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Thursday, 2 December 2010


When you phone virtually any large company or government department the phone will be answered by a robot.  The robot will tell you to press "1" for fifteen minutes of Vivaldi, or "2" for twenty minutes of Gerry Rafferty playing Baker Street.  From time to time the music will fade out, giving you the false hope that a real person will come on the line and actually deal with your query.  But of course it's just the end of the track - Vivaldi is replaced by Rafferty, or vice versa.  And so on.  For ever and ever.  World without end.

The reason that this makes you want to go and dynamite the head office of the organization concerned (surely no jury would convict?) is that they have imperiously decided that their time is much more valuable than yours, and that they have then implemented a Kafkaesque system that you cannot escape to impose that decision upon you.

I once recorded an endless loop of Greensleeves on my pocket dictaphone.   I faded the music down every thirty seconds or so and interspersed a message saying, "Your answer is important to us.  Please hold."  I would set this playing by the phone when the robot came on, so that the organisation's minion, when he or she finally did answer, would wait till I could be bothered to return.  I would then get on with something more important.

But what is really needed is some legal punitive measure.  How about a simple law that says, when you call somewhere and a non-human answers, you can press the * key and the call charges are reversed crediting money to your phone account until a human comes on the line?

This would at least redress the balance - you would be being paid by the organization for your time that they are wasting.

It might even become possible to make a comfortable income by calling up the worst offenders, pressing *, and then (some time later) wishing the person who finally answered a good day and hanging up...

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