Monday, November 15, 2004


A few years ago, I made a purchase at Famous Barr Department Store in Peoria. The clerk asked me if I had a credit account with them and I said no. I was told that if I applied for a credit card, I would get a discount on the purchase I was making that day. I filled out the forms, paid for my merchandise and received the discount.

A couple of weeks later I received a letter from a financial institution saying they had received my application and were denying me a credit card. The letter said I would need to call Famous Barr to find the reason for the denial as they could not give the reason over the phone. I called Famous Barr at 682-2600 and was answered by a voice recording. I was given four options. I tried each option but each recorded voice asked for my account number which or course, I didn’t have. I then called the financial institution again and told them since I didn’t have an account number I couldn’t get thru to a human voice to find out what erroneous information had been submitted to them. They told me I could write them verifying who I was and they would send me a printout of the reason for denial. They did give me the telephone number of the headquarters of Famous Barr and I called this 800 number only to get the same messages; enter your account number. No opportunity to talk with a human voice!!

I had to make a trip to the Peoria store and talk to their credit department and was told they had misread my Social Security number and that they could correct the error and I could start the process over again. I suggested to them that their recordings should be changed so at some point a potential customer could talk to a human voice. They said they would pass on my comments to management. Did I reapply for a credit card? NO.

It wasn’t that I thought errors don’t happen; it was the absolute irritation of not being able to talk to a human voice. Before I wrote this article today I thought I would give Famous Barr another opportunity to see if they had changed their telephone procedures. Nope, same old run around, no human voice without an account number.

I suspect many companies lose business through their ignorance or arrogance to not let the caller speak to a human voice. Another irritation is when a human voice does answer the phone only to ask the caller “who may I say is calling” and then come back with the answer “I’m sorry he or she is not in. Do you want their voice mail”? How does that make the caller feel? I feel like the person is really “in” but my call is not important.

One sometimes very effective way to answer the “who’s calling or may I tell them who you are” is to give the name of some person who is in the news like Osama Bin Laden. That usually gets me through!! Why should anyone ask your name if they know the person you are calling isn’t in the office? If they don’t know whether that person is in or not, it is their job to find out and tell you or pass you on to another human voice, before asking the personal question of “who are you”?

Since I work for Peoria County, please let me know any way we can improve our communications with you the taxpayer. You can reach me at Fax 692-6711, Http:// or I’m in the phone book.

I understand School District #150 is reviewing phone answering systems as a result of my suggestion. Let people know how we can improve our communications with each other. As we get older our patience is tested!!

I leave you with this thought “society need defense of common sense”.

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