6H Putting Hold on Hold

November 11, 2007

The following story is true. It is related to my tale of my aunt Henriette.

In the United States, there are three large office products chain stores.

  • Office Depot
  • Office Max
  • Staples

At one time or another, I have had less than pleasing encounters with each of these stores.

Several years ago, the New York Times business section wrote:

Analysts give most of the strategies fairly high marks. Still, they say that the nagging question remains: is there room for all three?

”They all have healthy balance sheets,” said Mr. Baker of Deutsche Bank. But, Staples is the only one on his buy list. Why? ”Maybe they can all survive,” he said. ”But I’m not sure all three can thrive.”

At present, Staples uses the corporate slogan, “That was easy” in its advertisements.

A few weeks ago, shortly after I disembarked from the ferry, I pulled over, parked in a parking lot, took out my cell phone, and dialed.

After a few seconds, a recorded voice with a New York accent said, “Thank you for calling Staples.” It then listed several choices, none of which pleased me or seemed to meet my need. The most promising of the unappealing choices suggested I stay on the line for help, so I remained on the line.

After a number of rings, an (apparently) live person with a New York accent answered the phone.

“May I speak to Hassan,” I said. The person promised to connect me to Hassan.

My cell phone began to play insipid Muzak music. Every few seconds, a recorded voice with a New York accent said to me, “Your call is very important to us. You call will be answered promptly.” Then more irritating music played on the line.

After several minutes of irritating music and irritating promises, a different live person with a New York accent answered the phone. I repeated my request. The person promised to connect me to Hassan.

The Muzak music continued for several more minutes.

A third different live person with a New York accent answered the phone. I repeated my request, was again given a promise to connect me to Hassan, and once again I was promised into Muzak.

After a while, the phone suddenly went dead.

I dialed again. I again went through the same recorded message and was presented with the same options. This time I pressed #2, which promised to connect me with information about their products.

When a live person answered the phone, I said with some asperity, “I am calling you from 3,000 miles away. I am trying to talk to Hassan. I was put on hold for ten minutes and then disconnected. This is not easy…”

Before I could escalate to a full-fledged rant, the voice in New York City said, “I will connect you right away,” and plunged me into Muzak again.”

After only two minutes, Hassan answered the phone. I will talk about my dealings with Hassan, whom aunt Henriette tells me is from Bangladesh, in another post.

A number of years ago, my wife and I sued an environmental organization that offered some socially responsible investments that we found misleading after we had invested a small amount of money.

Although our losses were small, and we were offered our money back by the organization, my research indicated that many other people had suffered losses. Instead of accepting our money back, my wife and I filed a lawsuit. When we talked with our lawyer about filing a lawsuit, we asked about whether it would be feasible to file a “class action” lawsuit.

After all, we thought, we were not acting on our own behalf so much as trying people who had been harmed over a couple of decades.

Our lawyer explained that it is much harder to file a class action suit than people generally suppose. The suit we filed (which we eventually won) involved less grandiose claims such as real estate fraud.

However, I am now wondering if there really might be grounds for a class action case involving the use of the corporate slogan, “That was easy.”

If not grounds for such a case, there might be an argument for “selling short” the stock of the Staples Corporation. (Selling short is a method of “investing” where the investor makes money if the stock of a corporation declines in value.)

Stay tuned.

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7 Responses to “6H Putting Hold on Hold”

  1. renaissanceguy Says:

    I hate to comment off topic, but I am here to tell you that I am tagging you. To find out what I’m tagging you for, click on my name and read my post called “Silly Blogosphere Game.”

  2. janie Says:

    I have come to the conclusion that doing business of any kind involving a telephone is not easy.

  3. renaissanceguy Says:

    Janie’s right. I usually go in person if it’s a local business.

  4. Todd Says:

    I’d like to comment on the insipid phone music you experienced. I feel your pain. Incessant, pulsating, ghastly, inspid rubbish-infested selections of “music” now occupy phone line wait time. Not only that, horrid, putrid selections of “music” have infested hospital urgent care areas, ERs, and pharmacies. Rap, trancemix, incessant pulsating rubbish, with singers who can’t sing and with irritating rhythms, have become the norm. If you’re there in the commercial building in person, earplugs are a necessity. But to broadcast ugly, inspid, blistering rap or trancemix over a phone connection is simply unconscionable.

    But these unfortunate phenomena are becoming the norm in commerce. Corporate executives, in droves, are infesting their customer service centers — even on the phone — with absolute auditory rubbish. An escape from the attack is to purchase online and set your browser to block sound files. Another escape is to arm yourself with earplugs while in a hospital urgent care center which plays rap “music”. Simply unconscionable.

    I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my earplugs in the past few months. Fortunately, most of the companies I deal with while on hold, play reasonably listenable stuff.

    Kind Regards.

  5. modestypress Says:

    Todd, that’s fine, but tell me, what don’t you like about insipid phone music. I know some insipid people. Don’t they deserve their own music as well?

  6. retro Says:

    It’s a shame what happened to Bangladesh. I hope the world steps up and helps them.

  7. Todd Says:

    modestypress: In my post, please replace the word ‘insipid’ with the words ‘insidiously cancerous’. I’ll quote an accomplished cellist:

    “Piped music has spread like an insidious cancer throughout society.” -Julian Lloyd Webber


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