back to article Just bought an Apple product? Need support NOW? Drop an F-BOMB

When you're caught in automated telephone-support hell, there's a magic word you can utter to ensure that you're quickly routed to an actual human being: the "F-bomb". "I was having some trouble with my (older) laptop and wanted to order a new keyboard to fix it myself," a Reddit poster writes. "After exploring every option …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hitting # or * a few times can sometimes work too

    as a way to bypass multiple layers of menus (But might not avoid any queueing though)

    1. Petrea Mitchell

      Re: Hitting # or * a few times can sometimes work too

      I've found 0 works in a slight majority of the systems I've encountered.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Hitting # or * a few times can sometimes work too

        zero is the system default for the operator in most telephone systems. It's always worth trying, i'm sure we all know how many people don't bother to change default settings!

    2. Annihilator

      Re: Hitting # or * a few times can sometimes work too

      "agent" is a good way to break out of a voice recognition system

      1. cordwainer 1

        Re: Hitting # or * a few times can sometimes work too

        Also "representative"

    3. Pet Peeve
      Big Brother

      Almost anything works

      Generally speaking, any voice prompted system will fall back to a human if it persistently can't understand what is being said.

      Think of this as a good time for some improvisational acting - the last time I called for help with a problem on my internet, I yelled "help, help, I'm being attacked by Wildebeests". The first time, it said "I'm sorry, I didn't get that". The second time, right to a human.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Almost anything works

        Boy, the joke would have been on you if the system shot back, "In the instance of Wildebeest attack, the following steps should be taken immediately... first..."

        In other news, the posts here would suggest that your best option when calling support is to hit zero three times and say "fucking agent representative!"...

        1. The Alpha Klutz
          Thumb Up

          Re: Almost anything works

          I usually say You're a fucking shit robot you couldn't even pass the Turing test you transistorised pansy ass.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "couldn't even pass the Turing test"

            So it was you assclown I had on the line the other month!

    4. monkeyfish

      Re: Hitting # or * a few times can sometimes work too

      I've found hitting nothing, and saying nothing, usually works. They still have to have something in place for old telephones without buttons. So just don't even enter into any press this number rubbish.

  2. Chad H.


    In Apples' case, use the "Call me" feature on their website, and let them figure out who you should be speaking to.

    1. Lance 3

      Re: or...

      Tried that. I needed to speak to a higher level and all the "Call me" did was have the lower level call me and then we both got to sit on-hold for the higher level. I guess it was better than sitting on-hold for the lower level but it doesn't put you in touch with whom you really need to talk too. In fact I have never been able to get to the higher tier automatically but they do get on the phone and then let the lower level support person get the info and send it up.

  3. Steve Evans

    This would only work if the queuing system kept a constant, unique, audio link from you open at all times. Whilst this is technically possible, many IVR / Autoattentant systems simply connect you to a common audio source (music on hold, comfort messages), and don't bother listening to you unless they really have to.

    The resources required for speech recognition are also pretty high, so it would need a pretty beefy system to be performing speech rec on every inbound channel 100% of the time. Usually these resources are only allocated when required, i.e. when you've been prompted to say something.

    So whilst it might work on some queuing systems, and the idea that an Apple system would be "spying" on you all the time isn't exactly shocking to me, I wouldn't go banking on it working in every situation.

    You'll probably have more luck having a keyboard mash (don't forget * and #) and finding a get out of jail that way.

    Alternatively, and preferably, just spread the news of the terrible support far and wide. This will reduce the number of customers, and hopefully you position in future queues if you haven't seen the light and taken your business elsewhere.

    1. Captain Underpants

      Apple's support line in the UK has recently moved over to a Siri-like "make you talk at it every time" system rather than the old, faster "press buttons from a preset menu that you can memorise and bypass, then give your serial number to the person who takes your call" system.

      It's "better" in the same way that Dell's new "improved" Enterprise support line now requires the Express service Code and still doesn't pass that information onto whatever person gets your call. (Said requirement is made better still by the fact that the now-Dell-badged KACE system can query the BIOS for the Service Tag but - you guessed it- not the Express Service Code.... ah, fun times).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Call me back

        Apple UK now have a 'call me back' system (like Amazon) which gets you a human being within seconds.

