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By Beverly Eakman
October 20, 2004
NewsWithViews.com


It had been building for some time. But with my mother sick, a thousand things to do and my patience wearing thin, finally it got to be too much-contacting people by telephone, that is…

It all started when I opened my mother's refrigerator door. The items perched on ledge inside of the door went crashing to the floor-ketchup, opened soda pop, butter, gooey chip dip, you name it. After five or so bouts with that, I decided to order a new door and just charge it to my account, or at least order new metal strips (called "shelf bars") to hold the stuff in, if I could still get any. So, I braced myself for the inevitable game of punch-the-button-trying to get hold of someone who knew something and could order it.

Inasmuch as the refrigerator was a well-known brand, I had at least some hope of success. I hedged my bets and bypassed the department and appliance stores, figuring none would any longer be carrying a part for a 1994 fridge, and went straight to the brand's toll-free number.

Big mistake. "Hello. You've reached ______. To continue in English, press 1 on your touch-tone phone."

Okay, fine.

"Did you know you can reach us on our web site at www.whichamagizmo.com and click on "appliances" to review our latest …….."

I stopped listening and just waited for the disembodied recording to get me to something resembling an agent or a salesperson.

"…listen carefully to the following eight options as our menu has changed. For the status of your order, press 1. To order a catalogue, press 2. To reach a sales representative, press 3. To_______."

Aha, I thought. I'll press "3" and bypass this mess.

Was that wrong! "I'm sorry," said the salesperson, I'll have to send you back to the main menu because we don't handle parts, only new products."

"Can't you just transfer me?" I whined.

"No," she said, "because 'Parts' are in an entirely different location from us."

"You mean different part of the building?" I offered.

"No. Different state. Tell you what: I'll give you another number, in Tennessee," she replied.

To make a long story short, by the time I'd lost the connection twice and got somebody in "Parts," I learned that the last doors for that particular model of refrigerator had been manufactured and were actually in transit. But the new representative said he had no way of accessing the warehouse to find out how many were in transit, or whether every door had been spoken for, or even whether there were any doors that opened from the left side. He advised me to place an order anyway, however, so that "it would be in the system."

"Why would I want to do that?" I asked.

"Because the order automatically cancels out in 14 days and it will take 22 days to get the doors to Dallas," he said. "You absolutely want to be in the system. And you must call me back in 14 days to make sure it stays in the system so we get it to you with a technician."

Huh? I looked at the phone. Surely I was missing the logic here.

"Do you have a direct line to you personally?" I asked. "Because I don't see the point in giving you my credit card number now, when the whole order might cancel itself out."

"No, there's no direct line," the rep replied. "But just ask for me," and he spelled his very-complicated name, so I was fairly sure there wouldn't be two of them.

Well, on Day 14 I called him back as ordered. I went through the whole nine yards again with the phone, as "the menu had changed" yet again. Sure enough, nobody had ever heard of a lad with the weird name, until after some 20 minutes of haggling and explanations, I got hold of someone who thought she remembered someone upstairs who was Indian and had a name that was odd.

She took my number and said she'd have someone call me back, one way or another.

I wasn't holding my breath.

Imagine my surprise when about 15 minutes later the phone rang with my friend with the oddly spelled name on the other end of the line. Except he wasn't "upstairs." He was in Minnesota.

"I have your confirmation number here and have verified that it is still in the system for another 14 days. Some doors do open from the left, they are the color you want, and not all of them are spoken for. You should receive one in just a few days. May I have your credit card number now?"

I was so thrilled to have gotten some action that, somehow, we never got around to discussing the option of obtaining the metal strips, or shelf bars, that held the items in the door. But no matter. The sum was much less than a new refrigerator.

But when the door came, eight days later, there was (a) no technician; (b) no door liner and (c) no metal shelf bars. All there was inside the big box was a thin, outside vinyl door cover with an unattached handle-and a credit card receipt.

Back to Square One.

Meanwhile, my mother's pharmacy in Dallas had kicked the co-pay on my prescription out, even though I was assured by my pharmacy at home and my doctor that nothing of the kind would happen should I require a refill. I called the Dallas pharmacy's manager, where I got, first, a longwinded recitation about their website, an option of changing to any one of at least four languages, a menu of other options that, predictably, had changed, and instructions to press "1" if I was a physician, "2" if I wanted to use "automated refill service," "3" if I wanted to know the status of my prescription, "4" if I….

Tiring of that nonsense, I called my insurance carrier and got-you guessed it: a recording asking, first, for my nine-digit insurance number, address and phone number (which are always ignored and asked for again anyway), then information about their website, then language options, and then another long options menu, whereupon I would presumably, at some point, get a human representative.

Except I didn't. I remained "on hold while our representative is serving other customers" for 30 minutes. I swear, if I had been on Valium, I would have constructed a necklace out of the remainder of my pills over the 30 minutes and just taken a slurp every now and then!

And this doesn't begin to cover the number of calls I had to make on my mother's behalf while she was ill and out of commission.

Now that I've returned home, I've decided on a new coping strategy. I've got a new game plan for dealing with the slew of calls I know I'm going to get just when I'm busy playing catch-up on speeches and articles like this one (Note to parents: you really should share this skill with your children!). Come to think of it, certain aspects might even be adaptable for election primaries, or ballot propositions.

So, here's my new spiel:

"Hello. You've reached the number for Beverly Eakman. Your call is important to me, but not so important that I can't regale you with a ton of vital information.

For instance: my website is www.BeverlyE.com. Did you know that my books can now be ordered over the Internet as well as through bookstores? If you want to continue in Spanish, say "sí" or press 1. If you want to continue in French, say "oui" or press 2. If you want to continue in Swahili, press 3 followed by the pound # key. If you want to continue in English, say "yes" and press 4.

Now, please listen carefully to all my options, as they are lengthy, irritating and complicated. If you are a talk show host or journalist and want to schedule an interview, please press 1. If you are an editor, please press 2. If you want to schedule a seminar, please press 3. If you are a solicitor please hang up, as this number is on the no-call registry. If you are with the space program or a space program contractor and calling for my husband, please press 4. If you are a friend or neighbor, please press 5 and leave your name, address, phone number, the time you called, and your social security number and zip code at the sound of the beep. If you are a physician wishing to confirm an appointment, please press 6. If you are a conducting a political poll or survey, I haven't got time. If you are a merchant wishing to confirm a delivery date or clarifying your records, please press 7. If you are the cleaning service, yard service, or other regular service contractor, please press 8. If you are calling about a donation to a charity, please press 9. If you want to retain the services of our dog, Pasha, please cry "wolf!"

If none of these options apply, say "Pphfft" followed by the star * key. Goodbye."

© 2004 Beverly Eakman - All Rights Reserved

E-Mails are used strictly for NWVs alerts, not for sale


Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.

Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.

Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.

Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive Director, National Education Consortium. Website: BeverlyE.com  
E-Mail: deakman@erols.com


 

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But when the door came, eight days later, there was (a) no technician; (b) no door liner and (c) no metal shelf bars. All there was inside the big box was a thin, outside vinyl door cover with an unattached handle-and a credit card receipt.