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    New For July: Been There, Done That: Eight Decades And Counting By Alice Herb: Your Call Is Important To Us

    Your Call Is Important To Us By Alice Herb


    I have a number of pet peeves. Friends and family visibly shrink from me when they hear that I’m once again on the warpath to eliminate the object of my wrath. That object right now (and for some time) is the virtual phone operators that have the same or similar messages no matter whom you call. This irritant is exacerbated by the same unresponsive behaviors I get from so many vendors who claim they care about their customers but only care about sales. When that happens I will not stop until I have made my point clear to the company in question. And now I am at it again. I am certain that many of you have had the same experience and will sympathize and join me in pushing companies back to where they belong – taking responsibility not only for the sale of the product but for the customer service that should support their products. And that includes their telephone service!


    I am pushed to write this today because I am once again in high dudgeon awaiting a refund for a replacement part that happened to be glass so poorly wrapped that it arrived in hundreds of shards. To report this little disaster, I had to take pictures and send them a narrative along with the pictures but was excused from sending back the box of shards as being a dangerous undertaking. I did as they asked a month ago and am still awaiting my refund, although I was charged for another replacement immediately. Somehow, the coronavirus interfered with their prompt action on the refund. I have now called three times to complain and am still waiting.  


    But I am straying from my primary point. When you call any company to register a complaint, to make a change, even to place an order, you are likely to hear a virtual operator direct you to a series of prompts. If any of the prompts are right for you and you press the assigned number for the purpose of your call, you will probably not get an actual person but another set of prompts usually urging you to consult the website. If you are foolish enough to look at the website, you will realize there is no answer to what you are looking for so it’s back to the phone. Once back on the phone between the different prompts, you are most often subjected to gut-wrenching music that no one in their right mind wants to listen to. Muzak was high art compared to these offerings!  But you are relieved from this cacophony every few minutes with a voice saying: “Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line, a representative will be with you in just a few moments,“ or “Please wait for the next available representative.”  After 10 or more times that you’ve heard these announcements, you now know just how important you are.  


    But this virtual nonsense continues. “We are committed to serious service to our most valued customers,” or “We apologize for the extended wait time” with the coronavirus as an excuse (though they’ve been using this bogus virtual set up way before the onset of the pandemic). When someone does get on the line, very often she advises that you were shunted to the wrong department but she will connect you to the right one. What happens? You are back with “The next available representative will be with you shortly.” After grappling with these misconnections, long waits, and unbearable music, you realize that at least half an hour or more has passed, and whatever mood you were in has darkened considerably.  And nothing has been resolved.


    In one situation with my cellphone carrier, I was on the phone for more than an hour and was unable to get a person. Whichever prompt I chose I was shunted to an automated line. I was simply not being connected to a person. Because I am ornery, pigheaded, and old, I persisted and finally managed to get a human being on the phone who was clearly annoyed with- and unsympathetic to- my complaint. The immediate problem was solved (or so I thought) when the same issue re-emerged (their failure to send me a paper bill). One hour and thirty minutes later,  it was resolved. My win was modest – a total credit of $5.25 – but to me, it was the principle of the thing. I don’t know if this issue is now permanently resolved, but I am reminded of a skit from long ago featuring Victor Moore and Edward Arnold, entitled “pay him the $2.00.” It’s a hilarious skit that my father often intoned when I was off on my time-consuming but mostly unimportant issues.  


    Yet, I do not see this as “unimportant,” because these virtual operators waste endless time for consumers, patients, clients, and all people who should receive prompt human service but instead are being asked to save the time and payroll of the service providers. There is a time and place for virtual operators but surely a telephone company should have a telephone number connected to a real human being. I rest my case! But your call or email is very important to me.


    Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 85+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]


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