Tuesday 31 March 2009

Why I hate BT (again)

15st 0lb, 8.0 units (or thereabouts; I’m sure it would be an offence against Club rules to keep too close a tally). Not much to report today; I whiled away the morning writing yet another newspaper column (which you can read, incidentally, along with all the others, at www.keithhann-whyohwhy.com). Then I loaded a computer printer, a most reluctant dog and a modicum of other stuff into my car and headed for Northumberland, the county of big skies and wide open spaces, both of which are about to be filled with useless windmills as a supreme example of gesture politics in action. We had an uneventful journey via the shortest and least scenic route, and found the house much as we had left it, with one striking exception; the telephone no longer worked.

Now, this was not as much of a blow as it might have been as I actually have two phone lines, the second installed for that redundant but once invaluable bit of technology called the fax machine (ask your grandparents). I have kept this because I am a “belt and braces” kind of a guy, so I was still able to make outgoing calls. Nevertheless, my heart sank at the prospect of having to ring BT (or IT, as it should really be called, since the vast majority of its staff seem to be based in India rather than Britain). I fortified myself with a drink before making the call, braced for the inevitable 20 (minimum) questions driven by the call centre operative’s prompt cards – after the obligatory “automated” test which, curiously enough, always demonstrates that there is nothing wrong with the line at all. As tradition demands, I then spent a long time listening to a recorded message explaining that “We are very busy right now” and screaming back “Then why don’t you employ some more people to answer the f***ing phones, you total bastards!”

Eventually I got through and immediately wished I could return to the maddening recording. There is no way of short-circuiting the process. So the conversation goes:

“Do you have any extensions on the line on which there appears to be a problem?”

“Yes, but that’s not relevant because I’ve unplugged everything and tried the line with the phone on which I am now ringing you, and we know that works because I’m speaking to you on it, aren’t I?”

“Do you have any extensions on the line on which there appears to be a problem?”

“Yes, but as I just explained they are disconnected and I know that it’s the line at fault, not my equipment, because as I also just explained I’ve plugged in THIS phone, which works on the line I am talking to you on, but not on the one that is out of order.”

“Do you have any extensions on the line on which there appears to be a problem?”

“Yes, but they aren’t wired extensions, I just plug them in when I need them and they aren’t plugged in now.”

“Do you have any extensions on the line on which there appears to be a problem?”

“Yes, two. But they aren’t plugged in.”

“So you have two extensions on the line on which there appears to be a problem. Have you ever had any problems with these extensions before?”

And so on. And so on. Yes, I know it would have been quicker and easier just to answer the stupid questions and listen to the spiel about how much it might cost me if someone came out to mend the phone line and the problem turned out to be with my equipment (and it was a serious sum of money, in the hundreds of pounds). But what it left me thinking, as ever when I have to make a call like this, is just how much I hate BT.

The only good thing to be said for it was that it was not as maddeningly frustrating as the repeated conversations I had a few years ago about my heavily advertised BT Home Hub, which has never, ever worked and which concluded with an Indian gentleman telling me, in a commendably sorrowful tone, that sadly my broadband would never work as I lived too far from the telephone exchange. Despite the fact that it had worked perfectly for years until the Squire built a big new house down the road and installed a few extra telephone lines. And despite the fact that neither my house nor the telephone exchange had moved an inch during that period. And despite the fact that I found out from a man up a pole a few days later that there is a Bloke up the road, 800 yards further from the telephone exchange, whose Home Hub works perfectly. The lucky sod. No, nothing to do with any of that, and certainly nothing to do with the equipment they sold me being in any way defective.

I’ve just checked and find that this is the third time I’ve told this story on this blog. Damn you, BT; you have turned me into a bore. Or at the very least severely aggravated a previous inclination in that direction.

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