It’s good to talk, so the Bullshit Telecom marketing goes. As long, I suppose, as you’re saying something of worth.
Some people can talk and talk and talk to very little effect. For instance, I was at a pub in Folkestone the other week when a man came over to me and, without any invitation, started giving me a run-down of all of his rather modest financial affairs: where his savings accounts were held, the mortgage he was planning to get to buy his new flat, as well as a detailed assessment of his overall financial strategy into retirement.
He hadn’t noticed that I had lost the will to live within just a few short seconds. Other people, by contrast, barely say anything, but their few words and chasms of silence speak volumes.
In many cases, the inability to communicate is understandable. Separated couples are, in my experience, not only unable to communicate effectively after decades of wedded bliss, but – in many cases – are barely able to talk to each other at all because of the yawning chasm that had opened up during their time together.
In other instances, the inability to convey even the most basic concepts might come as a surprise. For instance, journalists might talk A LOT, particularly to their adoring audiences, but despite communicating for a living, a surprisingly high proportion are, in my experience, utter crap at conversing effectively with each other. Perhaps that’s what megalomania does for you when combined with alcoholism, I don’t know.
But, in my opinion, if the people who provide the infrastructure that allows you and me to talk at our leisure, cannot exchange information between themselves, then we’re really in trouble. Particularly as we now inhabit a world in which we rely on such people to manage the cables, so our children can talk to their friends via Facebook or the Xbox, and the adults can videoconference and email digital media across the world for world.
And who do many of us rely on to deliver this digital heaven. Welcome to the world of Bullshit Telecom, an organisation that, also in my experience, couldn’t communicate with itself or the outside world for toffee.
Now, I appreciate that by continuing to rely on a landline telephone, I’m bucking the technological trend and am, therefore, bringing much of my communications angst on myself.
Bullshit customer service
I fully accept, for instance, that I should use my landline for broadband only; and that the mere act of using the available bandwidth to talk directly to another sentient human being via wired handsets, other than via VoiP, is akin to strolling around a supermarket late at night in an old pair of slippers, a knackered shirt and shapeless trousers, all of which are covered in stains of questionable age and origin.
The shame of still being reliant on a landline telephone is one of the crosses I’ve come to bear.
But, you see, when the service works, it works. Only, you just know that as soon as you need to call Bullshit Telecom to make even the slightest change to your service, everything in your life that relies on telecommunications of any kind whatsoever is about to go irretrievably pear-shaped.
Bullshit Telecom HQ
No matter how charming, friendly, helpful, reassuring, in control and knowledgable the good people at Bullshit HQ seem, you know full well that you cannot believe a single word they say. Not a single word. Ask them what you like and you’ll usually hear all the answers you could wish for.
Yeah, of course we can provide a seamless transfer of your telephone service from one address to another. No problem. Yeah, of course we can set you up with our voicemail service. Hell, we’ll even teleport over the woman with the clipped tones from the Blitz to provide the welcome message for you. No problem. You want ultra-fast broadband as well? Well, don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, sir. We’ll have you online in next to no time.
It’s all cobblers, though. Believe them – if only for a few seconds – and you’ll be dragged into a parallel universe of mythical telephone engineers who seem unable or, more likely, unwilling to make anything happen or work. Welcome to the world of Bullshit Telecom.
Network to nowhere
Take the time I moved from London to Broadstairs six years ago. I called Bullshit HQ a month in advance to alert them so that I’d seamlessly transfer my freelance operation from my 0208 Leytonstone number to my fancy new 01843 Thanet number. I gave the bright young Bullshit customer services rep all the details.
“Don’t worry about a thing, Mr Batt,” he said. “Just call us again a week or so before the move and we’ll get everything in place for you.” What about broadband? I asked. I work from home and I can’t do without my broadband. “No problem,” he said, reassuringly, giving me some of that warm and cuddly Bullshit customer services love. “We’ll have you online in next to no time.”
Three weeks later, I called again, and a similarly jolly young chap told me that everything was in hand. “And don’t worry about your broadband, sir,” he said. “That should be running within three days of your move. Hope it all goes well.” Goodness! Not only are they terribly efficient, but they’re really lovely as well. That’s Bullshit Telecom.
So, anyway, a week later, my family and I had become Thanet residents. Okay, my two older children were in mourning over the apparent end of anything approaching a meaningful social life, and we couldn’t get a TV signal. But, in all other respects, the move went well. And, though the broadband wasn’t on, as expected, the telephone line was working. So I still had faith that those lovely people at Bullshit Telecom really had done the business this time.
Three days passed, and there was no broadband. As each further day passed, every other aspect of our lives in our new home town were falling into place. Our bins were being collected by Thanet District Council’s cleansing operatives. The seagulls had identified my car for target practice. We could even hear the atonal warblings from Ye Olde Kings Head karaoke nights. Yes, our new life in Broadstairs was taking shape nicely.
Several days later still, though, and there was still no sign of my broadband. So, I made a polite enquiry to Bullshit HQ.
“Ah, yeah, sorry sir. But we can’t instal your broadband because there’s already a tag on your line.”
Really? How does that work?
“Well, the people you bought the house from have not yet cancelled their broadband service.”
Oh. So, you mean that someone else’s tag, in someone else’s name, is on the line I’m paying you for?
Well, can we get the tag removed?
“Only after they have cancelled it, sir.”
And do you know when that might be?
Okay. Can I expedite this in any way?
“No, sir. Only they can do it.”
But they don’t live here any more and they’re not paying for the line. And how long does it take to remove a tag, anyway?
“Well, they have to give us notice.”
How much notice?
“A couple of weeks, usually.”
So I should get my broadband provider to start sorting my tag now?
“No, sir. We can only accept new broadband requests once the previous tag is removed.”
