Consumer website PleasePress1.com has launched the UK's first 'phone rage index', revealing the ten most annoying customer services phone systems in the country. The website used its database of 600 services operated by everyone from banks to car companies, to identify those which drove us round the bed.
The winner, unsurprisingly, was the taxman.
The website, which is run by systems expert Nigel Clarke, focused on the most common frustrations - including those services which have dozens of never-ending menu options and those with tedious introductions which are both pointless and unavoidable.
HMRC took the crown, because it offers 400 menu items across just 6 services.
The top ten most frustrating phone services were revealed as:
2. Ford motor company
3. Lloyds TSB
5. Co-operative Insurance Society
6. Transport for London
7. Direct Line Insurance
8. Churchill Insurance Company
10. Student Loans Company
Clarke said: "As customers, we're often on the receiving end of 'stall centres' that seem determined to keep us on the phone for as long as possible. Even larger companies with understandably complex departments have no reason to send customers through a maze of choices, only for many of them to end up confused and in the wrong place. It's self-service with limited guidance and no guarantee of a result. That wastes time and money."
He will be updating the list every month to see if the companies can improve, and has been in touch with the firms direct. He says: "In the last month, I've had contact with some huge names, including a very constructive meeting with Lloyds TSB."
What can you do?
In the interim, there are three things we can do to overcome the frustration. The first is to try to avoid calling unless it's strictly necessary. Many things can be done on the website, including changing your details, or checking your accounts, in a fraction of the time.
The second is to use the website pleasepress1.com. This lists the keys you need to press for specific menu options at 600 companies, so instead of waiting for the announcements in the different menus, you can press the right number immediately.
And the third is to vote with your feet. If a company is driving you mad, it doesn't make sense to persevere at all costs. Companies ought to pay the price for this sort of madness by losing their long-suffering, frustrated customers.
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The 10 most annoying customer service phone lines in the UK
Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.
To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.
At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.
It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.
With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.
No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.
Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.
Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.
While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.
Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.
However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.
However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.
Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.
Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.