A woman in Birmingham called 999 because there were not enough sprinkles on her ice cream, telling an operator “it doesn’t seem like much of an emergency but it is”.
In a recording of the call made last week, the woman is heard saying: “I’m at an ice cream van and I’ve ordered an ice cream, yeah.
“The person has basically given me an ice cream and he’s put bits on one side and none on the other and I’ve said can you that properly please and he’s like, no.”
The caller said she was at the van arguing with the vendor, who refused to give her money back.
Reminding the woman that 999 was a “life-and-death emergency line”, the operator calmly said it was not a police matter and directed her to Trading Standards or the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Police in the West Midlands released the recording with a plea for people to use 999 for genuine emergencies only.
Chief Superintendent Jim Andronov, head of the force’s contact centre, said West Midlands Police get more than 1,500 calls a day to the number and between 10 and 20 per cent are not matters for the police.
Around half are non-emergency calls that should have been directed to 101 instead.
“As well as the bizarre calls police also receive deliberate hoax calls which take up vital time,” he said.
“It’s astonishing listening to them but they hide a serious truth.
“Each call often takes minutes to deal with as staff have to clarify the situation - it might not sound like much but, if someone is trying to get through to report a genuine life or death emergency, then a minute is a very long time to wait.”
A 999 emergency is defined as a crime in progress, a sighting of a wanted suspect, when violence is being used or threatened and danger to life.