Menu Items Have Changed and our Patience Is Getting Shorter. The Homeless Rate Auto Answer

By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.

Sometimes the word frustrating doesn’t even come close to describing it!

You have a few minutes to make a phone call, and so you dial your company of choice and get immediately stuck in auto answer. Gritting your teeth because you know what you’re in store for), you determine to relentlessly soldier on.

Even worse, you’re trying to make a doctor’s appointment, where the menu items have also purportedly changed, even though you swear you heard that same message more than three months ago. Thar’s frustrating for us who have resources, but I was thinking how much more frustrating it must be for some of our shelter guests, who typically have much more limited calling options than us.

One of the most annoying experiences is when you have labored through that intricate maze for a few minutes, and you’re (you hope) almost about to speak to a real live human being. Then the phone disconnects. I know how I feel making that call from my office or the comfort of my home, but what about if I had been placing that call from outside with a call phone almost out of battery, and no close or convenient place to recharge it?

For those lucky enough to get connected, sometimes the office has closed.

With that in mind, we asked some of our Joy Junction shelter guests what they thought.

One woman said she suffers through experiences like this quite often. The call on which this routinely occurs is the Income Support Division office, where accessing a real human can take as long as an hour.

“Then once they answer they place me on hold for 45 more minutes. It is really frustrating, but if I don’t make the call, we lose our benefits and because we are homeless we really need them.”

Anther person commented, “I have been frustrated with the telephone auto answering, but at that time in my life I was in my addiction and did not care about my responsibilities and just gave up.”

This woman called auto answer “be very frustrating and confusing,” although, she charitably added, it was created to make calls easier.

“For a person that is homeless and hungry, making phone calls and having automatic answering could be life threatening. They might be in immediate danger where they are – in physical or mental harm. For example, they might not have a phone and have to use someone’s phone and they get put on hold. They might need immediate shelter because of bad extreme weather, and they can’t talk to an actual person to get help. They may have medical issues and are trying to get hold of Medicaid, and not able to get a hold of a human.”

Another person was quite direct, saying “I never ever liked the telephone auto answer! Sometimes the menu options don’t fit why you are calling. Sometimes you get caught in a loop and can’t get out. If I call some place, I want to talk to a live person about whatever it is that made me call”.

Nancy had a good idea. “I usually try to hit “0″ or “9″ to by pass the voice system, and if that doesn’t work I usually just hang up. I don’t have the patience to call and listen to an answering system. I would rather talk to a person live, because of the questions I may have.”

And homeless or not, another person commented, the whole system is still annoying and frustrating.

Another frustrating response is one where the auto voice to a doctor’s clinic tells you that if you are calling about a medical emergency to hang up and call 911, “because we are concerned for your health.”

At this point, many would doubt that sentiment.

One of our Joy Junction staff , Joy Junction Chaplain Marcos Atwood, expanded on this verbal nightmare.

After calling 911, you choose which number can best assist you (That’s if the service you need is an option).

“Your always so calm and unflappable auto voice says “Please remain on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.

After listening to messages describing options, you are transferred.

“Yes,” Marcos said, “to another auto answer telling you the individual you need to speak with is out of the office or on vacation and will not be returning back to work for about a week.”

How have you been affected by this, and what would you do if you were homeless? Let me know your thoughts.