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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gaming the IVR

    I find a series of clicks and whistles, will get to a person, think xhosa about 0.35 in..

    1. Anonymous Custard

      Re: Gaming the IVR

      Random words, silence or sometimes just pressing zero on the keypad will often have the same effect, without making you sound like a Clanger...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        without making you sound like a Clanger...

        Where's the fun in that?

      2. BrownishMonstr

        Re: Gaming the IVR

        I've tried that. Sometimes it works, other times the fucker just cuts me off and I have to traverse the many levels and---Wait, my issue doesn't fit into any of these.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Gaming the IVR

          Claim you either want to buy a large value or start a premium sub, or cancel a sub and you get a human quickly?

          Processing complaints doesn't make a profit.

          1. BrownishMonstr

            Re: Gaming the IVR

            Doesn't work with Gov.UK. Their call centre agents know fuck-all--which explains why they wanted to make the Gov.UK websites good enough.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Gaming the IVR

      I find a series of clicks and whistles, will get to a person

      Tried that. They put me through to their call centre staffed by dolphins.

      Still couldn't make my bank transfer go through, but I did receive 4kg of tuna from DHL the next day.

      1. macjules

        Re: Gaming the IVR

        Plus 1

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Gaming the IVR

        Strange I received a glass bowl from them, which leaves a message when pinged.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gaming the IVR

        > Tried that. They put me through to their call centre staffed by dolphins.

        The best way to motivate staff is to give them a sense of porpoise.

        1. Evil_Tom


          I'm not sure if the "report abuse" button is for puns this bad.

          Have an upvote for my groans.

        2. OssianScotland

          Re: Gaming the IVR

          Oh Cod, this is the wrong plaice for these fishy puns. Sorry to carp on about it....

        3. EVP

          Re: Gaming the IVR

          Your pun is pure geniousness in this context. Please accept my humble upvote!

          It’s guaranteed that I will dream of porpoise of life tonight. Thank you very much for that.

      4. Michael Maxwell

        Re: Gaming the IVR

        Thanks for all the fish!

      5. Zarno

        Re: Gaming the IVR

        I'm going to assume you rounded, and the real value was 4.2kg instead.

  2. Rich 11 Silver badge


    The staff reading from their scripts insisted that I could do this only with Mum's express permission. One of them even asked me to put her on the phone.

    My brother and I had to go talk to the bank when our mum died, to sort everything out and close her accounts. The woman who met us was very kind and considerate, and she took us through it all step by step. She did inevitably fall back on reading questions from all the forms which had to be filled in, including the ones on insurance policies and pensions. Somewhere along the line she read out the wrong question, something about life insurance renewal -- the blood just drained from her face when she realised her mistake. She went so white she made Mum look positively healthy.

    1. James 139

      Re: Scripted

      My father had similar issues when phoning people after his mother died, but I think his mistake was telling them she was deceased, I am not convinced they understood the word.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Scripted

        When Dad died we naturally phoned BT to get the phone transferred to her name... and naturally they cut the phone off on the day of his funeral

        1. Badbob

          Re: Scripted

          My other (and some would say better) half, worked in Probate for a large investment bank. One fine summer, her bosses decided that the grunt work could far more efficiently be done by a back office in India, with the UK office just carrying out approvals and checks.

          The Indian staff would get requests to close down an account and mail any relevant documents to the executors, which would be duly excreted by a printing press somewhere in Blighty. If it was just a letter, off it went, straight in the post, but if it required such materials as share certificates to be added, it would plop on her desk or of one of her underlings. Every day she would tell tale of a letter landing on her desk with “Dear (Insert name of executor)”, or “Dear {Deceased}”, and those were just the ones requiring further approval, who knows how many the automated system would fire out.

          She no longer works there, and moved to a competent bank (if there is such a thing).

          1. Alien8n

            Re: Scripted

            The one I had was the electricity supply company when my dad died. For over a year I'd have to contact them every so many months to explain the reason he hadn't been in contact with them about his unpaid bill was because he was dead and they'd been instructed to cease billing him from the date he'd died on.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Electricity bills

              The electricity bill on our house still comes in the name of my wife's grandmother and it was wrong when she had it. It has taken 3 generations and still it has been impossible to cancel it and change it to another name. But as we live in the house we just pay the bill and don't worry about it any more. We did when we inherited the property try to sort this out and transfer it to our name but it proved impossible. We believe mother in law also tried to sort this when she inherited the place before us and we have found diary entries of grandmother trying to correct the spelling of her name.

          2. GreyWolf

            Amateur Banks

            Let's name and shame.

            NatWest - both incompetent and deliberately rude (sister-in-law's death)

            Barclays - incompetent, sleepy, and outsourced chaos (they used to be good)

            1. tiggity Silver badge

              Re: Amateur Banks

              Anon unsurprisingly

              GnatWest were very good dealing with death of offspring of mine.

              I assume it's all very much luck of the draw how competent and considerate the staff you deal with are.

              Though I did go in prepared with masses of "paperwork"

              1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

                Re: Amateur Banks

                Natwest were brilliant in getting things done, the branch representative lived in the same road as Dad & even told me a few things to do before I froze the account (Transfer money out for unexpected expenses was one) & the probate department very helpful.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Amateur Banks

                  Yes, transfer money out before informing bank of death is always a good plan, assuming you have active LPOA, or <cough> other means of doing this.

                  I felt particularly ethical about this because I got in a few hours before my Dad died.

                  Well, even then it's not really ethical (or legal, probably) because you can't argue that it's in the donor's interests, although it is in the interests of the effective management of their estate.

                  1. Warm Braw

                    Re: Amateur Banks

                    It's certainly not legal if the PoA donor has already died - the PoA ceases on death. Banks will usually write you a cheque (assuming there is sufficient in the account) to cover a funeral director's bill. The big gotcha as an executor is that you have to pay any IHT due before you get a grant of probate - so you effectively have to use your own money to pay the tax before you can liquidate the assets of the deceased and hopefully get it back.

                  2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

                    Re: Amateur Banks

                    I was already on the account so I could deal with anything with electronic\internet banking (bill payments & the like) from Canada & also primary executor.

                    The bank representative knew my father, offered condolences & in the process of freezing the account advised me to make any arrangements for funeral expenses before I signed off on the account. All transfers were recorded & itemised.

                    The real shit started later.

            2. Alien8n

              Re: Amateur Banks

              NatWest are on my do not use list for 2 reasons.

              1. When I got my first job they insisted that they would use all of my wages to pay off my student debt. Their exact comment was that they would allow me to have £50 a month to live on (which back then was about 10% of my pay). I told them where to go and opened a new account with the building society opposite them.

              2. The next time I used them they sent me a letter telling me I was NEARLY overdrawn, charged me £10 for the letter taking me overdrawn and then charged me a bloody fortune in fees for being overdrawn.

              I will NEVER use NatWest ever again.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Amateur Banks

                I had something similar...

                I had an early Natwest cash card (early 80s?). It was a punched card affair and you got a handful that would get you a tenner each and the card was retained and posted back to you. I was only issued a couple and after a while I was getting frustrated and asked if they could up this to £50-wiorth a week. They said No, I hadn't been using the account enough (despite being in credit and there generally being MORE in the account month-on-month)

                I crossed the road, went into Barclays and had a proper cash card with a limit of £100-a-day by the end of the week

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Amateur Banks

                  Another NeverWester,

                  Back in the 90's I had a small business; I also had a £1500 overdraft with NW, backed by an official letter from the local government small business unit stating I was being given a £1500 start-up grant on xyz date.

                  Policy changed, and grant got delayed, delayed agian, and then cancelled.

