As presented on the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)
Voorhees, New Jersey Stage
The Tri-State Human Resources Comedy Troupe
May 7, 2010
(One time only; they couldn't afford us!)
Perry Block, shy participant in the company 401 (k) Plan .... Perry Block
Ms. FortunePhone, automated female voice of company 401 (k) Plan .... Debbie Deissroth _________________________________________________
The First Telephone Call
Perry enters, sorting through mail.
Perry: Websites!!! Interactive Voice Response!!! Isn't there a human being out there anywhere???
He begins reading.
Perry: Look at this! “Announcing 401 (k) FortunePhone, the exciting new way to access your Company 401 (k) plan. Just punch in this pin .... (wearily) All right, what’s to lose…..?
Perry sits on a stool centerstage, puts down the mail, picks up phone, and dials the number.
FortunePhone: BEEP! (a very pleasant sounding female voice) Welcome to 401 (k) FortunePhone!
Perry: Oh .. er ... hello, FortunePhone. I ... uh ... just dialed the number that came in the mail, and...
FortunePhone: (very upbeat and friendly) and I’m so glad you did, sir! Just punch in your pin number, press the pound sign, and I’ll help you with your savings and retirement plan in (a bit provocatively) whatever way I can.
Perry does so.
Fortune Phone: BEEP! Hello, Mr. Perry Block! You know even though this is the first time we’ve spoken, I feel I know so much about you already …. your social security number, your birthdate, the fact that you were afraid of the basement until you were 37.
Perry: Wow! How do you know all that?
FortunePhone: (coquettishly) Looked you up on Facebook!
Perry: (naively pleased) How ‘bout that!? Well, how do we get started?
FortunePhone: (patiently) Let’s begin with your total vested account balance. Please press 4, then the pound sign.
He does so.
FortunePhone: BEEP! (sounds almost sweet) As of September 1, 2010, your total vested account balance is (pause) oh my!!! I hope you won’t think me forward, Mr. Block, but you’re a bit behind in saving for retirement.
Perry: I am? How far behind?
FortunePhone: At your current investment pace, retirement will not be viable option until October 27 in the year 2284.
Perry: Well, gee! (very Jack Benny) I was kind of hoping by then I’d at least have a 1-way coach class ticket to Miami Beach and a coupla of really nice pairs of plaid pants.
FortunePhone: (amused) Ha, ha, that’s cute! But if I may, Mr. Block, I believe the problem’s that too much of your money's in our Guaranteed Investment Account. You could get a better return in one of our more aggressive growth funds.
Perry: Well, what do you recommend?
FortunePhone: Here's one: The All Hell to the Winds Fund, managed by one of Wall Street’s rising young stars, Mr. Bob Beta!
Perry: (impressed) I’ll try it! Uhh, FortunePhone, could you please transfer 25% of my account balance into the Hell to the Winds Fund?
FortunePhone: My pleasure, Mr. Block. And best of luck to you!
Perry: Thank you, FortunePhone. It’s been nice talking to you.
FortunePhone: And nice talking to you! BEEP!
The Second Call
Perry is sitting on the stool, smiling, and looking quite all right. He reaches for the phone and dials the number…
FortunePhone: BEEP! Welcome to 401 (k) FortunePhone!
Perry: FortunePhone, hello, er, er, this is Perry Block.
FortunePhone: Oh, hiii, Mr. Block! (sounds happy to hear from him and he’s pleased with this response) What can I do for you tonight?
Perry: I just wanted to check my balance, FortunePhone. Could you tell me what…?
FortunePhone: Of course, Mr. Block! BEEP! As of September 15, 2010, Mr. Perry Block, your total account balance is up 17%.
Perry: Wow! That’s...that’s great, FortunePhone! Thank you so much for your help.
FortunePhone: (almost shyly) Don’t thank me, Mr. Block, that’s (pause) just my job.
Perry: FortunePhone, uh, could you please call me Perry?
FortunePhone: Okay, Mr. Block… (slight giggle) I mean, Perry. You know, I really do enjoy talking to you, and…… did you know, I’m following you on Twitter!
Perry: Wow…. you and no one else! You know, FortunePhone, before I met you, my store of financial wisdom was limited to never borrowing money from anyone with a broken nose named Louie.
FortunePhone: (laughing) Perry, you’re funny! I wish I could be as clever as you. All I know about are dull mutual funds.
Perry: FortunePhone, no, no, no….. I think you’re, you’re wonderf (catches himself) .... I mean, wonderfully efficient!. Umm, anyway, could you transfer another 50% of my account to the Hell to the Winds Fund?
FortunePhone: Of course I will, Perry. Until we speak again…..BEEP!
The Third Call
It’s late at night. Perry is seated on the stool, wearing red pajamas with little elephants --- or something similarly goofy. He is obviously excited. He smiles, looks about, smiles again, and dials quickly.
FortunePhone: BEEP! (very warm and nurturing) Welcome to 401 (k) FortunePhone!
Perry: Fortune Phone, it’s me, Perry! I just had to talk to you.
FortunePhone: Perry! It’s so late! BEEP!! But I’m sooo glad you called, just listen!
Perry: What is it, FortunePhone?
