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Don't Be A Phone Hostage

Just when you need a human on the other end of the phone, you get a machine. Many companies now use automated answering systems to field customer-service calls, and that's created a wave of consumer frustration.

Paul English takes on the problem with his Web site, On it, he rates different companies by the quality of their phone services.

He also has some useful suggestions for circumventing the usual computer messages and getting a real person on the phone. English joins The Saturday Early Show this week with six tips.

Help, I need a human!

  • Interrupt
  • the computer voice by pressing 0, or #.

  • Talk.
  • Say "get human" (or "agent" or "representative"), or raise your voice.

  • Just hold
  • , pretending you have only an old rotary phone.

  • Connect to account collections
  • , sales, or account cancellation.

  • Toll call.
  • For credit cards, if the expected wait time is too long, hang up and try to call back on the non-toll-free number.

  • Select the option for Spanish.