                  The day it got officially cancelled, I had a big cheque to pay in, but also had several cheques to send out - about 30% of the big cheque. Being honest I asked to see the manager and explained the problem.

                  Can I keep the existing over-draught facility going? I dont have the money to pay it off now, but equally, the business has picked up enough that I should be in the black by the end of the years.

                  "Sure, not an issue, really happy you came to see me"

                  Paid in the big cheque, sent out the small cheques, the barstewards bounced them.

                2. Mike Pellatt

                  Re: Amateur Banks

                  Those cards were longer ago than you think. Early to mid 70's. I remember 'coz I had one in my student days, '73-'76.

                  Duck-duck-going reveals that the British Museum have one in their collection, 1972


                  Indeed, it was the late 60's when they were introduced !!


                  1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                    Re: Amateur Banks

                    Those cards were longer ago than you think

                    Remembered seeing this on the BBC recently

                    "Westminster group". I assume this eventually morphed into National Westminster, NatWest.


                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Amateur Banks

                    Same with an image of the card.


              2. johnnybee

                Re: Amateur Banks

                My (different) bank did (2) to me. Except they wrote me two letters - one to my parents' and one to my termtime address - and charged me £25 for each.

                I wrote acknowledgements to each letter (separately) and a further letter explaining their mistake and demanding they rescinded all charges. Finally, the following day, I invoiced them for £100 to cover each of my four missives.

                To my amazement, they returned the erroneous charges within 3 working days. To my further amazement, I received a cheque for £100 the following week.

                I've tried the same since, but with less success.

              3. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Amateur Banks

                "2. The next time I used them they sent me a letter telling me I was NEARLY overdrawn, charged me £10 for the letter taking me overdrawn and then charged me a bloody fortune in fees for being overdrawn."

                Wells Fargo in the US is the same way.

              4. AbortRetryFail

                Re: Amateur Banks

                @Alien8n - I briefly worked as a programmer as an employee of NatWest early in my career. They would only pay my salary into a NatWest bank account, which they insisted I open, and would not grant an overdraft as employees were expected to be exemplary at handling their money and thus should not need an overdraft.

                So every month my salary went into my NatWest account, and the next day the totality of it was transferred by Standing Order to my existing current account with another bank. Apart from the month they messed up and I got hit with bank fees for a failed Standing Order, which they had to reimburse.

                They also royally shafted me on holiday pay buy-back and other benefits when I moved on to another job a year or so later.

                1. Alien8n

                  Re: Amateur Banks

                  Pretty much says it all when they shaft not only their customers but also their employees.

            3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Amateur Banks

              Barclays - incompetent, sleepy

              Ah yes. The place where the lady responsible for photocopying my driving licence[1] was very snippy about the fact that it came in several pieces and wasn't a photo-ID driving licence. I'm afraid that after she had moaned about it for the 10th time I got slighly less polite[2] to her.

              [1] Old-style pink paper one. Why both to pay for a new one (and possibly get categories missed off) when you don't have to? Especially as it has to be renewed every 10 years..

              [2] I was still fairly polite but did say that, since she obviously valued form over function that maybe she could hurry up so that I could get out of there and make us both happy..

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Scripted

          Tesco Mobile cut me off 2 days after getting out of hospital following a near fatal heart attack.

          The kicker, it was Christmas Day!!

          Their fault, they admitted it after 5 or so calls trying to get my service re-instated. They didn't reply to complaints in writing except to send me some boilerplate about the o2 outage and why I wasn't entitled to compensation (which I hadn't asked for/complained about). Didn't apologise until I forced them too either.

          Needless to say my mobile contract is now elsewhere.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Scripted

      Other than retirement accounts my mom didn't really have to deal with much when my dad died. The bank account and mortgage were joint and maybe they took his name off but it didn't really matter. Most of the bills were in his name and still come addressed to him. She figured it wasn't worth the bother of taking his name off e.g. the phone bill or electric bill.

      Plus it makes it easier for her because if allows the option of me or my brother calling in her stead, an option that wouldn't be open to us if it was in her name.

    3. Barry Rueger

      Re: Scripted

      My mother was listed as a co-signer on all of the bank accounts when my father died. "For business reasons."

      Somehow she and the bank managed to move everything into her name only before officially registering the death with them.

      This happened within a couple of hours of death, which suggests that the bank liked him as little as we did.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Scripted

        which suggests that the bank liked her as much as we did.

        FTFY ;)

    4. Blitheringeejit

      Re: Scripted

      A rather different experience - when me and my dad went to the bank when sorting out the affairs of my recently-deceased brother, who had a business account with the bank, with my dad as co-director and signatory. The aim of the exercise was to make me, as a newly-appointed director, a signatory on the account, for the purpose of winding the company up.

      We had made an appointment, and were ushered in to see a customer service person - a middle-aged bloke, who quite properly asked to see the proof of identity which my dad had brought with him. One of these documents was a recent, current-account bank statement. On seeing this (the amount on deposit was substantial), the bloke immediately weighed in with a sales pitch telling my dad that he if he switched his current account to that bank, he would earn significant interest. This to an octogenarian a few days after he had buried his son.

      My dad, as his generation tend to be, was perfectly polite in rebuffing the sales pitch - but I could have punched the guy's lights out (and I'm a pacifist hippy).

      Banks, eh? Can't live with 'em, can't openly suggest firebombing them on internet forums without risking arrest...


      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Scripted

        ", the bloke immediately weighed in with a sales pitch"

        That will always happen on phoned in enquiries as the calls are recorded and if the agent doesn't try to upsell you, they get demerits.

        Many places pay their customer service people very poorly and the only way they can make enough is by getting bonuses for signing you up for other services/products. This is what had Wells Fargo employees signing people up for things they didn't ask for. If you were going to lose your job if you didn't make so many sales or were planning on leaving and figured you'd get the bonuses long before some complaints.......

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Scripted

          Much of the PPI madness was fuelled by such target focussed terror. It wasn't unknown for bank staff to buy PPI themselves in a desperate attempt to meet weekly sales targets and keep their jobs.

          So surreptitiously slipping PPI into a deal or lying about the feasibility of a loan application being approved without PPI was one of the many tactics employed by the ever desperate banking staff.

          It was all stick and no carrot, as none of them received commission bonuses, they just secured their job for a little longer. Which was galling when you consider the banks were receiving commission kickbacks from the insurance underwriters in excess of 50% of the premiums customers were paying, for the entire life of the policy.

          Laughably, my temporary job repaying customers mis-sold PPI is more secure than those who originally sold it.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Scripted

        Banks, eh? Can't live with 'em

        Which is why (as a recent ex-student, treated fairly badly by a bank) I said I would never use a bank again. And went and opened an account with the (then) Nationwide Anglia building society.

        An account I still have 30(something, something) years later. Unfortunately, I did end up having to do business with banks - we had various savings accounts with various building societies, most of which ended up selling their customers out and becoming banks. Which, of course, were then borged by bigger banks.

    5. TomPhan

      Re: Scripted

      The co-op used to have a service where you decided on the funeral, the will was drawn up, and they'd act as executor. My parents used this, and when the time came the co-op did all the dealing with banks, utilities, etc, all I needed to do was apply for death certificates.

      1. Rol

        Re: Scripted

        Having worked in the local courts dealing with probate and suchlike I would offer you all some very sound advice when writing your will.

        DO NOT LEAVE ANY MONEY TO CHARITY unless you hate your family so much that you want their lives made a misery after your death.

        You see. A certain organisation exists that has an arrangement with the courts that they get informed of all deaths were a will naming a charity as a beneficiary is involved. They will then act on behalf of that charity and viciously pursue the executors of the will, making unreasonable demands, and forcing unnecessary cost and stress on both the bereaved and the intended charity.

