June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My Call Is Important to Them

I’m on the phone.

No one loves sitting on the phone with customer service, but you’d think that the most efficient companies for this are the cell phone companies. They should have it all figured out.

“Is this the number you’re calling about?”

“No, the number I’m calling about doesn’t work yet. That’s why I’m calling.”

I used my home phone, which is my primary number. I do have a cell phone, which I basically use for emergencies. Most of the conversations on this phone begin with either, “What do we need from the store?” or “Come pick me up.” And I give this number to nobody. My students are asking me for it all the time. They ask, “What are my grades?” And I say, “I don’t have them on me; but if you want, you can call me at home and I’ll look them up.” And they say, “Okay, what’s your cell phone number?” And I say, “I’m not giving you my cell phone number.” And they say, “Why not?” And I say, “Because what’s the point?” And they say, “Well what if we call and you’re not home?” and I say, “If I’m not home, I can’t look up your grade!”

These are not the kids who are passing.

So I bought a new phone from that same company, but the plan I had was not available. I was told that I had to pay for a month of service I wasn’t going to use, and then I would have that entire month to call and transfer the old service to the new phone. And I figured that once I’m doing that, I can also transfer the old phone number to the new phone so the five people who have this phone number can continue to call it.

So anyway, I tried calling the phone company last Thursday, and the first thing the automated system said was that they’re in the middle of processing a transaction for me and that I should call back in 15 minutes. Which was weird, because I wasn’t in the middle of processing a transaction. But I had a feeling I knew what they were talking about. A couple of years ago, I started getting texts from the phone company every night, during Maariv. And I don’t turn off my phone for davening, because there are five people in the world who have my phone number, and what are the chances that any of them are going to call me? My wife knows about Maariv.

They don’t even say they’re from the phone company. The texts say I should call a certain 800 number “to complete this transaction,” and I’ve called the number and spoken to someone who didn’t understand what I was talking about, and I didn’t either, and who, after a lot of back and forth, said it was taken care of, and sure enough, after that phone call, the texts kept coming. So I learned how to ignore Maariv texts.

But now this is turning into a real hassle. First I call and they say they’re in the middle of a transaction and I should call back in 15 minutes. “Goodbye.”

Yes, I’m sure that this transaction that you haven’t cleared in two years is going to be cleared in the next 15 minutes.

So I’m not waiting 15 minutes. I call back immediately, and I press a different option to speak to customer service. And it says, “Enter the number you’re calling about,” and I do, and it says, “We’re in the middle of a transaction. Please call back in five minutes.”

Is that progress? Or what?

So I wait five minutes, call back and press the extension to transfer a phone number, and they say, “fifteen minutes.” It’s not progress; it’s just a machlokes.

Anyway, by this point I’d reached the limit on how much time I was able to give this matter on a Thursday, so I pushed off calling them again until after the weekend. But apparently 15 minutes is a lot longer than I thought, because when I called back this morning, after four days, the system said, “We’re in the middle of processing a transaction. Give us 15 minutes.”

So I called back, and as soon as they started asking me to say the number I was calling about, I started pressing 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, until I got an actual operator. Though the system didn’t want to give me an operator at first. Its job is to make sure no one gets through to the operators. Every phone system pretends that if you nag them like that, you’re not going to get an operator. Whereas in reality I’ve found, if you just keep pushing zero—well, you’re not gonna get a competent operator; you’ll get an operator that has never heard of the thing you’re requesting.

So anyway, this guy gets on the phone, and he says, “What can I help you with today?” And I’m thinking, “How do I not overwhelm this guy who might not speak English as his native language? Do I tell him I want to transfer my plan? Do I tell him I want to transfer my phone number? Or do I tell him there’s a transaction that’s not letting me do anything?”

So I decided that I’m going to tell him the things I want to do, one at a time, and let him discover that third thing on his own, in terms he can understand. And sure enough, he did. At first, he said, “Transferring a phone number! I could do that for you!” Like he’s relieved that I called about something phone-related. “I can do that! I work for the phone company!”

And then internally, I said, 10, 9, 8…, and then he says, “I can’t do it. It looks like there’s a transaction going on.”

And I said, “Yeah, there is no transaction. It’s been saying that for at least four days.” And he said, “Oh. I need to transfer you to someone else.”

So then the system comes on and says, “We have a new feature! You don’t have to wait on hold! You can press 1 for us to call you back or 3 to stay on the line! The wait time is one minute.”

And I said, “In what world would I have them call me back to save one minute? That makes no sense.”

So I push 3, and the voice says, “Thank you. The wait time is—” and the phone hangs up.

To be continued, unfortunately.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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