Monday, June 14, 2010

Unemployment Is Underemployed

The bureaucratic fools in government do not get on the ark.  Their common sense is just too deeply buried to warrant their admission.  Extended hours have been implemented in the unemployment office, a toll free number has been designated to handle all the extended unemployment claims.  Hold times are at an all time high, and yet it seems no one in the division has figured out that perhaps THEY should hire more people.  What follows is my story of how their inability to see the excruciatingly obvious screwed up three different days for me.

The other day I placed my eighth, yes eighth, phone call to unemployment trying to submit a claim for extended benefits after months and months of fruitless searching, first in my field of expertise and then in any field remotely related.  The first time I called I got an extended message explaining what I could and could not do on the automated system.  After determining that I could file my claim, it asked for my social security number.  This was about 7 minutes in.   I input the number only to be told I needed to call back Tuesday.  (7 minutes wasted)
            So Tuesday, I called back, waiting until the kids were down for a nap so that I could have the important conversation.  I made the mistake of eating my lunch first and then calling.  This was a mistake because after going through the automated system again (7 minutes), it told me that due to extraordinarily high call volume it expected to be able to answer my call in about 30 minutes.  I waited, and waited, and waited.  Then my youngest woke up before anyone ever came to the phone.  The rest of the day was rather hectic so I had to wait until the next day to call back.  (34 minutes wasted)
Wednesday, I called in at the beginning of nap to allow myself enough time.  I figured I could make a sandwich while I was on hold.  In fact, I could have not only made the sandwich, but I could have baked the bread.  Problem was, this time, my oldest came home from school and I needed to tend to something for him so after about 20 minutes on hold, I once again had to terminate my call. (54 minutes wasted)
            I called again on Thursday, but the automated system now told me it wasn’t my turn.  (61 minutes wasted)
This time I needed to wait until next Tuesday, or so I thought.   So I took my cell phone with me on my vacation with my mother, and after learning that it didn’t work in the hotel, I went outside Tuesday morning, listened to the seven minute message about what I could and could not do over the phone, and input my social security number.  Apparently, Tuesday was no longer my day, I needed to call back Wednesday. (68 minutes wasted)
            So I did.  We were leaving Wednesday so I went out around 10:00am to make sure I had plenty of time to get the call in before we needed to check out.  I dialed, listened to the seven minute message, input my social security number, confirmed that this was the right day to call and listened to the system tell me that my wait would be 32 minutes.  I waited, and I waited and I waited until the automated musak went silent.  I looked at my phone.  The display that only a few minutes ago had read 18 minutes and counting was gone.  I’d been disconnected.  (86 minutes wasted)
I called right back, the seven minute message had listed a “special toll free number” set up just for the reason I was calling.  I tried that.  If it were instituted for only one of the many services, perhaps it would be quicker.  It was, 29 minutes to the original 32.  While I waited a number of people joined me in the courtyard and hearing became difficult.  Not to mention this was a conversation I wanted to have privately.  After10 minutes, I realized this was not the time and place and so I hung up and decided I’d call back while waiting for the ferry home; we’d have about a half hour wait anyway. (96 minutes wasted)
            But it was pouring rain while we stood outside with two bags in each hand waiting for the ferry, and I forgot to call.  It wasn’t until 4:55 when we were sitting on the ferry and the nice woman next to me asked what I did for a living that I remembered I had to contact the office, in the next five minutes, or wait for another week to go by unpaid.  I excused myself and quickly pulled out my phone.  Much to my pleasant surprise, I had service.  I listened to the seven-minute message again.  I input my social security number again.  I was told my wait time would be 31 minutes.  I looked at my watch; they’d be closed in 31 minutes.  But I couldn’t wait another week so I took the chance that I would sit on the phone until 5:00 and then get automatically disconnected when they shut off the phone service.  Or worse, I might sit on the phone in the automated system after everyone had left for the night, not realizing no one was going to answer my call.  It didn’t matter.  I had to try.
            So I waited.  5:00 came and went and the musak kept playing.  I waited and waited and waited.  31 minutes went by and I still waited.  I entertained the thought that I was now lost in an unmanned automated system which no one would return to until the morning, but still I waited.  I was on a boat that would dock after 45 minutes so I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.  The captain announced that we would be arriving soon and gave us our disembarking instructions.  Just as I was about to give up again, I heard another man’s voice on my cell phone; “how can I help you today?” he asked. (141 minutes and counting)
            I told him that I had been waiting for over 45 minutes.  I told him that I had spent two weeks trying to get through.  And then, knowing full well he was just an operator with absolutely no authority, I stated the incredibly obvious:  The unemployment office should hire more people to answer the obviously overtaxed phones.  I stated that this would kill two birds with one stone by decreasing hold times via having more operators AND by having fewer patrons because it would create jobs.  I know this is too obvious a solution for the government, but it made me feel better to point out the excruciatingly obvious. 
  In the end, the actual phone call took less than 4 minutes.


  1. Madison, if it weren't for the fact that this post is no doubt completely true and therefore incredibly frustrating for you to have had to endure, it is hysterical! Your comedic timing and constant update of time wasted is perfect! That being said, perhaps you have a possible job title in your future: ask your state's governor for a consultant position as the Ambassador of Common Sense - sounds like there might be an opening!

  2. Oh my goodness, that sounds frustrating! No, I agree with you; totally not allowed on the arc. Ever.