        If you want to leave money to charity, you should write your will in such a manner that discourages the hideously invasive and vexatious pursuit by legal vultures pretending to be acting on a charities behalf, when all they are doing is redirecting some of the intended charitable money into their own bank accounts.

        eg. I hearby bequeath £10,000 to Charity X. on the understanding that the whole of that amount be paid directly from my estate to Charity X, at the convenience of my executors. If parties subsequently present themselves representing Charity X, seeking to influence or frustrate the process of my wills execution, then the charitable donation is to be revoked and my executors empowered to do as they damn well please with the money.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voice response phone

    What really gets my back up, is when there is something you cannot do on the website (even when it is working) so you have to resort to calling. Even though you know it will take at least 30 minutes to get through...

    And every 20 seconds during the music on hold, you get an announcement "why not go online to our website, where you can do almost everything, apart from the one thing you actually fecking want to do quickly and easily. Or, if you would prefer to speak to someone, please hold and we will answer your call sometime in the next week" (ok - not quite what they say, but you get the gist) JUST IN CASE IT HAD PASSED YOUR LIMITED COMPREHENSION, I AM ON THE PHIONE BECAUSE I CAN'T DO IT ON THE WEBSITE, YOU MORONS.

    I always hope that while these messages are going out and we're listening to music on hold, that they are recording and analysing what is being muttered (or shouted) down the phone - then they may get an idea of what their customers really think about them.

    And as for the one that do as Mr Dabb's system does - ask you to answer a question in a few words - I always try to figure out how many swear words you can fit into a sentence and it still tries to work out what you want.

    HMRC must be the worst one I have dealt with recently...........

    1. Maverick

      Re: Voice response phone

      try Aviva, the website can't find a post code for a flat so you have to call

      ~6 minutes of announcements BEFORE you get to the queue, the person answering eventually covers all the same stuff that you were told in the 6 minutes, MUCH later you get a quote that is 3x the market rate

      anyone like to guess why they are not on comparison sites?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Voice response phone

        Try Brazil's TIM Completely Unmanned Natural-language Telephone System chatbot ("now with electrolytes *AND* AI!")

        TIM decided all by themselves to change all my family's plan from prepaid to "one that is better" (in the sense of costing more and delivering less) that charges a fee every week. I've contacted the chatbot and explained that I wanted the original plan back and the charges' money back. Between each "we are looking up your information, please wait" there was a "why not change to our new plan? It is better for you" ad.

      2. Chris G

        Re: Voice response phone

        I was thinking of Aviva while reading the article. I retired recently, trying to get my poxy little pension released as a lump sum only took about a dozen calls (from Spain) at an average of 20 odd minutes per call, of which 15 minutes was waiting to speak to an alleged human. Though in fairness the girl who finalised everything was a star, polite helpful and actually put notes into my file so that the next person knew what I was talking about without having to initiate the entire process from the beginning.

        Every company that uses these systems must invest heavily in the manufacture of blood pressure treatments.

        1. quxinot

          Re: Voice response phone

          And then afterwards, some banks will also send you a "How are we doing?" email or better another callbot to gauge your customer satisfaction with their services.

          It's always nice to suggest that you've never seen such incompetence in any field and wonder precisely if their staff would be more useful to the world as fertilizer.

          My own horror story with banking, seeing as we all have at minimum a half a dozen..... While applying for a morgage through the bank--and having every single step being treated as they had never done such a transaction before--was to have the underwriter deny it because my wife's job is on a year-to-year contract (like a schoolteacher). A little social engineering and time with a telephone got me the name of the specific person reviewing the morgage application at the underwriting office, and got me that person's boss's name. After further digging, I managed to directly call the woman's boss and suggest that if needed I could show up at the building in person (it was perhaps an hour's drive) to explain the employment terms in person. When I confirmed the address of the building and asked which parking lot I should use as a customer the boss got suddenly concerned for the mortal safety of the staff and asked how I was able to find out such 'secret' information.

          I told them that my wife was, in fact, a professional researcher, and that their secrecy was perhaps not as good as they thought it was; I then suggested they focus on the actual job of reviewing the financial details of the morgage process in a competent fashion.

          The application was approved and I got a terrified call from the morgage officer ten minutes later.

    2. Kubla Cant

      Re: Voice response phone

      every 20 seconds during the music on hold, you get an announcement

      I especially hate this. You can put the phone on speaker, zone out the hold music, and get on with some work or surf the web*. But every 20 seconds you're jerked to attention as the music fades and you think you're about to get a human on the line.

      *do people still say "surf the web"?

      1. Crisp

        Re: do people still say "surf the web"?

        The kids nowadays are all cruising the information super highway.

        1. Teiwaz

          Re: do people still say "surf the web"?

          The kids nowadays are all cruising the information super highway.

          That's what you're supposed to think

          I reality: "The users arrive here and are carried along the corridor on a conveyor belt in extreme comfort, past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes, towards the rotating knives. The last twenty feet of the corridor are heavily soundproofed. The blood pours down these chutes and the mangled flesh slurps into these..."

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: do people still say "surf the web"?

            Thanks a image of the fabricant slaughterhouse from Cloud Atlas just popped into my head.

        2. the Jim bloke

          Re: do people still say "surf the web"?

          they try to tell you its cruising the information super highway

          because while describing it as "chewing your way through rancid fatbergs" may highlight that the faster you go, the more shit you are forced to deal with. it doesnt promote a positive ambience or lend itself to selling accessories,

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: Voice response phone

        "...every 20 seconds you're jerked to attention as the music fades and you think you're about to get a human on the line."


        [annoying music restarts]

        1. John 110

          Re: Voice response phone

          @Antron Argaiv

          I can cope with the fade out for adverts/assurance that your call IS important, but what gets me is when the hold music stops halfway through a musical phrase and starts again from the beginning. The bloody tune never resolves, over and over!

        2. Mark 85

          Re: Voice response phone

          If the call was so damned important to them, they would actually have the staff (with some smarts) to answer it and also solve the problem. Damn muppets and their stupid scrips is what you get if you can actually talk to a human.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Voice response phone

            "Damn muppets" - Errrmmm

            I was a call jockey a few times in my career when things weren't going so well since it was usually the quickest job to get. Its a horrible job. Basically have the same conversation 60-70 times a day with people of varying ability to understand the service and what you could/couldn't do for them who had already been frustrated by the IVR.

            I hope that these jobs will be classified as a form of torture and outlawed eventually. (Probably once the tech is up to the job).

            So sir I would say that I am far from a "muppet", (although I didn't have the luxury/restrictions reading off a script) and I would suggest some empathy for the poor working class who do these toxic jobs.

            <Puts soapbox away>

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Voice response phone

              I was a call jockey a few times in my career

              Which is why I try to be as polite and pleasant as possible to those stuck answering the call. The only two exceptions that I can think of are:

              1. In the waning days of my Demon internet account (after it had been sold to Thus and support outsourced abroad) I was trying to get my DSL line problem resolved[1]. After the fifth time of phoning the helldesk (and being put through the same rigmarole every time and being given (almost word for word the same response as last time I'd phoned - all of which produced exactly nothing) I tried to just out of the loop by requesting that the phone droid actually listen to what I was saying rather than just parrotting the script. He then blew up at me saying that I wasn't allowed to speak to him like that and promply put the phone down. I redialled and, by mischance, got back through to the same person again. Who swore at me and put the phone down. I subitted a formal complaint and, two days later, moved to IDNet.