      2. fearnothing

        I used to be one of the Apple support techs. It's probably not that the system doesn't pass the info on to the agent - although that's possible - it's more likely that their phone software like ours did, displays the information in a small and very easy-to-ignore line of text at the bottom of the call control panel.

        When I worked there, I don't remember anyone coming through to me frustrated about the phone navigation, but plenty of people who came through frustrated about the previous agent. Usually in the Bangalore or Athens call centres. We weren't allowed to say bad things about them.

        I left back in 09 to start my degree so I could get paid proper money :P

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "It's probably not that the system doesn't pass the info on to the agent - although that's possible..."

          I work in the same building and for the same company as Apple's UK tech support, and I must say compared to the tools of the other teams based in the building (Sony, HP, P&G, Student Loans Company, Samsung), Apple's tools and procedures put everyone else to shame. They've got one, single integrated user identification, support logging, order logging, knowledgebase, sales and complaints tool. What this means is when someone calls an Apple agent their details are automatically brought up, the relevant TS documents are automatically brought up, their likely potential sales are brought up and everything's in one place so ideally (short of the problem needing escalation to Tier 2, who are based on my floor) one agent can deal with everything; identifying the user, fixing their problem, offering a sale and taking any complaints.

          If an agent is asking you for a reference number you've already provided, it isn't because the information hasn't been passed on, it's actually to satisfy the Data Protection Act. People are occasionally passed to the wrong department and whathaveyer, and a reference number, like a username, coupled with something like the customer's name, is enough to satisfy the DPA in most contexts.

          For a spot of fun comparison, if you call an HP agent in the same building, you have to provide your details to a "Consumer Entry" agent who logs your name and product serial number and then provides you with a reference number before passing you on. Once you're passed through to the relevant technical agent, your reference number and name are passed along with you on the telephone software, but that reference number has to be manually copied and pasted into the bit of SAP software HP use for logging, any TS documents the agent follows are actually manually retrieved from HP's public website, if you want to buy something you've got to be put on hold and passed through to another team, if you want to log a complaint you've got to be put on hold and passed through to another team.

          The list of Things HP Get Wrong That Apple Get Right is about as long as you'd expect given their recent market performance.

          But HP's agents get paid more and work better hours so hah.

          1. Steve I

            Your comment could be interpreted as saying something good about Apple. You ( and probably I) will be down voted shortly...

      3. Whitespace

        But but but... They're the same number!

        It may not apply to every Dell product, but for every one I have looked at the Service Tag is the Express service code expressed in base 36.

        I *assume* the reason they ask for the express service code as well is to act as a check that they have received the correct service tag.

        1. Captain Underpants

          Re: But but but... They're the same number!


          Cheers! Had never copped to that, will check it out. If true, it explains why it's not a core KACE feature and solves the problem of not having checked it for a given machine :)

          1. Whitespace

            Re: But but but... They're the same number!

            @ Captain Underpants

            Try this. (I wrote this so long ago that I can't remember exactly what the problem was - I think I had to do a workaround because the numbers were just too big to handle)


            use strict;

            use Math::BaseCalc;

            use Math::BigInt;

            my $me = $0;

            my $isbatch = $me =~ /\.bat$/i; # (This perlfile may be converted to a batchfile using pl2bat)

            $me =~ s!.*[\\/]!!;

            $me =~ s!\.bat$!!i;

            my $command = ($isbatch) ? $me : "perl $me";

            my $usage = "Usage: $command (Dell Express service code) | (Dell Service Tag)\n";

            my $input = shift || die $usage;

            my $calcdell = new Math::BaseCalc(digits => [0..9,'A'..'Z']); #Dell

            # print $calcdell->digits, "\n\n";

            my $quiet = 0;

            my $esc;

            my $mult = new Math::BigInt (36 * 36 * 36);

            $_ = uc $input;

            if ((/\-/) or (length > 7)) { #Express Service code

            print "Express Service Code entered\n" unless ($quiet);

            $esc = $_;


            my $sc = new Math::BigInt $_;

            print join("\t", $esc, $calcdell->to_base($sc)), "\n";


            else { #Assume it's a serial number

            print "System Service Tag entered\n" unless ($quiet);

            my $tag = $_;

            my ($tagh, $tagl) = /([0-9A-Z]+)([0-9A-Z]{3})/;

            my $newval = new Math::BigInt $calcdell->from_base($tagh);

            my $temp = new Math::BigInt $calcdell->from_base($tagl);

            $newval *= $mult;

            $newval += $temp;

            print join("\t", $tag, $newval), "\n";


    2. Charles Manning

      Downvoted? What??

