Some Nova Scotians are using creative ways to express their frustration with being put on hold including one man who wrote and recorded an audio track to play for the phone operator who finally — hopefully — answers the call.
Retired high school teacher Mark DeWolf, 69, told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon phone-in program on Friday he was so tired of waiting on hold with a bank about four years ago, he made his own recording to play back to the employee who eventually returned his call.
"I got so irritated that I created a message of my own," he said from his home in Halifax.
"I wasn't trying to shame them, I guess I was going to try to get revenge."
DeWolf used his personal computer to record the message, complete with hold music, and posted it on YouTube for others to use. The message plays over the image of an animated phone operator whose expression grows increasingly alarmed.
"Thank you for answering my telephone call to the company for which you work," DeWolf's message begins.
Jarring hold music
"At present, the volume of my calls being answered is unusually high. But your response to my call is important to me. And I urge you to stay on the line until I feel like picking up the phone again."
The recording tells the phone operator to prepare to wait three hours and 28 minutes for a response, then it launches into some jarring hold music.
DeWolf said he never got the chance to use the message as it was intended. But "I listen to it every so often just for the satisfaction." He encourages others to find the video on YouTube, and use it for real.
Maritime Noon listener Kurt MacLennan, from Glace Bay, told the story of his late grandfather, Earl Cathart, who got fed up with being on hold with Canadian Tire about six years ago.
The man, in his 70s, was on hold for about 30 minutes, MacLennan said, and his call was dropped. So he called back and it was dropped again.
MacLennan said when his grandfather called back and was put on hold a third time, he put the phone receiver down, got into his vehicle and drove more than 15 minutes from his Port Morien home to the Canadian Tire in Glace Bay.
Cathart "went to the front desk and said, 'I need to find this part for my car,'" MacLennan said.
"The guy said, 'Can you hold on a minute?' and he said, 'You see that red, blinking light on the phone? That's me holdin' on from home.'"
Mary Jane Copps, who runs a Halifax-based company called The Phone Lady, said the problem comes down to businesses cutting staff or phone lines to save money.
Copps spends her days teaching telephone skills and said the most important thing consumers can do is let businesses know when they have a customer service problem. She suggests sending complaints by email or posting them on social media if you can't get through on the phone.
The key to filing an effective complaint is to try and go as high up the corporate ladder as you can, she said.
"I recently spoke to a senior executive at Revenue Canada about a customer service loop I got caught in for an hour and a half," she said. "She genuinely didn't know how the system worked. She'd never called it."
The senior executive was shocked at her story, Copps said, and she fixed the problem.
"I think sometimes they simply don't know. They created a system and then they've never checked it since."