I’m still a little west of the 100th meridian and much of my time has been occupied with the backlog of being old. Once upon a time, old people would receive their services — financial services, pharmacy services, etc. — in person. Now those services are delivered virtually. The investment advisor at the bank is no more: you need to navigate a phone tree to manage your money. Your Medicare Part D policy gives you a big discount if you get your prescriptions via mail order, so there’s another phone tree to navigate. Setting up a web account seems like a smart idea, until someone forgets their password.
Getting old in the virtual world of outsourced customer support just plain sucks. The end.
Being old is no job for the young
The phone trees are out of control. There are offices where there are like two people, and they throw you in a phone tree. There are people calling neurologists offices being thrown in a phone tree. If you are calling a neurologist, chances are your brain does not work right, and they are making it harder for you. This behavior is very bad, and I hate it.
I like the virtual services. Also- you can still have an investment advisor- you just talk to them on the phone. Were you going to visit them before? :)
I thought this was for sure going to be a John Cole post!
There may be some inconvenience during this transitional period, but as soon as all our bodies have been moved into the support pods and plugged into the matrix, these issues will go away.
(Unless some idiot decides to put them in the simulation for verisimilitude. One of the dumber bits of the original — arguably second only to the battery — was that the simulation included jobs, illness, homelessness, garbage cans…. Not the way I would write the requirements.)
I think the phone tree is something that’s universally hated, not just by the olds.
ETA: But we’ve all learned to say “AGENT” now.
If you wish to make a snarky comment, please press 3.
@WaterGirl: Me too!
To be a little more precise, to be old and have the world rearrange itself in ways you no longer can understand sucks.
I’m at an age (67) that brought the internet forth into the world, and my cohort is just about the first to be able to “naturally” navigate it. Those over 70 are pretty much screwed, unless they were on top of technology until they retired.
This, I suspect, is as it ever was, and ever will be. My blessings go to you who manage these things for your parents, as I did. And those of you with children you can trust to do the same better consider yourselves lucky. We childless ones are wondering who will care enough to take care of us when we no longer can do for ourselves.
@Ken: There was an attempt to justify that. Someone, one of the Agents I think, said that version 1.0 of the Matrix was paradise, but that the human brains couldn’t cope and rejected it as impossible or something like that.
I have discovered that phone trees do often respond to profanity by shortcutting you to a hyoo-man, and as a hard-of-hearing old I find that to be a useful trait. Until, of course the hyoo-man I reach has an unintelligible accent.
I hope the person who invented those instruments of torture dies in an everlasting lake of fire.
We dumped sprint/t-mobile and they apparently owed us money. So instead of cutting us a check they mailed us a credit/debit card attached to some bank we’ve never heard of. In order to use it, we need to register with that bank, set up a pin, etc.
I’m ok with virtual services, buy I’m dreading the day they invent the three seashells.
“Calling The Cable Company” is a sketch that shows a complete emotional breakdown. I think most of us have had this experience, except (hopefully) for the ending.
Si desea hacer un comentario sarcástico en español, oprima ocho.
Oh, Spanky, it’s so true. I’m 66 and having a terrible time keeping up with the computer technology in my job. Luckily I’m very good at all the rest of the job, so I have a tacit agreement with my younger coworkers — I ask them tech questions, and they ask me questions about all the other parts of the job.
And don’t even talk to me about mail/Amazon/FedEx delivery prescriptions. Someone in my office was having a prescription delivered here since they were not at home — working in the office during business hours several days in a row, and didn’t want it left outside their door to be stolen. It never arrived, despite e-mails from Fed Ex saying it had shipped, been delivered, etc. The recipient eventually gave up and ordered it from their neighborhood CVS. Fed Ex finally admitted they hadn’t really delivered it but they never found it.
FWIW, I have an investment adviser with whom I speak on the phone and exchange emails.
I think you just need to find the right bank. Some investment firms are only there to funnel money.
Too much overgeneralizing about “the old” in this post and some of the comments. I will stop there lest I get intemperate.
No Cyberspace for Old Men.
Can’t stop what’s coming. That’s vanity.
I love not having to deal with semi_competent people in person. But I also try to avoid the telephone. Fortunately, I am fairly computer literate and have some useful apps. Ordering my medications via an app is a snap, and mail delivery beats going to the pharmacy in person any day of the week. I recently received an automatic message to get my Covid booster and was able to effortlessly select a date and time.
