This morning, I called the local branch of a big box store to see if they had an item in stock. At least, that’s what I thought I did. I looked up the branch, confirmed the address, and dialed a local number. Got a phone menu. That’s to be expected, but I’m old enough to feel nostalgic for the days when an actual person would pick up the phone.
I listened to the menu options. Nope, I didn’t need to hear the store hours. Nope, I didn’t need directions. Speak to an associate? Yes, please. I pressed 3.
Which, of course, took me to the next level of the phone menu. When I heard, “To speak to an associate about pricing and availability,” I pressed the number.
Only to be assured that my call is very important to the company, which, as everyone knows, is phone-menu-speak for, “Prepare to be put on hold for an indefinite period of time.” My call may be very important to them (hah), but my time apparently isn’t worth a nickel.
I was treated to some music that sounded like the neighbor’s kid practicing guitar chords through a too-thin wall. It was almost a relief to hear the periodic ads. (Why do companies think it’s a good idea to play ads to someone who’s on hold? I already know about your company. I wouldn’t have called you if I didn’t.)
After about five or six minutes of holding the phone away from my ear—far enough that the muffled chord-strumming and chirpy ads wouldn’t drill a hole in my brain but close enough that I could tell if an actual human came on the line—I heard a new voice. Another recording. Again, it asked me to press a number to check on pricing and availability.
I thought this was a little odd, since I’d already done that, but I pressed the number again. The recording promptly told me I was being “transferred to a nearby store.” Um, I thought I’d called a nearby store—dialing a local number and all that. But the store I called wasn’t the store I got. Instead of the store two miles from my house, my call got transferred to a different store 30 miles away. A branch that couldn’t tell me a damn thing about “pricing and availability” at the store where I actually wanted to shop.
So I call a local number, get transferred to an automated call center that’s who-knows-where, and then finally get to speak to a person 30 miles away who can’t answer my question. On second thought, maybe I don’t need the item I was calling about. Or maybe I can find it at a local store that’s actually, you know, local.