Definition: “Zero Outs” – What call centers call customer who, instead of climbing through the branches of the phone tree, keep pounding zero in hopes of bypassing straight to an operator.


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  1. Daniel-Bham says:

    I guess that includes me…

  2. SacraBos says:

    You know, the first time I make a call, I’ll generally go through the tree. But if they can’t get the job done the first time, and it requires me to call back several times, you bet I’ll zero-out, curse-out, or anything else to the phone system to get directly to a person.

  3. heavylee-again says:

    Is it true that many voice recognition systems will transfer you to a rep immediately if you curse at it?

  4. toastydoc says:


  5. friendlynerd says:

    I’ll go through about 3 hoops before I start hitting 0, no more

  6. losiek says:

    Amex is the best – their IVR recognizes that and routes you to an agent asap. Most others SUCK!

  7. muddgirl says:

    If I don’t hear any options that I want in the first couple minutes, I will start pressing zero or saying gobblety-gook to the voice recognition software (which I hate, as I’ve got a crappy cell phone that doesn’t seem to handle my voice very well).

    But recently, I’ve noticed that this works less and less often. Pisses me off – if they don’t want me to talk to an agent, then they should re-design their phone tree to be simpler and more transparant (Capital One, I’m looking pointedly at you).

  8. bigdirty says:

    Having an unlimited calling plan, I just look up the corporate office number and dial that rather than fish through any customer circus line. Infinitely more efficient, even got my hard drive replaced from HP.

  9. legotech says:

    [] is your friend.

    Ways around the phone trees of tons of companies. (Including a few that hide like PayPal.)

  10. Youthier says:

    @SacraBos: Definately. I will give your phone trees on shot. After that, I make my own rules.

  11. Next time I get one of those voice recognition systems (fuck you, Verizon) that don’t work for shit, I’ll start saying gibberish (or profanity) to it. See whether I crash it or get an operator.

  12. mike says:

    Verizon is by far the worst. You have to press ‘0’ several times because it asks you, “In order to route your call, please select…”

    I really hate these systems. If there is a queue, I should be told. Provide a separate number for “automated tasks” like PIN resets and the like.

  13. Daniel-Bham says:

    @heavylee-again: Yes. At least I’ve had success by saying “F**K” over and over when it tells me to give a “short description of the problem” or “say one if…”.

    I’ve heard that they escalate you to the first available operator if it detects certain buzz words.

  14. sburnap42 says:

    I did that with Dell just a half hour ago. Someone apparently stole my card number and bought a Dell. Their stupid system kept babbling about an order number which I, of course, didn’t have. The first time I hit zero, it then asked “home, small business or corporate”. How the hell would I know? Ask the bastard who stole my number. Fortunately, the second zero worked.

    I have no patience for shitty voice mail systems. I also want to punch whoever invented those damn voice recognition systems.

  15. snoop-blog says:

    just think about how many americans would have jobs if auto-voice was banned.

  16. unklegwar says:

    @snoop-blog: Right, cuz they wouldn’t just route it to India. At least you can UNDERSTAND the automated systems.

    The rock and the hard place: Automated Hell or a mushmouth mumbling incoherently with an indian accent.

  17. RothRandom says:

    I just tried that 5 minutes ago to get to the Department of Motor Vehicles line and it actually worked. I pressed zero about 10 times and I got a really rude person. Sucks I got a really rude person, but it works.

  18. t-r0y says:

    On the voice prompt systems, I just say “Agent”. It’s worked every time.

  19. Traveshamockery says:

    I’m now:

    1) A “Deeker”
    2) A “Zero Out”

  20. LVP says:

    I dial the number then don’t do anything, after a bit I get a real person. I act like I have a rotary phone.

  21. SacraBos says:

    Some of the system recognize hitting 0 several times quickly, and will route to the agent queue.

    As for talking gibberish, I keep thinking of recording the Steve Carrell babbling in Bruce Almighty and playing that into a VRS. Must have taken an ungodly number of takes to make it through that scene.

  22. forgottenpassword says:

    Yeah I’ve done it. Those phone trees are a pain in the ass! ANd half the time you arent given an option for what you need.

    Sad thing is now, they dont use 0 anymore to go directly to operator…instead they hide the operator option somewhere in the maze of phone tree options.

    I’ve heard in those phone trees that have voice recognition… you can curse & it will direct you immediately to the operator.

  23. P_Smith says:

    This is why I’m glad I live in a big city. When companies pulls this crap, I don’t fool around with the phones, I go down there and bang on their doors.

    This is why you should buy local in a smaller city, even if you pay more for it. Getting in their face will get their attention. Shop local, be vocal.

    If they can’t see you, the WILL try to ignore you. That’s why credit card chargebacks work, because it hits the company in the wallet and gets their attention.

  24. MercuryPDX says:

    I like to just say nothing and not press any buttons. They must refer to me as a “Faux-tary” (Faux + Rotary) user.

  25. Narockstar says:

    Cursing doesn’t work. I’ve used every curse word in my vocabulary and that stupid $#*%ing C#^%fa@$d machine never gets it right. I usually end up robotically repeating “customer service” for five minutes until the software gives up and transfers me to customer service.

  26. Communist Pope says:

    I find that most auto systems will put you through to an operator if you say “operator” one or more times. (And do so pretty much every time.) Though after reading these comments, I guess they do that for any repeated “does not compute” statements.

  27. Tonguetied says:

    What’s even more irritating is when the damn system tells you that it can’t recognize what you’re trying to do and instead of relaying you to an agent say “Please call back later” and hangs up on you.