When I was growing up, every business answered their phone. Not so anymore. Some businesses don’t seem to even have a phone. Eventually even the Suicide Hotline might start putting people on hold. “Please hold, we have two jumpers in front of you.”
Recently my internet went down so I called AT&T. A recording told me that there were no outages in my area, and I should go to the internet for more information. But I didn’t have internet to go to. So, for the next 40 minutes, before I got to speak to a real live person, I was bombarded with different recordings. Over and over, I heard that I’m a valued customer and how much they appreciated my business.
They asked if I would take a brief survey at the end of the call and tell them about my experience with AT&T. Does a call to AT&T really qualify as an experience? What about AT&T helping me out with my own survey? I would love to hear from them what they really think of me. They could let me know if I’ve been rude or overly aggressive with their honored team members. They could tell me if they are upset with me because of my two late payments. I opted out of their survey.
I was then told they were recording my call for quality control. I have seen enough people dragged away in handcuffs on lawyer TV shows to see how phone recordings come back to haunt even the best of us. Then they said their prompts have recently changed, and I should listen carefully to the new menu.
Next, I hear, “Due to an overwhelming number of calls, this call will take longer than usual to answer,” but that someone will be with me as soon as possible. No one will be right with me. They know it and I know it. It’s a lie. Think of your own family. Has anyone who has ever told you they would be right with you ever been right with you? NEVER.
“Hold” is like having a big fish on the hook and you almost pull them in but at the last moment they get away. “Please hold” means they will now totally forget about you. “Please hold” usually means you have a few minutes left before the call is potentially dropped.
When they finally do pick up, the worst is when you hear “please hold.” “Hold” is like having a big fish on the hook and you almost pull them in but at the last moment they get away. “Please hold” means they will now totally forget about you. “Please hold” usually means you have a few minutes left before the call is potentially dropped. And then the phony typing clicking sound begins where they are making believe they are typing away as you speak.
So now, after 35 minutes of this torture, I have been pushed to the Tourette’s syndrome point of the call where I start yelling the word “operator.” Nonstop into my mouthpiece I yell “operator, operator, operator!” No matter what they ask me from then on, I cannot stop yelling “operator, operator” into the phone.
Eventually after 45 minutes, this one time, someone from AT&T picked up. When he did, I immediately begged him to take my phone number in case we happen to get disconnected. They always take the number and promise to call you back, but rarely ever do.
Finally, I got Eddie in India. I know that’s not his real name. I explained my situation to Eddie. He could not have been nicer. A good listener. A compassionate young fellow. Dopey me, I thought now we were getting somewhere. After hearing me out for more than five minutes, Eddie said, “I am so sorry for your issue and that you can’t get on the internet. You are a valued customer. You have been with AT&T since 1981 and we appreciate it. Unfortunately, you have reached the wrong department. You need to speak to technical. I’m in sales. I’ll switch you right over.” “No Eddie, don’t switch me, please.” Too late, he hit a button and bingo, disconnected me.
I then went back to my computer and figured I’d give it a try and hit the link to Amazon. Bingo, I was back on the internet. A modern-day miracle. Nothing better than being a valued customer.
Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.