Some time back, before the pandemic, I had to go to the Social Security office to get some information for my mother. I noticed that the seats were uncomfortable, the space was tough to navigate if you used a cane or wheelchair and a lot of the signs would be hard to read for folks with bad eyesight. An office where older people were likely to visit was not designed with their needs in mind.
ETA. The new Pixel 6 phone supposedly has a feature to help people navigate around phone menus by displaying the options as text. No idea how well this works.
@Kay: I’m an Old, and I like being able to do a lot online that used to require my real-life presence. In many ways it’s been a life-saver during the pandemic to acquire what I need without going out to brave an infected world.
To the extent I can, I avoid the phone trees completely, even to the point of writing actual business letters when all other avenues are cut off. When I am caught in phone tree hell, though, I do as Baud suggests: I yell “Representative!” repeatedly into the phone until I get connected to a real person. Don’t know if this is apocryphal, but I’m told they have programs that can gauge your anger level from the tone of your voice, so it helps to raise it.
Yesterday I stopped in at my Walgreen’s, showed them my Pfizer 1 and 2 vaxx card (which the very same pharmacist had given me last spring), and asked to sign up for my booster — I’ll be eligible in mid-November. Nope. Even though I was right there, she couldn’t write my name in the book. I have to sign up on line. Chances of my remembering my Walgreen’s password? < 0.
Yes, that was my experience at Walgreens.
A few days ago, Cole put up a cheerful post where he said something like “I’ll be visiting my local Walgreens to ask them about getting my booster!” and I remember thinking “God no, poor Cole.”
@SiubhanDuinne: Walgreens has been pissing off a lot of people this way. Someone I know was in an empty Walgreens, and they told the person to sign up online.
Yesterday, my doctor told me “Hey, you qualify for your booster.” I was surprised so I went back with my vaccination card today.
Typical misadventure yesterday… Got an email ‘reminder’ that I had a doctor’s appointment early next week. The difficulty was that I didn’t. The appointment was with a dermatologist, I hadn’t made it, I had never heard of her. So, I looked her up and called her office— got to the ‘wait for a human to pick up the phone’ step, but no one picked up. Hung up, waited five minutes, called again. Someone picked up this time, I explained the problem, cancelled the appointment. Ignored ‘reminder’ text message that arrived five minutes later. We’re all just living in a world of interacting databases.
Emma from Miami
After almost a year, pre-retirement, of trying to deal with the insanity that is Medicare, I turned over all my care to Pasteur Medical Center. I really don’t know if there are similar groups in places other than South Florida, but the clinicas are a very old Latin American tradition. In Cuba they were, as I understand it, private health associations that a family could join. In SF they work with Medicare to provide all inclusive medical services including meds, plus added value such as exercise classes, OTC meds (I get a budget of $64 monthly for my purchases), travel coverage. The moment my Medicare kicked in they started a series of baseline tests that will go on through December. I already have dental, vision, and cancer care appointments scheduled in addition to my regular annual checkup. Oh, and since the plague hit, frozen meals are provided to the lowest income members. They send me complete financial reports every month. I am very relieved the stress of doing all the background work myself.
My retirement investment advisors are TIAA-Cref. They have tended my financial garden with great care since 1985. No complaints.
@Baud: I just keep punching “0” until I get put through to a live person. If that fails (hasn’t yet) that’s the last interaction I will have with that company.
Denmark takes a photo of infants to put on an ID Card. My son and daughter in law had babies taken, like a passport photo. OMG, so cute. It’s like a little mug shot! Babies first mug shot.
Now imagine having to navigate all of these services as an elder with vision problems.
OTOH: called to make some doc appointments today (rather than doing it all online). After an 8-minute wait–during which I was encouraged to do it online! or leave a callback number!–I got an actual human who helped me schedule three appointments, then helped me get to the person who could schedule a fourth appointment. And that fourth one will occur TODAY, thanks to a cancellation. I hope they send me a survey, because he was really very helpful–and I want to encourage these in-person interactions rather than Stupid Phone Trees.
Vision problems. Or hearing problems. Or tremors. Or just being old.
FWIW, I prefer you guys to real people.
