Thursday, February 09, 2006

May I please speak to a human being?

From the Times Leader:

But then again …
May I please speak to a human being?
by Jim Rising Special to the Weekender

One of my pet peeves is people who ask, “Who is calling?” when they answer the phone for someone. Though I don’t do it, I feel like saying, “Whose business is it?”

Why do they need to know that? If I give the wrong name, will I be put on permanent hold? I bet most of the time the person answering doesn’t even pass the name along. Why do I say that? Because when I am in particularly playful mood, I will give an obviously fake name. I like to use Mcganahan Skijellyfetti. It’s the name the Grateful Dead used for some of their publishing. The phone person will invariably ask me to spell it, and I will spell it with as many consonants as I possibly can.

Then, when I am put through, the other person will never even comment on my stupid ruse.
I guess I have too much time on my hands.

And another thing. The new breed of answering systems is driving me to drink. Not that it would be a long trip, but still...

Now you get to have long conversations with these systems that almost always end badly. The phone company information systems started it. It used to be you called for a phone number and you got someone on the line who was in your area, knew the towns and the geography and pleasantly passed the information on to you. Then the task was outsourced, meaning that nine times out of 10, you got somebody on the phone that was in another state or maybe even on another planet. The trouble started when you asked for a listing in say, Avoca - a place they never heard of and couldn’t care less about if it fell on them. But at least at that point you were still talking to somebody. Now it’s all automated. You get to have a chat with a cheerful sounding recording. Most of the conversation is you repeating the request - “aaaa- vooo-cahh” - and the chirpy little voice responding back, I’m sorry, I didn’t get that, Did you say Racine?
It can go on for hours.

Well, now these fiendish automated menu driven phone attendants are asking for all sorts of information. You get to “say or spell” your name, social security number, blood type and results of last dental checkup and you get to do it over and over again until the cows come home.
What really gets my goat is when you finally do get the inhuman human to the point where it’s got all your information and it tells you it can’t help you with your problem and will go find a human to help you.

Actually I think it says you will be connected to a representative. When this actual person comes on the line - and you can bet the ranch they are not from Northeast Pa. - they will ask you to repeat, from the top, all the information and answers you just sweated bullets to get the automated voice to understand.

This is progress?

Maybe so.

But then again ... I could be wrong.


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