Monday, June 5, 2017

Please Listen Carefully

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 7, 2017] ©2017
I continue to be puzzled that no matter what business number I call, the recording advises me to “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.”
Inquiring minds want to know:  what is it about business phones that they feel compelled to constantly change their menu options?
Even more to the point, the new options sound suspiciously like the old ones. One of these days I’m going to catch one of these places out on this and write a column showing that in point of fact, their menu options HAVE NOT CHANGED ONE BIT.
And while we’re on this subject, I’m SICK of listening carefully.  I’m even more sickof being TOLD to listen carefully. What, they think I have the IQ of an amoeba?  That if I’m not reminded to listen carefully I’ll listen carelessly and select the wrong option?  Hell, I’m likely to do that anyway since the whole purpose of these options is to make sure you never get to an actual person.  The option that you really want – speaking to a human – is NEVER on the first menu, no matter how carefully you listen. And believe me, at this point I am a very, very careful listener.
My friend Bill has always maintained that you should never select any of the options and ultimately they’ll give up and send you to a person. After all, some people have rotary phones  andcan’t opt. But that doesn’t work as well anymore. They’re perfectly willing to disconnect you as punishment for not selecting one of the changed menu options, not listening carefully, but most of all for having a rotary phone.
My long-time preferred method, after listening to the first round of allegedly-changed menu options, is to just keep repeating “agent” or “representative.”  But some businesses – and we’re especially talking about medical insurance companies, and particularly YOU, Blue Shield - refuse to consider connecting you to a person until you have chosen one of their 10 options. And then, of course, you’ve been sucked down a rabbit hole that you’ll never get out of. 
And don’t even get me going on the part about how your call is very important to them.  My call is NOT important to you, you lying bags of dung!  If it were, you’d have someone answering your phone. On the rare occasions someone actually does, I’m so grateful I forget why I called.
Okay, I realize I’m sounding a little testy.  But I’ve had way too many opportunities to be implored to listen carefully to changed menu options in recent months.
Late last fall, I – and hundreds of others – were inadvertently dis-enrolled from Medicare.  My former employer, who provides my secondary insurance (Blue Shield), swears it was a Medicare snafu. Medicare maintained it was the fault of the benefits office folks of my former employer whom I would agree have the intelligence of corn meal. Unfortunately I was in the middle of a huge medical crisis and 22 claims were denied in the process. I was suddenly deemed uninsured.
The benefits office never ever responded to voice mail messages or emails. Of course, I probably wouldn’t either if several hundred irate people were calling me.
So I tried calling Medicare. The good news is that you ultimately get a person if you persevere on hold long enough. The bad news is that they are incapable of actually fixing anything. 
The Medicare lady confirmed that their computers showed that indeed, I was no longer enrolled in Medicare. In a cruel infinite loop, Blue Shield, being the secondary, won’t pay until Medicare has paid their part first.
The Medicare lady said that maybe I dis-enrolled myself during the recent Open Enrollment and I don’t remember.  Seriously?  I realize we’re dealing with an older population here but it’s really a shame the Uzi-through-the-phone app is still in its infancy.  Yup, I totally forgot that I spent an hour on hold to dis-enroll myself from Medicare, a procedure only slightly less complicated than a Middle East Peace Accord. It’s not like there is a “Press 3 to dis-enroll from Medicare” option that you can accidentally select. 
Then the Medicare lady offers:  maybe your husband did it. Yeah, like someone can just call and dis-enroll another from Medicare. I reminded her that every time I’ve called Medicare about a claim for him, they’ve insisted I put him on the phone personally.  So, she says, maybe I don’t remember that my husband called Medicare and put me on the phone and I told them I didn’t want to be enrolled any more.
You probably think you can imagine how many months it takes to get 22 claims resubmitted and how many times you are implored to listen carefully to changed options from people who truly care about your call. But no, you really can’t.




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