Pressing 0

Menus are hell.

I’m not talking about the bright colored, enticing ones – thick like BJ’s or TGIF’s or thin as a copied orange sheet at the Thai place.

Phone menus are hell.

Getting information by phone is no longer possible.  I learned this when I was laid off from a job I loved last June. A folder of EDD (formerly known as the Unemployment Office) information was handed to me by the kind HR director and I did the obligatory application online, no glitches, computer savvy, boy-was-I-competent-in-all-this.

No check came. Severance pay was running out the door like a teenager going on a hot date.

Online there was a directory with an 800 number to call if you have a question.

After 14 rings, you hear a recording that unemployment payments have been extended and that you can get an second or even a third extension if you just go online. I just wanted a single check.

Next is an invitation to get your information from an automated system. If you want to enjoy their automated answers, Press 1.  If you’d like to speak to an associate, Press 0. I Press 0

If you Press 2, you hear that the best times to call are NOT 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday and, by the way, they are closed on the first, third, and fourth Friday of every month.  It’s Wednesday at 8 a.m.

The next thing you hear is the recorded voice saying that they have reached the maximum number of callers waiting, please call back, thank you, goodbye. Silence.

This happened every 20 minutes for 8 hours.

The next time I tried, I made it pretty far and then I was automatically transferred back to the automated response.  There I was given 9 choices of numbers to push regarding various questions.  None of them was MY question. Pushing 0 did not produce an associate, but I did get a scolding that they didn’t understand my choice. Are you still there?

Please call back, thank you, goodbye. Silence.

After a couple of weeks I decided that I would just go to the unemployment office and try to straighten it out. I remembered where it was from my days as a young writer. I knew just which driveway to pull into and where to park my car. I walked into the office and said to the young lady at the front desk, “Could you direct me to the EDD office, please?”

“Well, I’m sorry, but the EDD office is no longer here.”

“Where is it?”

“There are no EDD offices in the state of California. You have to call.”

Right.

I wandered back to the job board and stood next to a middle-aged woman who had bloodshot eyes and whiskey on her breath. She didn’t look right or left, but suddenly whispered, “You have to dial 1-2.”

“Excuse me?”

“When you call and it says ‘Thank you for calling EDD’ then real quick to have to dial 1-2 and that will get you in.”

I felt like I had been given the keys to Fort Knox. I turned to hurry away and she hollered after me, “If it says ‘You have reached EDD,’ forget it. You’ll never get in.”

Rushing home I grabbed my phone and dialed, “Thank you…” I quickly hit 1-2. A recorded voice said that I could access my account!  It asked for my social security number to say or dial. I punched it in and thought, Now I’m getting somewhere!

Then it said to enter my PIN number.

Opps. But the voice quickly explained that they had made it so easy for everyone because my PIN number was easy – just punch in the amount of my check.

I don’t have a check!!! Yes, I spoke out loud to no one.

Just to be smart, I tried to calculate what my check might be and tapped that in. Now I really got a scolding, then:

Please call back, thank you, goodbye. Silence.

I wasn’t a reporter for nothing. I dug back into the website until I found a place where I could send an e-mail and get a response in 5 days.  Ten days later I got a response! I had made a mistake on a form! They would send a new one!

Please allow 10 days for delivery.

By now my severance had declared emancipation and was never coming back.

Three weeks later I got the form, filled it out and mailed it back that day. The check was going to come, whatever the amount was going to be, after I allowed another 10 days for delivery.

It was a quiet summer day when I walked to the mailbox and received my unemployment check. Not a special day, just 24 hours ending the nightmare that began by pressing 0.

This morning I had a question about disability. “Just call them,” my doctor said. So I dialed the 800 number at three minutes after the 8 a.m. opening. “Thank you for calling…we have reached the maximum number of callers at this time.”

Please call back, thank you, goodbye. Silence.

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