or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Reference Question of the Week – 12/29/13

   January 6th, 2014

phone number padSo, here's an odd question that came in twice - once to my coworker and then later to me.

When I answered the phone, the patron asks,

Can you tell me the phone number for 1-800-Go-FedEx?

At first it sounds like a prank phone call, but this is actually a good example (ie, trick question) for a reference services class. This particular patron is blind, and so can't easily correlate the letters of "Go FedEx" to numbers on her phone's keypad.

I'm not an expert on accessible equipment, so maybe there are phones that do have the letters indicated too, but this seems like a perpetual problem for low-vision people.

Anyway, instead of manually figuring this out with our desk phone, which would have taken more time, I just did a quick search for "800-go-fedex" and found it listed on FedEx's Customer Support Phone Menu webpage as 1.800.463.3339.

And my call was the second time. Earlier that evening, my coworker had told me she got this call (and that it initially struck her as odd until she recognized the patron's voice) - but I guess the patron had forgotten the digits in the meantime.




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


3 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 12/29/13”

  1. Bret Says:

    Great response to a funky question. It’s easy to answer the straight-forward question; it’s less easy to figure out the intent behind the funky, seemingly crank questions.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Bret: thank you, and I agree – there’s a lot of on-the-fly figuring out of what the patron is actually asking despite the words they’re using, and this is just a slightly unusual example.

  3. Jill Says:

    I used to own a Blackberry cell phone and it didn’t have the usual letters on the number keys. I remember a particularly frustrating experience trying to call direcTV to cancel my service and not being able to find the full numerical version of the customer support number on their website. I eventually resorted to calling the fully numeric “sign up for service” number and was transferred.