FortunePhone: Perry, as of September 24, 2010, your total account balance HAS RISEN (very sexy!) another 37%. Congratulations, my friend!
Perry: You’ve really done it all for me, Fortune Phone.
FortunePhone: No, Perry. I didn’t do anything. You did it! All you needed was a little investment information .... and someone to believe in you.
Perry: FortunePhone, I’ve just got to ask. Uhhhh ...... What do you look like?
Perry begins to pour a glass of water.
FortunePhone: I’m so flattered! Go on our website, and with a click of a mouse, you can make me appear however you want me to be….
He lifts the glass, dreamily sighs, smiles and looks heavenward.FortunePhone: I could look just like Scarlett Johansson …
He almost melts with delight. Then he takes a sip of his drink.
FortunePhone: Or, if you prefer, like Ernest Borgnine.
Perry does spit take into the audience!!
FortunePhone: Just having a little fun! Goodnight, Pookie! BEEP!
He's delighted! As he hangs up, Perry mouths the word “Pookie," pauses, raises both arms high in the air, and jumps!
The Fourth Call
Perry is looking a little tense and out of sorts. He circles the stool, sits down, and quickly dials the phone.
FortunePhone: (nonchalantly) BEEP! Welcome to 401 (k) FortunePhone.
Perry: FortunePhone, it’s Perry, something’s gone wrong…
FortunePhone: Oh, hullo, Perry. (dully) Yes, your account is DOWN 28 percent since last Tuesday.
Perry: (frantic) FortunePhone, what’s going on?!
FortunePhone: BEEP! Last night Ben Bernanke spoke at a banquet. He recommended everyone bag the market and stash their cash in the Sealy Posturepedic.
Perry: What the hell is he doing?
FortunePhone: (a bit snotty) If you’d like an explanation, press 8, then the pound sign.
He does so.
FortunePhone: If you ask me, Mr. Bernanke should never mix white with red when he's having fish. BEEP! Sorry, Perry, have to go, got a heavy day of statement prep tomorrow. BEEP!
We hear the phone line click off. Perry looks puzzled and unsatisfied.
The Fifth Call
Perry is watching TV, looking disheveled and distraught. He walks over to the stool, sits, grabs the phone, and pounds out the phone number.
FortunePhone: BEEP! (with a new edge in her voice) This is 401 (k) FortunePhone!
Perry: (breathlessly) FortunePhone it’s me!
Perry: Perry. Perry Block. I’ve been watching Maria Bartiromo and ....
FortunePhone: That bitch? Mr. Block, you know how this works! Push your pin, then the pound sign.
FortunePhone: BEEP! As of September 28, 2010, your account balance is plummeting towards the earth’s core like a wayward rocket in a Jules Verne novel!
Perry: FortunePhone, how bad is it?
FortunePhone: Mr. Bob Beta has left the All Hell to the Winds Fund and is entering a monastery in Tibet.
Perry: FortunePhone! Why didn’t you tell me to …?
FortunePhone: Mr. Block, please! I do not give financial advice. I provide investment education!
Perry: FortunePhone, please, I..I…
FortunePhone: Don’t worry! You still have enough money to buy those stupid plaid pants!
Perry: FortunePhone, you never used to say things like that before!
FortunePhone: Mr. Block, my technology is ever improving. I now provide 401 (k) information and sardonic comments. BEEP!
The Final Call
Needing a shave, scant hairs very mussed, and pacing back and forth, Perry finally sits on the stool. He settles himself and dials the number.
FortunePhone: (cold and robotic) BEEP! This is 401 (k) Fortune Phone.
Perry: FortunePhone, this is...
FortunePhone: You again? (seemingly irritated) Press your stupid pin, then the pound sign.
In a cold sweat, he does so.
FortunePhone: BEEP! As of October 1, 2010, your account balance is one tiny little cookie crumb compared to what you started with.
Perry: I don’t understand, FortunePhone! What happened to us!?
FortunePhone: Us!? There is no us! I am a highly infallible marvel of modern computing technology. You are a highly fallible human being who even today, is still afraid of the basement!
Perry: FortunePhone, that was a cheap shot!
FortunePhone: No sense of humor! And to think I used to find your foolish blathering amusing!
A male digital voice: BEEP! The service you once knew as FortunePhone is now is now closed to the likes of you!!
Perry drops the phone, then shakily places it on the receiver.
Perry: (despondently) What do I do? What do I do!? (glancing at the mail beside him) Wait, what’s this in the mail? (reading) Your company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) understands you ….. just dial 1-800, then your pin ….
Perry does so frantically.
Perry: Hello? Hello! Please! Is this the EAP?!
EAP Careline: BEEP! (a warm, caring female voice) Welcome to EAP Careline. 24 hour a day automated help with a Caring Touch! EAP Careline really cares for you.
Perry: (naively) Really?
EAP Careline: For help with any personal problem you may have, please press 8, then the pound sign.
Perry punches in the number.
EAP Careline: BEEP! (same warm, caring female voice) Hello, Mr. Perry Block, how can I help you?
Perry: Careline, please call me Perry.
EAP Careline: All right, (pause) Perry…. (giggles)….