      What flavour of fuckwit would give a downvote for that comment?

      I spent 3 years working for a company making computer telephony kit and can assure you that this is correct. Detecting DTMF button presses and other channel monitoring is way cheaper than voice recognition. Thus all calls will typically constantly have DTMF enabled but voice recognition will often only be attached when required.

      If there are excess voice recognition resources available they might be hooked to waiting calls, but as the parent says, don't count on it.

      1. toadwarrior

        Re: Downvoted? What??

        Who cares about the votes? You won't get a cookie for up votes.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Downvoted? What??

        Something you might have missed...

        "Thus all calls will typically constantly have DTMF enabled but voice recognition will often only be attached when required."

        It isn't hard to detect voice. I once had a tape recorder with a voice mode, I just had to remember to say "meh" before a sentence to allow the recorder time to get going. Latterly, I have used PMR radios with a system clever enough to recognise voice (as opposed to wind, bashes, etc).

        Now, it shouldn't be too difficult to arrange to record continuously into a three-second in-memory cyclical buffer. When, and only when, voice is detected, transfer the previous second or so of recording into a larger buffer and append the rest of the spoken sentence. Then pass that to the voice recognition system. [*]

        This will mean you can apply voice recognition to a large number of phone lines with much smaller hardware outlay. The only times it will fall over are stress conditions of everybody talking a lot at the same time, which is probably fairly unlikely to happen in reality; however if it does you could just program the system to prioritise the samples from people responding to actual questions, and toss away the random "noise" as being unimportant (let them swear a few more times until there are resources free to notice). [*]


        * - If this has not been thought of before (hard to believe!), then I wish to state that any patent applications of this process (as of time of posting this message) must include the provision that said patent is available for implementation by anybody without restriction and without fee of any sort. In essence, a freebie. Furthermore, said patent will never be contained as part of a "patent portfolio" (because that phrase annoys me almost as much as people who say "fi-lum" for "film"). And finally, all people who register and/or use said patent must not taunt budgerigars - no exceptions.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: heyrick

          Sounds like your tape recorder was detecting a sound rather than interpreting it.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: heyrick

            "Sounds like your tape recorder was detecting a sound rather than interpreting it."

            ...which is exactly what I said. The first paragraph talks about detection, the second paragraph talks about interpretation (and the third is some silliness to irk Americans ;-) ).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: heyrick

              But then a loud click or pop on the line or some other sound which is in the human voice range would trigger it too.

        2. Richard Jones 1

          Re: Downvoted? What??

          Most IVR systems only listen for input when they need it, e.g. at a menu point when they use DTMF, grunts or whatever. As others with knowledge have said, at other times, e.g. noise on hold, no resource is usually available to listen - all noise is one way only.

          [Sorry but I have yet to encounter a music on hold situation from among 'the cr*p noise on hold' universally favoured. If they were trying to listen for input they would have melted the detection unit with their own rubbish output, not to mention my discussions of their parent's past relationships.]

      3. Steve Evans
        Thumb Up

        Re: Downvoted? What??

        Thank you Charles! I had wondered about the downvotes myself, but then I remembered this is El Reg, so logic goes out of the window!

        As you may have guessed, I too did several years working in the computer telephony industry, this included systems with voice recognition. As you know (and other probably don't), DTMF detection is usually performed on the telephony card, it's occurrence generates an interrupt so the processing application can then service the telephony card and point it to a new prompt or transfer the call etc. Voice recognition is usually farmed out to a specialist card, or to the main CPU as required.

        Having a CPU or dedicated cards capable of continually processing audio from all the 30/60/90/120 inbound channels (modern systems usually have coax/fibre connections) is just crazy. Sure it makes the programming easy, just bind all the resources one to one instead of the more usual round robin pool allocation, but blimee that's gonna cost on the hardware!

