Bitch on the Blog

April 29, 2012

Ticking boxes

I don’t like ticking boxes. Which is why I only do so when forced. Which is all the time. You can’t so much as register with a dentist without telling their questionnaire that you are of no denomination. What does it matter? Will I be put through Dustin Hoffman’s hell?

Come to think of it… No, let’s change the subject. I don’t know what it’s like in the States or indeed anywhere outside the UK but here you can’t even pay your electricity bill (over the phone) without being asked ‘security’ questions. Whose security?  Mine? Surely not. The whole world and its Amazon knows by now not only my mother’s maiden name, the first school I went to, my birth date, my address, what I had for dinner last night, not to forget those last three digits on the back of my debit card. I love it, and it’s a pet hate of mine:  Some company calls me; remember: Calls me. And, for my ‘security’ will ask  me all sorts BEFORE telling me what they are on about. Are these people ticking ok? Once upon a time my naive little self gave truthful answers. No more. Mother’s maiden name: Sure. Make it up. Preferably something which takes forever to spell. The one bastard you can’t lie about is your birth date. Which is fine. One has lived. And youngsters who could be my sons will learn that someone who could be their mother is not past it. So far none of them have asked me to adopt them but it’ll be only a matter of time. The Angel reckons that I am the only person in the whole wide world who can make call center stuff laugh, even in India. Which, no doubt, accounts for them calling me back. Again and again and again.  Beware the camel’s back. The drop that will make the barrel overflow.

And here is one for Phil. As 2012 new tech lingo slips in: A BeetOven – before it implodes – is when you are stuck in the queue of a call center, waiting, and they play you Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – only to be answered till you are well into Autumn. If I had anything to do with Vivaldi’s Estate I’d sue for damages. Big time. What once was a pleasure is now a pain.




  1. i ALWAYS forget any security questons asked of me or posed by me…
    thank god for online banking…….thats what I can say… telephone banking can get stuffed!

    Comment by finlaygray — April 29, 2012 @ 19:57 | Reply

    • John, now you are talking: Another of my pet hate subjects. My bank is good in some ways, bad in others. So bad that where my son can, at the drop of a phone call or a swift stroke of a key (he is with HSBC – I am not), authorize, cancel, change his mind, whatever. Whilst I have to fucking (excuse me – but it’s heartfelt) walk in there, speak to some terribly nice person, and sign something. Whilst I enjoy speaking to people (it’s my main purpose in life) I can’t always limp it in on time, can I? Like two minutes before bank charges will occur. Though, such are my charms, my account manager recently authorized for all my past and future bank charges to be waived. Don’t deduce from the above that my affairs are in chaos. They aren’t. They are dire. Cashflow: It’s a sort of overhead, the dark cloud, the Damocles sword hanging over the freelancer’s, the self employed’s dishevelled head. And yes, I know I should have saved for a rainy day. But I didn’t.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — April 30, 2012 @ 08:51 | Reply

  2. Ursula, the Four Seasons is a rather optimistic timeframe for someone to answer you in the queue. I’d be a bit more worried about timeliness of the wait if they begin playing Wagner’s Ring Series…

    Another pet peeve of mine is the automated answering messages that asks you to listen carefully to the following twelve dozen options, as their menu has changed.

    Comment by Phil — April 29, 2012 @ 20:53 | Reply

    • OH MY GOD, Phil, I sincerely hope that no call center will pick up any ideas from you. Come to think of it what is even worse than playing you a whole symphony or even Wagner when they keep you on hold and play a very SHORT piece of music over and over again. It’s enough to make me reach for one of my three pieces of driftwood to bite on in order to stifle any sighs or worse. Not that I ever take it out on the call center staff. The sound mix is not their fault, is it?

      As to automated answering messages: Yes, same here. What gets me is the “listen carefully”. How does one listen if not ‘carefully’? It’s a bloody insult to my intelligence. Funny thing is, and I couldn’t help laugh at myself, only recently, at, say option 5, my mind having glazed over, my thoughts drifting off to something unrelated. By the time I was offered a last option I had no idea where my exit was. However, they will, ever so helpful, offer you to listen to all the options AGAIN. In fairness, most companies are so kind as to let you press 0 in case you are a bit dim and want to speak to ANY operator. As long as it’s a living being. Beware: You will be put on hold to speak to the RIGHT operator.

      Number three pet peeve in this area, and then I’ll shut up: Say you ring British Gas (I don’t have gas, but my electricity account is with them): They make you put your account number and millions of other numbers onto your phone pad. So far so good. Why not save British Gas time? After all what’s my time worth considering I am the one paying the bill? Nothing that’s what: When an “operator” picks up the phone you’ll have to repeat, and I repeat, REPEAT all the information you have just keyed in. At least I know my postcode and my telephone number by heart now.

      Garden shipshape?


      Comment by bitchontheblog — April 30, 2012 @ 09:13 | Reply

      • PS Phil, actually in above context, there is a fourth: The phone rings. Unlike a lot of English people I always answer with my full name; I believe a matter of courtesy. So the caller knows they got me, the one and only, and not some other unfortunate. Inevitably those faceless companies’ operators will say: “Can I speak to Ursula ….” It’s the one thing which makes me testy, confirming with a barely suppressed snort that yes indeed: “Speaking”.


        Comment by bitchontheblog — April 30, 2012 @ 09:43 | Reply

  3. If they call you, why the security question? That seems like a comedy act winding up. Geez. And who can remember all of the passwords and user id’s. It’s becoming a nightmare.

    Comment by writingfeemail — April 29, 2012 @ 21:38 | Reply

    • It’s an excellent question, Renee. And one I have no answer for.

      I don’t get easily annoyed – and even when I do I don’t show it other than to those close to me, say, the Angel or friends should any be in earshot. But by golly, I recently drew the line when a company wanted some sensitive information from me and, when I asked them who I was talking to, the ‘operator’ replied that first I needed to answer those questions before stating the company’s business with me. I just about had it at that moment. It amounted to a mind fuck. I asked her, calmly, to make a note on my file, and pass it on to her management, that I will no longer answer any questions unless the caller states their purpose. The fact that it was a confidential matter didn’t wash with me. Let’s do it the old fashioned way: Want something from me? Put it in writing. Let’s hope no one else opens my letters.

      Orwell was a visionary. Yet even he didn’t foresee how big brother has made the nasty into the ridiculous.


      Comment by bitchontheblog — April 30, 2012 @ 09:30 | Reply

  4. When I am called I politely and firmly tell the person at the other end that I do not accept unsolicited calls….usually works…failing that ask for the managing directors name and ‘phone number…….youngest son has been heard to request the name of the company and then say that he will check them out at Companie’s House.

    I can just about cope with Vivaldi but what infuriates me are those bloody recordings with artificial rhythm tracks made by drum machines! Remeber calling Laithwaites and hearing some great Hazz. Iasked the bloke who picked up if he minded putting me back on hold as I was enjoying the music …… we compromised with him peomising to tell Mr Laithwaite how impressed I was…. have yet to hear my adored Sibelius on the ‘phone.

    Security questions? My grandmother’s step mother’s maiden name is my favourite…….. no, I will not reveal it!

    Comment by David(magpie) — April 30, 2012 @ 14:49 | Reply

  5. Apologies for the typo: Companies’

    Comment by David(magpie) — April 30, 2012 @ 18:08 | Reply

  6. My best response to unsolicited calls yet:

    Hello? Hello? Are you calling about the flowers for the funeral? You’re not? Then go ahead and arrange for them.
    /hang up.
    Barking mad works.

    Comment by wisewebwoman — May 1, 2012 @ 01:31 | Reply

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