@JanieM: Yeah, I get annoyed at the Old = Computer Illiterate thing, too. I’m 74 and have been using computers since the late 60’s, and I’m not an IT professional. My parents, 24 and 25 years older than I, were perfectly at home with computers and in cyberspace, and in fact began using email before I did. I’m sure there are a lot of old people still who never got the hang of it, but the generalization rankles. People forget which generation Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee came from.
It’s a sad state of affairs when the advice given by seniors to other seniors is to yell into the phone in order to get service
On the other hand we lived through a remarkable era that saw men go to the moon and the development of amazing medicine
My cardiologist recently changed their menu options. It’s now a total black hole. Next week’s appointment is likely to be my last with this group.
Emma from Miami
@smith: I get that from people that know I spent 30 years as an academic librarian, the last 10 as the digital repository manager at my institution. I have scorched some butts, let me tell you.
WHY DO YOU PREFER YOU GUYS TO REAL PEOPLE?
Looking back: Simon says.
@smith: Me too. I learned FORTRAN while in high school, in the early ‘60s. In those days, you learned assembly language before moving up to the higher-level stuff.
There are a few things that are good about living in Texas. One is H.E.B. grocery stores. Another is Frost Bank. When you call, you always talk to a human who is happy to hear from you and anxious to solve your problem. I have been with them for more than 20 years and have never had a problem, technical or otherwise. Good customer service is so important.
Mrs Kelly just got off the phone with Citibank. We received two new new credit cards, Hers activated easily via the phone tree. Mine wouldn’t. Kept getting kicked out as invalid account. Turns out when one was activated they both are. It never told us it was already active. Finally got a human, not even sure how. Pretty sure we used to have activate each card but the pleasant sort vaguely implied this is the way it always worked.
Mai Naem mobile
This isn’t just an old folks customer service issue. Any utilitycompany/bank/insurance/phone/large company. Jeezus christ. I just either press 00000000 or say customer service – louder each time so that I am yelling it by the fifth time around. Oh, and every damn one of them says “our options have recently changed” when they haven’t changed for years.
@SpaceUnit: I had a wonderful investment advisor for more than 15 years. Never met him, but we spoke on the phone several times a year, and emailed as needed. Great guy, delightful business relationship. Alas, he retired. His replacement couldn’t get rid of me fast enough — seemed the level of my invested assets wasn’t worth his time or attention. Which I finally figured out when he asked me if I couldn’t find someplace else to park my money. Sigh.
My housemate has multiple medical problems and is always on the phone with Stanford Medical Center. It’s almost impossible to call a doctor directly, she gets the central call center most of the time. Of course the message that starts the call takes several minutes; first “if this is an emergency, hang up and call 911”, then the interminable message about Covid. Once you get put on hold, you get one of two selections of music. They change them every couple of years and they’re both annoying.
In better news, my 65th birthday was Friday and the six month anniversary of my second Pfizer is tomorrow, so Friday I’m getting my booster.
@smith: My 78 y/o dad is better on most computer issues than I am. OTOH, he is a complete Luddite as far as cell phones go.
The automated voice sounds so disappointed in me when I do that.
@Kay: We can still go talk to ours if we want to, but since Covid we talk to them over the phone, and rarely. I’m happy with our current investments and honestly, I haven’t seen any really great advice from the guy at the desk.
Also, he admitted he’s a Libertarian and couldn’t explain why one stock was going down in a dramatic fashion right after TFG was elected, while other companies in the exact same business were going up, up, up. (It’s fine now) He still can’t explain it.
@Kay: My parents, both in their eighties when they died, absolutely insisted on doing everything in person. Dad went to the financial advisers, mom thought nothing about going to the bank at least once a week to ask them about something she noticed.
I use that same bank. The lobby has been closed since the pandemic. I have no idea what she would have done, drive thru I guess, but what a hassle it would have been for her and anyone unfortunate enough to be behind her in line.
That’s awful. I hope you did take your money elsewhere.
A guy like that probably won’t last long. Turnover rate is high in that business.
And they’ve wised up to us and that word doesn’t work for several of the companies I have to deal with.
I had a problem with my Comcast internet service. Called customer support and got placed on a phone tree. Got onto the branch for internet service problems and the first thing they recommended was using their online chat – to resolve problems with your internet service.
@opiejeanne: it’s a constant game of cat and mouse.
