There is a rich poetry in the customer service call made to Verizon here: the poetry of cognitive implosion and obstinacy. A customer is repeatedly given a quote for “.002 cents per kilobyte” as the cost of roaming for his Verizon mobile data service, and is charged $.002 (that’s .2 cents) per kilobyte instead.

It is likely that some of the customer service agents actually recognized the error, but are obliged to stonewall him in order to avoid a disastrous pay-out to all customers who received the same quote. I wonder what would happen if it reached the courts: just what kind of torturous logics would be invoked, and perhaps even institutionalized, to avoid the admission of error. Will the semantics of decimal numbers for currency be determined as exceptions from those for standard mathematics? From the perspective of cognitive linguistics, that’s what is really going on. But my loyalties are to the aggrieved customer nonetheless.

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