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With the holidays over and your new product or electronic device firmly in hand, you may find that you are one of those  consumers who is having some technical troubles with your purchase.  Perhaps you’ve noticed that your new laptop’s battery is draining quicker than it should, or maybe you’ve noticed a functionality problem with your smartphone.

Back in the day, you could readily get in touch with the largest companies in the United States by calling any one their army of customer service reps via phone. The wait times would often be long or erratic, but you knew you could get a hold of a real person.

Here’s how to reach a real person at some of the world’s biggest companies

Technology has dramatically changed the customer service landscape. Nowadays, you’re just as likely to report issues and solve problems via email, Facebook, or even Twitter.

But what if you still want to have a conversation with a living, breathing person? We did a little research and here’s what we found.

Here’s how to get in contact with Google

Well, this should be easy, right? I should be able to just Google … Google. The short answer is it’s not so easy. If you run a website, they have made available online a Webmaster Central forum and blog, which they bill as “the fastest way to get help with increasing traffic to your site, and see your site’s crawling, indexing and search traffic data.”

Of course, if you want to advertise with them, they have a toll-free number to “get set up with our AdWords Specialists.” But even for that, the asterisk-marked fine print says that this is “For customers committing to $10 per day or more in ad budget. Phone support operating hours are Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. — 9 p.m. ET.”

There is a webpage that lists all of their U.S. locations but curiously, their headquarters in Mountain View, California, does not list a public phone number.

On another site, we found the Google Play customer support phone number for U.S. customers. It is 1-855-836-3987. I called it and a recorded voice talked through a menu of topics that I had to choose from. After about a 10 minutes, I was connected to a real person.

Here’s how to get in contact with Apple

With some of the priecier gadgets in the electronics market, you’d expect Apple’s customer service support to offer nothing short of white-glove service. If you don’t have a retail store near you, the company has some phone numbers listed on its main site that should be able to help.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant offers sort of a one-stop shop for customers to buy, chat or call them at (800) MY-APPLE (800-692-7753), seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. CT.

To get technical or product support, the company wants you to start your request online.

To get information on an order you placed, the company also has an Order Status page to track your purchases that haven’t arrived. You can also call about orders at (800) 692-7753, seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. CT.

If you need some IT help or your Apple product needs servicing, the company lists an Apple Consultants Network online to help you find an independent local firm or contractor that may have a solution.

If you are affiliated with a school either as a student or teacher, the company has an  Apple Store for Education webpage that lists its number as 1-800-692-7753, seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT.

Here’s how to get in contact with Microsoft

Microsoft’s customer service number is 1-800-642-7676, which is 24/7. You must listen to the prompts and deal with an automated representative that persistently tries to steer you toward “self-help resources,” but you’ll soon be connected to a live person. When I called them, within 2 to 3 minutes I had a “live one” on the phone.

The company also has an online Microsoft Store Support page which features a “Virtual Agent” to chat with. To track your orders from Microsoft stores, you must log onto to Store Help Page, where you can browse numerous topics for solutions.

Here are some other helpful customer service numbers for some of the biggest U.S. companies:

Bank of America — 1 (800) 432-1000

Home Depot — 1 (800) 466-3337

Target  — 1 (800) 440-0680

Wells Fargo — 1 (800) 869-3557

Walmart — 1 (800) 925-6278

Money expert Clark Howard has operated the Consumer Action Center out of Atlanta for nearly 25 years. There’s a staff of volunteers offering consumer advice answering your questions Monday-Thursday 10-7 ET, Friday 10-4 ET.

Call Team Clark Howard at 404-892-8227

You can also contact Clark to ask questions on air.

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