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New uberannoyance: Automated salespeople

Chatty instant-messaging programs are impersonating human customer service reps.

CNET Networks

As if the regular kind weren't bothersome enough, companies are cropping up to create automated instant-messagers that pretend to be human customer service personnel. They have names like "Susan" and they're sometimes even assigned ages like "24." In particular, this new crop is designed to save sales lost in last-minute checkout abandonment.

Some automated chat features are genuinely helpful--for instance, IMing a help-desk chat bot with access to a Q&A database can save users a lot of time searching for information on an FAQ list.

The legality of the practice--a program misrepresenting itself as a human--is dubious, but it may save a sale or two from some buyers. Regardless, how many users do you know who, after deciding not to buy, will take time to chat with anyone, real or electronic, to be persuaded to change their minds? Please. Part of the pleasure of buying online is that you don't have to deal with this kind of intrusion.

Read the full report at Fortune: "That online chat 'assistant' may not be real"