I was just reading Dianne’s post on ‘Forks Off the Moment’. It reminded me, if I needed reminding, just how annoyed Barry and I can become with the telephone. We receive a seemingly incessant flow of unsolicited phone calls. Some are simply taped messages – ‘Congratulations! You have won . . . ‘I never listen long enough to discover what I have won, for it is certain that the supposed prize will entail time and money from me. ‘There’s no such thing as a free meal’ and ‘If it’s too good to be true, it is too good to be true’ are the guidelines I use to ward off my natural gullibility. Other callers that irritate are those who try to offer a service or device in which we’re not interested or charities suggesting that we might like to increase our monthly donations.
We have had a spate of uninvited calls recently and have developed a technique for dealing with them. If the caller identity indicates that the number calling is withheld or unavailable or the number shown is not one with which we are familiar we don’t pick up the phone.
Unfortunately, although Barry and I can easily ignore a ringing phone, Frodo cannot. Woken from a deep sleep by the jangling tones he begins to howl and is soon joined by Jenna and Gus. At four years old Jenna has only just learned to howl – well, perhaps she already knew how but just hadn’t made us privy to the secret. Notwithstanding, Frodo begins the chorus with his fine tenor. Then Gus joins in, uttering short, staccato barks as he warms up his voice for his baritone cry. Finally, Jenna, with a higher alto wail befitting her smaller stature and female nature, makes her contribution to the trio. Some days we have many calls and after two or three it seems that Frodo is attuned and waiting for the signal, starting his song after a mere ring or two from the telephone. The process rapidly loses its power to entertain on a busy ‘calling day’ and more particularly when one of us actually answers the phone to a recognised caller but cannot hear or make ourselves heard over the cacophony.
There are occasions when we need to make calls. These times can prove extraordinarily frustrating. Some enterprises do not have automatic answering rituals, resulting in the tone ringing for several minutes and then abruptly timing out. You are aware that there must be a queue – or that ‘everyone’ is having a tea break – and having to start the procedure again is very aggravating, particularly when you sense that the pattern will be repeated.
Is that more exasperating than the automated response, though? Sometimes, the preamble takes minutes to inform the caller that the call may be/is being recorded ‘for training purposes’. Then comes the list of instructions for which number to press for which service. Having clicked the correct key the inevitable ringing tone is heard – for minutes on end – interrupted intermittently by a gentle recorded voice apologising for the delay and frequently taking the opportunity to advertise other benefits. Usually the ringing tone is replaced by music – or musak - which can be very annoying. When a human finally answers it is only too common for their help to be of the wrong sort, requiring them to put you through to the supposedly correct department which denies all knowledge of any solution and passes you back to the original respondent or on to another section.
I understand that the operators/advisors are doing the job they have been trained to do but that is of no help when problems have arisen which are not covered in their script. Of which, more anon.