Here is the situation, a permutation of which is familiar to us all:
I decide to redeem some of my credit card points to get a gift certificate for "any airline, any destination, any class" to put towards a flight to California. Since, oh right, they're $500. So I call up the 1-800 number and am of course greeted by an automated system to begin the rigamarole. I often just repeatedly push "0" in hopes that I'll get to an operator and bypass the ridiculosity. Because this is what happens: They ask for my 16 digit credit card number. So I put it in. Then they ask for my 5 digit zip code. So I put it in. They ask me for my security code. So I put THAT in. Then they ask me a whole series of questions about what precisely I would like to accomplish on this call, "If you are calling for so and so press 1, if you are calling for such and such press 2" and ON AND ON. Because mine is invariably option 6. Every time. But I listen until option 14 just to be sure that one of those isn't better, because I DON'T WANT TO BE SENT TO THE WRONG PERSON. And then they keep narrowing it down. "If you are calling for domestic travel press one, if you are calling for international travel press two." "If you would like to go to one of the continental 48 states press one, if you would like to go to Alaska or Hawaii press two." "If you would like the most direct flight and pay hundreds of dollars more press one, if you would like to connect in Mozambique first in order to get the cheapest flight possible press two." So finally they are convinced that I have entered enough information and I am at long last transferred to a person who can help me with my needs.
Now, one would think that since I put in all that information, it would, oh I dunno, be on the computer screen of this man who has been specifically selected to help me. Apparently that would be too logical. Because the first thing this man asks me is for my 16 digit credit card number. And expiration date. And security code. And zip code. And first and last name. And my mother's cousin's brother-in-law's social security number. Then, and only then, is he safe to assume I am who I say I am.
And then he says, "Well Miss Shpenglehrr how can I help you today?" To which I want to reply, Oh, so all those buttons I pressed telling you EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO BE HELPED WITH TODAY meant nothing? Thanks. And remember when I just told you my name 5 seconds ago and you botched it like my name was Chandrasekaranthemsetty? Double thanks.
But instead I say, I would like to book a flight please.
In the end I get my flight, on the days and at the times I want, and I get it for a "reasonable" price since I used the gift certificate earned by all those points racked by work expenses (yay perks!). But seriously, does it need to be that painful? And why do they ask all those questions when you end up at the same person regardless of your input? Only to be asked again? Seriously. There must be a better way. And really, who is responsible for those automated systems? Whose job is it to make them? And what kind of degree do you need to design these systems in such a way as to be completely irrelevant to anyone and frustrating to everyone, yet an integral part of American society as we know it? Because I bet I could be value-add there. Turn the whole ship around. Jazz it up a bit. Or maybe even just make it relevant. Because wouldn't that be nice.