So after spending an estimated 5,730 hours navigating automated phone menus in an effort to get the trivial pieces of information I’ve needed in various situations throughout my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that automated phone menus are going to be the downfall of our civilization.
It all started with a creative type, probably a liberal arts major-turned consultant who dreamt up the idea of the automated phone menu, allowing business, government offices, and customer service departments worldwide to eliminate call centers in lieu of some low monthly fee to be paid directly to him.
“Eureka!” he shrieked, knocking over his chair as he leapt to his feet, unsettling the cup of chai tea next to his legal pads of poetry and Great Business Ideas. “This automated menu could do wonders for businesses, government offices, and customer service departments worldwide, enabling them to reassign high-paid employees taking calls, thereby freeing up all sorts of assets to boost the economy and hyperinflate my bank balances!”
Well, I’m sure that guy did all right for himself, but it’s been one sad story of waste and disappointment for the rest of us ever since. Just try to estimate how many hours you’ve spent hitting “4” to manage your account, only to be dumped into a dead-end menu that has nothing to offer you in your moment of need and giving you no options to extricate yourself. * doesn’t work. # doesn’t work. *67 doesn’t work. Repeating obscene phrases at high decibel levels into the earpiece doesn’t work. All that’s left to you is to end the call and start again, or curse God and die.
I would imagine the ratio of total dollars saved by those who make use of automated menus to total dollars of employee productivity lost while navigating those labyrinthine systems and venting to their coworkers is on the order to 1 to 20. That’s not even close to what it would be if we factored in property destruction.
Maybe if that lady at the KC, MO Police Tow Lot hadn’t let her phone sit on hold for 25 minutes while toasting marshmallows over a fire fueled by the reams of meaningless paperwork offered in sacrifical homage to the pitiless and cruel Solemn Arbiter of Motor Vehicles by countless millions, I would be a free man today.