      4. Pet Peeve

        Re: Downvoted? What??

        Maybe if you read the original message, you would have seen that it was about voice response and not touch tone response. Also, downvoted. Your tears sustain me.

    3. Lusty

      "The resources required for speech recognition are also pretty high, so it would need a pretty beefy system to be performing speech rec on every inbound channel 100% of the time."

      This is only true if you are recognising free speech. If you are looking for limited dictionary of words (in the way a mobile phone or voicemail system does) then VR uses very little processing power. For instance, if you know the person is going to say a number from 0-9 then the system will become incredibly accurate and use less processing - this is why banks now often allow speech input on the phone line.

  4. Citizen Kaned

    worked for me before.

    after being on hold for a while i yelled 'i want to speak to a real fucking person!!!!!' and a second later i was :)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I find the use of the term "F-Bomb" hilarious.

    1. Tom_

      F-Bomb, F-Bomb

      Yeah, where has this stupid term come from? It just sounds ridiculous and childish.

      I wish it would shit off, to be honest.

      1. Charles Manning

        Re: F-Bomb, F-Bomb

        "shit off"? Perhaps you meant to say poop away.

  6. Christoph

    Or you could try


    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Or you could try

      Hah, the alt on that one is even better!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or you could try

      My hovercraft is full of eels!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    F-bomb... what was that? "Fix it myself" - Apple certainly wouldn't want that now, would they...

    1. M7S

      I think it was

      "Free and Open Source Software"

  8. Thomas 4

    With great power comes great responsibility

    Me: "Siri, what the fuck is this article suggesting?"

    iPhone: "Help me, for the love of God help me, I'm trapped in here."

  9. frank ly

    The Reg looks forward to reading your comments ...

    I've left my comment on your office voicemail. You'll probably want to deal with it quickly.

  10. JaitcH

    HSBC uses call centres n Mumbai so ...

    I learnt a few choice Hindi and Marathi phrases which work as well as an Fbomb.

    They must have some number recognition software on their system as after a few clicks I end up in a UK call centre.

    Did you know that most Indian call centres are run /owned by a California company?

  11. tommy060289
    IT Angle

    is it really the swearing that does it?

    I've had a similar experience with a car insurance phone number and after I got annoyed with not being given an option to just speak to an operator I started talking absolute gibberish and because it couldn't figure out what I was saying it just passed me on.

    1. toadwarrior

      Re: is it really the swearing that does it?

      I doubt it does voice recognition. It may measure volume or just the presence of sound. Anything more would probably cost more than they want to pay.

  12. Lockwood

    Vodafone's thing will react to "I want to talk to a real person"

  13. Mike Brown


    Being Scottish voice recognition is a nightmare. I try to put on my best english accent, but it just wont work, init, guvner.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eleven!!

      Not just Scottish. A few years back an airline mislaid my wife's luggage on a trip to San Francisco. The airline's US voice recognition was completely unable to understand her clear S. English pronunciation of "San Francisco", and in the end she had to ask the hotel receptionist to get her past the first few questions of the dialogue. Heaven help any passengers who didn't even have English as a first language.

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Eleven!!

      I'd prefer an honest scottish accent from the depths of Glasgow on the other end of the phone to the virgin media hell desk in India

      PS If you are reading this VM.. for gawd's sake write some better scripts to follow in your hell desk

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eleven!!@: Boris the Cockroach

        "PS If you are reading this VM.. for gawd's sake write some better scripts to follow in your hell desk"

        Err, no, Instead of rewriting scripts, perhaps Virgin Media could bring the support back to the country you wish to support, so that I have to deal with people who natively speak my language and understand all the subtexts and cultural references. And the mythical locals might be paid a salary sufficient to get somebody competent, rather than some poor foreign blighter working at 03:00 local in somebody else's langugage with frustrated and unhappy customers, being paid peanuts because that's the best job they can get.

        Mind you, when I recently called to tell VM that I wanted faster broadband and a price cut, the customer retention team was UK based, and were most helpful.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eleven!!

