The Industries That Make Us Sweariest: We're Talking to You, Satellite and Cable Companies

The Marchex Institute uses phone call data to rank the most profanity-inducing business types.
Shutterstock/Sarah Jane Taylor

Doing some work on your home before your family comes over for the holidays? You'll need a contractor.

Want to make sure you won't miss one of the approximately 5,432 re-airings of Love Actually that grace American TVs this time of year? You'll need cable service.

And to fulfill those needs, you'll need something else, too: a phone. Internet aside, many services still rely primarily on phone calls for their interactions with their customers. 

Which is not only a source of data ("This. call. may. be. recorded. for. quality. assurance. purposes."); it's also, often, a source of frustration. So much so that the calls can occasionally end with profanity. The Marchex Institute, the research-and-insights arm of the mobile advertising firm Marchex, previously analyzed those telephonic swears according to their geographic distributions. Now, it has analyzed the cursing according to the industries that were on the receiving end of it. The firm assessed data from more than 1.2 million consumer calls that were placed in the U.S. between March 2012 to November 2013, across 20 service-related industries. It then used its Call Analytics technology to determine which industries provoked the highest rates—and the lowest—of customer cursing. 

And you know which were the most cursed-out? Tech services. Satellite TV and cable TV providers were 1 and 3, respectively, on Marchex's most-sweared-at list. That means that for satellite providers, one out of every 82 customer calls resulted in swearing. For cable providers, the ratio was a just-slightly-more-promising one out of 123. 

Coming at a probably-unsurprising #2? Housing contractors. 

So why would satellite TV win out over cable in Marchex's cuss-analysis? There's the possibility that, since satellite—given that it requires the installation of, you know, a satellite—tends to be be friendlier to homeowners than cable ... customers are more demanding about the service. And, for the satellite and cable services combined, there's the related idea that people who can afford those services tend to skew wealthier—which may mean that they simply feel more entitled to glowing customer service. And then become indignant, profanely so, when that service is not provided. 

You could also look to the providers of the customer service themselves for some answers. As Marchex's John Busby notes

We conclude that television providers prompt consumer ire for two reasons.  First, long hold times are frustrating and some of the cursing the study detected was during these wait times.  Second, consumers don’t appreciate being surprised about price or level of service and want products and services with easy-to-understand pricing.

Which might also explain why "housing contractors" and "auto repair"—notorious bait-and-switchers, both—came in for some f-bombs, as well. Happy effin holidays, everyone. 

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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