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Call centers are a bane for consumers

So far this year I have batted less than .150 with call centers, deciding the centers were designed to irritate consumers. It gets worse during the political season with robo-calls suggesting you vote for this or that candidate.

I admit having fun with political calls asking if I plan to vote for a named candidate. A simple “his (or her) family is well known as horse thieves and should not be trusted with a dime of the public’s money” means fewer political calls.

My wife and I use a pharmacy with a recorded message center for ordering prescription refills.

We have the option of keying in a single digit to indicate you want to order a refill, and then entering your seven digit phone number, followed by an eight digit prescription number.

The male voice may tell you when the prescription can be picked up, or states you need to wait a few days before they will even consider your request.

For several months the same flat voice would call to remind you that you had forgotten to call in your refill request. This was the same request that had been rejected 24-hours earlier.

I asked the pharmacist not to be called and reminded. That request worked.

However, last week I had a less than fun experience dealing with Waste Management’s call center serving customers in Arkansas and Texas. My green 96-gallon trash container – filled to the brim – was rolled to the curb about 8:05 a.m. Wednesday.

By 2 p.m. it was obvious that my trash was not going to be picked up. The other containers on my street had been emptied. I called the call center with an inquiry.

When did I put the container out, the woman asked? I told her a few minutes after 8 that morning. She informed me it should have been out before 7 a.m.

One-third of the containers on my street were not out at 7, I replied, because the truck seldom runs before 9 a.m. The route had not been run at 10, but she was not impressed.

It would be picked up within 24-hours, she said. That full cart was still waiting patiently at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday. I called again.

However, I was provided with 20 minutes on hold listening to the company’s recorded messages about their various services. They warned me both days about delays in getting through to a human because of “a high calling volume.” That’s not a good sign.

Waste Management’s service in White Hall has been excellent. Our cart has been missed only once since November 2005. That’s not a shabby record.

Thursday’s call center operator gave me a six digit confirmation number that I had called. She promised relief Friday.

When no Waste Management trucks found their way down our street Friday, I decided it was time to get serious. I made my last call that afternoon and asked where the area manager wanted my trash dumped at his house.

The call center women apparently had marked me down as a troublemaker.

When my spouse came home about 5:45 p.m. Friday, she pointed out that we had a second 96-gallon at our home. Someone from Waste Management had delivered a shiny new 96-gallon cart, but left the old cart.

Now both are full.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.