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A mini survey for the modern Hausfrau: Do you try to get your household business done more by phone or computer? In other words, when you’re trying to reach “customer service” centers, do you like to curse at a computer that talks to you: or do you prefer the old-fashioned interaction, just cursing at a silent screen? Because it’s just a question of which way you prefer to waste your time.

I usually enter 800-number hell first, because mostly you just need one hand and you can walk around while you’re calling (multitask and check on the kids), versus needing two hands to type, so calling seems most efficient. But then I get the automatic phone system, with all those charming prompts asking you to hit one for English, two for Spanish, three for Finnish, four if by sea, etc. Even more delightful are the voice recognition systems. Believe me, there are some words they don’t recognize. OK, sure, maybe it is idiotic to say rude things to a machine, but when you spend 20 minutes trying to reach a human to ask one question, and get stuck because the computer prefers BBC diction, well, can you blame me?

So then, when I’ve had enough of the phone, I figure I’ll try getting things done on companies’ websites. That’s what the phone computers always recommend, no doubt because of old school ties. The humans, when I finally get through to them on the phone, often recommend the websites too, which is odd, because you’d think if they do that enough they’d recommend themselves out of a job, but I figure they 1) are forced by their “scripts” to say it, and 2) assume they’re going to lose their jobs offshore sooner or later anyway.

The websites never solve anything though. I always forget my passwords, and often my user name, so I have to wait to get it emailed somehow, if I can remember which account I used with which company. Or, better yet, call the next day when the company’s open. (…press six for Braille, press eighty-three if you were named after a relative on your mother’s side…) Then, on the rare occasions when I’ve got a user name, I’ve got a password, I get through, I try to do what I want, then, ta da, the system’s not working. So what do I have to do? Say it with me: call the next day. (…press seventy-five for ancient Greek, press ninety-nine if your first language was Portuguese spoken with a Brazilian accent…) And it’s always unusual that the system didn’t work properly.

This site provides some hope for 800-number hell (I was tipped to it by the Wall Street Journal). Blogger Paul English gives codes to cut through companies’ phone systems to get to a person faster. There are tricks for both punching numbers and for what to say (and no, those words don’t help). Consider the address a very early Christmas gift. You’re welcome and thanks for calling.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 2:31 AM | Permalink

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