic.”  “Well, maybe if they were able to understand what was being asked they might not be apathetic?  Shouldn’t AARP consider changing the wording if this wording is not making sense?”  “probably.”  “Well, who created the survey?”  “The supervisor.”  “Then may I speak to the supervisor?”  “You want to speak to the supervisor?” “Yes, please.”

A few minutes later, a 20 something and she had to be on this side of 25, answered the phone.  I did not quite understand what she said, but I thought by the way she answered that I must be speaking with the assistant to the supervisor.  “Hello.  May I speak with your supervisor?”  I thought she said, “She’s not in. May I help you?”  I ask her the questions about the survey.  She asks me if I would hold a moment so that she can get the survey.  After a bit, she comes back on the line and at this point, she claims herself to be the supervisor.   She tells me that AARP puts out these surveys to get an idea of how people are thinking about certain issues.

I asked her if this survey was generated by AARP.  “No.  We get them from another source.”  “What source is that?”  “I don’t know.”  “You don’t know what the source is to surveys that you put out in your name?”  “They are generated automatically.”  What??!!?? “So what is the point of doing the survey, then?” “to get the information.” “But you don’t know who created the survey and you don’t know what the content of the survey is?” “No.  Do you want to talk to the President?”  “To the President of AARP?”  “Yes.” “Sure.”  I mean if that is the next in line and it might help with the circumstances, why not, think I.

Back on hold.  A few minutes later, another 20 something sounding female answers the telephone.  “Office of Escalated Queries” she announces into the telephone.  “I’m sorry.  Could you repeat that?” I ask.  She does.  “So what is this office?” I continue.  “This is where inquiries of larger issues get answered.”  Okay.  So I once again go into the whole discussion about how this survey makes no sense.  She informs me that surveys change according to the region, so she cannot help me with my query.  “We send these out globally.” she says.  I reply, “Globally?  I thought Medicare/Medicaid was an American issue.”  “Well, globally within the United States.”  “I thought I was being put through to the President’s office.”  “He does not have an office.  I can give you an e-mail address to the Board of Directors and you can write them your concerns about the survey.”  “You will give me their individual e-mail addresses?”  “No.  There is an office where you would send the e-mail.”  “Oh, I see and then I will get a reply that says something like: ‘Thank you for your recent inquiry.  Because of the large volume of inquiries…..” “No,” replies 20-something number two. “They will give you an answer.”

“Who is on the board?” I ask.  “You want a list of who is on the board?”  “Yes, please.”  “Okay.  There is Nancy Smith.”  “And what is her title?”  “Oh, no.  I am not going to go into that.  I don’t have time for that.”  “What did you say the name of your office was?” I ask once again. “Office of Escalated Inquiries.”  “So your job is to answer my questions, no?”  “Yes.”  “What is Nancy Smith’s title?”  “She doesn’t have a title.”  “Does she work for another organization?  Is there some way that I can find out what her background is?”  “I don’t have that information.”  “Okay, then, who is the next person on the list.”  She gives me the name of everyone who is on the board.  There is no more information about their roles within the organization or what they may do outside of the organization.   At some point, I learn that I am speaking to someone in Texas.  “Texas?!? I dialed a 202 number.”  “You were transferred to me.”  “I was told I was being transferred to the President’s office.”  “I don’t know.”

Now I do have some colleagues in academia that scoff at the idea that AARP represents anyone in any age group let alone those 50+.  And maybe I should conclude with this little interaction that they really are a joke.  But I do find it unconscionable that an organization thatclaims to represent this demographic and is apparently one of the most powerful lobbyist for those 50+, would put out surveys that make absolutely no sense; and, that no one in the organization (or at least that I spoke with) seems to have any familiarity with their content let alone with whom to actually speak to because AARP has placed itself, claims itself, to be representative of our voice.

Beyond that, I now have an even larger escalated inquiry:  What is AARP really AND what is their purpose?

© Yvonne Behrens

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