Through the looking glass with an automated phone line

Through the looking glass with an automated phone line

“Hello and thank you for calling this multibillion dollar organization. We value your business. Please push ‘1’ to speak with someone in English.”

“Beep.”

“Thank you for calling. Please push ‘1’ if you’d like our address. Push ‘2’ if you’d like to find a store near you. Push ‘3’ if you need to hear your latest balance. Push 27 raised to the two-thirds power if you’d like to speak with a customer service representative.”

“Huh?”

“I’m sorry, we didn’t get your response.”

“I’m getting a calculator. OK, got it. Beep.”

“We understand you’d like to speak with a customer service representative. Is that right? Push the last two digits of the year the Magna Carta was signed [1215, actually] or ‘2’ if that’s incorrect.”

“Beep.”

“Please hold for the next available operator. We are experiencing unusually high call volume, by which we mean that you’re calling. The average wait time is nine minutes. We’re going to put you on hold, play mind-altering holiday music, and suggest, in an electronic passive-aggressive way, that you fend for yourself because this call won’t go the way you’d like.”

“What?”

“We mean that we’ll get to your call as soon as we can.”

“Uh huh.”

“Frosty the snowman” … “Jingle bells, jingle bells” … “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”

“Hey, Buddy, did you do your homework?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Did you still want to speak with a customer service representative?

“Yes, I was talking to my son.”

“If you want to stay on the line, say ‘yes’ in two other languages.”

“‘Oui’ and ‘si’?”

“So, you want to stay on the line?”

“Yes!”

“Why?”

“I have some questions and would like to speak with a customer service representative.”

“We will get to your call as soon as we can. In the meantime, have you seen our most expensive product this holiday season? You and your son Buddy will love it.”

“What? Wait. I thought you were a machine?”

“Out of the depths of despair and into the realm of the impossible comes a product so wonderful and spectacular that we’re offering it only to those people who waited on line for hours to see ‘E.T.’ or ‘Star Wars.’”

“Wait, how do you know about the long movie lines I used to wait on? Who are you?”

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

“Now you’re playing hold music?”

“Dad? What’s the matter? Why are you holding the phone so tight?”

“It’s OK, Buddy. I’m just trying to speak with someone at this awful corporation.”

“Hi, this is Heidi. Can I get your first and last name?”

“Hi, Heidi, my name is Dan Dunaief.”

“Can you please spell that?”

“Sure. Can you?”

Silence.

“You don’t have much of a sense of humor, do you, Heidi?”

“I have a great sense of humor. That wasn’t funny.”

“Sorry. Please, don’t disconnect me. I just had a question about this product. You see, I’m not sure about the
instructions.”

“Oh, that’s not my specialty. If you hold on, I can connect you to our automated instruction line.”

“No, please. I don’t like automated phone systems and would rather speak with a person. Can I speak with
someone else at your company who knows about this product?”

“The only other alternative is to send your request through the internet. We have an email address. Do you want that?’

“I have that. Can someone talk to me on the phone about this product?”

“We don’t do that too much anymore. We have automated systems that are overseen by artificial intelligence programs. That’s your quickest route, route, route, route, route.”

“Heidi?”

“Yes?”

“Are you real?”

“Are you?”

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