Saturday, December 1, 2007

Technology to counter the curse of technology.

For the most part, I believe that technology has improved our lives: DVDs instead of reel-to-reel; voicemail instead of answering machine cassettes; laproscopic surgery instead of having to be cut wide-open. You get the drift.

I also think that at the same time that technology has made us more productive, it has sped up the pace of our lives and reduced the moments where we can exist peacefully without instrusion from the outside world. For example: cell phones. Now, if your friends or family can't find you for two hours while you go out to a movie or eat dinner in a nice restaurant, they'll practically be calling emergency rooms looking for you by the time you emerge.

Howeever, I came across a news article about a new bit of technology that really is useful. It is a website ( that dials a phone number for you, works its way through the voicemail maze to the department you want, and then calls your telephone phone once it gets a live person for you. All for free! How cool is that?

Saturday, December 1, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

A way to avoid phone tree hell
By Craig Crossman McClatchy-Tribune News Service

A phone tree is one of those automated voices that says something like, "Thank you for calling the XYZ Company. Your call is VERY important to us. Please select from the following nine options. Please make sure you listen to the entire menu because our options have recently changed."

You finally hear the option you want and press it. You are then presented with a sub-menu of choices. "Please select one of the following seven items." You listen and then make another selection. You then hear "Please select from the following six options," and so it continues.

It is somewhere around the third sub-menu that your mounting frustration makes you either give up or start pressing random phone keys in hopes that you might be connected to a live person who can actually help you.

When you finally navigate all the appropriate menu options, you discover that you now have to wait 17 minutes. When you do finally speak to a live person, you have to swallow your tongue, least you make a comment you may regret later. There must be a better way to quickly get to a live person on the phone, and now thanks to Bringo, there is.

When you go to the Bringo Web site (, you find the company you want to call. Bringo lists them alphabetically or by category such as credit card, health care, etc. Bringo has a growing list of companies including more than 800 so far.

After you find the company you want, you enter your phone number. This is so the Bringo Web site can call you back once a live person at that organization is reached. Bringo assures that your number will never be given out to anyone, and I believe this to be the case. (After entering your number, Bringo offers an option to remember it so that the next time it will already be there for you. Then all you have to do is click on the big blue fetch button.)

The first time you use the service, Bringo calls your number to make sure it's correct. When you answer your phone, an automated voice tells you to press the pound sign to confirm this is your phone number. After that you don't have to go through that step ever again. This is in place for added security.

On the Bringo Web site, you see a simple display that says YOU and the status of the call being made to the company. Beneath that you see the company's name you are calling. A status display lets you know what Bringo is doing to navigate the company's phone tree.

When Bringo finally gets a live person, it calls your phone back and a pleasant voice tells you to press the pound key to be connected to a live person at the company. Press it and you're speaking to a live person from that company. Amazing.

I tried Bringo several times calling different companies and every time it got me through to a live person who could help me in a matter of moments. Life is good once more.

At the very end, Bringo shows a screen that asks if it worked for you and to type in any comments. This helps the good people at Bringo further fine-tune the necessary navigation needed to circumvent the phone tree and get you to a live person. This effort by Bringo's users, along with a quarterly maintenance update by Bringo, helps insure that the phone-tree navigation is accurate because companies typically change their phone-tree menus for one reason or another.

Bringo is a free service, and it works with any computer with Internet access and a Web browser.

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