When you call a doctor’s office it’s usually not for a good reason. You call to schedule an appointment to have that weird growth on your foot looked at; or you call to get test results back to find out what that weird growth on your foot actually is; or you call to pay the exorbitant medical bill you received, because it turns out your insurance inexplicably doesn’t cover weird growths on the foot. So, since you go into a call to the doctor’s office already experiencing some anxiety, the last thing that you want is to be lied to by their recorded phone message—yet it happens every time.
The first thing I hear when my doctor’s phone picks up is, “If you are experiencing a life threatening emergency, please hang up and dial 911.” That’s not a lie—it’s just common sense, albeit such common sense, I would hope it never has to be acted upon in the first place. I mean, let’s say you accidentally chop your entire arm off while dicing tomatoes. This is clearly a life threatening emergency. I would assume 99.99% of the population would think, “Wow, that’s bad. I should call 911,” seeing is how that’s a relatively easy number to remember. Presumably it would be much less likely that you would think, “Wow, that’s bad. Let me look up the phone number for my doctor’s office and see if I could get an appointment sometime this week to get this looked at.”
But it is after the obligatory, but moronically obvious 911 statement that the egregious lie occurs. The next thing I hear is, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed.” I am here to tell you, that is simply not true—unless you can define “recently” as sometime in the last decade.
I have been going to the same doctor’s office for about 12 years and I’m pretty dang sure the options have always been:
For hours of operation, address and fax number, please press 1.
To schedule an appointment, please press 2.
If you’re calling from a provider’s office, hospital or pharmacy, please press 3.
For billing inquiries, please press 4.
For medical records, please press 5.
Of course, “our menu options have recently changed” was true at some point in time—specifically, when the message was first recorded, oh so many years ago. But at some point—three months later? six months later? a year later? two years later, for crying out loud?—the menu options had not been changed any time recently, unless of course you’re talking about a geologic timescale, in which case any time in the past 10,000 years is considered recent. But, assuming for a moment that my physician got his doctorate in medicine, not geology, this whole “our menu options have recently changed” thing is a bald-faced lie.
Presumably, the reason they have perpetuated this lie for so many years is they assume people are too lazy to wait to hear the menu options and will start randomly pressing buttons, so they are trying to trick patients into sitting through all of the choices by claiming something may be different from the last time they called. If this is, in fact, the case I think there are some more honest ways to approach this message. I would recommend any one of these options:
1- “Please listen carefully, because while our menu options have not recently changed, you may be a new patient who has never heard our menu options before, or an existing patient who is either unable or unwilling to commit our menu options to memory.”
2- “You are about to hear our menu options and we highly recommend number four, but you may want to listen to all of them, just in case that’s not your thing.”
3- “Our office staff is way too busy and important to pick up the phone when it rings, so we prefer that you sit through this recording and then press the number that corresponds to the staff member who is going to leave your call on hold for 20 minutes before answering.”
See, all of those options are much more truthful than “our menu options have recently changed.” Of course, if they insist on lying on their recording, they could at least be more inventive about it and go with:
4- “Please listen to the following menu options, because if you don’t, a laser will shoot out of your phone and set your inner ear on fire.”
Now I’m sure it’s not just my doctor’s office that is guilty of playing fast and loose with the word “recently.” It’s quite possible that your doctor’s office, or insurance broker’s office, or lawyer’s office perpetuates this same ugly lie on their phone system. So feel free to suggest to them that they use one of the alternative wording options listed above. But if it’s your geologist’s office that says their menu options have recently changed, just leave it alone—from their point of view they’re telling the truth.