There are (much) worse jobs

By Mir
December 18, 2007

Today I am busy bemoaning the fact that I am sick (it was just a little cold until I wrote about it yesterday, at which point the fickle hand of fate gave me a mighty FLICK towards it being something much stronger and yuckier), and this morning after I got the kids off to school I sat down to work. And after about ten minutes, our internet went out. I am tired and cranky and hopped up on Sudafed, so I did the only logical thing: I whined until Otto said he’d take care of it.

He poked and prodded in our office, and then decided that it was indeed the cable company’s fault, nothing we’d done or any sort of hardware problem here. So he called them up.

I listened as he grew more and more aggravated, wading through their various menus.






“Continue. CONTINUE.”

I believe that at least 50% of the murders committed in this country can be traced back to voice menus on customer service lines. I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, on and on it went. I think it was about fifteen minutes before he got a human on the line. And then they made him recheck everything he’d already checked, and about six years later they promised to send someone out.

And THEN—this is the good part—they tried to get him to switch to the cable company’s phone service. You know, because our service has been SO RELIABLE and we suffer from a compulsive need to give them MORE MONEY.

I know it’s just that guy’s job and he was just reading from his script, but honestly. “Here you go, Joe. Now. When someone calls in, all angry because their service is out and they’ve been stuck in phone menu hell for half a day, TRY TO SELL THEM MORE STUFF. It’ll be great.”

And just like that, my job feels awesome again.


  1. Aimee

    Perspective is the thing!

    Sorry you’re feeling worse. That is NOT right. I would place a complaint call to the people in charge of colds, but I’d probably never get through the voice menu. ;)

  2. Flea

    We had a version of what you have. The first night I took Nyquil and thought, “I’ll be all better in the morning!” As the fourth family member to have it, when I woke the next morning worse, I knew to go to the doctor for antibiotics. I HATE taking antibiotics, but in this case it was worth it. All better.

    Go back to bed!

  3. Jess

    Hey, Mir, did you get that “The internet is broken…” t-shirt from Threadless? Just sayin’. ;)

    (Sometimes if you say “representative” on those menus, it lets you skip right to the end. That has kept me from quite a lot of violence, myself.)

  4. Melisa

    I had a job like Joe’s once. I HATED it.

  5. Jenny

    Our cable company is the same way — we recently had a snafu with them and by the third or fourth time I called (!), I was starting the conversation with “Hi, I just talked to you, and before we start, I understand you have to ask, but no, I don’t want any additional services.” Only maybe I didn’t sound as calm as that makes it look.

  6. Wendy

    I’m sorry you feel cruddy!

    My cable company has the same highly annoying voice version thing. I just press zero over and over again until the dumb thing gives up and gives me a person. It tells me the first time that I really must go through the whole automated thing and I say vile things to it and then press zero about 10 times in a row and she says very nicely, “let me transfer you to a customer service representative. Please hold.” and I say nicely, “thank you” also very nicely because she bowed to my every demand so very nicely like that. And then I ask to speak to a supervisor the minute I get a live person. Because I am annoying like that and because the cable company is somehow worked a deal with the devil and I’d rather speak to the head devil spawn in charge than one of the script reading/knows nothing spawnlings. And sure, it’s their job to know nothing, but when they actually ADMIT they know nothing every time, I just get tired of it.

    Anyway, long comment to say I Feel The Pain and to try pressing zero over and over again and see what happens.

  7. Contrary

    I have a fascinating tale of internet/phone provider stupidity, but it’s really long and has cuss words (bad ones!) and I’d get all worked up again and then the kids would have to hold me down while Pookie held an ether soaked cloth to my face.

    So I’ll spare us all that.

    Hope you get to feeling better soon!

  8. kidzmama

    My solution for every ailment is a cup of hot tea. It usually only soothes my throat and makes me sit still for a few minutes. It’s a start.

    I can never use those automated voice thingies. Too many kids in the background. I just keep pounding “0” until some human comes on. Eventually they do.

    I’m sure Otto was very polite to the guy trying to make you spend more money.

  9. Megan

    You should try the Social Security voice menu – that’s like the cable company’s service’s vicious old aunt suffering from senile dementia. I spent… well it felt like two hours just to change my address, 20 minutes of which was trying to spell my own last name (I admit, there were a few minutes where I was spelling rude and unmentionable phrases). My favorite? The bit where they interject in a patronizing voice, “your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line while we try to pitch even more of our product to you!”

  10. Wendy

    You can always tell them what I did, just recently when our TV and Internet went out, “I have nothing better to do so I will just sit here and yell at you.” Then when they explained that I can’t get any information (not even if there was an outage in my area, because you know that is the key to all terrorist plots), I informed them that since they made my life hell I am going to make my husband’s life hell and then they can talk to him. Within an hour it was back on. I am not saying I had anything to do with it, but an angry mother with no contact with the outside world can move mountains.

    Feel better soon. Apparently, that is an order of some kind.

  11. prophet

    hoo buoy. . . . my blood pressure rises just thinking about dealing with automated phone systems and the human booby prize you get to talk to – if you’re lucky!

  12. All Adither

    So sorry about your ailment. I hope it clicks off as fast as your internet did this morning. Poof!

  13. Tootsie

    I had a similar phone menu experience with Sears to report my defunct washing machine. After listing my complaints to a robot, a person finally came on who asked me EXACTLY the same questions. What’s the point, I ask? To satisfy my frustration she informed me that it would be 2 weeks before someone could come out and give me an ESTIMATE! A family of 5 cannot survive 2 weeks without a washing machine. We bought a new one and I took great pleasure in calling Sears to cancel my service appointment and tell them WHY we bought a new washer: Because you people suck.

