PRAISE the Lord, we are NOT alone!
I initially believed my own paranoia-generated conspiracy theory (encouraged by six months of torture at the hands of the effective telecommunications monopoly that is our ‘privatised’ British Telecom) that I alone had been the target of their bumbling inefficiency. Or, perhaps, just we forgotten folk in Godzone, most northerly tip of Northumberland where England eventually hauls itself across the River Tweed and fetches up gratefully on the Scottish shore.
Actually, my fevered mind reasoned, far more likely that the whole of the north of this nation was getting the go-by from those wonks in Westminster who care not a jot for the land to the north, east or west of Watford. Until, that is, I discovered a most unlikely ally in the shape of journalist colleague (and bête noire) Peter Hitchens, writing these words in the equally unloved Daily Mail:
“I am so sorry now that I fell for the great Thatcher-Reagan promise. I can’t deny that I did. I believed all that stuff about privatisation and free trade and the unrestrained market. I think I may even have been taken in by the prophecies of a great share-owning democracy.
“I thought – this now seems especially funny – that private British Telecom would be automatically better than crabby old Post Office Telephones.
“I think anyone who has ever tried to contact BT when things go wrong would now happily go back to the days of nationalisation. Soviet-style slowness was bad, but surely better than total indifference. . .”
Hardly had I sunk to my knees to offer up rare thanks for the conversion to neo-communism of my former foe Hitchens, the Blesséd Bastard, when a kind of ‘confirmation divine’ of the rightness of my holy crusade arrived in the shape of a plea for help in HIS battle with BT from a neighbouring friend.
David Lockie is a man strong in hand and mind with a background – former mayor of Berwick-upon-Tweed, local farmer and businessman, backbone of civic and charitable activities in our community – that sees him formidably equipped to face any foe.
But not, it seems, when it comes to facing down the brainless, blustering, bureaucratic bunglers at British Telecom. Let his story be a warning to all. . .
Like so many of us in rural communities, David ‘returned’ to BT in December, bullied into signing up with Big Brother having seen how slow the telecoms franchise holder can be when responding to problems arising with broadband and phone services supplied by rival telecoms providers.
More fool us! My neighbour Lockie has now been without a working landline telephone for THREE WEEKS. Like a deaf man in the dark he can call out but can hear no reply.
When his phone died on March 15 he contacted BT and, in his words, “spent hours on the phone getting pushed from one department to another, each time being put on hold then having to explain the whole problem again to the next person”.
On March 23 David made a formal online complaint to BT and received a phone call from the company’s Exeter office who said they would “keep chasing and ring me EVERY TWO DAYS” (!) with progress reports.
Unsurprisingly, that was to be the last contact from Exeter for a week. Meanwhile, a BT Openreach engineer was assigned to trace the fault (Openreach is the infrastructure division of BT which manages the local network between your exchange and the phone socket in your home, a territory known as the ‘last mile’) but he explained he was powerless to help as the phone “hasn’t been properly ported”, whatever that meant. One call centre operative suggested during one of David Lockie’s endless and costly cellphone conversations (he is still paying line rental for his useless landline, remember) that if he changed his phone number he “would get it fixed quicker”, presumably on the basis that BT is more interested in getting new customers than servicing its miserable, existing clientele.
Look, dear reader, let us cut a long story short: you are getting as tired of this tedious tale as both me and the luckless David Lockie. There is, as yet, no happy ending in sight:
- Mr Lockie has complained politely to our MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, whose staff have contacted what they describe as “a rather unorganised” BT demanding action but not, so far, getting it;
- Tom from BT Exeter (yes, he and the Lockies are now on rather terse first-name terms) has rung to say that the Openreach engineer who was able to do nothing had identified the problem (TWO WEEKS AGO!) and that they were now able to put the problem to the right department and should have a suggestion as to what they could do by way of repair “within 48 hours”.
At this news an excited David Lockie enthused that the problem would presumably be fixed in a day or so, only to receive the rejoinder: “Oh no, within 48 WORKING hours. . .
Sometime next week, then, Comrade Telecomski? Wonderful thing, Das Kapitalism!