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Dial-a-human shortcuts
How to escape from automated phone-system hell

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Company/
Company Web site
Phone number How to reach a human Minutes to reach a human Notes

 

Banks

 

Bank of America
www.bankofamerica.com
 
206-461-0800 or
800-442-6680
Press 0 immediately. 1.5  
KeyBank
www.key.com
800-539-2968 Remain on the line, press nothing. 1.5  
US Bank
www.usbank.com
800-872-2657 Press 0. Ignore prompts through short menu of choices, then you're transferred to a representative. 2  
Washington Mutual
www.wamu.com
 
800-788-7000 Press 0 immediately, then press 0 again. 1  
Wells Fargo
www.wellsfargo.com
 
800-869-3557 Press 0 immediately. Wait through prompt for account number. 1  

 

Cell phone companies

 

Cingular
www.cingular.com
866-246-4852 Press 1, enter cellphone number or press 0 three times to be transferred to a representative. 2.5  
Sprint Nextel
www.sprint.com
800-480-4727 After brief announcement in Spanish, press 1, then 2. Press 0 twice, then say "agent." 3 System warned that "time to reach a representative might be longer than usual" due to high call volumes. Predicted wait: Less than three minutes. Actual wait: one minute.
T-Mobile
www.t-mobile.com
800-866-2453 After announcements, press 2 for existing customers. Then say "representative." 4.5  
Verizon Wireless
www.verizonwireless.com
800-922-0204 Press 0 a total of four times, once after each prompt. 2  

 

Credit/Financial Services

 

American Express
www.americanexpress.com
800-528-4800 Press 0 a total of four times, once after each prompt. Ignore the "invalid entry" prompt. 2  
Capital One
www.capitalone.com
800-955-7070 Press 0 a total of three times, once after each prompt. Or simply wait through all the menu choices and press 0 at the end. 2  
MasterCard
www.mastercard.com
800-622-7747 Press 1 for English, then press 0. 3.5  
Safeco Insurance
www.safeco.com
800-332-3226 Press 1, press 1, press 0#. Pressing 0 alone automatically disconnects you. 2  
Visa
www.visa.com
800-847-2911 Press 0 three times, ignoring prompts that say it's an invalid option. 1 System warned of a high volume of calls, but a human answered in about a minute.

 

Government

 

King County District Court
www.metrokc.gov/kcdc
206-205-9200 Press 6. 6.5 The county gets extra credit for publishing the phone shortcut on its Web site and apologizing in advance for the wait time.
State Department of Licensing
www.wa.gov/dol

 
Call your local DOL office. Press 1 after the announcement about the Web site, then stay on the line through a long menu to be transferred to a representative. 2  
State Department of Labor and Industries
www.wa.gov/lni
Call your local office. Press 1, then 0. 0.5  
Seattle Municipal Court
www.seattle.gov/courts
206-684-5600 Press 1, then 0. 0.5  
U.S. Passport Services Office
travel.state.gov
877-487-2778 When prompted to select English or another language, press nothing. The system assumes you have a rotary-dial phone and transfers you immediately to a representative. 1  

 

Internet Service Providers

 

AOL
www.aol.com
800-827-6364 Press 0 a total of three times, once after each prompt, ignoring the automated voice promising that "it will be a lot faster if I can just keep asking you questions." 1.5 Points off for making it hard to find the customer-service phone number on the Web site.
Comcast
www.comcast.net
888-266-2278 Press 0 twice, after each time the system asks for your phone number. Press 1 for English. Then press 1 for English again. Press 1 again for existing customers. Press # twice when asked for your phone number. 2.5 Points off for not listing customer-service phone number on Web site.
EarthLink
www.earthlink.net
888-327-8454 No easy escape from endless menu choices. It may be fastest to answer the annoying list of automated questions. For billing questions, press 2. For technical issues, press 4 and follow the prompts. 7 We were transferred to a system dead-end on the first attempt, cut off on the second attempt.

 

Phone

 

AT&T
www.consumer.att.com
800-222-0300 Press 1 for English, 0 each time you are prompted for your phone number, then say "agent" twice. 2  
Qwest
www.qwest.com
800-244-1111 Say "representative" a total of five times, once after each prompt, or press # four times. 1.5  

 

Retail products/services

 

