Voice (Non)Recognition

Sometimes, it’s just easier to deal with a human being. I had forgotten to contact my life insurance policy carrier (Prudential) when I moved in December so I tried contacting them yesterday to update my address. Using last year’s premium statement, I dialed the 800# and got their automated system.

First things first – I love automated systems. They make things easier and can often times make the phone call quicker instead of having to deal with a cubicle-dwelling drone who, at the end of the call, tries up up-sell you on something (platinum card status, travel club, magazine partnerships, additional insurance, theft protection, etc…). But wouldn’t you think that changing your address would have to be done with a live person?

Apparently, Prudential doesn’t think so. After going through a billion prompts (without the opportunity to press zero for the operator), I finally reached the change of address option. Surprisingly, the prompt stated that it works by voice recognition and that I should speak my address clearly. They even gave me an example by slowly saying “123 Main Street”.

Now, I’m not going to give you my mailing address here, but I will say that part of the street name is Thacher. That sounds easy enough, right?

WRONG! I stated my complete street address and the automated system repeated the street back to me as ” F*cker” in that computer generated voice. It asked if that was correct and I said “no”. Then it asked me to repeat my street addess. I did it slower and once again, it said “F*cker”. It got the street number right but kept the street name kept coming out as “F*cker”. We went through this three or four times before the system finally said “it appears that you are having trouble entering your street address.”. Instead of directing me to a human being, it cycled me back around to the beginning and, once again, I spoke my street name VERY slowly…yet every time it told me I lived on “F*cker”.

It seems that this system can’t differentiate between a “th” sound and a “ph” sound. Nor can it distinguish a “ch” sound from a “ck” sound.

For a second there, I thought I might be on that TV show, Crank Yankers, where they do prank calls. But, this was all too real.

Finally, I just sent them a letter in the mail.


  1. Comment by David in Chicago on February 11, 2005 3:28 pm

    I almost commented here, but I think I’ll just send it to you directly, cos it’s evil.

  2. Comment by jeff on February 11, 2005 7:33 pm

    I wonder if there’s a customer service rep out there in phone land laughing their ass off with your conversation with the computer.

  3. Comment by matt on February 13, 2005 2:12 pm

    Hmmm… Prudential seems to be a bit inappropriate! LOL! Tell us what David had to say!!!! We all want to know!!!

  4. Comment by karyn on February 14, 2005 1:00 pm

    Oh my. Someone out there got the laugh they needed because of that one… frustrating for you, I’m sure, but that is pretty damn funny. Will you please send me your new mailing address via snail or email? (Hm. I wonder where the Valentine will go…the one I mailed to 123 F*cker Street…)

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