please press “0″

it has become progressively more difficult to speak to living, breathing human beings these days, at least when it comes to getting something that approaches customer service. it used to be that help was just a phone call away, but now your fingers just can’t do the walking.

what specifically am i talking about? well, have you ever heard this phrase: ‘if you’d like to speak to a customer service representative, please press “0″. you will be connected to the next available agent. the current wait time is unavailable, but we suggest you go out for coffee. and maybe a bagel. thank you!’

i’m not ashamed to admit that i recently went on the dole. in my direst hour (all things are relative, of course), the Employment Development Department is there to help, and Uncle Sam just decided to loosen the purse strings, recognizing just how tough it is to keep oneself in cappucinos and BMWs these days.

the EDD has a Web site. you can sign up online. they have extensive help information. they give you almost everything you need without ever having to speak to anyone. they are the picture of efficiency when it comes to mailing your forms quickly and on time. there is, of course, the nerve-rattling phone interview where you have to honestly answer questions like ‘are you willing and able to work full-time,’ but this is a minor inconvenience.

everything is great, in fact, until the moment when pre-recorded help labyrinths and Web sites fail to give you the diamond in the rough you’re searching for.

for example, i have a problem with my last claim. the machine-prepared help information on the form they sent me was not illuminating, to say the least. i called EDD several times (the phone numbers are scattered on every surface of paper they send to you), and have so far determined that they have two messages.

in the first, a woman apologizes profusely for the ‘heavy call volume’ (i.e., you’re never going to speak with anyone), then proceeds to give a five-minute informational message, after which she tells you to call back later – goodbye.

in the second, a man leads you through some menu choices (menu options! i must be getting somewhere): ‘for english, press “1″; if you are interested in an existing claim, press “1″; please enter your social security number; please enter your 4-digit PIN number; for a non-existentially challenged service agent, press “7″‘. after navigating the telephone equivalent of scylla and charybdis, he finally informs you soberly, ‘we’re sorry – the maximum number of callers waiting for assistance has been exceeded. if you still need to speak to a customer service representative, please try your call again later. goodbye.’ his voice is so sooothing, you almost forget to get mad. for about 12 microseconds, that is.

i’m beginning to think i might actually have to go to the local EDD office to try to speak with someone. incredible. but what would that get me? i’d have to wait in line for three hours. i could bring a little snack and a book, and perhaps a pillow to sleep, but what if i had to pee?

i think i know what i’m going to do next, but of course i couldn’t publish my intentions in a public forum. if anyone has suggestions for how to get satisfaction, i’m all eyes.

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2 thoughts on “please press “0″

  1. michele

    Actually, you’ll prolly have considerably more luck at the local place. I’m a writer and (sometimes, kinda, a little bit) painter in LA, and while I’m lucky to be gainfully employed (currently knocking on wood…)lots of my friends have been thru, or are currently enduring, this circus. But think about it: how many people who don’t work right now aren’t secretly, in the tiniest of ways, relieved about this development? Happy at the prospect of…sleeping in for the first time in, oh, say, fifteen years?
    Ergo, you get there early in the morning, you should encounter a very short line.
    One would think. Hopefully.
    by the way, I absolutely love reading yer blog. you ever decide to self-publish, I’d buy it.

  2. Greg Green

    Dude, sorry for the heavy call volume over here at Aldo shoes. We’re out of poor-looking rich person shoes, what with the fashion being to look like a reflection of the general economic conditions and all.
    We should have someone with you shortly! En francais aussi si vous avez decider changer de pays.


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