Dear Person Whose Job It Is To Call Me Back — You Suck.

Dear Person Whose Job It Is To Call Me Back,

You suck. You are really, really awful at your job.

I don't care if you are a scheduler for a therapist, or a doctor, or a social service program. It doesn't matter who you are, a key function of your job consists of making appointments and yet you're — staggeringly, mind-bogglingly — terrible at it.

I know I should be sympathetic to your plight. After all, since I've yet to meet a single competent scheduler among dozens of offices, there must be some Scheduling Guild secrets that I am not privy to. Perhaps basic calendar technology has yet to reach your office. Maybe your boss regularly uses your phone line to make 1-900 calls. Probably your desk is on the plains of the Serengeti where regular rhinoceros migrations make such calls impossible. I can see how that would be difficult.

But you know what? I don't care. I really freaking don't. Because I am quite certain that you haven't given the slightest thought to the amount of effort it takes me to call you. Allow me to enlighten you, since you are obviously not doing anything else right now.

The process starts when the thought that I need to call and make an appointment swirls to the forefront of a near-constant whirlwind of needs, obligations and decisions about how to approach my son's disability. Then I need to find the appropriate number, which is never the number on a website or the caller ID from the last time you called. (Of course not. That would be way too convenient. Thus breaking the Scheduling Guild code of conduct.) Then I need to carve out a time in my day that is during business hours yet not during times when my nearly napless children are awake and eager to use any excuse to scream at me.

Once I have met all of these requirements, I get your voice mail. Of course you are away from your desk at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. That makes sense. The rhinos must be on the move. No matter, I will wait for you to call me back. You know, because that's your job. Somebody is paying you to do that, so clearly you will do it at your next available opportunity.

But here's the thing: You never freaking do.

A week goes by, maybe two, and I realize as I am trying to fall asleep that you never did call me back and now I have to start the process all over again. You get me every time. We've played this game dozens of times now and yet I still always assume that you will call me back because I left you a message. I must be legendary at your Scheduling Guild meetings. "Susan! You're never going to guess who called me!" "No, not her! Again? That's too outrageous. When will she learn?"

Never. The answer is never, Person Whose Job It Is To Call Me Back. I will never learn that you won't call me back because I find it incomprehensible.

I find it incomprehensible not because someone is paying you a decent living wage to do something as simple as picking up a phone and typing my name into your clinician's calendar. Not because could you be very easily replaced by modern calendar software that would allow me to make my own appointments 24 hours a day. Not even because you ought to know how difficult it is for me to find time to call you. No, Person Whose Job It Is To Call Me Back, the reason I find it so incomprehensible is this:

A little boy with scarred brain tissue needs some help. The help is most effective the soonest it can possibly be given — time that is measured in days, not weeks or months.

You are the gatekeeper to that help. And yet, through your laziness or incompetency you are denying him access. In some cases, you are literally sentencing him to more suffering.

So I guess what I'm really saying, Person Whose Job It Is To Call Me Back, is, unless you are currently being dragged away by stampeding rhinos, you really need to pick up the phone and call me. Like, right freaking now.


The Lady Who Will Never Learn

I hope you found this rant cathartic! Feel free to share using the icon buttons below and if you haven't subscribed to my RSS feed, liked me on Facebook or followed me on Twitter, there's no time like the present! Oh, and the AWESOME board book Dark & Light: A Love Story in Black and White is available here and all profits go towards my son's medical needs. 


  1. Anonymous5:49 PM

    This is so absolutely for real and is just making me realize, I'm not kidding, that there's a call I'm waiting for too. Ridiculous.

  2. Anonymous5:57 PM

    Perhaps you could consider writing down the name and phone number of each and every person you need to call to set up your son's appointments? It is not the Person Whose Job It Is To Call You Back's fault that you are disorganized.

    When you leave messages, are you polite? When you do have an appointment, are you polite and friendly to the front office staff? Do you blame them for things that are not their fault (like the doctor/therapist being 2 hrs behind schedule again). Admins and receptionists have a HUGE amount of indirect power - and tend to use it judiciously.

    And yes, once worked as a dermatologist's receptionist/scheduling assistant. (The folks that were snotty and rude had their calls returned - it was my job to return them, after all, and within the 5 business days service standard the hospital required - eventually, at COB on Day 5. The non-rude patients got their calls returned *much* faster (and were the ones I called in favours for).

    It's possible *some* of the Person Whose Job It Iss' are evil, mean, hate their job and are intentionally fail to return your calls despite you being the politest, most reasonable person on the planet -- but it's highly unlikely *all* of them are. You might want to honestly think about whether *your* behaviour contributes to wht your calls go unreturned by *everybody*.

