Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Bratislava Hot Serenaders - Broken Record

Time to cheer me up again. The Bratislava Hot Serenaders in concert.

Appreciate just how tight and professional this band are. Enjoy.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Broken Britain - 11: Another BT Rant

If you read my last blog about EDF Energy and thought it was a one-off, let me recount something that happened on Monday with BT (British Telecom - yes, them again; see my entries November 26th, 2008 and October 4th, 2009 ).

Overseas readers my not be aware but we in the UK have been hit by a series of all-out Postal Strikes, lasting about 2-3 days each time and severely disrupting our e-bay deliveries and especially our bills.

So, on the afternoon of Monday 2nd November I received a batch of mail which included two from BT: one, dated 25th October was a bill for £51.61 for line rental; the other was a, somewhat threatening, chaser letter “Your payment is late”, dated 29th October). This was a little odd considering both letters contained the words “please pay by Wednesday 4th November” - this being, after all, Monday 2nd.

I also noted that BT had failed to credit me £3 from my last bill, which they’d promised to do. So I phoned up the ‘Customer Services’ (sic) number and, after countless “if you wish to sell your Mother, Press One; if you wish to smash your head against a brick wall, Press Two….” options, I got through to someone…in a Call Centre…in Delhi (this is standard for BT).

He claimed he was aware of the postal strike but still said the bill remained outstanding.

Anyway, I decided to just bite the bullet, walk across the road to my bank, and pay the bill (in cash).

Much later that evening (the 2nd, remember) I noticed my telephone line could not dial out. There was a pre-recorded message to phone an 0800 number to discuss this Restricted Access. However, it said I could phone them “anytime between and”….. it was now

Next morning (Tuesday 3rd) I was phoned on my mobile, by BT, a pleasant-sounding American woman (I don’t know her location). I kept my cool and simply asked what the hell they were doing restricting my line. I mentioned my previous (successful) run-ins with BT, I mentioned OffCom, I mentioned Otelo and the ‘Alternative Disputes Resolution’ (that term always sends shivers down their spine). And then I added:

“May I draw your attention to three simple facts?:
1 - There is a postal strike in the UK, 2 - I didn’t even receive a bill until yesterday afternoon, and….er…., 3 - That bill was paid yesterday”.

There was a long, long embarrassed silence at the other end, and I enjoyed drawing out this theatrical pause.

Then I said, very calmly: “Would you like to take this opportunity to make a profound and grovelling apology to me?” She sounded sheepish and said she would restore the line.

You would think that was the end of the story. But that’s not the way BT do things here.

A few hours later (Tuesday afternoon, remember), the line was still not restored, I got a call from BT, from their Delhi Call Centre again, asking why I hadn’t paid my bill yet.

I just let rip and said “just wait for my next blog”. Their (barely comprehendible) Customer Assistant told me “it would take up to 24 hours to restore things”. How preposterous. I finally said to him: “Look, don’t bother apologising. We live in an apologist society - the more you apologise, the less meaning it has. Just fix the line, OK? - Now”.

Finally, by late Tuesday night, the line was miraculously working again.

….and it never occurred to me to query why they were treating me like this when the bill’s payment deadline was…er…Wednesday 4th.

As you can tell, dear Reader, BT are always eager to cut you off(even on such a meagre sum as £51) yet not so keen to actually deliver a decent service. [And what of all those corporate clients who have outstanding bills running into thousands of pounds? BT are not so enthusiastic to bully and throw their weight around with them, are they?

Again I say: you tell me this country isn’t broken?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Broken Britain - 10: EDF - a Rant.

This story starts about four months ago when my energy supplier, the French company EDF (or as some call it: Every Day a F***-up) told me I was due for a new electricity meter. So I made arrangement to stay indoors for half a day and they duly installed it.

Then a few weeks ago I received a rather panicky, heavy-handed irate letter (some might regard it as a threatening letter) tell me: “four months ago we installed a new meter. Our records show there has been no use on this meter since” and in not so many words telling me (in effect) ‘if you are using electricity from EDF and Not paying for it you are defrauding us and in breach of rule so-and-so…..’.

I phoned them up and said: “ well I’ve been using the electricity since installation and that meter’s been ticking over and charging me as normal”. Anyway, they insisted I was wrong and that the meter should be changed - again - so we made arrangements for Thursday afternoon, which meant I had to stay in again from 12 noon to 6pm. At least I gave them my mobile phone number for reference.

So Thursday came around…I‘ve cleared all the junk our from under the stairs so the guy from EDF can have clear access. And at 12.56pm I went briefly upstairs to the bathroom and came back down to find a message on my cellphone.

It was a man’s voice, sounding barely Neanderthal: “Diss is EDF Energy here. I’ve just tried to gain access to your place and there’s a gate and a yale lock and I ain’t gotta key. So you’ll have to rebook diss appointment”. (I couldn’t return the call as the chap left no number).

I was baffled, especially since there is clear access to my flat, just up twenty steps (yes, those steps just by the big white-painted sign on the wall in ten-inches high letters, my door number - mong!)

Then Pam, my neighbour from two doors along knocked on my door and handed me a card she’d just had pushed through her mailbox - from EDF. [She’s the one with the gate and the yale lock, even though that is a side entrance and not actually the slip road where you gain access to my place…]

So I phoned EDF to explain their engineer’s gaff. Did they care? Of course not. As far as they were concerned nothing could be done, I’d have to re-book another appointment - and that’s what they insisted I do (thereby wasting another day of my time). [For the record, this person’s job title was Customer Services Assistant - a misnomer on all three words if ever there was one].

I refused and told them to fix it today, or I was an ex-customer.

For twenty minutes this arguing went on. “Look,” I said, “I’m sitting here in front of my computer, already on the site. I’ve changed suppliers before, it’s not difficult, and I shall be switching at this evening if no new meter is installed by then….even if it means one of your highly-paid managers getting up off their arse and into their own car and come and install it themselves.”

I then reminded them: “If it wasn’t for your company’s incompetent installing of the original new meter, we wouldn’t be needing to go through all this. So don’t try and blame me for this one……You messed it up - You fix it”.

Thirty minutes later a manager phoned me back to tell me to stay indoors.

So a couple of hours later ( I heard two LOUD bangs on my front door knocker….strong enough to break the door down.

…And there he was…… white, long-haired, scruffy, mid-40s. He opened his mouth and it was that same mongoloid voice from the phone message.

I decided the best thing was to just zip my lip up, say nothing, and just let him get on with changing the meter.

I did explain to him how this saga started. He replied: “well, the person who installed this original new meter probably just lost the paperwork”.

So that’s alright then - Thank You EDF Energy.

And then he left….but I was left wondering: does it Have to come to all this kicking and screaming in order to get something done anymore? This is not just a one-off anymore in this country - it’s just typical.

- And you tell me that this country isn’t broken?