Monthly Archives: July 2007

Automated Customer Service from Hell

I’m off to the UK next week to exchange the flooding rains of Texas for the flooding rains of middle England. (Sigh). After I booked my flights a couple of weeks ago, I never received an itinerary via email, so I decided to call today to get one. I first called Delta Airlines, believing it to be the airline I had booked on, and was immediately flung into their voice response system.

After the usual “press 2 to…” dive through the menu system, I was asked to read my confirmation number: “SPWCLA”. No problem, the system understood me at the first attempt. Cool. I was quickly connected to a live operator and, guess what? I was immediately asked for the confirmation number again.

“But I just gave it to you!” (snarl)

Why does this always happen? Do they do it just to annoy their customers that little bit more, so they will never have the temerity to call customer service again?

Anyway, after they could not find the reservation, I told them I remembered I was going through Chicago on the way to London.

“Chicago?? This is Delta Airlines.” (as in, are you kidding me?)


So, moving swiftly on, I then called the correct airline, United Airlines. I get “press 2 to …” about five times before we’re back to: “tell me your confirmation number, use common names if you want…”.

(Good idea, I thought, foolishly.) “Sam, Peter, Walt, Chris, (uh-oh, er) Larry, Andrew”

“Was that D-P-W-R-P-A”


“I’m sorry, my mistake.” (coo) “Please try again”

(Forget the names) “S-P-W-C-L-A”

“was that S-P-Z-C-L-A”


“I’m sorry, my mistake.” (coo, purr) “Please try again”


“was that F-D-C—”


“I’m sorry, I assure you that it is my fault.” (coo, purr, soothe) “Please try again”

“S!! P!! W!! C!! L!! A!!”

“was that F—”


“I’m sorry, my mistake, please wait while I connect you to a live operator…” (cue the music)

The live operator I was eventually connected to was very lucky that over 10 minutes had passed since I had yelled down the phone at their machine. Word to the wise, shouting letters at a voice response unit doesn’t make it any more accurate.

I am a pretty calm person most of the time, but I could feel the blood pressure rising to dangerous levels. And to think that my last five working years at IBM were dedicated to creating software to help make these vile automated voice response units possible. I don’t believe in karma… really, I don’t…


Hi y’all! Welcome to my personal web log.

It will be a work in progress, so expect things to change around a lot, but I will try to post on a regular basis. What sort of things will I post? Well, come back later and find out!

But here’s a clip from Catherine Tate to get things started. It is a beautifully crafted little sketch, and always makes me laugh, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

(Note: for Britishly-challenged viewers, John Nettles is a well-known English TV actor (now in his 60s) with a long history on the Beeb as a leading man, and “Nukie Brown” is Newcastle Brown Ale.)