  14. tuney

    OK,ok, I know you have all sorts of people feeding you herbs and eye of newt, but I am currently in cold hell, too, and I have to tell you that taking zinc (ha! I just typed ‘zonc,’ and somehow that’s even better) and vitamin c, along with lysine, have made it almost pleasant. I still have stuffiness, but within 24 hours of starting the pills, I was functional and not feeling the need to curl up in a ball under the sink and die. Don’t waste your time with those nasty dissolving zinc tabs (oh, dear GOD in heaven, why can’t they flavor those better??), go straight for the supplement and take 2. Pinky swear. As the girl who won’t even take tylenol until she’s in monstrous pain, I can tell you the effort is worth it.

    Feel better NOW, dangit! *sending healing vibes your way*

  15. Cele

    Sometimes I look at a different DSL provider and I think, hmmm their a little bit cheaper ($15) and I cringe because I wonder what I will miss when I don’t even notice I have $15 more dollars in my pocket.

  16. Leandra

    I hope you feel better soon!!

    Tell Otto that he should try to talk to one of those voice recognition things with a southern accent. I usually just keep pressing zero until I get a real human being — not necessarily one with a soul, but I’ll take what I can get!

  17. Lauren

    When I was at the bank yesterday, I overheard a woman trying to use the “bank by phone.” I listened to her say “customer service representative please” at least 30 times, obviously getting nowhere. I really wanted to shout out, “stop saying Please! You’re talking to a machine that doesn’t understand politeness!”, but what I really couldn’t believe was that none of the bank employees stopped her and offered to help.

  18. Kristi

    Yep, that is customer service and marketing for you.

  19. Divrchk

    This may not be your personality, but if you start swearing at the automated, voice activated phone menu, you usually get a person pretty quickly.

  20. Beachgal

    Hope you’re feeling better, soon. I’m hoping my sniffles are just allergies brought on by the temperature snap. It was below freezing when I woke up this morning and that is unacceptable.

    Y’all should try calling US Immigration, which I have to do for work all the time….absolutely brutal. The worst automated system, EVER. If I press 0 to try to get a person, it ignores it, I actually HAVE to follow through the menus…press 0 too many times and they disconnect you. Evil.

  21. Not The Mama

    Ugh, I spent an hour on the phone with my bank yesterday trying to clear up a clerical hour, and I nearly increased the homicide statistics. I do NOT want to spend twenty minutes meandering through a maze of options, trying to find a way to get a human, only to have them ask EVERY question that the automated machine already asked. Also, for the fifty third time, no I DO NOT want to check my account balance. I already know what you think it is. THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

  22. Rachel May

    Check out this site:

    I think I may have even gotten it from you at WantNot? Can’t really remember. It’s been bookmarked on my machine for-EVER.

    Hope you feel better soon! Make some of Chris’ crack bean dip and use HOT salsa to clear the sinuses…

  23. ImpostorMom

    We switched from the cable company for that very reason. When they were upgrading to that damn phone system last year our Internet service was routinely out on Sunday nights. The precise time my husband was supposed to be doing his freelance work. This lead to him meeting his clients in parking lots like a drug dealer. Ugh. Not that the DSL company is better but the reliability has been better so far.

  24. MommasWorld

    The cable guy was trying to sell you their phone service for the next time. You know, your cable goes out and it takes the phone with it so you cannot call in. Right?

  25. Karen

    I just hate the phone game. Do they secretly hope that you’ll get tired of playing and hang up? I’ve been on the verge of asking them to refund me the $2.86 they owe for the time my cable was down INSTEAD OF offering me more services.

  26. Deb

    Hope are you feeling better soon. Our last straw with the cable company after many fights was the day the female on the phone said to me “is there a man there that I can talk to?” Let’s just say my 6 year old learned a few new words that day ;-)

  27. barb

    I have been known to start conversations with customer service people by saying “I know this isn’t your fault personally, and I’m going to try to remember that during our conversation, but I’m pretty pissed off here!” Sets a nice tone for the conversation, don’t you think?

  28. Britt

    On Saturday I had to call support b/c one box wasn’t working. When she asked me to unhook the cable and rub my finger over the pokey outty thing I asked her if this is what she did to get her kicks on a Sat. night shift. She laughed and said no, it was to ground it.

    I think I would make people do things while I had them at my whim when their boxes were broken…. (kidding)

  29. D

    My favourite was the time the phone company called wanting us to switch to some great plan … to which I thought a moment and politely said, “Uh, we fired you six months ago.” Sputter from the other end of the line then, “May I ask why?” “Sure,” I said sweetly, “we had this same plan A you’re trying to sell us today and you told us we couldn’t get it for $X so my husband fired you.” Sputter again then “Well, it’s a great plan, why not switch back?” I inhaled and said, “Because you’re fired!” Turned out that two months later they were bought by yet another company — and raised their rates again. :-)

    My other favourite was the time a guy from India, reading his script [I asked if he was from India as my husband was visiting there at the time – nice chat about India, I will admit!], and he said, “Well, before your husband came here, he called us to do this.” I said, “Uh, if he called you and asked about this, then a) why didn’t he tell me, and b) why didn’t you get all this information from him? What, did he leave a message saying ‘yes, yes, I want to re-finance my house payments upwards – call long distance to annoy my wife for the details of our lives’?” Guy had to laugh, then hung up. :-)

  30. Margaret

    Ummm…lemme guess – Comcast???

    I dropped them like a bad habit. AT&T Uverse is the way to go.

  31. nan

    When I was a young and innocent backpacking traveller, I was in the States and tried to call the British Consul. It was my first experience with automated phone operators, and I was completely baffled… Everything was in SPANISH!! How daft is that?? I spoke a little Spanish, okay, but I never ever could get through to a human. I gave up.

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