    1. I certainly don't kiss their asses, but I do feel like I am polite to the office staff. This is because of the attitude I mention here, which is that I always assume that they are competent and will do their jobs. The second time I have to call, I try not to let my annoyance show through my voice, but I'm not sure how successful I am. The third time I start asking for superiors... and even then I try to "team" with them to see how a complaint from a customer might make their job easier. See, this is because I still assume that if given a choice people *want* to be good at their job.

      All of this is irrelevant however to the superficial circumstance you outline here. The point is that the person who is suffering is my son and, to a large extent, me. Someone who would inflict that sort of pain on another human being because she has a petty grudge while she sits in a posh medical office with nothing better to do really needs to reexamine her priorities.

    2. KateK: since when a frustrated (and often desperate) parents should influence how soon you return a call and help a sick child? I titally understand you Shasta! These people who sit in their posh medical offices have no idea what we (parents) have to deal with.

    3. Anonymous2:52 PM

      Shasta - As the Person Whos Job It Is/Was, my expectation was that people be civil to me (if for no other reason that this stops the world from descending into anarchy) – I certainly did not expect people to suck up to me. And I very much cared about the patients, took a lot of pride in doing my job well and was ALWAYS very polite to all callers. Hard as it is to believe, the VAST majority of doctor’s office staff do. Still, the entire front-office staff got yelled/sworn on a regular basis, often for things we had literally no control over.

      Lovely as it was that these charming individuals seemed to think I was omnipotent, regretfully my powers did not extend to convincing their GP to refer them to a dermatologist; knowing they do not check voicemail on their cell phone when they keep leaving messages saying “you can reach me at Cell Number XXX”; physically stopping the doctor from going to the OR because trauma patients get priority over Ms. Non-Emergency’s annual skin cancer checkup, and; magically knowing traffic is terrible and keeping the office open until 7:15 PM, so they can pick up a critical insurance form that I got turned around in record time, because I knew it was super-duper important, despite the fact that the patient knows the office closes at 6 PM. (And a 2 second call to let me know she'll be late would have allowed me to leave the form in a sealed envelope for her, at the security desk - but yeah, six profanity-filled vmails is totally the way to go).

      Again, there are always SOME people who hate their jobs, are bad at them and are rude to their clients for kicks – but NOBODY returns your calls promptly, ever? At lots of different doctors’ and therapists’ offices, where YOU are the only common denominator??

      Kasia – It is certainly scary when one’s child is sick and, sure, you’re entitled to yell at the receptionist because you are frustrated. I worked at a big teaching/research hospital in a very, very big city – that had gone through the trouble to developing very, very specific service standards, and all of us were VERY careful to be sure we respected them. Hence, 5 business days. But it is probably more effective to be grownup for thirty seconds and try to leave a polite message.

    4. OK, KateK. Thanks for representing the scheduler's point of view. Sounds like it's a pretty shitty job where you have to deal with the crazies... like every other job where you deal with the public: retail, pharmacy, media, government, parks, etc., etc.

      Let's just assume (as you seem to have) that I'm lying about being polite to office staff and say that we both feel entitled. The question is, who in this interaction is getting paid to do so? The scheduler. So they have an obligation to perform their duty in a timely fashion. Unless a client's behavior is completely out of line, I think it's incredibly uncool to go off on some little power trip when a child's wellbeing is on the line.

  3. I agree with you about the suckage, but what I really want to say is, "how much do I LOVE this picture? ALOT, that's how much"

  4. Great piece, Shasta. Yesterday I called not one, but two docs at different offices, asking the person who answered the phone (OK, one was by voicemail) to call the other so as to get the physicians talking between themselves about my concern. Guess how many phone calls I got back? Yep ... but like Anne Frank (and apparently you!) I continue to believe these folks are basically good. Hope things improve for you soon.

    1. lol, Nancy, I've never even considered trying to get the doctors to talk to each other. What a novel concept! I think as professional communicators this is the thing that confuses us the most: what is so hard about talking to each other?? :)

  5. It really is mind-boggling that our calls can go unanswered. Recently, I have e-mailed, called the MD and the NP for a question about Boo. You would think one of those would get a reply. Even if it was just to say, hey your appointment isn't until April and until then we don't want to hear from you!

    1. Exactly. The same thing happens to us with a Dr who has told me in person several times that she is available by e-mail. SOME response is preferable to absolutely none.

  6. LOL! As a mom who is waiting eagerly - literally, phone in hand - to hear whether or not an appointment has opened up so I can (WOOHOO!) spend our spring break having a sleep study done on my three year old whirling dervish, I TOTALLY GET IT. I have no doubt that most of these folks are hardworking and dedicated, but there is something systemically wrong with the process.

    1. I agree with you Andi, it's got to be the system. I'm too far removed from it to figure out what exactly that might be, but it sounds like it's really not working for anybody.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts