So often these days, when Americans call a business, they hear a recorded message welcoming them to the company's automated phone service.
But many people find such systems make them feel exasperated, not welcome.
"It is just maddening for me," said Paul English, a Boston-area resident who has vented about the issue on his blog.
More companies are using automated customer service systems because it is much cheaper. A customer service call handled by a human in the United States costs a company up to a dollar a minute, and calls outsourced to India cost about 40 cents a minute.
A computer system can handle a call for less than 15 cents a minute.
But when you have a broken appliance, credit problem or complaint, what a computer can't do is feel your pain.
"If you are frustrated, humans want contact," English said. "You want someone who is empathetic and can help you."
English didn't just get mad -- he got even. He used his blog to create a cheat sheet -- a combination of numbers and codes that will take you right to a human at more than 100 major companies.
One of the best tricks is to keep dialing 0 or "pound," even when the system says it doesn't understand. It will eventually connect you to a person.
There are other codes and numbers that bypass some computers. At Sony, keep saying "agent" again and again and again. For Dell, once you get the computer, dial 726-6966.
English learns his secrets through trial and error, e-mails from other frustrated consumers and even from disgruntled workers inside big companies. Although he has made some businesses nervous, he got a complimentary message from one executive.
"She said, 'This is great. I love your system. This has helped me with a particular company,'" English said. "And then she said, "P.S.: I'm glad you don't have my company on there yet.' And I replied, and I said, 'I will.'"
ABC News' John Berman reported this story for World News Tonight.