When Camp came into the pub, I could tell that all was not well. He mumbled to himself and seemed out of sorts. ‘What’s happening Camp. Everything all right?’
He sat down with a heavy sigh and shook his head. ‘I’m so fed up with trying to reach people from Revenue Canada or Expedia, from the bank to my internet provider or insurance company. Either I get somebody on the phone I can hardly understand or I get put on hold or they forward me to another number which usually brings me back around to the number I originally called like an endless loop.’
‘You’re not alone Camp. It happens to all of us. Try calling Amazon or WestJet and you’re up against a virtual stone wall.’
‘After listening to several repeated recordings like: ‘We are experiencing larger than normal call volumes but your call is important to us; please stay on the line and a customer service representative will be with you shortly and then I had to listen to bad elevator music. I finally did get an operator who said: ‘Good evening.’ Since this was still morning, I assumed the operator was in Mumbai or Manila. After explaining what I needed I was told that I had the wrong department and would be transferred to the proper one.’ I tried to protest but there was only the familiar endless ring and then the same lifeless avatar voice of blah, blah, blah. Enough to drive anybody mad.’
‘I completely sympathize Camp,’ I said, ‘It reminds me when I overpaid Telus and tried to get my money back. I ended up talking to an operator in Guatemala City, his name was Charley, who eventually sorted it out for me but that was years ago. My friend tried to get hold of WestJet in January to complain about a flight they cancelled but nobody even picked up the phone after listening to the same Kafkaesque loop for several hours.
‘Exactly,’ Camp said. ‘It seems to be the new corporate policy. Just don’t answer the phone, which is always an obscure 1-800 number. That way no response or explanation is required.’
‘And when you do get through to a human voice, it’s most likely a person who cannot make a decision or is not authorized to discuss this with you since your wife is the primary account holder or tells you to go to the webpage to make those changes or if all else fails, ask you to hold and then there is the familiar dial tone or canned music.’
‘I like the one when after you screamed and yelled at the poor operator who then says in a calm voice: ‘I completely understand sir, is there anything else I can help you with?’
We both clearly needed a calming draught from our pints.
‘Which brings us to the larger question: Who can you trust to help you on your way?’
Since this was a rhetorical question Camp answered it himself: ‘Not your mechanic. I had an estimate for front brakes for $ 2000 from the dealership and after I went to the local mechanics shop, I paid a third, $ 700, for the same work and parts. Not your investment banker who promised to keep in touch and manages your RRSP portfolio and then forgot to tell you that he took another job somewhere else and the investment company was sold to a bank with which you had no prior dealings. Talk about anxiety. I finally found somebody sympathetic; he was a bad English speaker from a call center in Mississauga who could not find my account since the old company didn’t exist anymore. After some very agitated pleas on my part, he finally supplied me with a secret phone number that eventually got me some answers. I’ve wasted hours of my time dealing with corporate phone robots and automated voice message services. It’s the new way.’
‘You can trust your server,’ Vicky intercepted Camp’s rant, ‘and I trust you two gents will want another pint?’
‘You can count on us,’ Camp nodded emphatically.