When calling a business, or any person who might receive a high volume of calls, one can expect to need to wait for an operator to become available. Sometimes, if there are few operators available, too many incoming calls, or both, a character can be left waiting for quite a while. These wait times may feel
like hours in real life, but fictional wait times can take days to really drive the point home. During this time, a recording will almost always remind the caller that "Your call is important to us" and ask them to continue holding.
Sometimes, a character may be placed on hold by the person they have called. Usually they will leave the phone or forget about it entirely.
Sub trope of For Inconvenience, Press "1"
- One commercial has a lady call an office after getting out of bed in the morning. A recording repeatedly asks her to continue to hold as she goes about her day. Just before she goes to bed that evening, the recording says that their offices are now closed and to call back tomorrow.
- Zits has a story where Jeremy calls a company and is told "please hold while we jack you around from department to department." He declares that it's nice to see some corporate honesty.
- Sherman's Lagoon has a storyline where Sherman is on hold for days.
- Get Fuzzy. Invoked in a 2005 story arc, in which Rob attempts to get in touch with Dull Computer customer support. At one point during his call, he's placed on hold for hours — so many hours, in fact, that he can't make dinner, and has Satchel order pizza for the night. Meanwhile, at Dull Computers, a few customer service reps boast about their personal records of keeping customers on hold, ranging from three hours to five hours, to one guy who still has a customer on hold as they speak.
- There are various spoof "On hold" messages on YouTube designed to be played to telemarketers when they call. Most of them provide an estimated wait time that's in days or months.
- This one tells the telemarketer their call may have been forgotten, and to continue holding until someone remembers they're still on hold.
- The Powerpuff Girls. In "Telephonies," the Gangreen Gang makes prank calls to various different Townsville citizens. Lil' Arturo convinces Professor Utonium, he just won a ten-million-dollar sweepstake and asks him to remain on hold, which Professor does for the rest of the episode, despite Arturo hanging up.
- On American Dad!, Roger and Steve call a company to complain about a shoddy novelty product they bought. They are left on hold for what is implied to be days, only to be transferred to voice mail.
- In The Simpsons episode where the family goes to Australia, Bart calls a boy in Australia to ask which direction the water in the sink is flowing. The boy has to check with his neighbour who lives many miles away, so he places Bart on hold and spends half the day visiting his neighbor and going back to answer the question.
- A common tactic when people are cold called is to say "just wait a minute" and then leave the phone indefinitely, with the caller holding until they realize no one is coming back.
- One guy who called Comcast to cancel his service was placed on hold for 3 hours, after which their call centers closed.