Part of my job includes chasing up social security issues for clients, particularly age pensions and entitlements, health cards and the like. Centrelink, our fantastic and paradoxically de-centralised social security branch of the Federal Government has one of those fantastic recorded messages that asks you to ‘speak’ into the mouthpiece of your phone so that they can identify your query and move you on to the appropriate department, which again paradoxically is never the most appropriate department. I had a lovely conversation with a nice lady machine this afternoon:
“If you require pensions, say pensions”
“If you need to register for Centrelink, say register”
“If you need unemployment assistance, say employment””
So says I: “Pensions”
She comes back and asks me to identify which pensions I’m after:
“If you have an enquiry about the age pension say age pension”
If you are enquiring about a single parenting allowance say single”
Again, I comply and say ‘age pension’
So far so good. The last machine like this was at a Share Registry last week. Their lady widget somehow thought that Bluescope Steel sounded EXACTLY like Coles Myer Limited. Needless to say, we had a fight but she retained her compusure and eventually put me through to a real live operator.
Back to Centrelink. After about 5 minutes of Barber’s Adagio with Strings strumming soporifically in my ear, another nice lady comes along and says:
Please say your 9 digit reference number
Well she asked so nicely so obediently, and whilst wiping the dribble from the side of my mouth as I had fallen asleep listening to the adagio, I clearly enunciated “087 465 321B”
Was that “087 465 321P” she asks “If yes, press #”
. . . . "no no no" I yelled down the phone
It’s “087 465 321B” As in bugger, bastard, bum, biatch . . .
“I’m sorry but that number does not exist on our system”
And the reason for the call? Centrelink in their wisdom had revoked our ability to enquire about this client on their behalf because “the client has requested it”.
No they didn’t. It turns out that the nominee authority expires after 3 years and because they don’t have an appropriate form letter to send to nominees notifying them of their need to renew, they send one that simply tells big fibs.
Ah the public service. I think it’s the same around the world.