Call centres now top the list of life's frustrations, with the average person spending the equivalent of a working week a year on telephone administration.
Companies may claim the call centre makes customers' lives easier, but the public rates them above rush-hour traffic and delayed trains as their most stressful daily experience.
Top of the list of gripes about centralised phone systems are "being passed from pillar to post", being cut off midway through the ordeal and having to hold for lengthy periods of time before talking to someone. More than eight out of ten people contacted for a survey by the market research company the Future Foundation said call centres were their worst nightmare, compared to 71 per cent who cited sitting in traffic and 63 per cent who listed late trains.
The average Briton spends 41 hours a year on the phone to call centres, the research found. One in three people said they were often "put on hold" for more than 20 minutes while dealing with a call centre; one in 20 reported holding for more than an hour.
The number of call centres in Britain has doubled in the past 10 years, from 2,815 to 5,700, now employing more than 800,000 people. More than eight million people a day do battle with the call centre system.
Many respondents said that time pressures and impatience made them behave badly. Two-thirds had jumped or swapped queues in the supermarket, while one in five had abandoned a basket or trolley because they were fed up with waiting in line.
Half said they regularly ate while standing up or walking because they were so pressed for time. One in three admitted to botching a DIY task because they had been rushing to finish it.
Analysis found those most likely to say they were impatient were city dwellers in their thirties and forties with children under 16 and an income of between £17,000 and £35,000 a year.
The survey company said: "We are all doing as much as we can, as fast as we can, often juggling more than one thing so as not to meet deadlines and not let other people down.
"We expect our service providers to provide service with the same speed and efficiency that we give to others. When this doesn't happen, we feel angry, frustrated and let down".
The survey of 1,000 people was conducted for www.swiftcover.com.Reuse content