43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Break out of "phone jail" with GetHuman

In yesterday's post about putting customer service numbers onto your mobile phone, commenter Joe suggested checking out Paul English's wonderful GetHuman, a website that diligently collects and updates the phone numbers (and key punches) necessary to get you straight through to a human being at 500 well-known companies.

I realize this site is ancient news to a lot of you, but I couldn't believe I'd never featured it in its own post here; I've been loving and using the crap out of GH (and the preceding IVR) for years now. Consider the oversight rectified.

Paul also shares some smart tips for intrepid information seekers (Hint: that fast "0" mashing tip has worked great for me):

  • Interrupt. Press 0 (or 0# or #0 or 0* or *0) repeatedly, sometimes quickly. Unfortunately the same keystroke does not always work for each company. Many IVRs will connect to a human after a few "invalid entries", although some IVRs will hangup. :-(
  • Talk. Say "get human" (or "agent" or "representative") or raise your voice, or just mumble. :) The IVR might connect you to a human after one of these key or unknown phrases.
  • Just hold, pretending you have only an old rotary phone....

A propos of nothing

I seem to recall mathowie once telling me that if you repeatedly scream obscenities at a voice robot, you sometimes get straight through. I’m not sure if it actually ever works, but it just feels great to scream the f-word into a phone sometimes.

Also new to me: here's a list of the 500 companies and their secret knocks that's suitable for printing at teeny-tiny size and sticking into your notebook or backpack. Or -- if you're feeling particularly ambitious -- one imagines it wouldn't be too hard to convert the HTML table into a CSV file that could pretty easily be munged into an importable list. Just if you're feeling ambitious.

Confidential to Paul: If it's not a programmatic nightmare for you, I suspect that exporting your list to a downloadable vCard (with the secret code in "Notes") would make you a hero. Also? You need you a prominent PayPal link, my friend. :) Great work, and thanks.

Update 2007-10-06 17:27:12 PDT

cshneid and dansays have each done us the honor of mashing up a vCard version of the GetHuman 500. So now you can get all 500 numbers into Address Book (and onto your iPhone) with a nice, easy import. Worked great for me!

See post comments for more info. -- mdm

Update 2007-10-07 07:06:26 PDT

Paul has added a tab-separated file and a vCard version of the gethuman database on his site. Whenever the database is updated, you can grab a new copy for your Address Book. Thanks for the fast response, Paul. more »

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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