Okay, let us now consider Help Lines in the context of both utilitarian assistance and self-abuse.
It starts when you call the 800 number. If you are lucky enough to hear a human being, or think you hear a human being, you probably have either a person speaking English-As-A-Fourth-Language, or a young person speaking English as though…hewasrecitingaGilbert&Sullivanpattersong.
Me: I didn’t understand a word he said; is there a way to record it and play it back later at a slower speed?
And that’s if you’re lucky. Most often you’ll end up with a helpful computer doing automated responses. Don’t bother pushing “O” for operator. It will ignore you as it chants:
1. “Please listen closely as our options have changed.”
Me: They have not; I called 6 months ago and you said the same thing.
2. “If you’re calling about the allegations of embezzlement and tax fraud against our CEO and the Board of Directors, please hang up now and call our Law Department as 1-800-NOFAULT.”
Me: I wonder where they’re being held.
3. “If you wish to manage your account, you can find this information by visiting our website. Find the ‘account’ logo and click on it; then find ‘manage your account,’ click on it; it will often take you to ‘services,’ where you can read our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’. If the website crashes again, it is only because we’re helping others.”
Me: Your website is impenetrable, and nearly as useless as your 800 number.
4. “We are currently experiencing a higher than normal volume of calls.”
Me: You say that at 10am, noon, and midnight.
5. “Our associates are all busy helping other callers.”
Me: I think this means you don’t have enough people on the phones; or, maybe your stuff is so flawed, no one can figure out how to work it.
6. “Your waiting time is less than 10 minutes.”
Me: Beautiful! You’re not trying to scare me away, are you?
7. “Please key in your 12 digit account number now.”
Me: Huh? I just want to know how to turn the fool thing on.
9. “For security reasons, please enter the last four digits of your Social.”
Me: The last Social I attended was over the holidays.
10. “Please say your answer to one of the following security questions:
1. What is your cat’s maiden name?
2. Who was your first boss’ wife’s older brother?
3. What did Marilyn Urquhart say you did at the Senior Class Reunion of 1987?
Me: Marilyn Urquhart is not to be believed. I’ll go for the cat’s maiden name: Is it…Kitty?
9. “I’m sorry that is not correct. Thank you for calling us. Please check the website. We’re pleased that we could be of assistance to you. We value your business. Press 8 if you’d like to hear about our new product offerings, or arrange a contract maintenance session with one of our staff engineers. Please have your credit card ready. If you’re willing to take a two minute survey, please stay on the line. Have a great day.” (Click)
Me: Hello? What was that website address again?