God yes. I hardly ever use a phone and navigating a cell phone has been a continuing learning experience for me.
@Baud: I have learned to SHOUT “AGENT!”
The Amtrak recording says “I think you said you want to talk to an Agent, is that what you want?” And I reply “Yes.”
She responds “oh, okay, you want to talk to someone else…”
I again say “Agent”. She responds, same as above.
I am finally drive to shout “AGENT!” I have even been know to yell (at a machine, I know) I want to talk to a FUCKING AGENT.
It makes me crazy.
Virtual service via webpage is usually OK. Virtual service via phone tree is usually ****. The worst is those menu thickets where all the actual choices are 6 to 10 menus down. Very hard to find anything, and even if you know the routes it’s a beepfest pain.
And total agreement with many others that’s it’s just as much a pain for the young and middle aged.
@WaterGirl: Do they forward you to a phone sex number?
ETA BTW in my previous comment reply I got the text box without visual and refresh gets rid of the link to the previous comment. I had to fill it in manually via an edit. I probably should just enter in text mode and edit if it needs a fix up.
@eclare: My mom insists on driving (well, being driven, she can’t drive anymore) to the bank for any transaction, even though she is disabled enough that’s it’s a major project for her to get there.
I had a similar sort of experience recently. Got a call from the doctor’s office that my appointment was being cancelled by the doctor and I needed to reschedule. Every time I’ve called the number, it’s been cut off while connecting to the right department from the main line. Meanwhile, I received reminders for the cancelled visit, and a request to get bloodwork 48 hrs prior. I still haven’t been able to reschedule.
@SpaceUnit: oh, yes, moved the $$ as quickly as I could. And got charged $225 for account maintenance and transferring the assets. Somehow that seemed like insult on top of prior insult, but I’m done with them now and happy to slam them to anyone who asks. A tiny consolation, but a consolation nonetheless.
Thank you, Baud. 95% of all WaterGirl chuckles while reading Balloon Juice are Baud-related.
Hooray for them being decent and recognizing your wealth of experience!
A much older relative of mine switched to the hippie dippie long distance service I was using just because at least at that point you could I dunno press 0 on the first menu and get to a person.
@Ken: Your reference doesn’t make the joke any clearer to me.
Being old is fun. Fun I fucking tell you.
How can we old farts convince you how easy it is?
I guess that you will just have to find out for yourselves.
I hope you have plenty of time to find out exactly how much fun it is and how much easier it gets as you age out.
This reminds me of the race between spam and anti-spam software. Though in this analogy, we humans are the spammers, and the phone tree has learned that we can get through with “AGENT” and has blocked that path. So it doesn’t really work — unless the purpose of the phone tree is to block humans…
You have options?
With a cardiologist?
@Old School: The ELIZA/DOCTOR program analyzed the human input and parroted it back in the form of a question, in the style of some schools of psychoanalysis. For example:
HUMAN: Your reference doesn’t make the joke any clearer to me.
PROGRAM: Why doesn’t my reference make the joke any clearer to you?
@Old School: You had to have been there, when Eliza was a thing. Or what Ken said.
Amen. Although clueless or incompetent or careless or untrained human beings have their supporting roles to play.
This weeks, and probably next weeks
problemadventure in ageing: getting a propane delivery.
Why is it that when I was young and able to cope (better) these type of problems didn’t occur? At least the office is open again, I think.
Recently it took over an hour just to reach the right person. Who fixed it in 5 minutes.
Get to the person? An hour…
@Ruckus: alienation’s for the rich,
I hope that I get old before I die!
@WereBear: If you were calling tech support, there’s a quicker way.
And can we talk about the music they play while you’re on hold? As I understand it, the compression used in modern phone signals cuts off big chunks of the frequency range, so what remains is only that characteristic of the human voice. Most music requires the chunks that have been cut off. That’s why the music they play to soothe your angry breast is an agony to listen to. There is music designed to be OK within the telephone range, but it costs more, so..
The thing is, these companies must know this. They are deliberately making the phone experience as crappy as they can, I assume so they can either force you to interact with them online, or maybe just make you give up and go away. My suspicion is that this is the same reason they are apparently reluctant to hire enough customer service personnel to avoid making you wait 45 minutes to get through.
