Cheat Codes Help Bypass Call Center Menus


A former IT manager has created a website with 12,000 “secret” codes for making your way through automated call center menus. Amazingly it appears to be entirely his own work rather than crowdsourced.

The Please Press 1 site was created by Nigel Clarke and reportedly took seven years to compile. Although some firms have provided details of their phone menu options, in many case Clarke simply phoned up and made a note of every possible option, using Skype to cut costs and allow him to record the calls so he could double-check the details.

The idea stemmed from Clarke having originally used Post-It notes to keep a record of menu options for numbers he called regularly.

He’s now published a database covering 130 leading British companies. Here you can discover that reporting a water leak to a specific home insurer involves calling the company and then inputting 1-3-2-1-1-5-4. In this case, inputting the numbers straight away rather than listening to the options in full saves more than four minutes.

In publicizing the project, Clarke noted that one insurer had a menu system with 107 different options. He also calculated that the complexity of the menu for HMRC (the British taxation office) means callers spend a combined 4.3 million hours a year navigating menus.

One of the big limitations is that menu options can and do change. At the moment the site doesn’t offer any simple way for users to add to or update the information.

It’s not the first time Brits have used the web to combat phone issues. The SayNoT0870 website uses crowdsourcing to find and list geographic phone numbers for businesses as an alternative to publicized non-geographic numbers (similar to an 800 number in the US). That’s important as although such numbers are designed to be free of charge or a cheap rate, they are often excluded from cellphone voice call allowances and free call packages on landlines.


3 Responses to Cheat Codes Help Bypass Call Center Menus

  1. “The Please Press 1 site was created by Nigel Clarke and reportedly took seven years to compile. ”
    That means that most likely 90% of the information contained therein is outdated and obsolete.

  2. If you just shriek and fling poo at the phone until you get someone to bitch at, it generally takes longer to be transferred to the right place than to just listen to the options… I do tech support and hate those sites that collect ‘secret’ ways to get to people.. I do tech support, not billing, not new service. So if you just chimpslap the keyboard until I’m lucky enough to get you, you then have to wait while -I- go through the same options to get you to where you were supposed to be to start, so you’ve now wasted BOTH our time. Although depending how bitchy you are once I’m stuck with you, you may just get ‘here’s the number, call back and listen to the options, bye.”

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