Amazon.com
www.amazon.com
206-266-2992; 800-201-7575 Press 0, then stay on the line through the menu listings. 0.5  
Best Buy
www.bestbuy.com
888-237-8289 Press 1 a total of three times, once after each menu prompt, then press # six times, ignoring prompts for your order number and telephone number. 2.5 Press 0 twice, and the system hangs up on you after saying, "I'm sorry you're having problems."
Circuit City
www.circuitcity.com
800-843-2489 Press 0. 1.5  
Costco
www.costco.com
800-220-6000 Press 0 twice, ignoring prompts that say it's an invalid option. 0.75  
eBay
www.ebay.com
800-322-9266 Press 0 twice. 0.5  
Macy's
www.macys.com
206-506-6000 Press 0 three times, ignoring prompts and the automated voice telling you it can't understand you. 0.5  
Nordstrom
www.nordstrom.com
888-282-6060 Direct to human. 0 Representative answered so fast the phone hadn't even rung yet.
The Seattle Times
www.seattletimes.com
206-464-2121 Press 0. 1.5  
Starbucks
www.starbucks.com
800-782-7282 (card services); 800-235-2883 (retail) Press 0 (either phone number). 16.5 Cool hold music. They warn that they're experiencing a high volume of calls and encourage you to go to their Web site instead.
Ticketmaster
www.ticketmaster.com
206-628-0888 Press 2, then 6, then 2. 3.5 Ads and announcements can't be bypassed. Ticketmaster wins the "most annoying computer voice" award for the nasal fake-female who greets callers.

 

Technology

 

Apple
www.apple.com
800-676-2775 Press 1 for English, 2 if you're an existing customer. Wait for the next menu to start, then choose 3, then 2 to talk to an agent. 6 Automated voice blames long hold times on the new iPod Nano.
Compaq
www.hp.com
 
800-752-0900 (general questions) Say "connect." 1.5  
Dell
www.dell.com
800-999-3355 To bypass each of five menus you have to get through to reach an agent, press 0 twice after each begins, then ask to be transferred to customer service. 1 if you skip the menus.  
Microsoft
www.microsoft.com
800-642-7676 Press 0 five times and ignore the automated warnings that your option is incorrect. 0.5  

 

Travel

 

Alaska Air
www.alaskaair.com
800-252-7522 Press 3. 8 Pressing 0 reroutes you to the beginning of the menu.
America West
www.americawest.com
800-363-2542 Press 2 for America West, then 2. Then press 0. 2.5 You start with US Airways system.
American Airlines
www.aa.com
800-433-7300 Press 0 twice. When the automated voice comes on, say "agent." 2.75 Before transferring you to an agent, they warn that they'll charge you an extra $8 service fee if you buy a ticket over the phone.
Amtrak
www.amtrak.com
800-872-7245 Don't try to outsmart the automated voice by staying silent. It's quicker to say "agent," then confirm by saying "yes." 1.5  
Continental
www.continental.com
800-523-3273 Press 0 two times. 12  
Delta
www.delta.com
800-221-1212 Say "agent" twice after the introductory menu. 4  
Expedia
www.expedia.com
800-397-3342 Say "agent" twice. 0.5  
Northwest
www.nwa.com
800-225-2525 Press 0. 2  
Sea-Tac Airport
www.portseattle.org/seatac/
206-433-5388 Press 9. 1.5  
Southwest
www.southwest.com
800-435-9792 Direct to agent. 0.25  
United
www.united.com
800-864-8331 Stay on the line to get the automated system. Say "agent," and then "yes." They'll ask you what kind of agent you want, and if you say "agent" again, you'll end up with a reservations agent. 16.5  
US Airways
www.usairways.com
800-363-2542 Press 1 for US Airways, then 2, then 0. 0.5  

 

TV

 

Comcast
www.comcast.com
800-266-2278 Ignore requests to enter your phone number. Press 1 for English, then 1 for current customer. Ignore requests for your phone number again, and they'll transfer you to an agent. If you plug in your phone number, you'll end up at another menu. 2 Points off for not listing phone number on Web site.
DirecTV
www.directv.com
800-494-4388 Press 1 for English, 1 for existing customers. Ignore requests for your phone number. Press 0, then either press 3 twice or 4, 0, to get an agent.
 
2 If you don't choose a reason for your call, it hangs up on you.
Dish Network
www.dishnetwork.com
888-284-7116 Press 1 for existing customers, then press 0 when prompted for your account or phone number. 1.75 It said the wait would be two minutes, but an agent picked up in about 30 seconds.
TiVo
www.tivo.com
877-367-8486 Instead of choosing from the menu, say "agent." When the automated voice repeats the menu, say "agent" again and the voice will relent, saying, "OK, agent." 6 While you're waiting, recorded voices try to talk you out of it, telling you it would be "much faster" and "faster and more convenient" to go online.

 

Utilities

 

City of Seattle garbage
www.seattle.gov/util/
services/garbage/
206-684-3000 Press 3, then 0. 0.75  
Puget Sound Energy
www.pse.com
888-225-5773 Press 0. 0.5  
Rabanco
www.rabanco.com
206-332-7777 Press 1. 13.5 That's the phone number for Seattle. Other numbers are on their Web site.
Seattle City Light
www.cityofseattle.net/light
206-684-3000 Press 0 four times. 0.75  
Snohomish Co. PUD
www.snopud.com
425-783-1000 Press nothing. The system assumes you're using a rotary-dial phone and transfers you to an operator. 0.75  

 

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