Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The R-word

The most feared word in magazine publishing, at least according to the film "13 Going on 30". So we won't even whisper it. We just do it. Seems the time for it (probably should have been done long ago).

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hanging on the Telephone

The telephone is ringing off the hook with calls from beautiful blondes, and when it's not then I'm calling out, selecting from options, being re-routed to the person who actually knows something (sometimes) or can do something (less often) or can actually sort out the problems caused by other people (very rare). It takes three or more goes of course before someone answers and even then "your call is very important to us" well why don't you bloody answer it then is the sort of response you might give "our lines are very busy" I'm not surprised with the standard of service you generally get.

I've been threatened with debt recovery procedures by npower, Darlington Borough Council and Carlyle Finance, notwithstanding the fact that the first two of these don't actually know how much I owe them (or indeed whether they in fact owe me) and the last has a different figure to me and can't explain why in a way that I can understand. Certainly none of them can provide accurate statements of account, invoices, receipts or any of the documentation that you might expect from a company that knows what it's doing day-to-day. Oh and Angela had a letter threatening to cut off the gas, don't know who that's from, but it's because they can't get the address right or realise that sometimes people move house (I'm not making this up).

In addition there's the banks. There was a man (true story, this, it was on Radio 4 and everything) who got so pissed off with the Yorkshire Bank that he changed his name by deed poll to Yorkshire Bank Are Fascist Bastards plc and got it put on his Yorkshire Bank cheque book. He was wrong, of course, in that he should have changed his name to All Banks are Fascist Bastards plc especially Northern Rock (and you'd think they were into customer service lately having made all our shares worthless through unadulterated greed). When they realise what a balls-up they've made of everything, who ends up bailing them out? You and me. It's enough to make you go back to keeping it in a sock under your bed, at least it might be safer there. So the rules on mortgages have all been switched even when you've been promised that everything will work out. The canard that the banks are there to help the customer (and it looks like it is all banks) has been well and truly found out.

Anyway back to the telephone. Most of the time you get through to a very nice Customer Service Assistant who explains very politely that no he/she can't do anything about it, the computer's in charge and he/she can't override it, but he/she can explain exactly what the computer is thinking (no-one else there does any, obviously) and if you're lucky he/she says "oh don't worry about the gas getting cut off" which is all very well for him/her and James in fact couldn't say that this time despite what the previous girl (Fiona?) had said last month. So you have to do their work for them because clearly they can't get anyone to read the meter (they're all on the phone instead) but 250 miles is quite a long way to go just for that.

To be fair to Darlington Borough Council and their James (there's two, keep up) he did phone back with a much reduced figure which might even be claimable back at some unspecified point in the future (still no invoice, but hey I can get a receipt) and even Alison is a person in her own right who can make arrangements on the spot and is not a mouthpiece for the computer, even if letters arrive somewhat unexpectedly when you thought a Direct Debit would naturally keep things under control. (I'm still waiting for an invoice from Social Services which doesn't seem to be forthcoming.) On the other hand, to sort anything out you have to speak to a minimum of three different people in three different offices with different phone numbers (and not the one they tell you to ring on the letter) because they don't communicate with each other. It's called division of responsibilities, at least that's the polite name for it.

And I still have to ring back the Management Officer of Rockwell House (promise unfulfilled) - so that I can ring npower and go round that loop again - and Carlyle Finance haven't come up with a receipt to show that yes it is all paid off despite the best efforts of Northern Rock. Oh and where's my cheque from BT? (This time I do have a letter saying they owe me, strewth, talk about small mercies.) So it's back to more Vivaldi how much can one man write?