Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Turn At The Trough

Being unemployed means applying for unemployment insurance from the EDD. This is a brand new experience for me - until now I had previously been continuously employed since graduating from college in 1984. I successfully negotiated the EDD UI web application and also had a short phone interview with an EDD rep. I then waited for the first check to arrive...

After waiting the obligatory 10 working days, I began to get worried. So, I revisited the web site looking for a status. They have an automated phone IVR system that can be used to get status. The first time I called, it required me to go through an incredibly bizarre process in order to set a PIN. The IVR asked me the following questions:

  • Social Security Number (not followed with a #)
  • UI Check Dollar Amount (whole dollars before taxes only - no cents - followed by a #)
  • Zip Code Used On Application (5 digits not followed by a #)
  • My Birthdate (6 digits not followed by a # - does anyone remember Y2K?)
  • Phone Number Used On Application (no area code - 7 digits only - not followed by a #)
  • My new PIN
Holy touch tone Batman! It took me 4 tries to get my PIN set. If you enter a number incorrectly, it gives you one chance to correct it, and then it disconnects you, forcing you to call back and start from scratch. Not counting the EDD phone number to get connected, that process requires 22 key presses just to set my PIN. I probably did over 100 key presses due to my finger fumbles and screw-ups.

After 30 minutes and two index finger cramps later, I was finally past the PIN gate. I am then told: "There have been no checks issued on this account". Well duh! That's why I'm calling! So much for the automated system - another fine example of technology making everyone's life just a little better.

Being the persevering professional that I am, I moved on to plan B - calling the EDD support line. So, after removing the ice pack from my index finger, I called. I was met with an automated answer that said: "We are currently receiving more calls than our system can handle. Please try again later." *CLICK* Click? Click! What the heck? This is a support line? I've seen more support for the Taliban at a Bush family reunion. So, of course, I assumed it must have been a fluke - I called back - same thing!

I then found the following little ditty in the EDD FAQ:

Why can’t I get through on the telephone?

When our telephone systems receive too many calls the telephone network becomes temporarily overloaded. If that occurs, you will hear a message that states, “We are currently receiving more calls than our system can handle. Please try again later.” This tends to happen between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and the problem should resolve itself in a few minutes. This is also likely to occur on our busiest days (Mondays, and days after a holiday).

Once you have reached our telephone system, and you make the menu selections to speak to a Representative, the system routes your call to the location with the shortest wait time. However, if it appears that your call cannot be answered within 10 minutes because of the number of callers already waiting, you will hear a message advising you to call back later. To avoid this possibility, you may want to call on Wednesday or Thursday, which are our least busy days.

OK! Once again, technology has made everything better! We can now automatically hang-up on people whenever we get too busy - perfect!

The EDD is getting hit with a double whammy. With an 11.5% unemployment rate in California, they are being swamped by a huge spike in unemployment insurance claims. In addition, the disastrous California state budget means the EDD can't hire any additional help.

Hmm - here's an idea - how about we route all the phone calls coming into the EDD to the floor of the California legislature? I mean why not - those assemblymen & state senators don't seem to be accomplishing anything with the budget, so they might as well do something constructive. Plus, if I am going to be hung-up on by the state, it might as well be by the guy that is supposed to be representing me.

While we're at it, here's another idea - how about we randomly select 500 people waiting on hold in the EDD support line queue and have THEM fix the state budget. Could they do any worse? Could I? Heck, I'll do it for half the salary of a state senator, and I promise that when I get a real job, I'll step away from the state trough. Show me a politician willing to make THAT promise!

Mr. Governator: I am available to start immediately.

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