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An Open Letter To Anyplace That Uses A Phone Tree – Curmudgeonly Monday On Tuesday

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22599 – 912

Here’s the haps:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. The chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.

Adam Smith, 1776

To Any Business (and there are many thousands of you) That foists Phone Trees Upon Us,

I surrender! I give up. I wave the white flag in your general direction.


Before I list the terms and conditions of my surrender may I ask that you stop lying to me? My call is not important to you. If it were, you would pay a human being to answer it. Oh, don’t give me that tired old bit that you can’t afford to hire as many people as it would take. You and I both know that you can afford what you want to afford. Just tell the truth. As long as I will put up with your shenanigans you will keep it up. You know it’s a useless endeavor to try to go elsewhere because you all huddle together and decide the fate of the customers. If I leave you and go to your competitor, the first time I call I will be greeted with the same rude lie. I get it, I get it. There’s no profit margin in it, but the least you could do is tell the truth, “Even though you think your problem is the worst in the world, it’s probably not. Nor are you the only person calling. Wait your turn in the queue and listen to the horrible squawkiness of what we are passing off to you as music but which is, in reality, a brainwave control signal which will cause you to waste away to nothing on hold, like everyone else. Your call isn’t as important as you think it is.” At least then we both know where we stand with each other.

In that same vein, teach your representatives even the smallest modicum of courtesy. Just a tiny bit of courtesy. That’s all. Now, I have been on both ends of this telephone line and I know what it’s like to be grossly underpaid to listen to people whine and complain and curse me out for idiotic policies I do not have any control over. Or their own behaviors, like when I worked at the big-name insurance company for military people, and some major would call and wonder why his rates had gone up so much. “Well, sir, you have had six accidents in the last three years that were either your fault or very questionable as well as 3 speeding tickets and a DUI. And you added a late model sports car for your son.” “You make it sound like it’s my fault you guys are price-gouging me.” Yes. That’s a real conversation. So, yes, I get it, from the poor rep’s perspective but that doesn’t call for rudeness.

But, even if you never fix those issues, and I know you won’t, there is one thing you could do that would seal my capitulation to you forever. I will wave the white feather and sacrifice any remaining sanity that I possess if you will do one thing. One simple (for you) fix and I will accept all of your abuses toward me, your customer. The fix is this: Stop making me talk to the telephone.

“Hello. Thank you for calling major mega idiots, inc. Your call is very important to me. (I’m important to a robot! Yay, me. Well, when they take over that may be good) Please tell me why you’re calling. You can say things like, ‘claims’ or ‘hours of operation.’” But I don’t want to say anything for any number of reasons. If I talk I may disturb the baby in the next room, especially since you can’t understand my speech and I wind up shouting the same answer over and over again. I might be at the library, which in our town is a haven for the homeless, (some of whom have criminal backgrounds and this is how they stay under the radar) and remembered they were going to shut off the water if I didn’t call and pay today. Saying my credit card number out loud over and over just doesn’t seem prudent. And you, Dear Business Owner, can make a simple decision, which some have already done. Just give me the option to “press or say one.”

Thank you, to you, my patient and kind readers. This is a blogged-up version of a letter I plan to send to the Kroger company who recently replaced their old, reliable, phone tree for the pharmacy with an aggravating piece of junk that expects you to speak to it and doesn’t give any options or choices for pushing buttons.


19 responses to “An Open Letter To Anyplace That Uses A Phone Tree – Curmudgeonly Monday On Tuesday”

  1. Geoff Stamper Avatar

    Add my name to the petition. I hope you at least feel a little better for getting that off your chest!

    1. Herb Avatar

      I do, actually. I had a lot more to say but my fingers got tired.

      1. Geoff Stamper Avatar

        I just spent today in phone rabbit holes regarding property taxes. I can never get that day back and nothing is resolved.

        1. Herb Avatar

          Things that make you say, “Aaaarrrggghh!”

  2. Barbara Avatar

    I often just push 1 or 0 and see if I get a response. It sometimes works. I will also count the options given and then press that number and it also sometimes works. My voice does not translate very well to computers and often gives the wrong information to verify. Next time give that a try.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thanks for the idea. I have noticed that pressing 0 doesn’t always work anymore.

  3. achme24gmailcom Avatar

    This is the joys of the phone yes. I’m on the list with you. It’s beyond annoying. I pray your message gets heard.

    1. Herb Avatar

      That would be nice.

  4. Jim Borden Avatar

    I agree; there are not many things more annoying than dealing with customer service over the phone…

  5. dumbestblogger Avatar

    Once, just once, I’d like to talk to an engineer at a major appliance company instead of getting shuttled around between various reps who have no idea what I’m asking about….

    1. Herb Avatar

      It’s crazy sometimes. I called Cricket Wireless and when I asked to speak to a manager I was told that there was no one there.

      1. dumbestblogger Avatar

        Called Cricket, got crickets. Kind of poetic.

        1. Herb Avatar

          lol, yeah.

  6. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View Avatar

    Congratlations you now understand the difference between compnays run by people and shareholders. People care about customer servvice Share holders care about profits. A few years back I wrote several articles on this subject which fell on deaf ears. However the esearch was very interesting
    Laugh Hard at Christmas

    1. Herb Avatar

      Cool. I’m sure they were very interesting.

  7. AJMcGregor Avatar

    I had never heard the term “phone tree” before. However, I have certainly dealt with them. The “hold music” does have some evil purpose, no question. I’m glad you’re writing your letter.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thank you.

  8. J P Avatar

    And what do you want to bet that 1) their menu options have not recently changed or 2) that they are recording your call for purposes other than employee training.

    I understand the dilemma, having been in a small office that decided to go with an auto-attendant because trying to hire a quality secretary who wanted to answer phones was a nearly unsolvable problem. Ours, though, was simply one menu away from getting to any individual in the office. But oh my, I feel your pain. I tried calling the Wall Street Journal to ask why they were still sending me a paper I had cancelled (although I kept an e-subscription). The first option: was I calling about a print subscription or an online subscription? There was no answer to that question. I no longer had a print subscription but was still getting a paper. I had an online subscription – and was still getting a paper. I think I said “agent” and it worked.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Oh, man! Yes, sometimes saying, “agent,” or “representative” does work.

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