@Fair Economist: I know the type! My parents were both ok with the computer/internet, could surf, email, etc. But doing anything over an app? Forget it. Mom had a simple flip phone for emergencies, and they had the landline.
The phone technology just eclipsed them, and they didn’t trust the internet to do anything financial via computer.
What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
Anyone on here know anything about geothermal heating and cooling for residential homes? I’m currently soliciting estimates. I had a guy come from a regular old plumbing, heating and cooling company and he lead me to believe that geothermal could be used with my existing radiator system. These are old cast iron radiators. The guy who came today works for a company that does geothermal systems only and he said they’d have to run everything through my AC system ducts so I would be switching to forced air heat. This house did not have ducts until they put in AC and the ducts are in the ceiling so I’m worried about warm air not making it from the ceiling down to the level on which we actually live. Also I just really love radiant heat.
It looks like the issue for traditional radiators is a geothermal system will efficiently produce water heat to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit – anything hotter than that and you start losing a lot of efficiency. Traditional cast iron radiators need water in the 160-180 degree range. However, I’ve been looking on line and there appear to be newer radiator panels and baseboard radiators that use water at temps from 100-120 degrees to heat. Obviously replacing all the radiators would be an extra expense but from what I’ve read they would be more efficient than forced air and I just don’t want to give up my draft-free radiant heat. Anyone have any experience with this stuff want to chime in?
@JaySinWa: I remember that there were people who developed a real intense emotional attachment to Eliza. She’s the great-great-grandma of legions of chatbots, to which some people still get attached.
On the positive side, it’s a little easier to be on hold in the modern era of the speaker phone feature on cell phones.
I don’t mind doing things online but phone trees piss me off. First, they always say…”have you tried to solve your issue online?” What, a chat with a “virtual assistant” which is only able to answer the same questions as the phone tree? When customer service was staffed by humans, did you call to find out your balance? The date of your statement? To make a payment? Well, I never did.
Sometimes getting a human isn’t that great either. Last week I spent over 5 hours on the phone with Verizon. A real person, for about 1/2 hour of that time. The remainder was the asshat putting me on hold “for 2 minutes” that was always more than 10 and coming back with another question or excuse as to why he was putting me on hold again. Only to offer me a $250 credit for an upgrade when my written agreement and receipt called for $580, this all because the trade-in required a certain piece of paper that he claimed Verizon didn’t get. A piece of paper that the Verizon agent at the Verizon corporate store was supposed to submit. It got resolved on another call, lasting about 1 hour, with a supervisor level person. At least I think it did.
@What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?: Sorry I don’t have any advice, but I have to second your opinion on radiator heat, it is so much better than forced air.
Eta: did something happen to your boiler/furnace? My boiler is still going strong and must be 70 years old, at least. It would be very expensive to replace, issues with asbestos wrapped pipes.
@smith: How old you are has little bearing on what you are able to do, and even less on interests and aptitude. One of my closest friends has had negative computer skills since she was in her 30’s. We are in our 70’s now.
I do get a kick out of how surprised people are when I do something fairly normal, like pay with my phone. They stand there and wait for me to pull out a card or cash and I stand there waiting for them to activate the payment terminal, and then the light dawns that I am holding my phone waiting for the #[email protected]#$ thing.
Dorothy A. Winsor
Cripes. I tried to read about Merrick Garland testifying to congress and had to stop because it was too infuriating.
@Sure Lurkalot: Verizon corporate is bad. I had a billing problem that took six months to ‘solve’– the solution was to stop paying my bill. I was then referred to someone who could actually solve the problem, unlike the various agents on the phone who swore they would solve it and did not.
I should add that Verizon’s engineering side has generally been good, which is why they still get my business.
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Garland or the Republicans?
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Baud: The Republicans. You can’t make these people up.
@Ken: They might go away at least in terms of how bewildering they are to an older cohort of the population, but working a bit in this space, I can’t tell you how I struggle to explain to people that a person’s relationship with time and the desire for convenience materially changes once they are no longer working full time. Retired people often want to have things to do with their time that take them out of the house and make them feel active and involved. They might really value having conversations with the people at the local pharmacy. And note that “phone trees” often require the same expenditure of time without the opportunity for personal interaction. They are not actually all that convenient, except of course to the entities that require people to navigate them.