              2. By virtue of the place where my wife works, we have membership with Benedon [2[. Several years ago, I had an intense period of really, really bad back pain - to the extent of barely being able to move. I went to the GP and was told that I needed to be referred to the local orthopaedic clinic at the hospital. Which was a 9-week wait for a free slot. While I have a very understanding employer, I doubt whether they'd be terribly happy.. So I though to go to Beneden and see if they could help and managed to get through to a rules-lawyer type to told me that, because I hadn't adhered to every jot and tittle of the procedure that they wouldn't do anything for me. So I went back and did things exactly the way their website recommended and phoned her back. Only to have her say that, because I'd been refused treatment before for this problem that, under no circumstance would she permit the claim to go forward. Cue another fairly annoyed [3] email of formal complaint.

              [1] I knew exactly what the problem was - our duct in the road had a big crack in the cover and would fill up with water when it was cold and rainy. The BT engineer would turn up, clear out the duct, clean the contacts and everything would be fine. This time they would not deviate from the "have you rebooted your computer and DSL modem?"[4] line.

              [2] Sort of a mutual health body - people pay a fairly reasonable monthly levy and, if needed, can get referred to an approved local hospital - one of which is about 3 miles away from my house. They obviously have to pre-qualify what they pay out but her actions tipped over into the deliberately spiteful territory. They later amended their procedures so as not to get people in serious pain upset with them on the phone..

              [3] Polite but making it clear that the whole thing had been handled very badly by their staff member. Conversations later with another staff member indicated that they had listened to the call recordings and were shocked at the way it had been handled from their end.

              [4] Given that I had a very atypical setup (modem <-> firewall <-> internal network) their standard script really, really didn't fit. The kicker was that the call centre womble clearly didn't know *anything* about DSL, BT or even the UK. All I wanted was for them to call out BT like they had done 5-6 times before to fix the duct again - something that was in my records as having been done before to fix the exact situation I was describing.

        3. Chris G

          Re: Voice response phone


          Fixtit for you!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Voice response phone

      "What really gets my back up, is when there is something you cannot do on the website (even when it is working) so you have to resort to calling. Even though you know it will take at least 30 minutes to get through..."

      Better still was my experience in the US about 20 years ago (admittedly, the website option was not quite yet an option at that point) ... had an issue with my log distance calling plan with AT&T (they'd not activated the international calling plan I'd requested so calls to the UK had been $1.50 a minute rather that 10c) but as billing came through PacBell I had to call them first - cue 10-15 minutes on hold - got through to someone, explained the problem and they said they'd need to talk to someone at AT&T and to my great surprise (naively I assumed they'd have a direct line in to AT&T billing) we then spend 10-15 minutes in the standard AT&T hold system while we chatted about the places she'd visited on a vacation to the UK recently! Eventually got through to AT&T who immediately admitted they'd not set the account up properly and promised to rebill me correctly (which they did).

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Voice response phone

      "What really gets my back up, is when there is something you cannot do on the website (even when it is working) so you have to resort to calling. Even though you know it will take at least 30 minutes to get through..."

      It's always incredibly easy on a website to do anything that involves you spending (more) money with them. If you want to cancel a subscription, or change to a lower cost option, you ALWAYS have to phone them.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Voice response phone

        Or find a phone number when the list of infrequently* asked questions proves f***ing useless.

        *Infrequent because most of them are either blindingly obvious, totally unrelated to anything that might happen or are just trying to sell you stuff.

  4. Warm Braw

    Still, it could be even worse

    I had to phone my (now former) bank a few weeks back to change my e-mail address. Although they provide an online banking service, it doesn't extend to changing contact details.

    Eventually, I got through to an actual person (or so I presume, I don't think AI is yet capable of a consistent facsimile of utter incompetence) who "took me through security" which involved me providing (besides the length of the middle toe on my left foot and the name of my first viral infection) two characters from my password and two from my PIN. Which I duly did. "I'm sorry, that's not right", came the response to the correct answers. We enjoyed a brief if unseasonal pantomime ("Oh yes it is", "Oh not it isn't"...) before the organic peripheral declared that the computer wasn't functioning and I'd have to call back later.

    Instead I called another bank, opened a new account and was able to have them transfer the funds and regular payments from the bank that denied my request to change an e-mail address simply on the basis that I had a very old savings account with the new bank - at an old address - with a penny in it: no further ID required.

    I did get an e-mail from the old bank after the switch was complete to say they would retain the account records for a period of time and I could get a final statement by visiting a branch or phoning the call centre. No longer being within 200 miles of the nearest branch, I phoned the call centre. "It's a closed account, you'll have to visit a branch". "That's not what the e-mail said". "Can I put you on hold?" [time passes] "I'll need to take you through security"...

    1. hplasm
      Thumb Up

      Re: Still, it could be even worse

      "The organic peripheral"

      I'm having this!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Accounts names

    A former ladyfriend of mine still had a number of household accounts in her ex-husbands name. She could not phone up the call centre as they immediately sussed she did not have a male voice and was therefore not the account holder. Nor did the explanation that she had been divorced for x years have any meaning.

    However, I could ring them.... "Are you Mr X?". Yes. "Can you confirm your postcode and date of birth", xxx, yyy. "Thank you. And how may I help you today?"

    1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: Accounts names

      Ah, yes, same thing when I try to call on behalf of my partner:

      "I'm sorry, but I need to talk to the account holder"

      <hand the phone over>


      "Are you Mrs X.?" "Yes" "OK, let's proceed..."

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Accounts names

        Same here. Sometimes she just shouts across the room.

        Sometimes a daughter will say she's my Mrs. and give them permission to talk to me.

        Once it was a cleaner.

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: Accounts names

          Long time ago my mum did the cleaner trick in reverse. As she was cleaning the house, the door bell rung. She opened with broom and cloth in hands to find Jehovah witnesses ready to spill their speech. She cut them with "The madam she's not here" and they took their leave.

          1. Allan George Dyer

            Re: Accounts names

            I had several conversations with Jehovah witnesses, then I gave them a bootleg copy of Richard Dawkins' Royal Society Christmas Lectures, and they haven't returned.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Accounts names

              I had several conversations with Jehovah witnesses

              Ditto. However, my wife and I being of a somewhat theological bent, knew an awful lot more about the Bible than they did. When the elders realised that we were raising doubts in the minds of their evangelists about the truth of some of their doctrines we got taken off the list of places to visit..

              (We also got a procession of increasingly senior elders before they decided that we were too risky to expose their followers to..)

          2. jelabarre59

            Re: Accounts names

            She opened with broom and cloth in hands to find Jehovah witnesses ready to spill their speech

            There was the friend whose daughter, upon finding Jehova's Witnesses at the door, picked up the family's black cat, and said "oh, we're Satanists. This is my familiar, Lucifer..."

            Then there was the time some JW decided to play lone-wolf, and proselytize at a local motel. Only to find the local Baptist minister having a meeting with a travelling Baptist evangelist who was at our church for a week's seminars.

            1. Alien8n

              Re: Accounts names

              I find opening the door and asking "Oh hello, are you the sacrifice?" works quite well.

    2. getHandle

      Re: Accounts names

      I once called a utility in my wife's name to change something and couldn't be bothered with their BS, so when they asked if I was her I just said yes. They either didn't care or didn't dare challenge the fact that I didn't sound female...

      1. dvd

        Re: Accounts names

        I regularly do that. The poor souls handling the call don't care. They are just going through the motions.

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Accounts names

      Been through a few bereavements.

      Northern upbringing help here..

      "She can't she's dead" seems to get the humans working better than passed on/deceased etc.

      1. jelabarre59

        Re: Accounts names

        Or when someone called what had once been our grandmother's number (we had taken it over), and dad was visiting that week. When the caller said "could I speak to Mrs <grandma name>?" Dad says "You'll have to yell loud..."

        "Oh, why is that?"

