A way to avoid phone tree hell
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 (www.nophonetrees.com), 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.
Whenever I get a new PC, I first get rid of the bloatware shipped from the manufacturer. Then I install all my programs from scratch. After that (it's getting dark now), I copy over my documents and data files. Yes, it's a pain, and it takes up the better part of a day, but I know that I'm starting from scratch, with a clean operating system and clean installs of my programs.
Another way to do it is via PCmover, which transfers everything via a USB or other cable. It's faster, but you're pretty much guaranteed that all your files — even those you don't need or want any more — will follow you to the new PC.
The PCmover I tried was for upward migrations only. From Windows Me to XP, for example, or from 95 to 98. This version comes with a USB cable, Filemover software and a user-friendly interface. A newer version, available from Laplink, will move your files from XP to Vista, and it adds a few useful bells and whistles.
I tried this version because I am hearing and reading that a lot of PC users are sticking with XP and its latest upgrades (all free from the Microsoft Web site). They're finding that Vista is memory-hungry, for one thing, and doesn't offer enough useful utilities to justify the price of the software and the hardware upgrades.
So let's say you're far more cautious than I am, and you've decided to make the move from Windows 98 to Windows XP. This version of PCmover is just the ticket. It will move your settings, e-mail, data and programs to the new operating system or PC.
In a few hours, depending on how much you're moving, you're all set up on your new PC. You don't have to reinstall your programs, such as Word and Excel; they move along with your Word and Excel data files.
If you're confident that you want all those files, this is your day (and your software). But if you would rather reinstall everything, and you have all the installation discs, I think clean installs trump migration.
However, if your programs are running just the way you like, and you don't have a clue how to customize them again, PCmover is the way to go.
— Noah Matthews
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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