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a blog by Chris Barrow

Bloomin’ call waiting systems and idiots

Is it me? I am sick and tired of calling Britain’s biggest insurers, telecoms companies, retailers – and being re-directed to a series of taped messages that ask me to make multiple, multiple choices before I can speak to a real person – who is then equipped with the customer service and technical ability ability of a Neanderthal (and I apologize to all Neanderthal lovers out there for my lack of prehistoric political correctness).

That, of course, is why I employ Julie (Miss Moneypenny), my personal lifestyle manager – so that she can try to communicate with these idiots.

Today I got roped in twice.

First time I decided to buy a 3G datacard for my laptop, so that British hotels would no longer have the opportunity to steal my money for slow internet access.

To save time (ha) I rang directory inquiries and asked to be put through to the Vodaphone shop in Altrincham – you see I was going to call them to make sure they had the card in stock before I walked over there.

They connected me to Hal, the Vodaphone computer, who spent 3 minutes asking me multiple choice questions before I reached the “girl in the shop” – where do they find them?

She works in the Vodaphone shop 8 hours a day, 5 days a week – its a small shop – about the size of a bedroom, with a limited number of products on display.

Pleasantly I asked, “do you have any 3G datacards in stock?”

“Oh – just hold on a minute I’ll have to ask the Manager.”

Another 2 minutes of cardiac arrest on my part.

Why does she have to ask?

Does she have the brain of a goldfish and cannot remember the stock that was in the shop yesterday.

Is the term “3G datacard” only released to managers in case the staff get a little giddy?

Has the manager hidden them as part of a team-building game that week dreamed up by a business coach?

No – she is just as thick as a plank – that’s why she works in a Vodaphone shop. Oh yeah.

My second encounter of the day (after returning with a 3G datacard that will not work now I’m home) was with the claims department of Norwich Union – clearly relocated from Norwich to somewhere East of Iraq – no doubt a call centre in Shangri-La.

They have left repeated messages on my voice mail to follow through on a motor claim form I submitted in June 2004. My car was scratched in a car park and the “perp” kindly left his card and details (what a nice man).

I took the car in for a repair estimate 10 months ago.

The claims team in Afghanistan have finally gotten around to processing the paperwork.

They asked me to call.

I called.

They asked me what I was calling for.

I told them I was returning their call.

They kept me on hold for 10 minutes while they traced their file.

Then they told me that the repairs hadn’t been carried out yet.

I calmly pointed out that I knew that.

They asked me what i wanted them to do next.

“Repair my car” I said, feeling my will to live evaporate.

“OK”, they said, “we will get back to you.”

I want to grow my hair long, wear a thong and retire to a beach hut somewhere nice.

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