How To Snub The Automated Operator

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Last Saturday, I thought I found an error on my cell phone bill. I say "I thought" because the bill was printed in Spanish.

After a frustrating debate with an automated operator, I finally got through to a real person. He agreed to reprint my bill. And he begrudgingly waived the $5 fee. What service!

This Saturday, the new bill arrived. Todavían en español. But when I called customer service, the automated operator put up a fight. "I'm trained to answer many questions," she bragged. "You can say 'pay my bill' or 'tell me my balance.'" This particular operator was not trained to respond to unintelligible groaning.

Eventually, I learned getting a new bill in my native language would be impossible. You win some, you lose most.

At least now there's a way to avoid this automated self-importance. Find out the secret codes to reach a real person with the gethuman database. Even better, a company called Bringo will play your secretary. Pick the company you're trying to reach, leave your phone number, and Bringo will call you when they've got a customer service rep on the line. Worried about what else Bringo will do with your digits? They're not out to screw you, Bringo founder Clement Wang told Freakonomics:

"Rest assured, we do not resell or reuse the phone numbers in any way, other than tracking whether folks have validated their phone number successfully (in order to control crank-calling from our site). We also have no capability at this time (and do not plan to add) any monitoring of the phone calls placed through our site—so we do not capture any conversations or any digits typed into the phone once the user is connected to the companies they are trying to contact."

By the way, my phone bill's balance due was incorrect. My frugality knows no language barriers.

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September 12, 2006 - 10:03am
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