Operator, Dammit. I Said Operator!


Everyone hates phone trees. And some of us hate them even more now that they employ crappy voice-recognition software ("I'm sorry, I didn't understand that. Did you say 'cancel my account'?"). Mercifully, for every time The Man screws you, there's some innovator out there waiting to screw him right back. Meet NoPhoneTrees.com.

Here's what the BETA does, according to a company rep:

"Our mission is to help users skip phone trees and connect with a real human on the customer support phone lines at many companies throughout the U.S. Users simply choose the company they wish to call, and we'll dial the company directly, navigate their phone tree, and call them back when they are in queue for an operator or customer service representative."

Via Freakonomics blog.

NEXT: Be sure and stay for the closing-credits blooper reel!

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  1. Bloody brilliant.

  2. When I call my dental insurance company, I usually say “Get some new goddamn voice recognition software!”

    Response: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Are you calling to file a claim, check claim status, or enroll as a new member?”

    Then I curse at it again. Then I curse yet again. And eventually it connects me to a person.

  3. Or you could try going to gethuman.com and waste even less time.

  4. As a saltwater hobbyist, I think it’s awesome that Drs. Foster and Smith has a human being pick up the phone right away – no voice jail.

  5. I don’t mind phone trees in the slightest. I have to talk to enough people as it is. If I could replace any of them with robots I could.

  6. Get Human is also a good resource with a database of the buttons you press for companies to get a real live human. You can find them here:


  7. Of course, it is consumers who are responsible for phone trees… Human labor costs money, and those costs must be passed on to the consumer. Consumers are overwelmingly choosing bad support and service for lower prices.

    If you want to pay for support or service, you WILL get fantastic support and service! For example, if you buy your stereo or TV stuff at a local audiophile shop instead of Best Buy (and pay the much higher cost), you won’t have to wait on hold or go through any phone menus to have someone eager to help you.

  8. I would usually prefer to do everything in a phone tree. Whenever I’m waiting for a real person, I usually end up spending an hour because the phone lines are always unusually busy, the operator can’t speak clearly (especially the Americans who make little effort), and throughout most of the call I have to listen to the operator tapping on his keyboard.

    The problem is that phone trees rarely solve your problems until you speak with a real person. I remember about eight years or so ago when my preferred airline got a voice recognition system — it was great because it was simple to use, accurate, required no waiting or speaking to a grumpy airline employee. That was probably the peak of phone trees. Once they put the phone tree on the customer service line (“Are you stuck at an airport because our pilots are on a work slowdown? Please answer yes or no.”) everything went downhill.

  9. As a broadcaster, it amazes me whenever I call a radio station and get a phone tree: fer chrissakes, WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE BUSINESS OF COMMUNICATING WITH PEOPLE!

  10. I’m with Jarod. You can often get get your business done much quicker working with a computer. I’ll admit I’m mystified as to why they invented “voice recognition” software. It’s still the same choices, only now the damned computer can’t recognize them until the second or third try.

    A good innovation I’ve seen is for companies to send a map of their phone tree to their customers. Or put them on their web site. At least then you can take a look at where you’re being led to determine whether or not you’re going to have to deal with a real person.

  11. I actually didn’t know they had a name.

    What a great concept.

    The best phone tree ever was on an 800 number I’ve long forgotten. It went through numbers one through eight and for number nine a very pleasant woman’s voice said:

    if you’d like to hear a duck quack, press nine. And if you pressed nine, you got to hear a really great duck call.

  12. WC (Can I call you WC?)

    That would be National Discount Brokers, and they were recently bought out by Ameritrade. Funny summary here.


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