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« Conference Call Etiquette | Main | Fooled by Randomness »

I, Voice Mail

I have just finished arguing with a voice mail system.

I was calling UPS. I have two books on order, scheduled to arrive at the office today. But the last scan is from last night, and it's the check-in scan to the warehouse in Commerce City. So I wanted to call, to see if it were on the truck, and if it weren't to do as I had done before and drop by the warehouse and pick the thing up for myself.


First, the voicemail asks me what it can do for me. (Heh.) It lists 4 items, beginning with "Track a Package."

Me: Customer Service
It (Slightly peeved at having been interrupted, and been asked for an item not on the menu): That's ok, and I can connect you with a customer service agent, but first, select one of the four options, "Track a..."
Me: Track a package
It (Breathing a slight sigh of relief): Please say your tracking number
Me (Breathing a slight sigh of annoyance): 1Z 189 093 04 505 38 HS
It: (Tells me what I already see on the web tracking screen)
It: Now, what else can I do for you? Track a package, ...
Me: Customer Service
It (Clearly annoyed at being asked to interrupt someone's coffee break): I can connect you with a customer service agent, but that is the most recent information available on your package. Would you still like me to connect you with a cusomer service agent? If so, say, "yes."
Me: Yes.
It: If so, say, "please."

No, I made that last part up, but you see where this sort of thing could lead you. I remember a science fiction story in Omni many years ago, about a game played by bureaucracies. The purpose of the game was to get the public very, very upset. Points were awarded on the basis of how ticked off individuals got, and how out of control they behaved. The real purpose of the game was to discourage public interaction by discouraging the public from showing up at all. I believe the beta version of the game is being tested now at various DMVs around the country.

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