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Say it again, says telephone Sam

Tim Hughes | 01.12.2006

I recently sent a letter by recorded delivery. The following day, I phoned their call centre to check that it had arrived okay. When you do this, you are asked to read out a series of letters and numbers from your receipt.

When I did this some time ago, I got a human telephone operator at the call centre, so the task of reading out these letters and numbers wasn't too bad. I stammered, but I got there in the end.

However on this latest occasion, I got this automated computer voice saying: "Please read out the letters and numbers clearly after the tone".

Bravely, I threw myself into the task. However, the first letter I had to read out was Z - one of my most difficult ones to read out. Barely had I made the sound 'zzz', when the voice immediately piped up: "I'm sorry, I didn't understand that, please repeat."

Repeat I did, but with the same result. With the word 'zed' just not wanting to come out yet again, and this computer still not understanding me, I decided it was time for a well-earned break, and hung up. After a few minutes to compose myself, I picked up the phone again. Mercifully, it was third time lucky! I finally got through these letters and numbers unscathed. And, mercifully, the computer finally announced, in its robotic tones, "This item was delivered at oh nine twenty five hours today."

Please give me good, friendly human telephone operators any day!

Tim Hughes, King's Lynn

From the Winter 2006 edition of Speaking Out, page 15