The joys of yelling at computer humans

Suck it up and get ready to work your fingers. It’s the last thing you want to be doing but you have no choice. You’ve just dialed the 800-number for a company and are going through the automated system.

But what’s this? No press one, press two? These new sophisticated telephone systems now have you talking to a computer that attempts to “listen” to what you say and connect you to the right department. Notice I said “attempts.”

Quite often we only call the bank or the cellphone company when there is a problem with our service. For many people it’s advanced to the point where you can’t live with the problem anymore and you’ve resorted to calling the company. The last thing you need is to wait even longer to have your problem solved.

You’re relieved, however, to hear a human-sounding voice when your call connects. Could this be true? Well, half and half. It is a human but not one you can really have a conversation with. The “computer human” will only recognize certain words you say – despite one telling me “I understand full sentences.” And if you don’t say them clearly enough you can very quickly get transferred to the wrong department.

Once you reach the wrong department you get a lecture from a real human on the other end saying they can transfer you to the correct department. Great, no more computer human. Wait a second… this voice sounds familiar. That’s right, I was dumped back into the caller queue with every other sap waiting (with blood pressure rising) to speak with a customer service representative.

When the call is finally answered by someone who isn’t using standard sentences they’ve been programmed with – and potentially in another country — I inquire about the fastest way to avoid this new “convenient” answering system.

I was told, “The best way is to say “operator.” I keep that in mind for when I’m done with the current call. Everything is now wrapped up it’s time to test out the theory.

I call again and interrupt the welcome message with my forceful command by stating “operator.”  The recording stops. I did it! No wait, now what? “Did you say “order”?” I’m being quizzed by the computer human. Finally I just started repeating myself, saying “operator, operator, operator, operator” until finally I am the one interrupted by a kind woman who thought I was singing along with the hold music.

So the advice worked. I’m still undecided if I prefer elevator music for 45 minutes or arguing with a non-human for five.

Next thing you know we’re going to have to start bagging our own groceries at the store.

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