      Microsoft's voice activation service (whom I endearingly refer to as "Activation Bitch") has really excellent recognition for the key readback. Their job is easier given that it expects individual letters rather than whole words, but I had a hard time tricking it even when I tried. I screwed around with it once and had to become nearly unintelligible to *anyone* before it failed. Thick accents (Scottish, Russian, Australian, Alabama), lisps, exthremely thereouth lithpth, drunkennesh, random (AHEM) interruptio ACCKK TLHPBBBPPPT ns, you name it. Nothing but, "Ding! OK, now, the next block!"

      "Thanks for calling the Microsoft product activation service!"

      "No, thank YOU, Activation Bitch!"

      Other people tend to look at you funny when you talk to the phone like that.

  14. Andy Baird

    It pays to be nice

    The tactic described here may or may not work. But I'd like to offer a counterexample. Some years back, I was having trouble with my 2007-vintage 24" iMac. First the Pioneer-built optical drive went wonky. Then a year later the Samsung-built screen developed odd shadows (probably a backlighting issue). Apple fixed these problems under my AppleCare extended warranty. But when the replacement screen began to show the same problem, I called them up again.

    Now, I worked in tech support for many years, so I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of a support call. So when I need to make that call myself, I go out of my way to be calm, patient, and cheerful. I describe the problem succinctly, and when the support person asks me to go through a diagnostic sequence, I follow directions--I don't snap "I already tried that, dammit!" even if it's true. And as I run through the sequence, I give a running description of exactly what I'm seeing on the screen, so the support person can stay oriented.

    Here's my point. After running through some basic tests, the support guy I was talking to said, "You know, I don't usually do this, but... you've had several problems with this machine. And I see from your file that you've been unusually helpful and cooperative in previous calls. I think we owe you a new iMac." I ended up getting a brand new 27" 2010 iMac--a major step up from my old 24" 2007 model--for free.

    The moral is that if you're particularly nasty or particularly nice on a support call, Apple is likely to note that in their record of your call... and being nice can pay off big-time. Just something to think about before you start cussing out the voice-menu system.

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
      Paris Hilton

      Re: It pays to be nice

      I'm glad that worked for your Mac. I tried that with my Dell Latitude D430 with a 1.8" hard drive. I was on my third hard drive under warranty, the previous started making loud clacking noises and the system would hang, occasionally bringing about a BSOD. I tried being cheery with Dell up to the point where, even though the drive's own SMART was telling us it was dying, they refused to replace the drive as the increase in the number of bad blocks on the drive didn't trigger Dell's diagnostics (and as I later found from the Office of Michael Dell, Dell does not work pro-actively.) At that point I lashed out and got my replacement hard drive.

      Up until last December. In September I decided I would go through the regular process of troubleshoot, diagnose, send out a tech to replace a part, repeat. After about a dozen tech visits only to encounter the same problems, tech support offered me a system replacement. Unfortunately, the system they sent me came with no expansion capabilities while I have a stack of PC cards which I use regularly (I know, outdated, but the system even lacked a PC Express slot.) I had to send it back and spoke with the tech who "owned" my case about a more viable replacement, which we found but I had moved into a period when I could not afford to spend more time and an occasionally crashing computer was better than no computer for a week.

      In early December I phoned in again and asked if we could continue the process. I was handed off to the Office of Michael Dell where a very nice lady told me Dell would not be replacing my laptop, I would be required to send it in to the depot to check, and I could be without it for up to two weeks. My warranty was due to expire on January 3 or 4, and I was desperate to just get a good hard drive, so I complied. I received it back within a week to discover Dell's depot had it in-hand just long enough to reload Vista (and not all the drivers, mind you,) box it and get it out with the day's FedEx, along with a note stating that no problems had been found. Of course, the hard drive SMART still showed increasing failures.

      At this point I realized I wasn't getting anywhere and would just have to wait for the drive to fail, so I went online and purchased an extension to my warranty. To which I later that day received a call from Michael Dell's office telling me my system was no longer qualified for a warranty, my order was cancelled, and I would be receiving a refund.

      Fine. So I took my refunded money and went on eBay, found the same model hard drive but faster (a "C" version at 5400 versus the "B" version at 4200) and LO! A better hard drive which hasn't given any signs of failure in almost a year, much better than the previous provided by Dell.

      My next laptop won't be from Dell. As well, after relating this experience to several customers, I've been able to move them away from Dell and in some cases have made laptop sales myself, pretty well making up for the aggravation I experienced.

