Hold Music

Recently I have been sharing a common form of despair with my colleagues, that of being on hold to various companies. I generally quite like being on hold, as I know it gives the person dealing with my issue valuable thinking time, also it’s a nice opportunity to stare into space and get away with it whilst at work.

Christmas is a time for giving, sharing and all the rest of it. But in my line of work it is a time for helping the lovely general public with their gift-related quandaries. And hold music is something the customer has to endure (when i need thinking time) as much as I do. I’ll make my point absolutely clear now, that all hold music should be abolished and replaced with news headlines. Or Stephen Fry talking. Or the sound of rain on a tightly drawstrung cagoule hood.

Courier company Hermes (named after the Messenger of the Greek Gods) use a horrid saxophone-type muzak which is reminiscent of some pseudo-sensual chocolate advert from the 80s where some wide-eyed red-lipsticked brunette sinks into the sofa and tucks into the promoted confectionery whilst the long white silk curtains billow enviously in the background.

Incidentally, and I admit more appropriately, exactly the same hold music is used by Thorntons.

The high frequency of the lead sax (or perhaps generic horn) is so cutting that it is instantly apparent to much of the office that someone is on hold to Hermes, or in my case Thorntons. Minutes on end I sat today with the handset balancing on my right shoulder because I couldn’t bear the full brunt of the shrill brass monstrosity. Meanwhile the promise of one of their ‘chocolate advisers’ actually speaking to me on behalf of my customer grew less likely by the second.

The key point may be whether or not the call is indeed ‘important’ to them. If it was of genuine value or interest to them they would surely make the waiting experience a little more tolerable. Dentist waiting rooms have The Readers Digest, can’t we have BBC Radio 5 Live?

Thorntons of course, irritating in their apparent refusal to mark their centenery (Chocolate Heaven since 1911 anyone?) never did get round to helping me. So I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow morning.

P. Hurford 2011

Posted in The Customer is Always Right.


  1. I think they should just load the holding time with quotes from Prince Philip and your lead article picture…George Bush.
    Or perhaps the repetitive chuckle of a funfair Laughing Policeman will suddenly make us so crazy that we will forget why we rang, who we are and why we are working for the company – Leading to a day of new found discoveries, which is always an enlightening bonus.

  2. I wonder if many centuries from now, when we have found away to get rid of hold queues and call centres and all the other Ark B jobs that make up the infrastructure of a western country they will look back and ask each other why we did it to ourselves. Or they will have something even worse.

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