Letters to the Editor: The soundtrack of hell? Customer service hold music

A person checks his phone.
Columnist Nicholas Goldberg described the hold music on a recent customer service call as “unbearably repetitive.”
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: My deepest sympathies to columnist Nicholas Goldberg for the loss of minutes he’ll never recover while hanging on hold, listening to mind-numbing music. Based on nothing more than my own experience, I believe that sometimes the music is selected to actively drive the caller off the phone.

A while back, I spent several hours in multiple sessions — once up to four hours — listening to pain-inducing music trying to get Whirlpool to buy back the non-functioning clothes dryer it had sold me. At the end of each of these sessions, I was depressed and seriously agitated by the music.

That’s an obvious example of a company trying to force callers to give up. I didn’t, but it hurt.


I have faith there’s a special ring in hell, not known to Dante, where the designers of such systems go after they die. There, the only sound is piped-in music like the selection Whirlpool uses, and it’s blasting loudly. In this hell, there’s no way these lost souls can hang up.

Joanne Reynolds, Corona del Mar


To the editor: When I call any of several airlines or cable companies, I am told my business is “very important” to them — so important that it entitles me to a concert of repetitive noise until I am told they are “experiencing unexpected call volume” and need to place me on hold.

Twice I have set the alarm for 1 a.m., just to check on the folks I regularly do workday business with. Sure enough, the recorded message in the middle of the night repeats the “unexpected call volume” sham. Can it be that they have three persons working at homes around the country to serve the customer needs of a nation?

Sometimes after a “brief” hold I reach a real human, only to be disconnected in the middle of the call, accidentally or not. I am then obliged to call back and be led through the same statement of appreciation for my business, a brief hold and a delay caused by their popularity.

This is customer service in 2022, as citizens rocket into space and back in minutes.

Gordon Cohn, Long Beach



To the editor: I read Goldberg’s column hoping to identify with some of the “songs” he has been subjected to while on hold.

I recently have been put on hold (and disconnected) many times while setting up my health insurance coverage for 2022. My favorite has been the electronic song that AARP offers that, although instrumental, sounds very similar to “Franklin’s Tower” by the Grateful Dead. AARP knows its audience.

My least favorite has been with an insurance call center that plays a seven-note dirge over and over that I would title, “A Ride on the River Styx.” There’s nothing like being reminded of your own mortality while waiting to talk to someone about your health insurance.

Susan McEowen, Sherman Oaks