@Kay: Honest to Dog, a few years ago my employer brought in an independent financial advisor and we could make appointments on work time to talk about his services. I already have an advisor but I thought I would talk to him and see what he had to offer. Within 10 minutes he was recommending that I invest at least half of my retirement savings in gold and asked if I had my savings protected from the Democrats death tax…. he actually called it that!
From the alternate universe version of My Generation, by The Ohw.
Here’s what you’re missing: this stuff sucks for EVERYONE of all ages. But the youngs don’t remember a world when it was better.
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Imagine of AG Bobby Kennedy was forced to testify at an oversight hearing run by the mafia. Same thing.
@Baud: We ARE real people!
@Barbara: That is an excellent point about getting out of the house to have personal interactions rather than doing things virtually for retired people.
@WaterGirl: The ghost of Douglas Adams is saying, “I tried to warn you all!”
Our cable-phone-internet service decided they are no longer in the teevee content bidnez and have subbed out teevee content to Direct TV (owned by ATT I think) and further, system changes have borked our phone and voice mail.
So no more DVRs, a new menu-heavy digital TV access with nearly no user control options, plus dealing with a second vendor for that service and by the way, “Your box is too old and we need to replace it so your phone works again.” Nice guy shows up today to replace magic box–some kind of fiber-optic interface I think–gets started and oh…”Our IT department in Texas is in tornado watch and can’t work on it now. I’ll call and set a second appointment when they’re back on line.”
Yeah, if I were 80 there’s no chance in hell I’d make it through this process.
@Ken: As I recall, the conceit was that a certain amount of boredom and futility needed to be in the mix, otherwise the human mind would get bored and see through the illusion.
@trollhattan: Direct TV is the one that keeps robo-calling me with ‘50% off’ offers. I’m pleased to say that I’ve said good-bye to both Comcast and AT&T, and now get all my internet and phone service through a fiber-optic cable.
Today I checked in as a visitor to a corporation that shall remain named Wayfair.
The sign-in app asks for my e-mail. Usually I eschew such things, but I just want to check in and get to work without any hiccups, so I give it.
I get e-mail from the check in app company that has the following message:
And all I can think is, “FUCK YOU FOR TRYING TO DIGITALLY TOY-IFY MY MERELY WALKING INTO A BUILDING. GET A PICK AND A SHOVEL, BECAUSE YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T HAVE ENOUGH ACTUALLY HELPFUL THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR TIME YOU USELESS FUCKS.”
@MoCaAce: I hope you complained. Telling people to invest half their assets in gold is financial malpractice.
and is hard of hearing.
@Barbara: May as well recommend putting your savings in pork belly futures.
This was actually addressed in the story. The first version of the Matrix was designed as a utopia, but people rejected it. The computers had to redesign the world to be realistically grubby and awful for people to believe it was real.
I generally find I get better results when taking care of business in person – although automation and COVID precautions have drastically cut down the situations where that’s even an option.
A well-designed and attended system assisted by automation isn’t usually an issue at all, but there are many that seem to be deliberately designed to be as awkward and unhelpful as possible – although may just be a question of the company in question being too cheap and careless to manage anything better.
I’ve definitely had this problem with delivery companies, though in my experience UPS is the worst. They’re so pressed for time that anything that slows them down even a little will result in a non-delivery. My building has a locked front door that can be unlocked using a call box next to it. Every other delivery company is able to figure out how to use the call box, but the UPS people rarely if ever use it. If they can’t get in without my help, they’ll say they were unable to deliver and drop it off at the UPS Store the next day. It’s frustrating as hell.
That’s the version with the goatee and the scar?
They Could at least standardize. common elements. Login or signin? I recently joined a credit union and after ten minutes of struggling to find the login I started going through second pages where I found it. Very clever of those to hide it on another page.
It’s almost as if a children’s movie accurately told the truth about companies and their “services”.
@Mai Naem mobile:
The better ones will say “our options may have changed”. They genuinely don’t know how long it’s been since you called. It’s also possible that options have changed recently on some obscure part of the phone tree you never visit.
I did that once with Comcast, tethered my laptop to my cell phone. Much more pleasant than dealing with them over the phone.