        "She's in <cemetery name>".

        That was enough to throw them off. Probably wouldn't work with the Indian call centers though.

  6. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

    "You might like to clear your cash before trying again."


  7. herman Silver badge


    Aha, it is the word 'fucked' that did it. If you swear at a Hell Desker, you get bumped up to a supervisor and this the ONLY way to get service from any Hell Desk phone system in Canada.

    So whenever I had to call Telus or Shaw support, and got a sweet Chinese lady saying: "Hello, this is Tilly, how can I help you?", I simply responded with "Your fucking internet DHCP server doesn't fucking want to give my fucking server a fucking IP address." or some such, which then results in a - CLICK - "Hello, this is Winston, how can I help you?". To him I then respond with "Your internet DHCP server doesn't want to give my server an IP address."...

    This is why I like the Slovak language: 'Fucked' means 'really' in Slovak, so one can use it with wild abandon in Bratislava.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you swear at a Hell Desker

      It seems to me a little harsh to start off by (seemingly) angrily swearing at the first random call centre person who answers, however effective the tactic might be. Does it work if you say "fucking" in a deliberately non-agressive way, as if you just happened to be the sort of person who'd say it merely as a habitual decoration for the mildest of sentences? Or play along for a sentence or two, then go "ah, the fucking thing still doesn't work, oops, sorry about that, I'm finding this very frustrating...".

    2. find users who cut cat tail

      Re: Really?

      > 'Fucked' means 'really' in Slovak...

      It would sound the same only if English had final-obstruent devoicing and the final ‘d’ was pronounced as ‘t’. But few people notice...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      Doesn't that risk backfiring and getting your phone number blacklisted and the profanity-laden call held as evidence should you change companies and the company wonders why?

    4. TomPhan

      Re: Really?

      Many call centres can disconnect is they hear abusive or threatening language, so swearing is a good way to lose your place in the queue.

      Though when I was writing software for builders suppliers that rule would have meant that nobody would have ever had a problem escalated to them.

    5. Clunking Fist

      Re: Really?

      So what do Slovaks say when something is really fucked?

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    A funny thing happened to me in July

    I live in a rural town and had just gotten my FTTH connection for a month when the local farmer managed to knock it down - but without breaking it.

    So my connection was fine, but the line was all over the road. Obviously, I phoned Orange Support - and, after getting through the inevitable anger-inducing first few questions, I managed to indicate that I was calling for a technical problem.The robot cheerfully announced it was going to launch a test of my connection, and of course, a few minutes later, announced that all was well, thank you for calling.

    Um, I thought while staring at my phone that was broadcasting the end call beep, no, all is NOT well. MY LINE IS ON THE GROUND !

    So, I went to the website, and got to the Support page. There is no chat link for a helldesk drone until you jump through ten hoops, turn around three times and clap your hands saying "there's no place like Orange". Kidding, even that doesn't work. I spent over 45 minutes on that support section and all I could do was test my connection - which, of course, was fine.

    After bouncing off the walls for a total of about 90 minutes, I resigned myself to phoning the support line again. To my eternal surprise, instead of going through all the motions for nothing again, this time the robot remarked that I had already called, was it the same problem, I'll direct you to a technician. YES ! Oh heavenly bliss ! Finally, a human being !

    I finally got to tell the story, and, after repeating myself twice (apparently it is hard to understand that the line is down but the connection works - must've been a city boy), he finally acknowledged the issue and typed some stuff into the computer. He told me I would be contacted shortly to get an intervention date.

    A month later, I called again because nobody had called me. Yes, that is 31 days later, I had to call again. Knowing the procedure this time, I did the two calls and got a technician. I asked what was going on. He had no clue. I had to explain myself all over again. Twice. Again. Cue the typing on the keyboard, and the we'll call you soon. I asked yeah, but how soon ? Because last time you didn't call. I cannot do more, sir. I have escalated the issue. Yeah right. Well I'll see.

    Next week came along, nothing. The week after that, nothing. It was now 45 days since my fiber was lying on the ground. I was about to call back when the inevitable finally happened : some car went by and ripped the fiber line from the lamppost. Now my connection was well and truly down all the way.

    So I set up my mobe with its 4G sharing connection, fired up my laptop and went to the website, where I had it diagnose a connection problem. The next day, I got a call from a technician asking when he could come by and check it out. He dropped by, checked the situation, and we agreed to an intervention the following week. That happened as programmed and I am now reconnected and fully functional.

    Moral of the story ? Orange doesn't give a damn about your line until it's broken, whether or not you talk to a human being.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

      It's just a misunderstanding: They sell you Internet connectivity, and as long as that works, everything is fine (meaning, you get the service you pay for). That's why your attempts to fix the purely cosmetic problem of your line lying on the ground went nowhere: It was irrelevant.

      You should had taken a pair of wire cutters to your line from the very beginning, and the problem would had been promptly repaired in a couple days...

      1. Stevie

        Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

        A car hit a telephone pole outside out house and cracked it through, though it didn't fall. We called it in. Nothing happened for a week so we called it in again. The schoolbus stops on our corner and the danger space for the cracked pole was right across Waiting Kiddie Central. Got told that there was no record of our call and the case number we had was not even a legal company ticket number.

        So we went though the process again. Got a call back from a phone company drone who announced that they had determined that the problem was inside our house and therefore they could do nothing about it.

        My wife took that call, and was a picture to behold as she calmly said "Let me get this straight: You believe the cracked telephone pole that is threatening to fall in the street and do god knows what damage is ... INSIDE OUR HOUSE?"

        Things took a left turn from that point. Wife asked to speak to a supervisor, to be told that the kid had no supervisor. Wife then said if he had no supervisor than he was obviously the chairman of the phone company, and she would like to complain in the strongest terms about the process of reporting a dangerous telephone pole. Kid got angry, shouting that he never said he was in charge of the phone company. Wife yelled "AHA! then you DO have a supervisor! I demand to speak to that person AT ONCE!"

        Of course, nothing got done until a local TV station turned up to film the pole and showed it on the six o clock news.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

          One of the telecom junction box thingies outside a mates house up in the valley had a broken, fully open door. Kids kept poking around with it.

          Not sure who owned it, we called BT and Virgin. BT went through locating the box on their map, determined they had no record of it, so would send someone out.

          Virgin just said they'd send someone out.

          Less than an hour later, an openreach van arrived, He had a look at the box, said "ahh, this belongs to virgin. We told him we'd called them.' He bound it up with that plastic binding stuff, and went on his way.

          Virgin never turned up, but called my mate about a week later to ask if he was still having problems with his virgin internet (he was a virgin customer, but there was never any problem with his service)

    2. hammarbtyp

      Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

      This what should of done...

      Technician - "I cannot see any issue with your connection"

      You : - "Wait a sec"

      Sound of footsteps fading away and a chainsaw being brought to life.

      Sound of footsteps coming back to the phone

      You: "What about now?"

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

      "Orange doesn't give a damn about your line until it's broken,"

      So you simply cut the cable to get support - doh!

    4. Spasticus Autisticus

      Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

      If the service is working our ISPs don't care about the infrastructure, if its Openreach's kit then contact them direct - search for openreach damage.

      I did this when some trees got removed near a new development and our line was hanging down to around 10', I could see a lorry tearing the line down at any moment so called Openreach. Within the hour 2 vans and 3 guys turned up, one went up the pole and gathered the excess cable up. Sorted.

    5. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

      You may have been better off finding a connection you could undo or just chopping the line after the first 30 days. yeah, you had use of the connection, but you could have timed your tactical sabotage to fit your schedule instead of the line being totally borked randomly.

