Nelson: ‘If that is correct, press 1’ — a tale of automated aggravation

I never thought I would be an old curmudgeon — although that word does have a nice ring to it. And yet, here I am, getting grumpier by the day.

The latest assault on what is left of my patience came courtesy of my new mail-order pharmacy (the third in the past few years), which allows me to save considerable money by ordering a three-month supply of a routine medication I take every day rather than refilling monthly at my local pharmacy.

I needed a refill, so I called the toll-free number on the pill bottle and navigated the automated menu — “you entered prescription number #######. If that is correct, press 1, or say, ‘yes.’ ” You know the drill.

All was well, although the robotic voice on the other end gave me a delivery date 10 days out, which was far too late, given that I had of course procrastinated making the call. So I called back, clearly enunciated the word “representative” to connect with a live human, who was happy to arrange three-day delivery for an extra charge of only $8.95.

So far, so good.

The next day, I received an email confirmation of my order, with a tracking number and the offer to check the order status by clicking a handy link. But when I tried to log in, the username and password I thought were valid weren’t, of course. No problem — I clicked the reset password link and entered my email address as requested.

Problem.

“The email address you entered does not exist.”

Wait. The email address the company just used to email my order confirmation to me does not exist? I fired off an email to the handy customer service link in the confirmation email, and waited.

Meanwhile, I received two automated calls to my cellphone — one informing me that my order was being processed, and one the following day saying it had shipped.

The email I sent to customer service bounced back, saying it couldn’t be delivered for unspecified reasons and that gmail would continue to attempt delivery “for 46 more hours.” Why 46? Who knows?

I called back to the phone number of the robocall as instructed for further assistance. But when I said “representative,” the cheerful robo-voice said, “You want to speak to a representative?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Let me see if I can help you first,” she/it chirped back.

“Representative!” I insisted.

She gave in, but first asked for my phone number — the same one the system had called twice already — and when I provided it, said she couldn’t find it.

She transferred me to a human, who listened to my tale of woe and transferred me to someone else, who said she would have to research the problem and asked me to hold. No, I said, I couldn’t wait; could she call me back? No, she said, she could not do that, but I should try to log in again after an hour.

An hour later, the web page accepted my username, but said my password could not be reset.

Another call, this time connecting to a human quickly. It turned out my account was set up as “email only,” and I needed to create a new account online.

I’ve done that now, but I have to say I miss the days when companies hired actual people to assist customers without making callers navigate an automated menu first. For that matter, I miss being able to fill prescriptions at my local pharmacy without paying an arm and a leg.

Reach Editorial Page Editor Gary Nelson at gnelson@rosebudmedia.com.

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