My credit union did curbside services for anything unusual, that couldn’t be done drive through. You parked, called them, told them the issue, and a representative walked out to your car and talked to you(masked). I had an issue where someone kept trying to get into my account with a failed logon. I guess they were trying different passwords. I got bothered enough to decide to change my ID name and password. The only way to do it during Covid was this parking lot thing. I gave them a written out new ID and password I picked. they checked my ID and went back inside and did it. I tested it on my ipad in the parking lot when they came back. I think they handled that pretty well.
@gvg: That is impressive! Also outside, so safer.
We may use the best financial management group ever. They treat us to a dinner/playhouse thing yearly. Fill the place up twice with clients then have a ladies day out yearly nearly filling up little local towns with old lady shoppers and diners. AND we make money with them! Always a plus.
The moment my uncle heard he was on a phone tree he would simply mumble incomprehensibly. After a couple times back and forth (“I’m sorry, I din’t understand what you said. Press or say ‘one’…”) he would always get a live person.
But we’ve all learned to
sayshout “AGENT” now.
One thing I learned from my parents is that, in event of major problem with any business, find out name of CEO and address of corporate HQ (thank Ghod for Wikipedia), and write the CEO a letter. May not always get what you want, but will at least be noticed.
About 20 years ago my mom died very suddenly. The only way I was able to figure out what was going on in the financial side of her life (what did she own, what did she owe, where did she have accounts, etc.) was to wait for about 3 months of mail to cycle through and see what statements and other notices she got. But then once I had a piece of mail it was always pretty straightforward to contact the company and get things sorted out. What a nightmare that must be to sort out for people in similar situations now with everything online and password protected.
If anyone has a retirement advisor recommendation, I’d really love to know it.
@Brachiator: not just any robots- cat robots will be your overlords and caregivers… just leave a nightlight on
I just think this is insane, that they feel they have to tell you their ideology. How is that possibly good for business?
Mine is blandly and impersonally cordial.
Yep…Mr. Evodevo just had that same experience Sunday…he had an appointment – they wouldn’t accept his medical card….45 minutes and a LOT of profanity later, they gave up and gave him his shot
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
Dude, that’s fucking terrible. The company I leased a car through until I turned it in this past summer mailed me a check for some kind of overpayment.
That smells kinda fishy to me
I just got back from an offshore trip and I wasn’t even the most beat up person on the boat. There was another guy, I don’t how old , but he really struggled to walk and needed help to reel in even the smallest fish. I know it’s coming but I’m going to hold on as long as I can.
I sometimes wonder if the real purpose of the phone tree isn’t to serve as a fancier form of hold. They send you around in circles until someone is available on the theory it’s nicer to feel like you’re accomplishing something through the phone tree than to just sit there listening to music.
Fortunately, most of my experience with phone trees is work related. Those companies see their phone tree as an essential part of bringing in business, so they make it reasonably short so they don’t drive people away. I can usually get to a person in a few steps, and often it’s someone I’ve dealt with before who knows how to help with my problem.
I was reading through this thread while we were waiting for our Moderna boosters at CVS today. Definitely a “readership capture” thread. LOL
This is the first time we signed up for a vaccine via CVS and I would recommend it. Even for the “olds,” it is a super easy process to get an appointment online. You don’t need to get an account with a password with CVS to get an appointment, either. They are also taking walk-ins.
Another phone menu nightmare that I found a solution for: IRS customer service. I had paid our taxes online for the first time this year and I also got an online account (which I highly recommend) but we got a letter from the IRS telling us we still owed the taxes. After many hours of frustration trying to contact them, I searched online for any help or hints I could find to get through to them. Well, there are actually many articles and blog posts out there that tell you the secret of how you can get someone at the IRS to actually answer the phone. The articles list every phone menu choice and recommend how to answer each menu choice. At one point, you stay silent. That one menu choice silence will get you a live person. It worked!
What he told me was that I had entered the e-payment under my social security number but if you file joint, the IRS lists your taxes in their system under the “primary” social security number. So the nice man changed my payment to my husband’s social security number and fixed the problem. It was like a miracle. :)
I won’t even go into how bad it is that the IRS system can’t manage joint accounts. Or that my husband ranks higher than I do. LOL
@KRK: My sister died about a year and a half ago, leaving me as executor. It took me months of repeatedly going back to the same companies, spending hours in phone tree hell, again and again and again to get them to simply cancel services and stop billing. Comcast was never fully convinced, even though I notified them in writing within a week of her death and asked to cancel her service. They kept sending her a bill for services supposedly rendered after she died, which I declined to pay. Then they sent it to a collection agency, which I declined to pay. This went on for more than a year, at which point they finally gave up. My sister’s credit rating is thoroughly shot, but I doubt she cares.
