I need to return a holiday gift so I called a large, extremely customer-friendly business that has improved its customer service to such a degree that it doesn’t have to actually deal with customers anymore.

“Welcome to Conglomerate World. We have highly developed voice-recognition software so you can say why you are calling and we will know immediately and respond accordingly.”

I want to return an item.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

I want to return an item.

“You want to burn an album. Is that right?”

No, I want to return an item.

“OK, I got it. You want to steal a rhinoceros. If that’s correct, just say yes or key in the confirmation code 7459396Q.”

No, that is not correct. Can I speak to a representative?

“Did you say that you found a Greek who is argumentative?”

No, I just want to speak to a representative? An agent? A human person?

“OK, let’s start over. In just a few words, tell me why you are calling. You could say, ‘I want to pay my bill’ or ‘I want to check my balance’ or ‘I need a grilled ham-and-cheese.’”

I want to return an item.

“You said you want to return an item. Is that correct? If it is, you could just say, ‘you’re damn tootin’ it is’ or key in the confirmation code DAMNTOOTIN’683’.”

Yes, it is, yes.

“OK, now that we know you want to return an item, why don’t you tell us what kind of item it is. Is it a tie? A hammock? Is it something aerodynamic? Is it a partridge? Is it with or without pear tree? Just say what it is and we’ll figure it out.”

It’s a new phone.

“You want to return a blue gnome? Is that correct? You could just say yes or key in the name of the blue gnome and its date of birth.”

No, it’s not a blue gnome. It’s a new phone.

“Got it. You want to book a flight to Nome. If that is correct, you would be better off calling Delta Airlines or maybe Southwest. Nevertheless, to confirm your booking, and whether you can use frequent flyer miles, just say ‘confirm booking’.”

I don’t want to book a flight. I just want to exchange my phone. Can I speak to a representative, please?

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Why don’t we start over? Let’s start by saying why you’re calling. Do you want to check your balance? Do you want to know when your bill is due? Do you need more information about the two-state plan for Israel and Palestine?”

Representative, representative.

“OK, I hear that you want to talk to a representative. Unfortunately, all our representatives are currently busy helping other customers book flights to Nome.”

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