      Paris, does not qualify for a warranty.

      1. Darkwolf

        Re: It pays to be nice

        This is why I build my own desktops. With desktops, buying the components individually no need to send back full systems and you can usually get better individual warrantees.

        For laptops, I will usually deal with companies and not buy extended warrantee. Except in case of motherboard failure (havent had occur) usually you can buy most replacements cheaper then what you spend on hassle of replacing during the "extended warrantee" period and replace yourself, and get it done quicker.

        1. Captain Underpants

          Re: It pays to be nice


          You show me where I can get a replacement motherboard or CPU for a decent Toshiba Portege 13" laptop (betwen 2 and 3 years old, purchase cost of ~£1000) for less than the £130 that the 3 year NBD onsite support warranty will cost, and then I'll believe you.

          The problem you describe only really applies to consumer-class machines. Buy business-oriented machines and not only do you get better build quality, you also get support worth a damn. (You need to know what companies you're dealing with, however, but that goes as much for support as for initial product choice).

    2. 100113.1537

      Re: It pays to be nice

      Bing nice works once you have actually got to a real person - the problem is getting stuck into the - seemingly - never-ending loops of machine responses. I used to be OK with pushing numbers on a key-pad, but then when everyone started using one-piece or cell-phones, (which meant you had to take the phone away from your ear to enter the numbers) they started getting you to use words. What a nightmare! It seems as though voice recognition is still not all it is cracked up to be....

    3. fearnothing

      Re: It pays to be nice

      That's correct to an extent, we were certainly expected to note if a customer was being abusive. Noting particularly obliging behaviour less so, but I did see that once or twice.

      I expect you were talking to 2nd line support at that point, us 1st line peons weren't allowed to make that kind of decision (even when we -really- knew it was warranted).

  15. b0llchit Silver badge


    So, Belgium is out of the question then?

  16. JeffyPooh

    Same sort of approach works in the Apple Stores too...

    Start to raise your voice and all of a sudden several "Geniuses" (sic) will descend from the ceiling to make everything better.

    What was "I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do." suddenly becomes vastly more accommodating.

  17. 100113.1537

    My wife remembers being told to refer to Verizon when she was ringing up to complain abut service on her Nextel subscription as a way of getting a faster response. You can guess this is a few years ago now (does anyone remember Nextel?), but maybe you could say you wished you had bought a Samsung and see if you get a better response.....

  18. tin 2

    These voice recgonition things are shit

    I recently had the displeasure of using Virgin Credit Card's one, that to my surprise could understand perfectly all the complicated stuff I said, aside from the word "yes" when it asked for confirmation that it had understood.. No options to back out of the system either, or even - blindingly obvious I would have thought - provide the option to type numbers instead, or "press 1 to confirm".

    BT's genius implementation on 152 is great as well. "I'd like to report a fault on an ISDN line" is not within it's vocabulary, and it repeatedly insists that you must say something it understands. I always end up with it completely misunderstanding me, then apologising to whoever I do get through to, who usually punts me in the right direction.

    I had a training course recently where some crazy fool said these things are the future of callcentres. Only if clueless implementation managers fall for the emperors new clothes big sell from Massive Telephone Services Company Limited. People have been doing voice recognition for years and it will just never ever work at anything like an acceptable rate, until we start reaching technology that gets near emulating however the brain does it.

    How about actually training and looking after some people that can speak and understand English, and can comprehend and deal quickly with multiple types of user problem, so they can get the customer off the (freefone?) telephone lines ASAP, with them satisfied and hopefully therefore a returning customer who will go out to the world and extol the virtues of the great service they just received?

    They'd additionally save the cost of all the voice recognition snake oil system that no doubt piss off a slice of their customer base so badly that they go elsewhere and usually require a new and better one be bought every 2 years or so because they failed to meet expectation.

    Or am I missing something?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the magic word?

    Actually, and I apologise to all call centre types for this, you can then swear again to get your call escalated at quite a number of companies.

    "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to return the product."

    "I just need a replacement cable for fucks sake."

    "I don't have to take that sort of language, sir, please wait while I transfer you to my supervisor."

    And supervisor has the new cable posted out that evening...