    6. Stork Silver badge

      Re: A funny thing happened to me in July

      We had a different problem a couple of years ago. Our neighbour was annoyed by a phone pole placed in the boundary between the plots, close to her house. One day she was on something funny and decided to cut our line.

      Telecom staff arrive, we tell the story and they think a bit. Then install another pole on our land, 10m from the first, and string an extension from the first.

      Everyone apart from neighbour happy

  9. Anonymous Custard

    Tag team action

    The bit that really irritates me is when you go through all the robotic stuff, entering account numbers and similar information via the phone keypad, get stuck in the hold queue for interminable times and then when a helldesk drone does pick up and start reading his/her script, the first things they request is most of the information you just keyed in...

    And of course when (or rather if) things progress and you get transferred, after yet another earful of mind numbing noise you get the next higher support agent, whio then proceeds to ask you once again for the same damn information. I think my record is talking to 4 different people in one call, and having to recite the same stuff to each plus the initial robotics!

    Best one of all was back in the day when our ISP rang us (returned our call request) due to an issue, and then decided to turn it into a sales call. But before they could do that, their script demanded that they verify we were the genuine account holders. So we were requested to supply answers to security questions. Which we of course refused to do, pointing out that it was them who had rung us, and indeed that it should be them supplying security answers to us to prove who they were and that this wasn't basically a phishing call...

    Although to be fair the lady on the other end took it well, laughed and said that indeed we had a good point and would probably not be interested in the sales pitch anyway. In the end it came through via an email, and she was indeed correct...

  10. swampdog


    I wonder if they still store passwords in plain text?

    Some years ago I got an Asda credit card when they were knocking a few percent off fuel. After Santander took over the Asda CC accounts it would be locked each month when I tried to log in. Result: £1/min call. This went on for at least 3 months. I changed the password to AsdaW@nkers which on the next call had the drone giggling at the appropriate point in the script. That giggle told me more about their security than any PR spiel.

    1. drand

      Re: Santander

      EE do this too - weren't interested when I complained that any and every droid had access to user accounts and passwords.

    2. vulture65537

      Re: Santander

      I had Powergen phone me to say I needed to change my password which included the term "cheating bastards" because of the way they'd used higher estimated bills than actual meter readings.

    3. RM Mynez-Arefzlash

      Re: Santander


      I found myself in a similar situation once when, after a lot of hassle setting up an account, I chose a codeword of stupidc**t (not with asterisks). I thought it was something that I would only enter into a webpage to assist with password resets etc.

      Shortly afterwards I needed to call and was answered by a lady who walked through the usual questions before saying, "what's your codeworrrrr... oh!"

      I had to explain that I'd never anticipated having to say it to such a nice-sounding person. Very professionally she asked for the x and y-th characters, although I think by then she was well aware that I knew the whole word.

      It kind of broke the ice and from then on she was very helpful. Nonetheless I have since changed it to something boring.

  11. Giovani Tapini

    and dont forget the old

    Password not working, hmm... Yes log a fault, err, cant log a fault unless I am logged in, err... Whats the phone number for the service desk. Its on the intranet, cant see address book until you are logged in. Kafka lives on.

    Also novel twist is now "Card Only" ... what, why not just put up a sign saying "cash not working" WTF are things coming to. I don't like random card mindreaders in shops I am not familiar with. I'm a bit old school like that from a security perspective, and also helps stop you realising you have spent hundreds of pounds over a weekend just on unbudgeted frivolities, the same thing that happens in hotels when you let them leave your account open and you realise you doubled the cost of your stay due to the ease of ordering that room service breakfast.

    Also had issues in the past when phoneline stopped working (supplied by major national carrier) problem #1 find a working phone #2 find the number to report a fault #3 fight IVR system that doesn't really want to do anything other than sell you a new handset, IVR sends you to IVR 2 which isn't working and cuts you off. OK fault in the fault reporting system. Phone random numbers until incredulous operative lowers themselves to listen in on another attempted call then puts me through to report fault via secret undisclosed direct dial number.

    The distance between I am getting too old for this, and its fun to tease the phone flunky is gradually narrowing towards simmering peevishness and technology rage now. TFI Friday...

  12. SVV

    Website. Fucked.

    Hey, you've discovered the magical two word code to get out of the voice menu maze! Open Sesame might have been better, but this'll do. In future when I call my mobile provider and have several goes at guessing the single correct combination of "Yes" and "No" to the 10 question interrogation needed to get a human talking to me, I will only need to utter the magic words.

    1. quxinot

      Re: Website. Fucked.


      ( )

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Website. Fucked.


        Kill the west-banker!

        (The phrase comes from an incident in the early days of Israel when the tribes that lived on the east bank had a bit of a contretemps with the tribe that lived on the other side of the river. So they asked people crossing the river to say "shibboleth" - which the west-bankers pronounced differently. Anyone not giving the correct pronounciation promptly got shortened by a head. Hence the derivation of the phrase..)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Your postcode is wrong"

    "But we always use that postcode"

    Companies use postcodes that date back to the day when the building was just 4 posts hammered into a muddy field, or copied/re-copied from an barely readable post-it note.... was that a 4 or a 9

    I've even had the case of a postcode for a branch that brought up the right address when looked up... erm, except it was for the wrong town!

    1. Alien8n

      Re: postcodes...

      Postcodes are a nightmare. We have a new warehouse (well, 2 years old now) and we have to give any visitors the postcode of the building across the road because ours sends you to a random place about 10 miles away.

      1. The Rope

        Re: postcodes...

        Take a look at what3words, if you haven't already. Very useful for directions in rural areas.

    2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: postcodes...

      Thames Water website decided it couldn't send me any water-saving freebies because my address didn't seem to exist. Never mind the fact that I was logged in and they had no issue sending me their bills.

  14. Alan Ferris

    Not quite a bereavement..

    But I had to write a medical report on a woman who was hit by a bus some 5 years ago and who consequently died. The solicitors wanted to know if there was anything in her medical records that suggested that she might have fallen off her perch prematurely (other than human: bus altercation).

    In bold letters the solicitors advised me that I need not examine the patient.

    1. jelabarre59

      Re: Not quite a bereavement..

      On a trip to the far reaches of Canada some years back, my dad witnessed the unfortunate demise of a pedestrian on the street when a log fell off a log truck and decapitated her. He had stopped to assist the police and emergency services, and had covered her body with a blanket.

      The rescue squad person came by and was all worked up that no one had done any triage on the victim. Dad says "her body's there, her head is over there. I think that was triage enough."

      1. Mike Pellatt

        Re: Not quite a bereavement..

        Dig out the youtube of a 1990's docu on British Railways - "Old, dirty and late"

        It has the inevitable "one-under". See the passengers being detrained via a single step half way down the side of the train. No chance today. But the best bit at 33' 26":

        MOM (Mobile Operations Manager) to paramedics: "Have we certified the body dead yet ?"

        Paramedic "Well, yeah, he's got no head"

        Wouldn't see that on TV these days.

  15. Franco

    Recently my car insurance auto-renewed (i told them not to, but they did it anyway, by cunningly emailing me at 4am on the day they took the cash out of my account). They then sent me an email telling me there was a problem with my account. I emailed back asking what the problem was, and got no answer.

    A week later a letter arrived telling me that my account would be cancelled the next day, as I had moved house without telling them. They made this deduction as the insurance documents had been returned to them. For some unknown reason they thought a letter to the same address that they thought I didn't live at was a good way to let me know, and couldn't understand why I ws furious with them.

    When I called up, with steam coming from my ears in a way that would have prompted Yosemite Sam to suggest that I needed to calm down, I got a very helpful girl who sorted everything out for me. However I asked to speak to a manager as a therapeutic vent was required, and he refused to speak to me as "he couldn't tell me anything that the operator hadn't already".

