Chatting with digital Dora

I wasn’t expecting trouble when I called a certain national company. I was sure the friendly, helpful folks at the branch nearest me could handle my issue—until one of them put me on hold. Two hours later—or maybe it was 10 minutes—a recorded voice said, “May I have your zip code please?”

Uh-oh. My call had been transferred to a faraway land; a land occupied by less helpful people who are not people at all. I was in the clutches of Digital Dora. You may have met her—or Automated Annie, Recorded Rita or another one of her colleagues. Their polite, pleasant voices are just a cold-hearted ruse to lull us into thinking they can do the work of a real person. I braced myself and gave Digital Dora my zip code.

She said, “Okay. Let’s start with your account number. Please say ‘I have it’ or ‘I’ll call back when I find it in the giant heap on my desk.’”

No, she didn’t mention my desk, but she did say the rest. And I didn’t have my account number. The staff at my usual location only ask for my name. There was no way I was going to hang up and start over, so I started digging frantically while mumbling swear words. I’d momentarily forgotten that the call was being recorded for quality assurance purposes.

Dora said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that. Please say ‘I have it’ or ‘I’ll call back when I find it.’”

I said, “It’s here somewhere.”

She said, “Slow learner, aren’t you.” Not really. She said again, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that blah, blah, blah.’”

“I found it!” I finally hollered. She said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that….”

I said, “I have it!” I know when I’m beaten.

She asked me to read my number then she said, “Okay. How can I help? Please say product information, technical support, tips for healthy gums, the latest research on CBD for pets, ten easy steps to diplomatic immunity or say something else.”

I said, “What?”

She asked, “Would you like me to repeat that?”

I said, “I’m not sure.”

She repeated it and I yelled, “Something else,” just so I wouldn’t have to hear it all again.    

“Okay. Describe your problem in a few words.”

I narrowed it down to one: “Uhhhh.” As you’ve probably noticed, it’s hard for me to boil anything down to a few words. Also by this time, I’d forgotten why I called.

She said again, “Describe your problem in a few words.”

I said, “Well….”

She said, “Describe your problem in a few words.”

I whimpered incoherently.

She said, “Describe your problem in a few words.”

Finally I sobbed, “I can’t!”

Digital Dora said, “Let me transfer you to someone who can help.”

I pleaded, “Please, no! I’ll do better!” I was thinking of that old saying, “better the Digital Dora you know than the Digital Dora you don’t know.”

But it was too late. She’d put me on hold where I stayed for nearly four hours. Or maybe it only seemed that long because every 20 seconds one of Dora’s colleagues came on to thank me for my patience and tell me how important I am to their company. On the bright side, I had time to remember why I was calling.

At last, someone said, “Hello. Can I help you?” His voice sounded so real that I had to ask, “Are you a…person?”

He said, “Excuse me?”

“You’re not Automated Al or Recorded Richard are you?”

“No. My name is David,”

“Digital David?”

“No. Just David. Can I help you?”

“I hope so.” And then I explained my problem.

I was ready to trust him for no other reason than that he was human. But then he said, “What’s your zip code? I’ll transfer you to the store nearest you.”