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: What's the magic word?

      although if it gets escalated too high and you swear you get sent to hell and you can't even collect the £200 on go

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the magic word?

      Unfortunately, from bitter experience, there are some call-centres, especially in the US, where swearing just gets you hung up on.

      I had a particularly bad experience from GE once concerning one of their dishwashers. It was in a rental apartment, so I didn't even own the damned thing. I had reported to my landlord that the dishwasher was faulty. You could start it running fine, but about half way through the cycle, when the whole thing started getting vigorous, the dishwasher would turn itself off. You could usually start it again by vigorously banging the door around the handle area. It was pretty obviously a broken microswitch on the door handle, but because it wasn't my dishwasher I reported it to the landlord. And because it was under warranty, the landlord reported to GE.

      GE technician number 1. I had requested that the tech phone me when he was about 1/2 hour out so I could meet him at the apartment. He phoned when he arrived instead, the super let him in. By the time I got back home 15 minutes later, he had already left with "no fault found".

      GE technician number 2. I got the landlord to escalate back again. This time I stayed home for half a day to be there when the technician arrived. I also ran the dishwasher and left it at the point where it started bleeping with the microswitch door fault. The technician arrived and said, "it is badly installed". I told him that it had nothing to do with the installation and recommended that he pull the unit from under the work surface and the fault would still be there. He pulled it out, and of course, since it had been disturbed the fault wasn't there straight away. Not listening to my demands for him to wait a few minutes until it failed, he walked out with "no fault found". As the lift door closed it failed.

      Third time unlucky. I reported it again, and told them that under no circumstances would I allow the same tech in my house again since he was both rude and incompetent. They made a new appointment, and despite staying home for 1/2 day again, no-one turned up.

      Fourth time? I called them back a further time, and this time the drone on the phone told me that the technician had reported "no fault found" and therefore there could not be a fault. My dishwasher worked perfectly. I expressed some degree of incredulity to that, saying that it was definitely broken. The phone drone made it absolutely clear that the technician was more qualified to decide whether there was a fault or not than I was and that I was therefore just plain wrong. The fact I'm a professional engineer really was irrelevant. Or the fact that I'm a consumer with a broken warranty device. I then got angry and swore at her, at which point I was simply hung up on.

      Fifth time? I put the onus back on the landlord to sort it out. They gave up on GE and called a local repair guy. He came out, took one look at it and said, "the door microswitch is broken". He then opened up the front, saw the broken pin that stopped the microswitch from rotating out of position, and put in a screw to replace the feeble plastic pin. It cost the landlord about $250 for the call-out though.

      The result for me. I vowed to never knowingly buy a GE product as long as I have a breath in my body. I even go as far as actively researching which engines airlines buy and if I have a choice, I'll fly on a Rolls Royce engine instead of a GE one. Hell, they even make some of the most egregious problems of BT call centres look good.

      So my advice, don't rely on swearing to get you noticed. But also, don't buy from GE and expect your warranty to be worth anything other than hassle.

      1. Martin 71 Silver badge

        Re: What's the magic word?

        Landlord should really have sent GE an invoice

      2. Uplink

        Re: What's the magic word?

        > I even go as far as actively researching which engines airlines buy and if I have a choice, I'll fly on a Rolls Royce engine instead of a GE one

        You mean like this one: ?

      3. CaptSmegHead

        Re: What's the magic word?

        That's a great story. I feel your pain.

        I had a similar experience with OneTel who were trying to rectify a broadband fault. Stuck in an endless loop of incompetence.

  20. Sarev

    Doesn't work with HMRC

    I was swearing for Britain on a recent call to the thieving b*stards at HMRC recently. Didn't work, but I could've sworn the recorded message was laughing at me with the "and I repeat, that number is 0845..."

  21. 404

    One time, in band camp....

    At a client's office I was on AT&T's support autohell, the damn thing kept telling me it couldn't understand "I need help" - rinse and repeat about six times when I finally mustered my best Indian accent and said "I am needing help"- immediately connected to an 'agent' named 'Mark" (why are most Indian call centers populated by 'Marks'?)