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Moral of the story: Never give any company the means to auto-renew anything. This includes auto-pay. Don't be such a lazy sod and spend the hour a month to sort out your bills. The last thing you want is to have your mobile bill deducted automatically only to find out they have 16 hours of calls to Bangladesh on your bill at £3/min and you don't know anybody there.

      1. jelabarre59

        For a brief time there were credit cards that provided the capability of using one-use credit card numbers. I'm pretty certain it was the very same companies that love to auto-bill people who put pressure on them to eliminate the capability.

  16. FuzzyWuzzys

    Love 'em!

    My wife phones up some company, they want security questions answered, she gives them my date of birth but they insist on me giving it in my voice. My wife holds out the phone and I scream across the room, "Yes, what she said!", support drone accepts this!

    1. Barry Rueger

      Re: Love 'em!

      It's a teansgender age. When I call the cable company I identify myself as my wife Susan. I dare them to challenge me.

  17. Flightmode


    I'm battling this exact thing today. I've ordered a pair of shoes online that are apparently being shipped directly from the manufacturer. I'm in Sweden, and whilst you can say many things about the postal carrier in this country, their tracking app is usually pretty damn good. Usually being the operative word.

    Since yesterday, my delivery was listed as being in Denmark; well, OK; that's fine. This morning I get an email saying "Hey, your delivery from Reebok is on its way - click this link to select when you want it delivered!". I click, and get their tracking website, spinny-wheel, preloaded page that says "Tracking your package from Reebok...", screen goes blank and then just "Tracking your package INCORRECT PACKAGE OR TRACKING NUMBER Try Again". Trying again yields the same result, so I try calling the helpline number they included in the email.

    After hopping through the IVR menu to find the package tracking section, the kind albeit slightly mechanical lady tells me "I have, based on your phone number found a package for you, last digits of tracking number is 1234 - if this is correct, press one; if not, press two". I obviously press 2 since that was nowhere near my number; she proceeds to ask me to key in my ACTUAL tracking number, and as I'm well-behaved I do so. She then proceeds me to say "We've sent you a text message, please hang up this call and continue the conversation via the link we sent you." Umm, thanks?

    So I get the text, click the link and someone in a chat window asks me "How can we help you with this package?". I stupidly enough type a courteous, longish, well-reasoned and witty explanation of my problem and I get the response "It looks like we haven't sent you a notice to pick this package up yet.". "Well, you sent me an email saying I should pick a delivery date?" "It looks like we haven't sent you a notice to pick this package up yet." OK, so you're a chatbot; gotcha. "You did, at 9:42 today." "Here are some questions you can ask, please choose one: What is my nearest pickup point?" *close window*

    Now there's a notice in the app that they're experiencing issues with their tracking system. The tracking website is just a spinning wheel. Friday the 13th, anyone?

    // Edit:

    Not thirty seconds after I posted this, my phone notifies me that I can now schedule the pickup, and it now works. Is this a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. or are they just watching me...?

    1. Stevie

      Re: Chatbot

      To paraphrase Neil from The Young Ones in his version of Hole in my Shoe : Your shoes hate you.

    2. Chris G

      Re: Chatbot

      Tracking wise, I had a parcel coming from AliExpress, it was apparently coming from their warehouse in the Netherlands. According to the tracking the parcel went from Holland to Singapore and then Romania where it got lost, I received a refund and then re ordered, on the same day I received my replacement parcel and the one lost one from Romania.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the time when contacted our company IT support

    1:"My company laptop has died, and i need to access webmail, but its not letting me in via VPN"

    2:"You can only access your webmail via your company laptop"

    3:"No you can do it via VPN. There is big button called webmail but its not taking me anywhere"

    4:"Let me remote logon to your company PC and I will see if we can sort the problem"

    Goto 1:

  19. TwistedPsycho

    I remember having to phone Northen Rock to change an address for a mortgage balance we were paying off. It was one of those 120% mortgages that the wife and I learnt was a bad idea.... anyway.

    So they took me through security and asked to speak to my wife for her to go through security either. I said she will find it difficult and is it really necessary just to change address.... yes it if.

    They could hear me reading out some of the details of our balance and payments which is as good as a security question. The agent said "We can hear Mr X reading you the answers." to which she replied honestly "I know, I am virtually blind and you refused to send me things in large print."

    She did not need to pass security after that.

  20. Terry 6 Silver badge

    No one mentioned..

    ...but we should for form's sake.

    They're always having a particularly busy time and you'll have to wait a little longer.. whenever you call.

    Particularly galling if it is always particularly busy at that time because then they should get more fucking staff on the phones..

    1. Charlie van Becelaere

      Re: No one mentioned..

      Furthermore -

      We always need to listen carefully to the menu as the selections have recently changed.

      It's no wonder we all press "0" as soon as possible!

    2. TomPhan

      Re: No one mentioned..

      And it's always unexpected

  21. LeahroyNake

    "CaRD machiNe NoT WoRkiNg".

    Card machine vendors really should know better.

    Our card machines from a large bank use some seemingly random ports to communicate to their servers, I just wanted to know what ports I should open to the devices (all in and outgoing blocked unless there is a requirement as per our company policy, I don't think that's a bad idea?) . Phoning their hell desk who were completely clueless as to what I was asking... Please email us with your issue... No reply in two days. You would think that nobody had ever asked this question before.

    I had to monitor the requests hitting the firewall from the thing to figure it out myself when a very short section in the admin manual would have sufficed. Fekkin useless. They also had an automatic FW update that added another port a few months ago with no notification grrrrrr.

    Time for a refreshment methinks!

  22. Mookster
    Thumb Up

    Card machine not working -> Free Breakfast

    Once happened to me at a bakery in Oslo. Everyone in the queue got their purchases for free

  23. Stevie


    Got a card in my electricity bill demanding a meter reading and threatening "estimated billing" if I didn't call in the numbers or use the web site in the next two weeks.

    Website requires registration. Registration requires linking Website Account to Checking Account in bank. Riiiiiiight. Not happening.

    Called 1800 number and got robot. navigated to meter reading autobotleg of the robophone tree. Entered the numbers. Got told "this reading is not typical for your usage, you must speak to a representative I will transfer you now. Please stay on the line afterward to fill in a short satisfaction survey."

    Call then immediately transferred me to the satisfaction survey, which got 6 1-outta-5 responses from me, having bypassed the part where I give the meter reading to someone who cares. This probably because the staff are only in 9-5 or some such unhelpfulness.

    Had to take a day off work so I used part of that to rinse and repeat. Got to representative who asked for the numbers. I gave them.

    She then asked "do you have a digital meter?", and I said "No. Five little clock faces".

    She said "Ah. Do the hands line up with the numbers?" I said "No, every hand is between numbers but I used the instructions on the card and read the next lower number."

    She asked if I could see the meter and I told her I had a photo on my cell phone of the dials. She then asked me to describe the readings. I read back "Between the 6 and seven, between the five and six, between the six and seven, between the five and four, between the six and seven".

    She confirmed that I had read the meter correctly and the number I had given her an estimated twenty subjective years before was indeed correct. I hung up on the satisfaction survey on account of it being an annoying waste of time too far.

    Why we can't have smart meters like we do with the water and gas companies is beyond me.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I stopped at Oxford services one morning, after a very long day and night; and ordered a HUGE breakfast, everything with extras of everything; went to pay with my card and.

    We cannot take card payments, the lines came down in last nights storm.

    But I havent enough cash on me.

    Try the cash machine over there.

    {Machine displays an error}

    I go back to the till

    Hmm, the lines came down in last nights storm.

    So how am I going to pay?

    Eat your food, and maybe the lines will be fixed by then.

