So I first type in “English + 800-numbers” into the Google search bar and get a whole lot of nonsense. I key in “toll free bypass” and get a couple of lukewarm leads. I decide to get literal with Google, so I punch in “how to get a real human being” into the field. Lo and behold, the first hit is the one I am looking for: IVR Cheat Sheet by Paul English.

Mr. English has deciphered dozens of codes to bypass IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, those annoying and ultimately exhausting computers that answer phone calls to help desks and customer-service lines.


Per custom, simply pressing “0” would lead a consumer to a live person. Lately, pressing “0” means absolutely nothing to the IVR. They just simply drone on and lead a bewildered caller on an endless chase through the Matrix-like customer service purgatory.

Companies are spending millions of dollars on these systems, unwittingly wasting millions more. Simply put, customers and consumers absolutely hate IVR. We want to talk to real people.

Enter Paul English. He’s published the codes to hundreds of Fortune 500 companies’ IVR lines. While many still use “0” to get a human voice on the line, other companies are much more cryptic.

Western Union is:* then ##. Verizon Wireless it’s: #00 or enter phone # then 0 then 4. For AT&T, English’s entry is: “No Easy Escape.”

For Dell Service, you would punch in: option 1, xt 7266966, option 1, option 4, option 4.

Dell Service!!!! The company that sells computers OVER THE PHONE!!!!! The mere notion that they could hide a human being at the end of all this rigamarole is almost insulting.


Like Ralph Nader writes: “In the old Soviet Union, shoppers stood in long lines hoping the shelves would not be empty before they reached the counter. In our country, tens of millions of Americans are told to press a bewildering variety of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. for several tiers sometimes, then be put on hold, waiting, waiting, waiting.”

It’s amazing that companies continue to try and get away with cutting corners and spoiling the consumer experience. They should know better. We are overly-connected. The system can be cracked. And in the process…ridiculed.

There is a certain amount of dark comedy at play here. Millions — if not billions — of dollars spent by companies on systems designed to shun, lock out and ignore human interaction are wasted because one human being — Paul English — decides to crack and publish the codes.

So simple. Yet so utterly ground-breaking.


  1. When I was doing real estate for a fortune 100 company. I was shocked when I overheard the derision and scorn heaped on customers by the “customer service” people
    Essentially this company ( as I am sure a lot of companies) viewed customers as “cost centers” after the sale. Basically they wanted to capture the revenue stream but do nothing after the sale. This partly expalins why these systems are in place.

  2. Daniel Doering · · Reply

    Ground-breaking? As a marketer, you should be embarrassed by your ignorance. IVR systems, specifically those integrated with CRM/customer database solutions, are far more effective than dealing with unpredictable live agents. After all, the IVR system is never “in a bad mood” or “having a bad day”.

  3. Hi Daniel,
    Thanks for the note. I must admit I am quite ignorant of the latest IVR technology and systems, especially those integrated with CRM/customer database solutions. I am sure they are cutting-edge and powerful tech solutions to customer service and consumer research.
    What I was concentrating on was Mr. English, a pro-active consumer (prosumer) who took it upon himslef to navigate the matrix of IVR codes and run-arounds to allow fellow consumers the possibility of a better expereince with the company in question. I did not intend to provide commentary on IVRs, just a little ribbing of companies that try to commodotize and obfuscate the customer experience.
    As for my opinions on using computers over real human beings when marketing to people…well, I think we all know where I stand on that.

  4. Doc Leesson · · Reply

    Mr. Doering;
    There ARE no “good” IVR systems. I know of no one who doesn’t absolutely hate them with a searing passion.
    The fastest way to permanently lose me as a customer is to try to force me to use an IVR.
    Regards, Doc Leesson

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