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Things to Do in Customer-Service Hell

I am probably typical in that I hate making a customer-service call to just about any large company. The odds of getting useful information in anything under a half hour are pretty slim. One problem is that many companies’ “phone trees” — the automated menus that ask you to mash one button after the next — are silly mazes that have you chasing your tail. This is additionally frustrating when you discover, as I remember reading a few years ago, that some companies actually monitor how hard you are pushing the buttons or how aggressively you are reciting the voice prompts, presumably to identify customers who may cause trouble.

One solution to Phone Tree Hell is the beautifully named GetHuman database, which provides a nearly encyclopedic list of companies’ phone numbers and the string of menu choices you must press to bypass the phone tree and get to a human. Example: “SUNOCO … 800-?278-?6626 … Press 0 five times, then mumble when prompted for an account number.”

Now there’s a new website, still in beta, called Bringo! (a.k.a., which takes a different approach. Here’s how Bringo’s Marcin Musiolik describes the project: “Our mission is to help users skip phone trees and connect with a real human on the customer support phone lines at many companies throughout the U.S. Users simply choose the company they wish to call, and we’ll dial the company directly, navigate their phone tree, and call them back when they are in queue for an operator or customer service representative.”

I can imagine that some people won’t be interested in giving out their phone numbers, even to a website that’s providing a free and pretty useful service. I can also imagine that some people may be tempted to exploit this service, getting a customer-service rep on the line and then, since it cost nothing to do so, hanging up on them out of spite for all the past injustices.

Modern life may not be particularly fair, but at least it’s not boring.