We heard from many readers following last week's story, "Navigating the phone maze" (Nov. 12). Some of you offered your own tips for beating...

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We heard from many readers following last week’s story, “Navigating the phone maze” (Nov. 12). Some of you offered your own tips for beating automated phone systems or your stories about dealing with crummy customer service once a real human finally picks up the phone.

One woman described her 90-minute ordeal on hold while waiting for someone at Sirius Radio to pick up the phone and replace her faulty radio.

An assortment of other reader comments follows:

Hire someone!

The thing that amazes me is that the same companies that spend millions on TV advertising and beaucoup bucks paying outfits to make sales calls to your home at dinnertime can’t find the low five-figure salary to employ a live telephone receptionist.

— Knick and Lyn Pyles, Point Roberts

The ultimate phone maze

Thank you for a most informative article on the modern phone maze.

As a reward, here’s a chance for you to make $20 any time you want. (For maximum effect, use a speaker phone.)

Have a friend or staff member dial the Department of Immigration in Seattle. (Keep in mind that English is your first language and that visitors or immigrants probably speak another language.)

Now, bet your friend $20 and give them 30 minutes to follow the voice prompts and speak to a real person.

Trust me, you’ll never lose the $20.

— Cris Lafferty, Tacoma

Revenge was sweet

After fulfilling my contract with Qwest Wireless, I tried to terminate. After waiting 10-15 minutes on each of three calls, I gave that up.

I then called the number for new contracts. Sure enough, they picked up on the first ring.

I told them I wanted to terminate. “Oh no! Not here, you must talk to … .” I was transferred and waited another 15 minutes before hanging up.

Next day, I called new contracts again and told them I was canceling.

“Oh no! We’re just contractors, you can’t tell us.”

Well, if you’re contractors, then you have Qwest’s authority to take information, and the information is I’m ending my contract. Let me talk to a manager.

Qwest continued to bill me. After three months, I got a call that they’d terminate my home service if I didn’t pay up.

At least that got me a real person who terminated the contract — but I had to pay the three months in which I didn’t use their cellular service.

I trotted down to small-claims court and filed a claim for repayment of the three months I had paid — tripled under the Consumer Protection Act.

It is a deceptive and unfair practice to pick up on the first ring if I buy a new contract, then refuse to pick up if I want to cancel. A week before trial, I got a call from a snotty Qwest lawyer in Denver telling me my claim was bogus.

On a second or third call from Ms. Snotty, she agreed to pay me double my money if I’d settle. I did.

— Nathan Kirk, Auburn

Phone Rx needed

I am a pharmacist. Helping our customers with their insurance entails long mazes of button-pushing and longer wait times than you are quoting for retail establishments.

I work for a large chain, and we make a minimum of five of these calls each day, wasting large amounts of employee time for a small reward. Some stores don’t help their customers, making them wade through their own problems.

— Jamie Stott, Reno, Nev.

Things I would change

There are a couple other things that drive me mad about this:

• Banks and insurance companies that make you key in account and policy numbers, only to find that when you finally get through to a real person, the first thing they ask you for is … your account or policy number! Why?

• Comcast really should cut some of their messages to playing just once per phone call. When I am calling to let them know that I have no Internet service, it really galls me to hear over and over how I should use their Web site and get help that way. If I could use their Web site, I wouldn’t be on hold waiting to talk to someone!

• It seems like everyone now has a message at the beginning of their hold cycle that says, “We are experiencing a high call volume.” Get a clue. If you are always experiencing a higher call volume than usual, it is not unusual anymore — it is the norm. Hire some more people! And stop telling me that my call is important to you!

— Judy Stoffel Loewen, Seattle