I was just thinking this exact thing.
I live in Spain but am visiting my parents after 2 years of not seeing them. They are old. TV is on all of the time. .
Dad sleeping with Little House on the Prairie on now. Adds for Medicare part C, drugs, and various scams. William Shatner and Jimmie Walker pimpimg for Medicare plans.
This country has gone mad. Definite Stranger in a Strange Land feeling.
My parents can’t process this shit.
Keep it fucking simple. Medicare gives benefits. No extra parts, copays, sign up periods. Just give people good Insurance. How much money is wasted on this shit.
All this is by choice. It does not have to be this way. The costs to people are enormous.
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka):
When my mom passed, Spectrum sent a debit card as a refund. I was named after her so I ended up with the card, but I wonder if I’d had a different name if I could have used it.
Last night I had the honor to discover that my tooth filling was picking up Spanish- language radio. It’s very low level ,like crystal radio, but it’s always on and there’s no way to turn it off.
@smith: That is what I did when my mother died. The creditors did not get a cent.
This conversation reminds me that I’m old. I’ve always been comfortable with computers and online life. All my bank accounts (9 of them) are on line and all my bills are paid online (by the banks). All I have to do is schedule them and check to see if they are paid. I transfer money between them. My SSA is deposited online. My groceries are ordered online and delivered.
My PHP still answers their phone but are relentless about reminding me with Email, Texts and phone calls of pending appointments. Like I would forget or something. If the phone tree for referrals pisses me off too much they will schedule the appointment for me. My Medicare Advantage policy does not charge me a premium. In fact, they pay my Part B Medicare premium which increases my social security income. CarePlus in central Florida.
Life is great being old. (Except for sex and that kind of stuff.)
@Winston: Also, Rebeka Jones is running against Matt Gaetz for congress. I couldn’t hurt to throw her some bucks.
It’s not your husband. It’s whatever name and Social Security number is listed first on the tax return.
Yes, the very nice customer service person did explain that to me.
I was just making a silly joke that I guess missed the mark. Getting through was a real challenge but the person was very helpful.
@Scout211: I appreciate the info. Maybe one day when I have nothing else going on, I can attempt to straighten out our little problem. Somewhere in the depths of the IRS databases, the SSN for a member of our family is incorrect. We don’t know whose SSN is incorrect, except it’s probably not my husband’s, and we don’t know where it’s incorrect, except it’s not on the main front page, but this one error prevents us from filing online. It’s been this way for years, and it’s very frustrating.
J R in WV
A couple of weeks ago I was chagrined to learn, via navigating numerous phone trees reached by different telephone numbers that all eventually led to the same menu option, that here in Portland there looks to be no functioning non-emergency police number. A couple of weeks ago I had someone from one of the new apartment buildings they have recently built on my street park their car in a way that completely blocked my driveway, which I discovered a little after at 7 pm.
The menu option I mention above is the penultimate step, where you are asked to press # to be connected to the non-emergency number. When you make that selection, you are seemingly transferred, for there there is a ring on the other end, but then the call is terminated.
Way to go, Stumptown!
ETA: Left coast, end of workday…late for the party as usual, le sigh…
Good friend worked for years in a super-high-tech government agency, calls me constantly for Windows 7 problems. Doesn’t understand the concept of googling.
Spends hours writing out checks and staging the mail to avoid overdrafts. I tried to explain that they could set all accounts to auto-pay a few days after the gov’t pension arrives in their bank account. But they don’t want the banks and department stores and credit card companies to have all their info.
And then spends hours a day on FecesBook.
I took over handling my mother’s affairs after her stroke at 92 years old. Her Medicare ‘Advantage/Medigap’ supplement was exceptionally challenging. As each year, her county would change what it would offer, and I would have to scramble during open season to find something that let her continue to see her doctors at her medical clinic. Our town did provide quite useful counselling by a retired healthcare manager to help me navigate the myriad of options. Although during one of these changeovers—Medicare stops automatically deducting payments from her social security, and by the I realized this—she henceforth paid a penatly. Grrr.
I have no idea how an elderly person could manage this…