Fabricated ignorance: The search for good value for money

Márquez Reiter, Rosina (2013). Fabricated ignorance: The search for good value for money. Pragmatics, 23(4) pp. 661–684.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/prag.23.4.04mar


In this article I examine a negotiating strategy observed in more than half of the telephone calls made by clients to the Latin American call centre operation of a multinational company specialised in holiday time-shares by focusing on one call in which the practice was prevalent. Through this practice, which I have termed ‘fabricated ignorance’, the caller shows an unawareness of how the system works in order to gain access to information, services, or benefits that he is not, in theory, entitled to. He does so, among other things, by formulating pre-sequences designed to address a gap in knowledge as a way of dealing with the possibility of his request being rejected. Essentially, the caller approaches the interaction displaying only partial knowledge of the system and manages the conversation in such a way that the agent will be induced to have a false notion of what is going on. I contend that service operationalization, which positions the (prospective) clients as information-disadvantaged relative to the agents and thus potentially leads them to pursue ways of counterbalancing such an imbalance, is one condition for the emergence of this practice. Fabricated ignorance is a (prospective) client’s way of sizing up opportunities. Sizing up entails a participant’s assessment of where the interaction is leading, an estimation of the extent to which is conducive to meeting the participant’s goals and the steps that might be needed to achieve them. One avenue for achieving this aim is judging the moment in the encounter when it might be potentially more convenient to make their move and to act out an uninformed stance.

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