The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Those Automated Phone Calls

on September 20, 2012

I am all about technology.  That is to say I am all about the technology when it makes my life easier.  I have no idea how any of it works and quite frankly I don’t care but I appreciate anything that streamlines my day.  I love that I can pay my bills automatically on-line.  My DVR and I are best friends. Self check-out rocks. But here is the thing. Technology also annoys the beegeebers out of me some days.  

Am I the only one who has noticed that almost every company you call these days has the same message? “Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed”.  Was there an international change your options day and I missed the memo?  Why don’t they say what they really mean: “Our one operator is tired of redirecting your call when you push the wrong button so please pay attention!”  I realize it isn’t as flowery but at least it’s honest.  My other question is why is there very seldom a menu option like “If you wish to speak to a live human being…good luck!”?  I realize that there are lots of things people call in to do which can be handled by the auto system.  I also realize that some days I really do need to speak to a person and it would frustrate me less if I didn’t have to go through 45 button pushes to find the one customer service rep who is working that day.  I had to call a company from work the other day and actually needed a human to answer a question.  Trust me I am resourceful. I checked through the “FAQ’s” on-line first.  I tried to google for an answer.  I e-mailed the “contact us” link. I waited a few days.  No dice.  I needed a person. I never did find one.

One of my new favorite things are automated telemarketing calls. (Could you actually read the sarcasm in that sentence?)  “Please hold the line for an exciting offer on discounted plane tickets/important refinancing information/an important political survey!”  You called me and want me to hold? What? Our answering machine has at least two of these types of calls waiting for me every day when I get home.  When I actually listen to the entire message I enjoy the part where the person comes on and says, “Hello.  Hello?”  I almost didn’t reenter our number on the “Do Not Call” list because this is such great entertainment for me.  We have the technology to call 50 numbers at the same time but not to tell the agent calling that the phone was answered by a machine? That boggles my mind.  If I actually answer the phone for one of these calls (because – you know – “out of area” on my caller ID doesn’t totally give it away) I usually give the poor people a break and hang up the moment I hear the static phone sound of the computer telling someone they have a live one on the line. It’s just easier for everyone.

By far the automated system that intrigues me the most is the one operated by our school district. I have a love/hate relationship with this one.  I was introduced to it years ago when the small county school our oldest kids attended was annexed into the city school district.  The principal of that school really loved the phone system.  I mean really.  We’d get calls like, “Good evening.  This is Mrs. Smith (Name changed to protect said administrator.) from Winter Elementary reminding you that tomorrow is Tuesday.”  Okay it really wasn’t that bad but she did like to call every night to “count down” to a big event.  “…our winter concert will be this Thursday at 6pm.”  The next day: “…the winter concert is tomorrow evening at 6pm”  The next afternoon: “The winter concert is this evening at…”  I really wanted to yell at the phone “OKAY!!!! GOT IT!!!” but then there was never really a person on the line so I couldn’t.  Well I could have but that would have just made me look crazy.  We had the same experience with the high school Principal when the post prom committee was selling hams.  He has to have called at least twice a week with updates and reminders.  To this day I seriously start twitching any time I hear the words “ham sales”.  (No.  I didn’t buy one. Or sell one. They annoyed me with the phone too badly.)

About three years ago they upgraded the system.  It meant you could add cell phones and text message and e-mails. Fabulous.  I didn’t figure out until I got the call that school was cancelled because of a blizzard THREE times (one per phone) at 6:00am that it had automatically added all the numbers and I needed to go in and pick which ones I wanted it to use.  They probably sent that information out and I didn’t read it.  Wouldn’t be a new thing.  The other bonus of the upgrade is that now the caller can choose between using their voice or the “computerized voice.”  I love the CV.  She says the greatest things.  All the administrator has to do is type in what they want read and the CV will read it over the call for them.  Simple right? Except for the fact that the CV is actually a computer which is very literal and people don’t realize that.  For example if I type “grades 10-12 will have an assembly” you read the “-” as “through”. CV reads it (over the phone) “grades 10 dash 12″.  If I type “you will NOT be able to” you read the emphasis on the word “not”. CV thinks it’s an abbreviation (like IRS for example) and reads each letter individually with a pause in between so it sounds like “you will N…O…T… be able”.  I have had hours of fun listening to CV.  She makes me laugh.

My favorite phone system folly this week happened when I arrived home Monday to find a message from our son’s school reminding me about picture day.  Picture day was….MONDAY.  The call came in at 2pm.  This might be a good lesson in double checking the “delivery date” you set when you pre-schedule an automated call.  His principal is new this year so I’ll cut him some slack.   I’ll give him some time to learn it before I start muttering about technology only being as good as the person using it. Besides it made me laugh and everyone needs a laugh on Mondays. 

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8 responses to “Those Automated Phone Calls

  1. momshieb says:

    Hahaha! I am so with you on this topic!
    My favorite part of the schools’ robo calls is the slow, deliberate pace of the speaker, and the way that they need to name themselves so extensively. “Good evening. This is Mr. James J. Bighead, principal of the Robocalling Elementary School in Gobbledygook, Massachusetts with a special message for all members of the Gobbledygook community.” (And for me, its my boss speaking…I KNOW who you are!!) By the time they go the end of all that, I usually want to scream out, “Just tell me if we have a snow day!!!!!”

    • wedelmom says:

      LOL! Ours starts with “Please stay on the line for an important message from Norfok Public Schools” and then you get the long introduction from the caller – you know in case you missed who you were staying on the line for.
      Funny part is the “please stay on the line” part is a recording of a real person – not robo. It’s my bosses wife who works for the school system. I recently told her that I’m starting to cringe when I hear her voice.

  2. Oh….I can NOT stand those automated message systems! They never have the option I’m calling about…every single time!!! How is it possible I’m the only one in the world who has ever had this question???? so frustrating!!

    • wedelmom says:

      I don’t think they have options that anyone is calling about. I think the evil plot is to get you so frustrated you give up and hang up….but that’s just my opinion.

  3. Thanks for finally showing me how to spell beegeebers. Always wondered about that.
    I love messing with telemarketers. I have pretended to be an answering machine and they have left a message with me on the other end of the line. Seriously. I thought I was going to pee myself. I have asked them to hold while I got a pen and left them hanging for eons. I have even done the Seinfeld trick–asked them for their home phone number, so I could call them back…in the middle of their supper. And the funny thing is that I worked as a telemarketer for a summer.
    Love this post!

    • wedelmom says:

      Oh my word you crack me up! I’m going to have to remember some of those next time I answer their calls. I know telemarketers are just people trying to do their jobs….albeit an annoying job.My husband once left the message on our answering machine: “If you are calling to sell something press 1 and hang up. If you are calling to conduct a survey press 2 and hang up. If you are calling to ask a favor…” Yeah. We’re all warped here.

      Not sure if that’s the official spelling of beegeebers but since it was the correct word for the sentence I just ignored spell check and didn’t replace it with “beekeepers”.

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