By my calculations, I spend a third of my time sleeping, a third enjoying retirement, and most of the rest on hold waiting for the next available agent. I don’t think anyone would argue that automated phone systems are the Techno-Ebola of our time. But I wouldn’t even mind that much if at the end of it was a Knowledgeable Human Being.
Not, of course, that the institutions involved will take responsibility for the misinformation of their own employees, even if you have documented exactly whom you spoke with and when, or even recorded the call. Their mistake? Your bad.
A corollary to the Mystery of Only Getting the Right Answer After You’ve Done It Wrong is a phenomenon I call Asking the Unanswerable. Business journalist Frank Lalli did a brilliant illustration of this in the December 1 New York Times describing his efforts to find out what his blood cancer drug would cost under either a new insurer or Medicare which he was required to transition to come January. He documented 70 calls to 16 organizations and got estimates from $20 a month to a whopping $17,000 per year. The most accurate information, he lamented, was that he wouldn’t actually know the cost until he filed his first claim in January after irrevocably committing to a new plan.