Frustrated by professionals

« previous post | next post »

Today's Get Fuzzy:

Who are the most accomplished professional frustrators? My vote would go to the people who design menus for voice-response systems. Recently, for example, I needed to report a "lost or stolen" credit card. I called the phone number designated for that purpose, and spent several minutes trying to get past the requirement to provide the card number, which I didn't have, because …

Update 12/17/2013 — Today's Six Chix:



  1. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    I vote for the people who design "easy open" packages. My wife and I spent half an hour opening one of them Saturday; among the tools we tried were, in escalating order, a table knife, a screwdriver, a carving knife, a pliers, and a hacksaw. All so we could each have a bit of sorbet.

  2. MattF said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 10:22 am

    And here's a website for professional professional frustration frustration:

  3. Jay Lake said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    You have made me laugh. Until I recently went on Long Term Disability for my terminal cancer, I *was* one of the people who design menus for voice-response systems. Did a fair number of those for cable companies and credit card companies, among other things. Like any other field of endeavor, once you get down in the weeds, it becomes far more complicated than you might imagine.

    In defense of my former line of work, and my peers still laboring in the digital trenches, I will point out that most of the really bad design issues in high end systems, at least, stem from corporate policies on the part of our clients requiring certain things to happen in a certain order. This is usually driven by the Legal or Risk Management groups. A big part of being a voice user interface designer is functioning as a usability consultant back to the client.

    But yes, you are right, most automated voice menuing systems suck on their best days, and go downhill from there.

  4. KeithB said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 11:06 am

    My favorite peeve of voice menu jail is the "Please listen carefully as our menu items have changed" spiel. I wonder what the record is for the amount of time a system that uses that spiel *hasn't* changed!

  5. G Jones said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 11:49 am

    You don't have your CC# memorized? I recommend doing so.

    [(myl) For four credit cards and one debit card? I don't think so.]

  6. D.O. said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

    Normally, it helped to just press "0" and reach a human being on the other end. Not that it was fast, but better than endless loops with the automated system. But this option may be now professionally frustrated.

    [(myl) Didn't work. The response was something like "I'm sorry, I don't recognize that as a possible account number." And then back to the start of the menu.]

  7. Dan T. said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

    What I hate is when they make you punch in your account number, and then when you finally get a human being that person asks you for the same number again.

  8. Howard Oakley said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    I empathise with your problems following theft of your credit card.
    However I am amazed that no-one has yet identified the most frustrating of frustraters of professionals:

  9. KeithB said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    If they allowed that, *everyone* would just punch zero at the beginning of the call. The whole point of voice-mail-jail is to kill time so they can have fewer human operators.

  10. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

    What I hate most are recordings by women who (1) talk too fast and (2) have high-pitched voices only a dog can hear.

  11. Kitteh said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

    Auto-correct gets my vote. I believe it was first designed in the time before unlimited data plans when each message cost the user(s) a not-insignificant amount in aggregate. By deliberately making the suggested words wildly inappropriate, and virtually impossible to avoid by virtue of highlighting what a user might actually want to say while inevitably inserting some other word not even displayed as a choice when the user thinks they are accepting a short-cut to more laborious thumb-destroying activity, the commercial geniuses guaranteed a minimally tripled income through forcing frustrated recipients to endlessly ask their friends what the hell that last text meant while the users had to send repeated and increasingly enraged apologies for the totally incomprehensible gibberish emanating from their 'communication' devices.

  12. Rubrick said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

    Damn. I had a great plan: I'd ask Siri who the most accomplished professional frustrators were, and then when she showed me where I could buy professional footwear or whatnot I'd nominate her.

    Her response: a link to this post.

    Siri 1, Rubrick 0.

  13. Zizoz said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    Am I the only one who read "professionally frustrated" as "getting paid to be frustrated" rather than "frustrated by someone who gets paid to frustrate"?

  14. Doug said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

    I've often read the advice that you should write down all your CC numbers (or just photocopy the cards, and any other things you carry in your wallet) so that you'll have them in case of theft.


    1. Those people who are replacing push-button phone menus with voice recognition. Though annoying, the push-button ones at least have the advantage that you can use them quietly, instead of letting your cubicle-neighbors hear whatever saga is going on with your credit cards etc.

    2. My ex-landlord in Philadelphia, when I was attending Penn. One morning as I was leaving for class, I noticed the heating system making a loud noise. On my way back from class, I stopped at the landlord's office to inform them. The response was, "but is it making that noise NOW?" I then had to point out that I could not even conceivably be expected to know the answer to that question, since I was standing in their office, not at home where I could hear the noise.

  15. Theophylact said,

    December 16, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

    I suggest GetHuman as a source for finding the best way out of voicemail Jail. Most of the time their advice has worked for me.

  16. Martha said,

    December 17, 2013 @ 2:15 am

    Not only are the options for the voice-recognition menus confusing, but sometimes you have to listen to unnecessary information. I had several paragraphs typed out describing the types of pointless things my coworkers and I have to listen to when calling a particular number at my job, but suffice it to say, it's a waste of time.

    I don't even know why they changed from a push button to a voice recognition system. It can't be, as KeithB said, to eliminate human operators. For this particular number anyway, the goal, no matter what, is to speak to a person.

    Zizoz – I had the same thought at first.

  17. hanmeng said,

    December 17, 2013 @ 3:35 am

    The comic would've pleased me more if the passive hadn't been used.

    As for storing credit card numbers, there's always Lastpass.

  18. richardelguru said,

    December 17, 2013 @ 6:52 am

    Just to change the thread a wee bit (since you didn't specify telephonic frustrators): I think there should be a special place in Hell for the guy (or guys) who do the packaging on CDs. You buy a $12 CD of, say (since it is still that year) Britten's Canticles, and spend a Fort-Knox-worth of effort getting the nasty, sticky seals off the thing. Their Hellish eternity should be spent unwrapping the things and getting the little sticky bits off their fingers.

  19. Rod Johnson said,

    December 17, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

    And what’s the deal with airline food? Heyo!

  20. ET said,

    December 17, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

    Re cc# why not get at password protection program? Then you can save passwords, cc and other important numbers and info.
    I use 1password and I can't imagine going back to easy to remember passwords, scraps of paper etc.

  21. Mark Dowson said,

    December 18, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    There are web sites (for example, which provide, for various commercial and government organizations, short cuts to escape menu hell and get to a human

  22. Walker said,

    December 18, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

    May I also add today's Bizarro comic to this discussion of word confusion as a source of humor?

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment