Video: Beating the system

msnbc.com
updated 11/16/2005 11:21:56 AM ET 2005-11-16T16:21:56
TRANSCRIPT

Well, if you have had it up to your ears with those automated phone systems, this is for you. 

Paul English, a self-described phone geek, has found a way to bypass all of those annoying prompts and go straight to a customer service agent -- yes, a real person. 

On Tuesday's 'Situation,' English joined MSNBC's Tucker Carlson to share his secrets. 

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON: Paul English, I am just going to say it loud and say it proud, you are my hero.  I mean, you really have done a lot for mankind, in figuring out how to get around these automated systems. 

What possessed you to do this? 

PAUL ENGLISH, PAULENGLISH.COM:  Thanks, Tucker.  I think like a lot of consumers, I just became very frustrated myself with how difficult it is to talk to a human with a company that I am paying money.  You know, I have an account with Verizon Wireless.  I pay them probably $100 a month, and yet every time I tried to talk to someone at the company, it was just maddening how many levels of menus they would try to put me through before they could actually let me talk to someone who worked at Verizon. 

CARLSON:  Well, Verizon, that is a tough one, too?  Isn't it?  I mean, Verizon is very hard to get through.  So I had an account with them once, and they made me so mad I switched to Sprint.  How did you get through to Verizon?  How did you figure out how to do it? 

ENGLISH:  ... I have a blog that I write a lot of articles, just consumer advocacy, or different things about technology.  And I think one day I had become particularly frustrated with Verizon Wireless and then with Fleet Bank, I think when they were acquired or rolled into Bank of America, I had a difficult time getting in touch with someone there, and really just trial and error, going through.  And in many cases, they will have a lot of menus that you have to walk through, but if you press 0 or pound 0 or 0 star, there's different tricks you can try, to get through the menus.

But I also posted it up on my Web site, with just the 10 companies that I figured out, and then very quickly, I started getting suggestions from other people across the Web. 

CARLSON:  Here are two particularly complicated ones.  Sovereign Bank.  Press 1 for English, 1 for person, 3 then social, then press pound sign, passcode, pound sign, then 0, 1, dash 3x-whatever that means. 

ENGLISH:  One to three times, yes. 

CARLSON:  Dell Service.  This is my favorite.  Press option 1, dial extension 7266966, press option 1, option 4, then again option 4.

I mean, it's like safe cracker stuff here.  I actually tried that with Dell Service this afternoon, and still couldn't get through. 

ENGLISH:  Yes, the codes also change from time to time.  I think one of the interesting ways that I find out new codes is since the site has become a little bit popular, I will occasionally get an e-mail from someone who works at Dell, or at Best Buy or some other company, and they will say, look, we don't like it as support reps, with how difficult it is for customers to get in touch with us, so we will tell you the secret code, but just don't tell anyone that we are the ones who gave it to you. 

CARLSON:  And they do this, right, because it's far more expensive for a live person to answer the phone than it is to shut you off into computerized phone hell? 

ENGLISH:  It is, although I really think it's not in the company's interest to keep their customers away from their employees.  I think a lot of big companies make the mistake of putting a bean counter in charge of all their call centers, and they are not looking at the strategic advantage of actually talking to customers.  The customers aren't going to come back.  They are not going to be loyal to your service, they're not going to renew service, just as you didn't do with Verizon, if they don't feel like they are getting good quality service. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that. 

Now since we have beat up on these companies, I want to list of companies you can call and get an actual human being on the phone, without touching a button.  Here are eight of them:  Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom's, Bose, Amazon.com, IBM, United Airlines, Walt Disney World, and XM Radio.

Good for them.  These are the good guys, at least when it comes to telephones. 

Do you think that we are going to see a change, a movement toward actual people answering the phone?  Or they just don't-they don't lose enough money to care? 

ENGLISH:  ... I think the more important message for consumers is that if someone is giving you bad service, don't accept it.  You have other options.  You can switch to other companies.  You can complain.  You can, you know, tell your friends or your company to stop using that company.  I think consumers just need to realize, when someone gives you bad service, you shouldn't accept it.

The message for the companies is: If you're not going to talk to your customers regularly and give that human touch, they have no loyalty to you.

CARLSON:  Yes.  That's exactly right.
Now, before we go, (We have) instructions for credit card companies, how to get through (including) Visa, dial 0 three times.  Ignore prompts saying it's an invalid entry.

ENGLISH:  Right.

CARLSON:  So they basically are lying to you when they say that doesn't work.  It does work? 

ENGLISH:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Interesting. 

ENGLISH:  A lot of companies have systems like that, that they want you to go through their long menus so that you can hear the new options for increasing a service, like paying them more per month or whatever.  They don't want you necessarily to bypass those marketing messages.  So sometimes they will tell you, invalid entry, invalid entry, but if you try some of these tips over a few times, it will direct you to-connect you directly to a human. 

Watch 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' each weeknight at 11 p.m. ET

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