“What Bugs Me” by Jack McDonough

What bugs me

By Jack McDonough

Years ago, a Boston morning radio personality by the name of Jess Kane had a segment called “What bugs you?” Kane didn’t actually take calls from listeners but if he returned today and made that a call-in part of the show, I’d probably contribute every day.

At the top of my list of gripes would be big companies that use robots to answer calls to what they describe, with a giggle, as “Customer Service.” I seriously suspect that their motive is to make the experience so frustrating that customers will hang up and not bother them again..

(Note: For readers under the age of, oh say 55, the terms “dial” and “hang up” harken back to an earlier century when callers turned a little wheel with holes in it (dial) to place a call and then actually “hung” the phone up on a hook when the call ended. Prior to that, there weren’t even dials, if you can believe that.

Very early in your call to (tee hee) Customer Service, you will be cautioned to listen carefully “because our menu has changed.” These menus, which apparently change at least once a week, are very long. (Hey. You got a problem with that? It’s a big company, buster.)

But you can jump right ahead of every other caller if you know the nine-digit extension of the party you’re calling.

Let me pause here to ask for a show of hands. How many people ever know the extension of the party they’re calling? OK. Thank you. I see that the answer is “No one.”

It occurs to me that if by some strange happenstance you did know the extension of that party, you wouldn’t need to be advised to use it. Furthermore, if you do know the extension, that means you’ve had to call (snicker) Customer Service more than once and whatever it is you bought in the first place was a lemon.

But wait. There’s more to the robot’s message.

“Due to unusually heavy call volumes, our wait time is longer than normal,” it says with what sounds like a straight face.

Well, you may have called this company before and you know what the Board of Directors considers normal. A “normal” wait begins somewhere around the five-minute mark. Longer than normal means that if you put the phone on speaker you usually can get through at least half a hundred online solitaire games before help arrives.

But Big Company feels your pain and soothes your nerves with sounds that make elevator music suddenly appealing. What you hear while you’re electronically dealing cards, is a repetition of two bars of the same five notes. Hundreds of times. Plus, (these guys are pros) the “music” is discordant and scratchy.

The goal here is clear. They want you to HANG UP and go away.

At least, that’s what Roger hopes. Roger is the only one working today in (giggle) Customer Service. In fact, Roger is the only person in the department. See, the thing about “unusually heavy call volumes” is a tiny bit of a fib. Those Directors who defined “normal?” They realize there’s no profit in (Stop, you’re killing me) Customer Service.

Sales! That’s where it’s at, baby.

But don’t despair. Not entirely. The robot has a remedy. Don’t want to wait online any longer? (Good Lord, it’s been two hours!) We’ve got an option for you. Just leave your name and phone number and we’ll call you back. (Oh, please. My stomach hurts.)

Wait. Hold on. Roger has come back from his coffee break and he’s actually on the line. This is when you learn that his name isn’t really Roger. It’s actually Fayyad something, something and he’s not at the company headquarters in New Jersey. He’s in a different longitude entirely and English is not his first or second language.

But Roger (nee Fayyad) is happy to help you. And he does. Sort of. You can understand only every fourth or fifth word.

Time to “hang up” as we used to say in the old days. In animal husbandry parlance, you’ve once again been serviced by Custom Service.

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