What is the Answer to Automated Answering Machine Recordings?

I’ve been calling local pharmacies in an effort to schedule getting the updated Covid-19 vaccine updated bivalent booster and the flu shot as well. I imagine I’m not the only one encountering the frustrating automated answering machines.

It’s confusing to find out that if I answer the question about how many Covid-19 vaccine shots I’ve gotten (which is 4, including the two initial doses and two boosters), the machine politely sort of congratulates me (“you’re good to go!) and then hangs up. That contrasts with the web-based organization message in large font against a bright red background which assures me that I can schedule a time to get both vaccines—if I set up an on-line account (which always makes me suspicious). It turns out that the old “continue as a guest” alternative puts my personal information at risk. I’m unable to get a live person on the line.

I found a few tactics on the web for bypassing these recordings, but I’m pretty sure they don’t work. Some of them have been around for over 15 years, like pressing zero once or even repeatedly. That can result in the recording automatically hanging up on you.

There are other suggestions for pressing various special characters on your smartphone, which some people swear by.

Speaking of swearing, I even found one suggestion for swearing repeatedly into the phone to get past the automated answering machine. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work.

I think I’ll just sit tight and wait a while. There’s no rush. But I wish there were some polite and effective way to get a live person on the line when you get the automated answering machine from hell:

Drugs-R-Us Pharmacy: Hello, what would you like to do today? You can say, “vaccine,” “alien abductions,” or “triple fat burger with soggy fries and a cola.”

Customer: Vaccine.

Drugs-R-Us: Thank you! Would you like to do: schedule a new, review a scheduled time, cancel an appointment, or talk about the weather?

Customer: Schedule a new.

Drugs-R-Us: What vaccine would you like to schedule?

Customer: Updated Covid-19 booster.

Drugs-R-Us: Got it! And would you like any other vaccines?

Customer: Flu shot.

Drugs-R-Us: I see; I’ll make a note of that. You can ask the pharmacist at your visit for another vaccine, which would be administered as an intra-ocular injection in the eye of your choice. Now, a booster. I’ll need some more information, including your birthdate, phone number, number of previous vaccinations, distinguishing marks, social security number, all bank account numbers, record of previous arrests, and the name of your first-born child, if any. First, how many vaccines have you received?

Customer: Four.

Drugs-R-Us: You rock! You have all the vaccines you need and that means it’s Beer O’clock for you, dude. Is there anything else?

Customer: But I want the updated Covid-19 booster! Can’t you understand that it’s new and your company says it’s available now?

Drugs-R-Us: Good-bye (click).

Maybe I’ll have better luck next week.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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