Monday, November 26, 2007

Please Hold

Note to readers: I started this piece a week ago. I'm posting it today because it's ironic. Stay tuned for an update this evening.

I'm on hold right now with Amtrak trying to get a receipt for train travel. Not a problem. I don't mind that. It's part of my job. What I do mind, however, is hold music. Hideous, voluminous hold music. Hold music is evil set to notes. At volumes that the American College of Audiology no doubt discourages. In ranges that are a violation of the Geneva Convention Accords prohibiting torture of enemy and non-enemy combatants. With variations that range from schmaltzy and saccharine to new-age-overboard.

Hold music seems to be regional, too, I've noted. For example, on the East Coast, it's chipper and upbeat, but harried and high volume. In the Midwest, it's Vivaldi or some pseudo-oratorial fugue. In the Southwest, it's radio or Christian music. On the West Coast, it's either psychedelic meets Starbucks or new age Zen nature sounds.

Regardless of what it is, it's annoying as hell. Couple it with a voice that comes on every few minutes to assure you that your call is important and they appreciate you holding because someone will be with you momentarily, or the voice that tells you all agents are busy and your wait time is nine minutes, 44 seconds, and it's enough to make any reasonably sane person stark raving mad.

I've become adept at pressing "0" or "*" or "#" or multiple zeros in an effort to reach a live person. When I do reach a real, living, breathing, carbon unit humanoid I'm ecstatic! I'm a huge believer in human-to-human customer service. In addition to hold music, there's nothing more grating than prompts and pushing a series of buttons to get to whatever it is you wanted. By the time you do get to the menu option you need--and if you're lucky enough to actually make contact with a living, breathing person--you've forgotten the carefully crafted message you wished to convey in a effort to get what you need.

The utility companies are the very worst, in my opinion. Followed by the airlines, government agencies, and doctors' offices, in that order. The appallingly worst, though, is when you call 911 and you're put on hold. What the fuck is up with that?!! You're bleeding to death / are being robbed / have just witnessed an accident / kitchen is on fire / pick-your-disaster. You pick up the phone while trying to remain calm. You dial 9-1-1 and get this: "Thank you for calling the 911 Emergency Call Line. Due to heavy call volume, your wait time will be 3 minutes, 15 seconds. Please hold and a dispatcher will be with you shortly." Are you kidding me? Of all times NOT to be placed on hold, this would be the most important.

Seriously. I think the next time a cop pulls me over for speeding or whatever, I'm going to crack the window and say, "Thank you for pulling me over. Due to heavy NPR listening right now, all violators are engaged. Your time is very important to me. Please hold and the next available licensed driver will be with you in 5 minutes, 27 seconds. Thank you for your patience..."

Photo copyright:
Cartoon copyright: Shannon Burns


hm-uk said...

I love it when you press the '0' key and finally get through to someone only to hear the tell-tale crumpling sound of a candy wrapper and the slurping sound of liquid being drunk in the background.

Cele said...

I hate being on hold. I honestly think that is the only reason they created speaker phones, so that you can be productive while waiting to crappy music.

I've been contemplating a blog about telemarketing that begins with...a long pregnant pause before the mechanical voice says... you are important to XYZ Mega Corp please hold for an operator to come on the line.

I think not.

Sideon said...

I like the fast tempo hold music, and I prefer the stuff with vocals so that I don't have to hum and try and remember how the real song goes if it's been mutated into MUSAK.

There was a drunk driver on the freeway in front of me a few weeks ago. I called 911 - I was on hold FIVE MINUTES and I finally hung up because the freaks never picked up and the car had exited the freeway.

I was hands-free, by the way, not one of the typical California drivers with a latte in one hand and the cell phone up to my ear in the other, driving with my knee(s).

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

HM: I could almost handle that over the CSRs you get who clearly hate their jobs and assume you hate them, too, so spew their crappy attitude all over you. Of course, that said, there's some latitude to be given to a CSRs who's had to deal with shitty people all day and can only assume I'll be the same. Still...

Cele: I'm with you there! Although, on that blog idea, erm... please don't! ;-)

Sid: Your 911 is exactly what I experienced when I lived in California! I remember the first time it happened thinking, "I'm glad I'm not dying." Hey! Maybe I should take a job in California as a dispatcher. Obviously they're short staffed.... Hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

This blog entry is good enough for the prime back-page-essay spot in Time Magazine.

Go ahead -- submit it. You just gotta!

Right ON!

- Phoebe

Holly said...

I agree with you about the music--particularly if it's loud. I want it to be as low and unobtrusive as possible--I'd rather listen to my OWN music. I've been known to tell the live person I finally talk to, "Your music is WAY too loud."