Study: The exact moment we get furious about being on hold

We've all felt that quick-building irritation of being on hold on the phone for too long. With online customer service and so much information available at the tap of keyboard, if we have to make a call, we're likely already not-so happy. Cue the grating automated voice. The confusing menu. Then the shrill music on a loop. Just thinking about it can make the pulse race, so it's no surprise it only takes minutes for people to get completely fed up waiting on the phone.

My last awful on-hold encounter lasted 48 minutes. I was so desperate to talk to a real, live person, I held out. But as soon as one answered, I burst into tears in frustration and only three minutes later, was (you guessed it) placed back on hold. The agents told me the wait times were typical, which only enraged me even more. It was not pretty. And worse yet, it was with my phone company. After that experience, I would have guessed that people's tolerance is well past ten-minutes. In truth, when British researchers polled people to find out when their frustration kicked in, they found it happens in five minutes, flat.

Well, almost flat. Their survey of 2,054 adults showed that the real harm of being on hold comes at the 5:58 mark. At this point, researchers say that stress levels soar and blood pressure builds.

More than half of the people who responded said they've been irritated to wait on a phone center call in the last month and 4 out of 5 have gotten so irked, they've hung up. The findings also showed that 67% of participants felt "annoyed" at having to wait at all. Approximately one-third responded that it makes them stressed, and 19% said being on hold made them "angry."

And the music isn't helping. Two-thirds of the participants said the tunes only made them madder.

One expert on stress blames our increasing "speed greed," the expectation of instant gratification for all this frustration we're feeling on the phone. Clearly, he's never had to dial in to my phone company before.

What's the longest you've ever stayed on hold?

At what point do you wig out while your waiting?



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