Automating Telephone Frustration

Katie Young
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Wednesday - June 28, 2006

Automated irritation.

It has been confirmed: I really can’t stand those darn automated phone systems where the computerized voice asks you to speak the needed information into the phone.

The voice says it’s to help “get things started” before you get to talk to an actual person, but I say it’s a big, fat waste of time.

Why? Because the machine never gets the information right!

For example, I was planning a weekend trip to Maui recently with my friend Patrick to visit some other friends. We needed to rent a car so I offered to make the reservation.

I dialed the number and the automated system picked up.

“Hi and welcome to **** rental car,” the male computer voice gurgled. “Let’s get started. First tell me where you are traveling from.”

“Honolulu,” I said.

“I see. Hilo,” the voice repeated. “No, Ho-No-Lu-Lu,” I said more slowly.

“Ok. I’m sorry, Honolulu?” the voice asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“And where would you like to pick up the car?”

“Kahului,” I said.

“OK. Let me make sure I got this right. You want to pick it up in Kapalua?”

“No!” I yelled. “Ka-Hu-Lui!”

“Sorry,” the voice said. “I didn’t understand.”

“Kahului, Kahului!” I screamed. “OK, and what dates will you be needing the vehicle?”

“June 17 to 18,” I said.

“And what time will you be picking it up?” the voice asked.

“In the morning,” I said.

“In the evening,” the voice repeated. “In the morning!!!” I started to yell again. “I didn’t understand,” the voice said. “What time would you like to pick up your car?”

“Oh, my gosh,” I said, figuring I had only one remaining hope to get through this call without pulling all my hair out. “Speak to an agent!”


“Speak to an agent! Speak to an agent!” I yelled.

“OK, let me get someone to help you,” the voice said, as calmly as ever.

In mere moments, a real person picked up the other end of the line.

“Hi!” he said cheerfully. “So, you want to rent a car from June 10 to the 17th?”

“Good grief, no!!!” I said, about ready to cry. “I said June 17 and 18, in the morning from Ka-Hu-Lui!”

“No problem!” the cheerful real-life person said.

“I just have to say,” I told him, flabbergasted, “I can’t stand your automated system. It doesn’t understand a thing I say.”

“Really?!” said the agent. “I just love it. It’s so efficient!”

Aggravating was more like it, I thought. And efficient for whom, I have no idea because all the information it gathered from me was incorrect. But there is one thing about a computerized system: It’s really hard to stay mad because it never yells back and it always says it’s sorry.

Saying no to the bachelor party

I asked some guys around the office: “Could you say ‘no’ to going to a friend’s bachelor party?”

Stunned silence was the initial response I received. I explained further, “Say your wife or girlfriend didn’t feel comfortable with you going, or say, you didn’t even really want to go. Could you say no?”

After a couple moments, the answers I got were along the lines of the following:

“You can’t say no because you’d be seen as being a bad friend. There’s pressure to ‘Be one of the guys.’”

“You can’t say no because it’s important for a man to feel like a man. That means he’s in control of himself and the woman should trust he’ll behave.”

Then there was the guy who smiled and told me, “I have said ‘no’ before. They were going somewhere I didn’t want to go (a bar and strip bar) so I just didn’t go.”

However, this guy added, “But if it had been my good friend, I never would have heard the end of it.”

A little pick-me-up:

Sometimes when the stresses of life keep piling up, it’s easy to get discouraged or give up. But changing your perspective can set you on a path to positive thinking. With positive energy comes positive change. Deal with problems one at a time: Think about a lost job as a new opportunity to branch out or a lost love as a chance to find the right person for you. It may sound to simple but “reframing” things can make the picture clearer.

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