  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't understand why automated voice recognition is so terrible

    I have a rather easy to understand voice, but even when I try to enunciate clearly I can't make single words like "representative" understood when I call my stupid credit card company. Yet I can tell Siri "give me a reminder to call about my Visa card tomorrow morning about 10" just speaking normally and it'll get it right first time. It isn't as though Siri has some special magic no one else has, everyone's voice recognition works pretty much the same more or less (the differences between them are more in how well they understand grammar and slang)

    Perhaps these call in systems are using the same crappy 90s software without any updates, seeing as they can't even clearly understand a single word. I can't imagine people trying to trying to SPEAK their 16 digit credit card number, the one time I tried it had it so wrong it was laughable - which is sad, considering it did render everything I said as digits, so it wasn't like I said "8" and it thought I said "H". There were only 10 possibilities and it was still way off. Luckily every system I've ever had to deal with will accept DTMF tones for numbers, which preserves my sanity for a bit, until you get to the place where it insists you must tell it what you want next with no option for pushing buttons on your phone.

    I've used the f-bomb trick for years on these systems, BTW. Not because I heard of this trick, but because I got so goddamned frustrated that after screaming the word I was trying to get it understand in the phone for the fifth time I lost it and went into a string of profanity and found the secret for myself. Some words work better than others, I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find out which ones yourself :)

  23. cordwainer 1

    Isn't it true ANY word not in the system's vocabulary will work?

    I may be wrong, but I think MOST (though certainly not all) systems will transfer you to a representative if what you are saying is unintelligible, i.e., the word you use is not part of the voice recognition system's "vocabulary".

    If so, it's possible the f-bomb IS in some systems' vocabulary, along with - for all one knows - an entire dictionary of Verbalizations Associated With "frustration approaching the point of homicide, suicide, telecide, or recording the attempt and uploading it to YouTube as "Voice Mail HELLLLL!!!!!!! [F-bomb] YOU [insert company name here]!!!!!!!!!"

    I base the above partly on a limited knowledge of a few voice mail systems, and partly on the spectacular success I've had reaching a human being simply by reciting Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky". Without pausing. In its entirety if necessary.

    My only failures have been with systems apparently flow-charted to eliminate f-bomb and gibberish nonsense, in which all of a number of increasingly terse variants on, "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I didn't get that . . ." eventually lead to, "We seem to have a problem. Please try your call again later."

    However, if my understanding of the underlying algorithms is entirely off the map, please feel free to respond with courteous corrections and/or vicious mockery, as usual.


  24. url

    in addition to # * 0

    Multiples of the above is good too (5 or so in a row)

    Failing that, try and not giving the system any input at all.

    Alternatively just go for plain incompetence and keep mashing at everything for ages.

    Less of a "breakout" and more of a route to anywhere, then get the human to pass you on.

  25. Whitespace

    Polite conversation can also have the desired effect

    I was recently called by a nice Indian-sounding man who told me my computer was virus infected and he was calling to help me fix it.

    While waiting for my Linux computer to start up he told me his organization was based in Liverpool. Not the country I live in, but 10 miles from my birthplace.

    I politely mentioned how as a child I enjoyed making sandcastles on the beach at the pier head and asked what part of Liverpool he was located in,

    Click, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Polite conversation can also have the desired effect

      We simply asked "Which computer? Do you have a MAC address?"

      That question gets them so confused!

  26. Clive Galway

    I heard...

    ... that if you drop the C bomb, you get through to Steve Jobs in the afterlife.

  27. Jim Lewis

    Worth making sure it's an automated system you're talking to and not just an answering machine.

    My local doctors had inadvertently left the answering machine on during office hours meaning that when I called to make an appointment I got a message saying if it's an emergency call this number, otherwise hang up.

    I got pretty frustrated and vented, not realising that my invective was played loud and clear to the full waiting room and receptionist. (who was busily trying to switch the thing off).

    I received a call from them pretty soon after i'd left my message from an apologetic, but obviously unimpressed receptionist and my welcome was decidedly cool when I went to my appointment!

  28. KirstarK

    Try that with Sony's Laptop support on 0870 240 2410 or 0870 2408 unless you put the serial number in you cannot speak to a human. If the SN is out of warranty then the line hangs up.

  29. yoinkster

    I was hoping it would work by saying "maybe I'll buy an Android" but I think the headline might draw a bit too much attention


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