Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Trouble With the Phone Tree

A few minutes ago, I reached a new level (I'm not sure whether to call it a "high" or a "low") in man-machine communications: I pissed off an automated phone tree. Heh, heh, heh.

Backstory: I wasn't here a while ago when UPS tried to deliver a package to my house. I had left a message taped to the front door saying, "Leave the UPS package on the box below the PO box" and the UPS guy wrote on my note "Can't do it. Needs a sig." That would be a signature, I suspect. UPS had called me at 7 a.m. to tell me the package would arrive "between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Some window, huh, for a working guy?

Anyhow, I missed it. So I read this 4 point type on the back (that's very, very, very small type-squared) and found an 800 phone number and got this woman who told me to call 1-800-PICKUPS and when I asked if she could translate that to numbers, she said no, she could not. So I did and called it and found out after navigating the phone tree for the first time that I could pick up the package between 7:30 and 8 p.m. tonight at a spot way across town (and dang near impossible to find, if experience teaches). Big window to deliver, tiny window to pick up.

I'm picking up a 10mm camera lens that I've been waiting for like a kid who's sent in 10 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Box Tops and 10 cents for a magic decoder ring. So I want it now. But between 7:30 and 8 p.m. tonight, I can't go. So I called the 800 number again and this time my choices weren't as easy to make. I finally made them for the first time and when I said I wanted "pickup" the automated dealie thought that meant I wanted UPS to pick up, not me. I said, "Go Back!" like ordering the platoon to rush the machine gun nest. I said it several times in a row and the message started again. I insanely tried the same message (the old AA bromide is "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result") and even went through the same "Go Back!" when I got the same result.

This time, though, the UPS machine--in what I swear to God sounded like exasperation--sent me to a man who wears pants, takes a bath, probably has children and talks. He told me--in this flat, non-involved voice--that the package would be at USP on the far distant side of town for the next several days and that I could pick it up between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is different from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and means I'll have to interrupt work--again--to pick it up.

So I'm sitting here steamed thinking that all UPS has to do is perform a small service for its fee and that it has completely failed to do that. It is paid to deliver a package to me, not to some far distant site where I have to drive and pick it up. That's simply infuriating. But, dang it! I want my lens. And I want it now.

(COMMENT: Beth asks, "Why don't you just have packages delivered to your office." Well, the sad truth is that I'm rarely there--and neither is anybody else. I'm chasing stories, shooting pictures and the ad reps are selling ads.)


  1. I have more than once after carefully and repeatedly specifying United States Post Office -- USPS, as in my box at the local PO -- been as eagerly awaiting my own version of the sent-off-for boxtop decoder ring (usually in my case, books, or heirloom seeds) only to get a notice from UPS (not USPS, but, hell, it's one whole letter more and who can expect them to make that leap?) that they cannot deliver to a Post office Box, and I will have to pick the package up. I live 35-40 miles from UPS, so there's gas as well as time involved. But I do it -- and generally stop and visit Dan when I do. Next time I'll know what we can talk about.

  2. Dan, why don't you just have packages delivered to your office?