Hello? Hello? Is this Bombay?
When you call United Airlines, you drown in voice mail for an hour trying to get a human voice. “If at any time you need to speak to an agent, just say HELP,” says the robot and you scream, “HELP! HELP! HELP!” and when nothing happens you finally hang up in a rage only to have the phone ring and it’s the same robot asking you to enter your reservation number. Shouldn’t we be using this kind of torture in Iraqi prisons? Put them all in voice mail?What I wanted to know was whether oxygen had been reserved for my flight to New Jersey, but there were no options for that question. I don’t remember what buttons I pushed to finally get a human being, but when I did get a live person and it was a young man in India on a staticky line who couldn’t understand me and vice versa. When you find yourself in India, you know you’re in the nether regions of outsourcing hell. This happened twice, first on the departure and again when we changed the date of our return. In neither case did they have any record about the oxygen, and both times I was transferred to a female supervisor who was even more unintelligible than her underling, and I was in a trembling sweat by the time she thanked me for choosing United. In New Jersey, my daughter Hillery and I had been shipping boxes from the local UPS store to Leadville and Aspen when my MasterCard was suddenly declined. What the hell? I had paid my bill in full before I left so I knew I had plenty of credit.I dialed the number on the back of my credit card and walked straight into even worse voice mail hell than I had experienced with United. There were a thousand options, but none of them included “Why was my credit card declined?” and none of them led me to a human voice. I hung up in a lather and Hillery assured me that there had to be some way to get a person on the line, so I called again and hit the “fraud and theft” option, which I had hesitated to do lest they cancel my card entirely.What did I get? INDIA! I’d swear it was the same young man and the same supervisor, definitely the same crackling connection. All apologies, they said the card had been denied because it was being charged in New Jersey and I live in Colorado. They had called for verification, but of course they had called my Colorado number and I wasn’t there to answer it because I was in NEW JERSEY. Is this a conspiracy to force me to buy a cell phone? FAP!! Next time, they said, call us in advance to advise of my travel plans, as if THAT were an option on their voice mail menu.When I got home, I got a call from Aspen Valley Hospital about an outstanding bill for $83 that I definitely did not owe. I thought I was talking to India again, or maybe Bangladesh, but the billing system has been outsourced only as far as Illinois, as I found out when I got a second call about a $500 bill they said I owed from a year ago, which I know nothing about.”Where are you calling from?” I asked the woman, who spoke English (the first one didn’t). “Aspen Valley Hospital,” was the answer. “I mean where are you, physically, right now?” “Illinois.” Anyway, it seems that everything is still not tickity-boo in the AVH finance department, sorry to say.Su Lum is a longtime local who is easily driven mad. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold amounts of suffering and disruption, and we’ll probably tell those stories for the rest of our lives.