Is there anything more frustrating, exasperating, annoying or otherwise a sure-fire way to ruin your day than not being able to get a human on the phone?

We've all had our share of customer service nightmares. Seems everyone has one of those stories. The story might involve the cable company, a cellphone service or a big-box store. Hopefully, it's not because your paper landed on the roof and not in the driveway.

Sometimes, the problem becomes bigger because we can't get a “live” person to hear or respond.

In today's world, every one of us is somebody's customer. But forget about the customer always being right. These days, it seems the customer is always “on hold.”

Next, please

In a world that now prides itself in operating in real time, government and business red tape seem intent on wrapping you in wasted time. The DMV once was extremely tough to navigate with lines that moved slower than a Jerry Springer bodyguard.

These days, service is much better if you make the trip to get your license renewed. If you try to do it by phone, however ... better pack a lunch. A series of prompts produces a succession of contacts with various voice messages inviting you to eventually call a number in Columbia.

Different websites offer shortcuts to bypassing the recorded help messages. There are even Internet tips that suggest pressing “0” or “#” to reach a person with a pulse who might offer assistance.

A Consumer Reports survey recently revealed that 71 percent of consumers were “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn't get a human on the phone. (Let's assume the remaining 29 percent were “moderately ticked.”)

Is this the drill? First, you're “on hold.” Next, there's a transfer to the wrong department. Once again, “on hold.” Then, the right department is reached, but getting an answer takes another lifetime. After that, an independent person comes on to verify the problem. A couple of weeks later, a notice comes in the mail, and you realize there's been no change in the problem.

'Hold,' please

So what are we to do? Turns out, there are smart ways to complain. Being brief and calm are suggested. I'm with you. Though when you've spent the better part of an hour on hold, brevity and calmness are probably not gonna show up first.

Voicemail was invented, essentially, so we wouldn't have to listen to each other.

Texting is there so that we don't have to talk to each other.

Recorded business messages seem to be there so that we can't listen or talk to each other.

Here at The Post and Courier, it occurred to me recently that when the lines are busy or it's after-hours or the weekend, guess whose recorded voice comes on the line? Mine. I always thank the caller and try to keep the directions simple.

I also avoid two other prompting directions. I don't repeatedly say “please” before every choice. Also, I don't tag the message with “have a great day.” Why? Because if a call's being made to customer service, they're probably not. Many times, even if the problem isn't immediately resolved, it's far more satisfying if before the lettuce in your salad starts to wilt, some human will actually at least acknowledge your problem.

All customers want results. What they probably want more is a response. A good business will recognize that. If they don't, then customers will put them “on hold,” or, worse yet, just disconnect altogether.

Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or