I have spent the last several days on hold.
I’ve pressed “1″ to get more options, “2″ to hear a menu of about 10 options that I don’t need,”3″ to hear yet another useless menu, and “0″ to get assistance when I run out of options. At that point, however, I am told that all the customer care representatives are busy with other customers, but that my call is very important, and the waiting time is a mere 30 minutes. I am subjected to Muzak consisting of elevator versions of The Who, Donna Summer, The Beatles, Jay- Z, and Mozart with interval interruptions telling me how important my call is, and every time I’m interrupted, I think someone is “real” and not recorded, and I say hello. Finally, I’m sent to the “right” department since my customer care representative, although caring, is unable to help me with “my specific problem.” It seems I require a “specialist.”
For example, my husband and I decided to pare down to merely two credit cards: the ubiquitous Visa, and the not-always-accepted-but- has- good- rewards American Express (even though you can only redeem them for places like Berlin in January or Miami in hurricane season). Have you ever tried canceling a credit card? I practically got psychotherapy over the phone. The original customer care person was unable to help me. They sent me to the too peppy and sugary customer care person who sadly, and gently, asked why I was canceling: Could they do something to ease the pain of canceling like consolidating my debt? Was I disappointed with the quality of service since I’d had the card for over 20 years? I reassure the rep: no debt, no pain, no disappointment. I repeat myself robotically: I just want to cancel the card. This session takes a good 25 minutes, at which point this caring individual instructs me to cut up the card as though I am now being punished for what I wanted to do in the beginning. No more Ms. Sweetness. Then I am routed to the Disputes Department because there are several charges for some bartending program that we didn’t incur. Am I certain? the woman asks. I am adamant in my certainty, but she asks me to try to remember. I tell her that I would know if one of us was enrolled in bartending school, and even though it’s only noon, I sure could use a margarita about now. She doesn’t find that funny.
Then there was Ikea. You can go online and “Ask Anna,” but unfortunately the cartoon drawing of Anna and the text space for your question is met with “I don’t understand your question.” There’s no room for editorializing with Anna. It’s yes or no. Anna, a drawing of a woman wearing a telephone headset, is useless. So, I call the 800 number, and listen to propaganda for about 10 minutes. A human being finally picks up, and then puts me on hold for 30 minutes (seriously – 30 minutes – I was writing this column as I waited) because the shipment scheduled to arrive tomorrow (a notice that came to me via recorded message) was indeed, sent in error. Apparently, there was a miscommunication in an email sent to the warehouse. I feign shock. My guess is that Anna had something to do with it.
And let’s not forget America Online. We have a third account that’s been dormant for about a decade. We have two other very active accounts. I need to cancel the third account. After the many options, I am connected to a man in India (honest – he told me so – he was in India). He asks my mother’s maiden name, my social security number, and my favorite restaurant. I can’t remember the third one. I try to explain (after naming about a half dozen restaurants) that I can’t remember my favorite restaurant from 10 years ago – and don’t my mother’s maiden name and my social number rule over some burger joint? He sticks to his guns. There are three security questions, and I have failed to answer the third. Failed, I tell you. I am connected to his supervisor (also in India) who lets me slide on the restaurant, and then after another 30-minute holding pattern says that the account is free anyway because it’s a third account. I’m having a hard time mustering up a lot of enthusiasm and gratitude.
And then there’s the email I got from our very corporate gym that said we were past due in our account, and our membership was in danger of being canceled. Panicked at the notion of not being able to release endorphins after being on hold so much lately, I call corporate office. It’s busy, busy, busy. Finally, they answer – just as my finger is numb from hitting “redial.”
“I was told we’re being canceled,” I say. “Our account is NOT past due.”
” Ignore the email,” the man says.
” Do you even know who this is?” I ask.
“It doesn’t matter. That email was sent in error to thousands of people in the New York City area. I’ve been fielding calls all day.” He’s exasperated. Aha! The tables have turned!
“Well, I guess there’s one customer care person who doesn’t have a job now,” I say.
He hangs up on me.
Last but not least, there’s the University where I am applying for a graduate degree. A
center for higher learning. Perhaps here the bureaucracy will be easier to navigate. Ah, wrong again. They’ve cashed the check accompanying the application, so why haven’t I heard? It seems that my application is incomplete.
“And you don’t tell me this?” I ask, trying to control myself.
“We don’t tell you when it’s incomplete. We rely on the undergraduate program to send the information.”
“But I graduated over 30 years ago.”
Doesn’t matter. They want references from my college professors. Gently, I explain that they are all deceased, so this really isn’t possible.
“Are you sure?” the young woman asks.
“Pretty, pretty sure,” I say. “Dead is dead.” I am incredulous.
“OK, so how about your transcript?” she asks.
No problem – except my Alma Mater wants the request faxed with a signature, not just the email I send with all my vital statistics. I shlep to Kinko’s because I don’t have a fax. It goes through, and then I’m told by the twenty-something that I need 12 credits of undergraduate psychology. I try to explain to the twenty-something on the phone that at my age I would no more remember the content of those courses than I would what I had for breakfast (or my favorite restaurant from a decade ago). She refers to me as an “older student,” and sticks to her guns about the credits. I make an appointment with the department chair, call the next day to confirm, and there’s no record of my appointment. Now I’m ready to go toe to toe with the entire department about abnormal psychology because I am about to go ballistic.
And so, I brace myself for another day in digital hell. Imagine if I ran my household and personal life this way: Press 1 for breakfast, press 2 for lunch, press 3 for dinner. Press 4 for laundry. Press 5 for conversation. Press 1 for English. Press star 9 if the above options didn’t satisfy your every need, or if you want to hear these options again. Please hold, although your needs are very important to me, your waiting time is approximately 30 minutes.