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This has happened to you

Rosanne Skopp

Your call is very important to us. Please wait for the next available operator.

Sigh! Give me a break! That message actually should be: “Your call is very unimportant to us. Please hang up and forget all about your issue.”

It is increasingly a sign that companies, small as well as huge, hold us in disdain. They cannot be bothered to figure out a better way for customer service to actually provide the service we are seeking. It could be a doctor’s office or an airline or your local pharmacy. It makes little difference. A quick answer is a bad sign! It means you are headed straight for the infamous, increasingly long, and frustrating, hold. Your call may or may not be important, but clearly you are very unimportant. Your time has no value at all.

I suppose that’s the real reason for speaker phones. We can clean the kitchen or fold the laundry or read the newspaper or even write a blog post, all while listening to the elevator music that these companies usually provide. They should, perhaps, ask if we prefer classical, operatic, rock, country, showtunes, or maybe even blessed silence, at least a sign that our taste in music is important to them. Of course the silence option actually may not be such a good idea. We may think they’ve hung up, which is not uncommon at all, leading us to redial the call and then be even further down the queue.

There’s just no winning!

And, like everything else, from the cost of eggplant or cream cheese, please don’t blame this on the pandemic. Companies are making record profits and plenty of people are looking for jobs. Every insult thrown our way is not because of covid. This is an issue that actually long preceded the virus and no doubt will outlast it as well.

Don’t think it’s any better in Israel. It isn’t. The message there doesn’t merely ask if you prefer Spanish to English. There they go through a menu of Anglit, Russit, Ivrit, Sfaradit, and a couple of others. I always, really ignorantly for many reasons, choose Anglit. Then I hold and hold and hold and sof sof, an operator comes on the line in Hebrew. Does she actually speak Anglit — English? No. Of course she doesn’t. Why on earth would I even ask? Don’t be naive! Then she disconnects. .In Hebrew!

That’s the total worst case scenario. Hold forever and then hear the most chilling of sounds, the dial tone. Can this really be happening to me? Or you? You bet your booties!

Many of these companies, in both my countries, refer me to their website. There’s no use getting angry with a website. It doesn’t help at all. The computer could care less. Just like the human you’ve already spoken to. The problem is that often the website was your first step, and it just didn’t clarify enough. For example, the other day I decided to check whether a particular pharmacy company was stocked with the latest covid19 vaccine. After plenty of careful reading, the answer is: I still don’t know. Now, I’m taking a deep breath and embarking on a phone call, anticipating the endurance test to follow. And, pity the poor senior citizen, perhaps my age or older, with no computer skills or no computer whatsoever. Up the creek!

Often the really big companies have a brilliant diversionary tactic to avoid speaking to you. The person who finally answers your call barely speaks English. Do you think that’s an accident? I definitely do not. I ask him or her to please speak slower or louder, but that doesn’t help at all. If they don’t speak the language, speed or volume really doesn’t make a difference.

When you finally get to someone — it could be hours from when you started — they are oh so apologetic. I often wind up asking them to please stop apologizing and help me with the issue. The response to that is, of course, additional apologies. No way to win.

The other day, after much frustration, I finally got to a good woman on a huge company’s phone system. It was such a blessed event that I’m almost afraid to give it an ayin hara, evil eye. Here’s what happened.

We bought a new dishwasher and were awaiting the delivery and installation. Two delivery/installer guys plunked the machine down in the kitchen and then looked at what we thought was everything needed to remove the old one and replace it with the new one. Ooops. Not so fast!

They told us the water turnoff valve was broken and had to be replaced. We needed a plumber to do that. They were not plumbers. Then they moved the machine into the garage and left.

Luckily we were able to get a plumber on that same day. He checked out the problem and promptly diagnosed it as a misdiagnosis (if doctors can do that, plumbers certainly can). The valve was fine, $232.44 due (really, not 40 cents but 44). He left after 10 minutes and we were in a state of denial. Was this going to be an ongoing nightmare, where the installers returned and wouldn’t do the job until we hired a plumber again? Was our garage going to be the new home of a new dishwasher that was not connected?

So I called the giant store, known to all of you, where we had purchased the presently useless item, and actually, within less than three minutes, I spoke to a woman with intelligence, common sense, and, most of all, compassion. She got to my heart with the line that she is also a consumer and she knows just how I feel. I think I sent her a phone-kiss, an item that doesn’t yet exist but should for occasions like this!

My husband and I rejoiced. Here was an actual person, a bonafide humane human being, and she spoke English loud and clear, and she didn’t put any elevator music on, and she seemed to understand the problem perfectly.

She promised to reimburse us for the plumber’s fee. Can you just imagine? I mean, it hasn’t happened yet, but I do believe her.

And then she rescheduled the appointment for a few days hence. I believe that as well.

Now, after washing dishes by hand for a few days, I see that I can live without a dishwasher. But maybe it won’t even come to that. Maybe my newest friend actually will be my dream come true. Maybe the installers will show up on schedule and not tell me there are other unforeseen problems. Maybe the huge company will continue to answer my calls and treat me with respect and heart.

Maybe.

Naturally, one success amidst so many failures and frustrations does not mean this problem we all have will be eradicated, erased, or eliminated. There’s still the pharmacy call!

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!

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