Pushing your buttons: Why swearing could get you connected quicker

There can be few things in life that are more frustrating than automated telephone services – press 1 for this option, 2 for that option, 3 is you want another menu of options…

It can be almost impossible to speak to an actual human being. But users of Apple’s automated care line have noticed a bit of a loophole, a way to get you straight though to a person.

Reddit users claim dropping the F-bomb allows you to bypass Apple’s computer operator and instead talk to someone.

One user, calling himself floppybutton, said he lost his rag with the automated robot voice as he was attempting to order a spare part for his broken computer.

“After exploring every option possible in the machine-based list, I eventually got frustrated and used a few choice words that triggered something in the computer I was talking to,” he explained. “It cut itself off in mid-sentence and, in about 10 more seconds, I was talking to an Apple tech.”

Contributors responding to the thread confirmed the tactic had worked for them with a whole range of random words, including, rather bizarrely, “banana”.

Another user said the move had already saved him “at least an hour or two”, but another pointed out that “people look at you funny when you’re repeating ‘F***…F***…F***’ over the phone when a company might not have this feature”.

But another user warns using the rude technique could actually backfire. Rob79 says that after swearing you may actually be put through to a call director, rather than the department you actually want, whose job is simply to calm you down and put you back in line, perhaps even further back then where you started.

“This is a person who will apologise to you and then transfers you to the right queue. i.e. put you on hold again in the same queue that the automated system would have if you had just cooperated,” he said.

The Next Web says Interactive Voice Response systems used by thousands of companies are often designed to listen for keywords which indicate a caller is getting annoyed – with the thought being if they are quickly intercepted, the company won’t get as many complaints.

The issue is such a bugbear websites such as GetHuman.com have sprung up, dedicated to pointing users to direct numbers for customer service staff, without having to go through any rigmarole.

And forum users have their own tips for avoiding the robot operator. “It’s much easier if you press any button not mentioned on the phone call and you get put straight through and this works with most companies.” And Pass the Dynamite simply said: “Well that’s the genie out of the bottle.”

So, next time you’re stuck in a queue and the automated service is telling you they are experiencing “unprecedented levels of calls,” and that you are caller number 3002, try swearing at it, or even shouting ‘banana’ and see what happens. You never know, it might work.

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