Here is a transcript of a telephone conversation I had yesterday with Operator #25987653 at the College Board:
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: Hello. You have reached the College Board. Please have your credit card ready. This call may be recorded for quality-assurance purposes.
NEUROTIC PARENT: Hi, My son is signed up to take the SAT Reasoning Test in June and he would like to take the SAT Subject Tests instead.
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: There will be a $21 charge to change.
NEUROTIC PARENT: That’s fine.
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: And there will be a $57 charge for the new exam. What is your first and second choice for a test center?
NEUROTIC PARENT: My son just wants to change his test type, not his test center.
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: I’m sorry. That test center is full. But we do have other centers that might be open in your area.
NEUROTIC PARENT: But he is already signed up at the center he wants. Why can’t he keep the spot he has?
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: Because he is switching test types. There might not be enough SAT II test booklets at his test center.
NEUROTIC PARENT: Aren’t you the ones who provide the test booklets? Couldn’t you send one to his test center? What if we paid you $42 instead of $21? That would cover the cost of postage.
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: That is impossible. But I can offer your son a spot at Frances Dorito High or Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of the Sacred Heart.
NEUROTIC PARENT: Where are those?
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: We do not have the exact locations on file, but our records show they are in your area. There also might be an opening in Phoenix.
NEUROTIC PARENT: But that is 400 miles away. Why can’t he just take the exam where he signed up to take it?
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: Once he cancels, he will lose his space.
NEUROTIC PARENT: He does not want to cancel. He just wants to change from the SATI to the SATII. And by the way, if you’re canceling and rebooking, why are you charging a change fee?
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: Because if V = 21R / (r + R) , then R = Vr / (12 – V). But if you pay an additional $87, there is an opening on the wait list at San Bernardino High. However, there are no guarantees that your son will get the exam of his choice. That means that if he signs up for an SATII in U.S. History, he might have to take Korean instead. And he will have to arrive at 5:45 in the morning and take the test in the boys’ bathroom.
NEUROTIC PARENT: If he has to drive to San Bernardino at 4:00 in the morning, he might get stressed out and bomb the exams. And that could ruin his entire future.
COLLEGE BOARD OPERATOR: Tell me about it. I’ve had this job for seven years, but it seems like only yesterday that my own mom got angry with a College Board Operator. Remember, this call is being recorded.