In the pre-internet dark ages, talking to a customer service representative meant waiting on hold for the better part of an afternoon. Now, there's live chatting: Instead of pressing the same key several times to reach a human, this option connects you to a real person right away—and their responses are just as quick as what you'd get on the phone, if not quicker. Gizmodo reports that there may be a unsettling explanation for that speedy service: Some customer service agents can see what you're typing into your chat box in real time even before you hit send.
A Gizmodo reader recently discovered this while using a mattress company's live-chat feature. The representative responded to a question that the customer had typed out but hadn't sent. When asked about it, the agent wrote that they "get a preview" and it "Gives us a little bit of extra time to look up information."
Others have reported customer service representatives responding to messages with detailed information in less time than it would take to read them. Some live chat services, like Snap Engage and JivoChat, even advertise this feature on their websites under names like sneak peak. One of the biggest companies to offer this feature, Live Chat, provides the chat platforms for PayPal, McDonalds, and IKEA.
If you think a stranger creeping on your unedited messages is a small price to pay for fast service, proceed with your live chats as usual. Unfortunately there's not much you can do to tell if this feature is enabled if you feel differently. Your best option is to draft your messages in a word processor and copy and paste them into the chat box when you're ready to hit send. Or, if you have time to spare, you can always use the old-fashioned method of giving customer service a call.