The Telephone Queue

One modern form of Swedish torture is the telephone queue. You call up something called a "service number", usually because you have a problem. You are then taken through round after round of "Press 1 for x, press 2 for y". Since the bank had sent a notice that the direct debit for the telephone had been cancelled, I wanted to get to the bottom of it.

I called the bank first. Wow, in the first round there is an "If you want to speak to an English-speaking operator, press 5"! I mean, my Swedish is passable, but I seldom get to talk to a human being this fast. So I press 5 and a woman is on the line right away. Hmm, she already had someone today with the same problem, all she can see is that the telephone company terminated this, no idea why. I should call them. The number given on the termination is 00-00 00 00, not a very likely looking number. But on the last bill I find their service telephone.

The thing is now modern. It wants you to speak to it. It wants you to speak Swedish. Heaven forbid there should be foreigners wanting to do business with the phone company. My pronunciation is not the greatest, I had to march through a number of "I'm sorry, I didn't catch what you want"s until I finally was able to punch in my telephone number. Why can't the phone company read the number I am calling from? Then there were some more "press 1" menus, I guess they figured out I wasn't doing so hot on the voice-activated.

"Thank you! All our operators are busy right now. You have place 60 in the queue, this will take about 23 minutes." 23 minutes! What, do they only have one dwarf in Jökullstuna answering the phone? But since I have already invested so much effort to make my way through the menus, I put the phone on loud and decide to clean the windows. That's a nice job that can be interrupted any time. I get the windows in the living room done. I get the windows in the kitchen done. I get the windows in all the bedrooms done. I do the weird window on the front door. I even get some of the more ugly windows on the veranda done before the phone announces that I am in position 3 in the queue. Only took 20 minutes.....

The guy answering the phone had no idea what is up. He has to speak to his group leader and puts me on hold. Can't go back to cleaning the last few windows now, he might be back any minute. He isn't, of course. When he eventually comes back on, I have lost my pencil down the back of the sofa. Oh well, he can't help me anyway. According to their records, everything is just hunky-dory, they have a record of my direct debit, no problems here, must be a bank error.

So I go back to the bank. This time there is a queue for English, but it does not take all too long. This guy is very helpful, notes that there is indeed a direct debit record for the telephone company, discovers that it is for a different account. The telephone company has a new bank account, but doesn't know about it in their "service" lines. Sheesh!

The consumer's guide magazine for Sweden notes that this kind of "service" is becoming more and more prevalent. And 8 out of 16 IT companies asked how their service line is said that they have the "best in Sweden", including TeliaSonora. Maybe the word "service" doesn't mean what I think it does in Swedish.....

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