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Please continue to hold…

Marcy O’Brien

My day began with a simple plan. Resolve a few questions on the phone. Make a few appointments then finish my column. This is not the column I started. You’ll see. I got side-tracked …

“Please continue to hold – our representatives are currently assisting other customers.”

That was the first change to the day. Okay lady, I understand that all of you are busy, but I will continue to hold because I need an answer from your bank. I need to know why suddenly I cannot access half of my bank accounts on-line.

I know, I know – half my bank accounts? Sounds like something Warren Buffet would complain about. But I have to keep things straight, so for me, that means a checking account, a joint checking account, a tax account and savings accounts for my grandchildren.

I think the interest on those kiddies’ savings accounts would be more if I were plunking coins into a piggy bank, but I have the automatic deposit account in the bank so that I know the money is going in every month – it’s not dependent on my remembering to do it. Right now the interest on one account is 3 cents quarterly and the other is 8 cents.

“Please continue to hold – our representatives are currently assisting other customers.”

I’ve been listening to this recorded gal for so long that I’ve figured out that she repeats this sentence every 36 seconds. I would have sworn it was every ten seconds, but it’s not. I’ve been on hold for 14 minutes so she’s now repeated “Please continue to hold – our representatives are currently assisting other customers” 23 times. Oops, there she goes again.

She was in mid-sentence when her helper, the real live customer service agent arrived on-line. She was helpful although after she asked my birthdate to verify my account, she started talking slower and began to treat me as if I were past the age of understanding instructions in computerese.

When this happens I usually question one of their applications and when I toss in the word “algorithm” they begin speaking to me normally again. I wish they’d ask the name of my third-grade teacher or my first prom date rather than go right for the jugular, the birth date. It is bad enough being coddled by people who can see my white hair without the customer service folks determining I’m over the hill – over the phone.

It took another 15+ minutes but we finally got things straightened out at the bank.

I called a catalog only to check on a back-ordered item.

“We are experiencing higher customer service volume than usual. We value your business. Please remain on the line and we will be with you as soon as possible.” I am a quick study. I learned after 22 minutes of listening to that liar that her particular catalogue does not value my business. If they valued my business they’d hire more liars to help me. 22 minutes to learn that the item is further back-ordered.

I decided not to make another phone call until I calmed down. So I moved onto the computer. Immediately after logging on, I ran into trouble accessing an information web site. After 20 minutes of trying EVERYTHING I knew how to do, I gave up. (I am not always a quick study after all).

I decided to make my two appointments on the house phone. What’s this? My phone has no dial tone and the read-out instructs: “check signal.” Is this a conspiracy?

When the landline didn’t work I decided to check out the television. During the last cable price negotiations, we had bundled the computer, phone, and TV together. Now, none of the three is working. A black TV, a silent phone, and a non-responsive computer. How lucky can I get? And I need to send a finished column to the newspaper. Today.

Time to call the cable company – and against all odds, I had remembered to charge my cell phone overnight. The cable company answers with an interminably long lesson in how to pay my bill over the phone. No thanks, the bank pays it. Then a long sales pitch about combining premium channels with streaming packages, Then, surprise: “Please continue to hold – our representatives are currently assisting other customers.”

In between her usual repetitions, a recorded man interrupted to tell me about their cable system being down in Johnstown and modem problems in Altoona. I then received an audio lesson in how to change my modem battery – if I’m in Altoona. Well, I wasn’t, but I checked anyway to see if the modem was working. It was.

Then back to “Please continue to hold – our representatives are currently assisting other customers.”

After a 20+ minute hold, I was offered the opportunity to receive a call-back. When the airlines do this it works, so I gave the cable folks my cell phone number. About 20+ minutes later they did call back – just as the live picture popped onto the television screen and my home phone started to beep.

Whatta way to start the day. What with the bank, the catalogue, the cable company, the computer, the phones, the modem, the television and what was remaining of my patience, Thursday morning died. I started at 9:00 AM to make a few quick phone calls and finish my column. It was almost 1:30 when I was able to return to writing BUT – I had a planned meeting at 2:00.

I didn’t think they’d accept “Please continue to hold – our representatives are currently assisting other customers.”

Marcy O’Brien is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists ad can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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