    Eat food, still no service

    Well, pay us next time you are passing.

    10 years, I havent been back yet.

    WHY couldnt they have put up a sign saying the ATM and card machines were out of service? I would have just driven on to the next service station.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: FREE FOOD

      "WHY couldnt they have put up a sign saying the ATM and card machines were out of service? I would have just driven on to the next service station."

      This is why you want to travel with cash. If you couldn't make it to the next station on the fuel/charge you had, you would have been SOL. This is why I keep advocating for EV fast chargers to have a way you can pay with cash at the store if they are at a gas station. It's a great backup for when networks go down. I know that some EV chargers will revert to free service if the network goes down, but that's asking for bad things to happen to any exposed data infrastructure.

      Most of the businesses in my town are connected with the same provider so when the network goes down you can't buy anything in the city with plastic.

  25. David 45


    I needed a rare appointment with my doctor (and still do) for mystery leg and knee pains. Went to patient access website for appointment - says my practice is unavailable. Great. Phoned and was put on hold for 20 minutes, with foul music. Hung up. Tried again later: "We are experiencing a very high call rate at the moment", said robot. "We know you are waiting and you will be answered shortly". That "shortly" turned out to be 25 minutes. "Oh. we're not getting many appointments from the website these days", said the live female human receptionist. Hmm. Pointed out that it might be something to do with it coming up as "practice unavailable". "So how do I get an appointment at present?". "If you want one the same day, you have to ring at 0800 and we have appointments we can release". Once again, I pointed out that if I rang at 0800, and had to wait on hold for someone to answer for the best part of twenty five minutes, then that would probably negate the theory and I guess any same-day appointments would be all gone. "Well, we ARE rather short-staffed", was the excuse. Doh! It's almost as it the whole thing is actually engineered to keep those pesky patients away, as they're really a bit of a nuisance to the smooth running of the practice.

    1. Allan George Dyer

      Re: Frustration

      @David 45 - "It's almost as it the whole thing is actually engineered to keep those pesky patients away"

      And there you have it, the true purpose of these systems. Each part plays a role:

      Long wait times: many callers give up

      Incomprehensible and/or incomplete IVR options: more callers give up

      Long hold times: more callers give up - remaining callers are highly frustrated

      Frustrated callers explode in obscenities: Any enquiry reveals caller was abusive from the start of call, and therefore at fault

      No supervisor available: no route for complaint, cheaper staff

      They'll call you back: when hell freezes over

      Has anyone mentioned the "you'll have to call Department X, they handle it", "Can you transfer me?", "No", "You're a bloody telecommunications company and you don't even have an internal phone system!!!". Give in, and you're reduced to starting at the beginning on Department X's system.

      Hmm... add to my will, I'm to be stuffed (like Jeremy Bentham), any company or organisation that makes a mess of being informed of my demise gets a personal complaint visit to their most prominent office.

  26. AndyFl

    Extension 666

    A reference to the TheReg story on music on hold is required.

    "My ears are bleeding"

  27. Zarno

    Always best to just

    Always best to just mash 0 till you get a human.

    Or chant "Operator Operator Operator Operator" like you're having a Balmer moment if it's a "Tell me how to serve you to my overlords, chutney or jam?" IVR system.

    Or let loose with a string of Vogon poetry, or other such expletives, when it's a rat of a day and you're fed up with being prim and proper.

  28. alegr

    This is a Voight-Kampff test. In a few words, tell us what you are calling about.

    "Let me tell you what I'm calling about...

  29. matthewdjb

    I think you'll find the systems are implemented by people earning not very much either. Hence the quality.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy way thru the menu

    Just say operator.

  31. ecofeco Silver badge



  32. pAnoNymous


    "Please try again later" is just user friendly error: XXXTDHRGTHF75RU6TER

    It really means if it's bad enough and we notice we might fix it later but really we hope both you and the error magically disappear.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad News

    Most of the time, when the person on the phone is inordinately helpful, it is a personal choice. It can often affect their pay. The call centers where I've worked are paid bonuses based on the customer survey scores. The personal bonuses are based on internal call scoring. Helping out a customer in the most efficient and competent manner often involves ignoring unnecessary boondoggle. Great for customer service, but bad for the paycheck. I had one customer call back and ask to speak with my manager as well as filling out the survey. My managers were so enthused that they pulled a recording of the call for training. I processed everything correctly, but I forgot to tell the customer about the survey. They docked me 10 points which put me under the bonus level, again. I pointed out that the customer was so pleased with the service that they proactively filled out the survey and even called back for the express purpose of telling someone. Their response? "Stick to the script." I had the highest scores when it came to customer satisfaction and retention, yet I never was eligible for the bonus. The only people who received the bonuses were the ones who stuck rigidly to the script. I lost out on $750 worth of bonuses in 6 months. There were a few of us who decided it was more important to actually help the customers then get a bonus, at least until we found better jobs elsewhere.

    If you consistently receive excellent customer service from a company, let them know. A company that fosters actual customer service is rare and invaluable.

    TLDR: The nice ones are usually cutting arbitrary nonsense and paying for it out of their paycheck if they get caught.

    1. jelabarre59

      Re: Sad News

      If you consistently receive excellent customer service from a company, let them know. A company that fosters actual customer service is rare and invaluable.

      If I get a moderately competent support person, even f it's some crapass company incapable of fixing the problem, I'll be sure to give the rep top ratings, then when it asks for any further comments, I'll put in a remark to the effect of "the rep was terrific, it's your COMPANY that sucks".

  34. Rhuadh

    Working in a call centre, for my sins, forgive me!

    Over a period of some years working from being a startup operation, where no one had any real idea of organisation and we expected to take messages and spend a couple of hours unpaid after the phones had closed, to try and remember what was supposed to be done and mostly failing.

    Then came the first scripts which had to be stuck to or face "a meeting with management", after a couple of months management realised that most callers had needs which weren't mentioned in the scripts, so they were quietly abandoned and the systems refined allowing a free flowing system to evolve. Then a new manager, and new scripts, followed by the dawning realisation that customers were not happy with the "new" experience and as we were in a high £ value environment, we went back to free flow. Government legislation next, and new scripts, which when somebody realised that most of the callers were on about totally different reasons and we went back to free flow. Then it dawned on senior management of the money making opportunities in pushing unnecessary products, which needed of course, a script, until the legal team advised it was not just immoral but severely, illegal.

    Happily, I have now another job, before the robot system really got going, (bought from an Aussie pizza company and upgraded).

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please tell us what you are calling about

    currently, the least time-wasting tactic is to ignore all their prompts, not to press any buttons, it's - on average - much faster to get through to a human by following this "option", than by any other. Of course, once it becomes too regular, "they" will invent a new way to NOT help you and extract a little money in the process. But, in the meantime... ignore the prompts, put it on loudspeaker, put the kettle on, check the news, etc, you will get somewhere in the end.

  36. FlippingGerman

    British Gas

    Does the "tell a robot what your problem is" on the phone. Bastards. That alone is enough reason to find someone else (I've found Scottish Power to be much better, call them, they talk to you and do the thing).

  37. Ghostman

    You are #1 in the Que

    Tried to contact a streaming service about signing up. Went to their "chat room". Started chat, asked my questions, and hit send.

    "You are #1 in the Que, a representative will be with you in a moment."

    Five minutes later, "All Representatives are busy at the moment, we will start the chat when one gets available. you are number 6 in the Que".

    This is underneath the banner advising 24/7 award wining support help.

    Every few minutes the message came up with me getting farther down the line

    UNTILL, someone brings up the chat page.

    While I'm typing my response, the chat page closes.

    Guess they didn't want my money, which they didn't get.

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