My dumb-ass numbers bitching, most likely done before.

If you are reading your credit card numbers off to someone on the phone, do just that. Don’t say “October” when it clearly reads 10 on your card. Does it seem reasonable that there’s an “October” button on the other end? Chances are more than likely that the person listening to you knows to change it to 10, but why complicate things? The other person is typing 16 numbers that you’re reading them, just give them the expiration date in kind.

When reading a long sequence of numbers, just read the digits. Especially when there is a long sequence that needs to be recorded. One, six. Is very clear. Sixteen, is less clear, because the first syllable implies a six, and then modifies it to a one. This applies to fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen. There is no good reason for ambiguity in this manner.

I agree that these are trivial manners in the grand scheme of things, but I do not agree that they are worthless. Small things cannot be overlokked if we as a nation are expected to be able to compete in the global market. Little things add up.

No flames here, just support, and expansion.

While I know that most places that take data over the phone know what a phonetic alphabet might be, I’m still commonly surprised when the person on the other end of the phone has no clue what I mean when I start going: “L as in Lima, O as in Oscar, K as in Kilo, and I as in India.” Especially since if I start simply spelling the letters without using a phonetic alphabet I can get some really weird responses. (My real name has such easily confused letters as D, N and P)

(Though I wonder what happens if we overlokk something.)

Because it’s small compensation for a an account number this is, and no exaggeration here, A MILLION TIMES MORE THAN THE POPULATION OF THE ENTIRE EARTH. If you expect business on more than one planet you should have anticipated one minor problem.

And similarly, when you’re calling a place that needs to give you information, why do they not teach the operators the phonetic alphabet? There’s nothing I hate more than when I’m sitting and waiting for the person on the other end of the line to come up with a word beginning with a given letter, particularly if the word they end up choosing rhymes with another word that begins with another letter that rhymes with the letter in question: e.g. “B as in Barry” sounds just like “V as in Very”. Bravo and Victor don’t sound anything at all alike!

Haven’t we as a society learned enough about speaking, particularly through scratchy phone lines, to be a little frickin’ more considerate about these sorts of things?

Having lived outside of the US for several years, I feel uncomfortable saying the month and year as numbers since different countries order them different. 9/8 could be September of 2008 or August of 2009 depending on who you ask.

Once upon a time a customer’s name was given to a call centre to set up an account with their company. The operator was having trouble so the name was spelt out using the phonetic alphabet.

When the customer’s Bill arrived it was addressed to something like:
Mr John Sierra Mike India Tango Hotel.

Luckily the customer thought it was hilarious but it does echo Sage Rat’s point that the more accurate systems can cause confusion when both parties aren’t familiar with them.

Of course how a call centre can employ people and not teach them the phonetic alphabet I don’t know.

Not to mention the fact that it is often hard to distinguish “sixteen” from “sixty”, even in person, much less over the phone. Also, punctuate the call-out with reasonable pauses and at a reasonable cadence. Don’t call out “1234987655001212”. Call out “1,2,3,4 … 9,8,7,6 … 5,5,0,0 … 1,2,1,2”.

I spent some time answering calls for the Social Security Service Center, and I learned real quick that it was hard for people to tell if I was saying fifty-five or sixty-five, so I started saying five-five and six-five. And I don’t know how many times I had to re-enter people’s SSNs because they would say things like sixteen instead of one-six.

Another thing I can suggest; when reading off ID codes that are mixed numbers and letters, say “zero” instead of “oh” to avoid confusion.

edit: Said it post above. NM.

I read off exactly what the card says. If the cards says 10/09 I read 10 (short pause) 09. If it says 10/2009 I read 10 (short pause)2009. If it says Oct. 2009 I read Oct (short pause)09.
I also read each digit as an individual digit. I don’t read combos of digits. If my VISA card starts with 4388 I will read this as four, three, eight, eight. Not forty three, eighty eight, or OG forbid four thousand three hundred and eighty eight.

As well, it’s not “cute” when you relate your phone number as 71-65824-47-2. The type of person to do this is also the type who would send you a letter with glitter in the envelope.

We are not amused.

I have a small problem with this - my zip code has three consective zeros (i.e. 10001). If I read them directly, operators tend to lose count. If I try to group them - “one, zero…zero, zero, one” - operators often think I’ve stuttered or something. The most successful way I’ve learned to read this is “one, triple-zero, one”, which works most of the time. Does anyone have any better ideas?


“Binary seventeen”?

This is standard in the UK - “3779” would be spoken as “three double seven nine.”

I had the same problem growing up, the only other simple alternative I see (which is the one I actually used) was one triple-oh one (because the oh/zero confusion was impossible). I’ve heard people use “one thousand, one” but always thought that could lead to the listener getting down 1001 and then waiting for a fifth digit. “One, three zeros, one” is definitely gonna get you a result of 1301 and a wait for a fifth digit and “One, then three zeros in a row, then one” is tooooooo long (although less confusing than “one thousand, one” or “one, three zeros, one”).

I think ‘triple zero’ works because the ‘triple’ doesn’t sound like another number. Not like 16 or 18, where you have time to hear 6 or 8 and then have to correct it. I think triple-something or double-something is okay for most people. Of course, there’s always that one dingbat for whom nothing works.

You win.

Now I’m bummed that 10001 isn’t my real zip. I would so use “binary seventeen”, especially if I was ordering from or someone like that.


Oh. I guess that binary is much more popular and usable in everyday life than I had previously thought.

Wait. No. It most certainly is not.

That was a geek joke though.

My peeve is when the account number itself has a font that doesn’t make the difference between an O and a zero clear.

True Story: My husbands name is Tom. I’m on a tech call. Husband is standing in the door.

Me: (spelling out a word) B as in Boy. T as in…as in…T as in…crap…um…
Husband: TOM!


B as in Bomb. Got it.