Monday, April 27, 2009

The Private Hades of Phone Trees

If you've never read "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman... then go, now, read it. Get it from the library, or if they're closed from the book store or heck, spend the money on Amazon. Have it shipped priority. Then read it. I'll wait.

Done? Okay, thank me later for making you read it.

It's been a while since I read it, so the character names are a little fuzzy - except for the name of the dog - but there's a passage in there where it comments on how both demons and angels are sometimes inspiring some of man's inventions, for better or for worse. In particular, one invention is accredited to the hero demon of the book, namely that of what I took to be one of London's least desirable highways. It sounds rather like what I envision the Los Angeles freeway system to be like, only with everyone on the wrong side of the road, somewhat more polite, and with fewer guns.

In short, exactly the kind of thing a demon would design in order wrest the worst from mankind.

I am convinced a demon helped invent the phone tree. I'm not sure when, exactly, we decided it was better to replace actual people with an overly complicated menu of choices that are both unclear and read too quickly. Obviously it came after touch tone phones became omnipresent, which makes it a fairly recent invention I would think. Somewhere down the line, I know, it was decided that a phone tree made sense. It saves time and money, presumably, because less people need to be hired to actually talk to customers.

This is not because most customers are able to achieve a satisfactory resolution to their problem, but because they simply give up before they reach a representative.

Also, those customers who do reach someone have presumably been routed to the representative, who in an ideal world has all of the information about your complaint and/or your account to fully and completely assist you in solving it. Only, in my experience, this never, ever happens. I always end up having to verify everything I just put into the menu, and I'm not really sure that one representative is ever more qualified than the other.

Moreover, wouldn't it be faster to just talk to someone, and have them transfer me? Of course, then I'd be put on hold and have to listen to muzak. Both concepts are, I'm convinced, also a demon's work.

Anyone else smell brimstone?

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