Friday, March 03, 2006

Strange attractor

My fella is convinced he is currently repaying some huge karmic debt - lately, whenever he goes into a shop, it often results in it taking ages, because the till's computer system has crashed, or some Crazy in front of him has a million pointless questions (it took 40 minutes to buy our TomTom - we knew we were in for a long wait when this social misfit type guy in front started asking about digital cameras - he had no intention of buying one, but you got the impression he just craved human company, of any variety.) Last week at our gym, his membership card, which you have to give in for safe-keeping, went mysteriously missing, so the woman on the desk had to print him out another one. But the machine that prints the cards broke. Again, we had a long wait.

We recently had a happy little letter telling us "Congratulations for changing to British Gas", even though we had done nothing of the sort, and he's had to spend hours navigating through complicated telephone menu systems in order to re-establish our original account with Scottish Power. Particularly bad is when you have to speak your address to a computer - who can NEVER understand it. He drove himself mad doing this at Heathrow Airport, saying our address over and over - only to be told by the computer: "I cannot understand. Please try again." I have a policy of never ever talking to computers. I just stay silent until the program short-circuits and I can be put through to the "queue" to eventually talk to someone in India in approximately 4 months time. He has put in a complaint about being forced to change without consent, so we have been put in contact with a very strange and abusive woman at a complaints office. She is never available - takes the longest lunch hours possible, is always "busy" when we try and phone her, and is very sharp and unpleasant when you od make contact with her. She made us wait for 10 minutes while she found out what her email address is, but has since fallen into a sulky silence and is not responding to emails. I wonder if there is someone that we can complain about the complaints person to, but I shudder to think what they may turn out to be like.

Although annoying, he actually enjoys some of the verbal sparring with telephone operators who have been trained by Kafka. One told him that he'd have to provide a reading of our gas meter. We didn't know where it is as we live in a block of flats with 12 meters and none of them are properly labelled - one flat appears to have 2 meters to itself - and it turns out we have been paying the gas bill of the people who live upstairs ever since we moved in. When told that Scottish Power had no intention of coming round to sort this out, my fella said "Could I ask you a question - what would happen if I refused to pay my gas bill?" "Well, we'd send someone out to cut you off," said the poor operator - falling into the trap. "In that case then... I'll pay the bill when you send someone round..." Eventually, a stalemate was reached - they won't send someone out - we don't know our meter number, so we will probably continue paying for the upstairs flat. Nobody actually seems to care, as long as we pay something.

And last week we received an electricity bill for £2000. Considering that we live in a 2-bedroom flat, this does seem a bit optimistic on behalf of the Electric Company. My fella again got through the menu of insanity and spoke to a human being. "Well sir, to get a bill that size you would have to be running three Olympic-sized swimming pools, constantly" he was told. "Unfortunately, I don't even have one", he told them, in his best Aunty Mame voice. They are sending someone out to verify this, next Friday.


Dessie said...

Couldn't you just report them to the energy regulator? I've always made good use of the ombudsmen. Usually gets results.

Thing is, when whoever is paying your bill right now (and might be getting a better rate for it) decides they've had enough of that, you're pretty much screwed. What are you going to say - "I was paying for the neighbour, doesn't that count for anything"...? ;)

matty said...

I so hate it when karma goes all wrong regarding retail and the service industry. Give him a hug! It will be ok. And fight that bill!

Lost Boy said...

I, too, seem to spend my life queueing behind people asking 100 questions or on the phone to utility companies or local councils in an apopleptic rage. It can get very tiring.