And how long does it take once you’ve received the request?
“Oh, we have to schedule that in, sir.”
Right, okay. But how long does it take?
“A couple of weeks, usually.”
But this is ridiculous! Can’t I speak to their broadband supplier to hurry this up? After all, they’ve moved, and you probably know where they’ve moved to.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t tell you who their provider is.”
This doesn’t sound like a go-get-it, cutting-edge telecommunications company bringing people together in today’s 21st century global village, does it?
That was the end of that conversation, so I did a little research and soon discovered who the previous owners’ mystery broadband provider was: it was Bullshit Telecom’s very own wholesale operation. Excellent! It’s good to talk, and I felt the need to talk some more.
“We’re simply following procedures agreed with Ofcom, the regulator,” said the world-weary Bullshit Telecom complaints rep. “You can complain to Ofcom if you wish. You can get them on 0300 123 3333. Best of luck with that. Thanks for calling Bullshit Telecom.”
Of course, he might as well have told me to tell the cat because, even compared with Bullshit Telecom’s piss-poor level of service, Ofcom – the industry regulator, remember – were hopeless. In fact, Ofcom obviously didn’t like talking at all because callers were confronted with a myriad of menu options, all apparently designed to get you to the right department.
Well, I say, department. I mean, recorded message. I navigated my way through various options to take me to ‘tag issues’, in which I had to listen to an explanation of what tags were – like I didn’t know already – before the recorded man said: “Ofcom doesn’t deal with tag issues. Goodbye.” And hung up.
I was getting angry now. But I summoned up all my best middle class character traits to ensure I was reasoned in my ranting. I called Ofcom again and waded through the endless lists of options until, around ten minutes later, I could choose to talk to a human being.
Hello. I’d like to complain about a tag issue on my Bullshit Telecom landline.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t deal with tag issues.”
I know, but I still want to register a complaint.
“Well, you’ll need to complain to your provider in the first instance.”
I’ve already done that.
“And you haven’t received a satisfactory response?”
“Well, before I log your complaint, I need to know the circumstances.”
I talked and the Ofcom man listened and took notes. But after around five minutes, it became apparent that this was going to be a waste of time.
Why does it take so long to sort out tag issues? I asked.
“Well, it’s not just a matter of flicking a switch, sir.”
Really? What does it involve, then?
“It’s a bit complicated.”
“Well, we have to instal some kit.”
Oh, yes, that does sound complicated.
“Look, sir, I’m going to end this call if you’re going to take that attitude.”
What are you talking about? I work from home; I’m being deprived of an essential service through no fault of my own, and it’s ruining my business. All I’m doing is asking you, as a representative of the industry regulator, why this situation might arise.
“As I said, sir, it’s not just a matter of flicking a switch.”
What does it involve, then? What sort of kit?
“As I said, sir, it’s much more complicated.”
You don’t know, do you?
“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m ending this call now.”
Hmmm. Well, Bullshit Telecom’s wholesale arm removed my predecessor’s tag six weeks later, and my own service was up and running around two weeks after that. By which time, I’d failed to fulfil at least two work contracts. Isn’t technology great?
Openreach for the skies
Of course, I’d forgotten about this little saga until just a couple of months ago, when I moved out of my family house as part of my final separation from my wife. In readiness for my move, I contacted Bullshit Telecom to notify them that the landline phone account there should be transferred into my dearly beloved’s name.
“No trouble, sir. Just get your wife to call us and we’ll sort everything out.”
And her number will stay the same and there’ll be no disruption to the service?
“No, there shouldn’t be any problems with this at all, sir. This is Bullshit Telecom, after all.”
I moved to my new residence by the sea, safe in the knowledge that, in my absence, my son could continue to murder entire populations in Black Ops III while sharing armageddon-style chats with his friends on the xBox; and that my younger daughter could continue sharing post-gig euphoric pictures of herself on Facebook.
No phone. No broadband. No nuffink
But my serenity was shattered when I received a distraught call from my wife. You see, Bullshit Telecom couldn’t just change the name on the account. Oh no. Instead, they cut her off, without any warning, so she didn’t have a landline telephone or any other digital service at all. No phone, no broadband, no nuffink. Not only was she unable to work, but our delightful offspring were going to have to survive – [gulp] – without the internet.
Now, bearing in mind that, as a separated couple, communication between us is not what it could be, but this is how I understand her conversation with Bullshit Telecom went.
You’ve cut us off! Idiots!
“Oh, yes, so we have. Sorry about that.”
Can you reconnect me now, please? I need to work.
“Oh, sorry madam, but we’ve already allocated your phone number to someone else.”
What? You only cut me off this morning!
“Yes. That happens sometimes when we change the name on an account.”
Christ! What’s the point of that? And when do I get a phone line back, then?
“Well, we’ll send you a new number shortly.”
Right. And my broadband?
“Yes, well, we’ll get you connected up again as soon as we can.”
And how soon is that likely to be?
“Around three weeks.”
Three weeks!? How am I supposed to work until then? This is a disaster! You’ve got to do something – you can’t just cut me off.
“Well, as I speak, madam, we’re just helicoptering the Keeper of the Special Tweezers over to Bexleyheath, where he’ll cleanse the wires of badness.”
And will that speed things up?
“Probably not. But we value your custom so, in the meantime, as a goodwill gesture, we’re sending you a life-sized chocolate horse. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, Bullshit Telecom.”
To Infinity and beyond…
Being a journalist, my wife decided to write an article about her telephonic deficit situation for her national newspaper, and phoned Bullshit Telecom’s press office for comments. But, as it turned out, there was no need to write the story because, miraculously, her broadband was reinstated shortly after her call.
As for me, well I decided to play Bullshit Telecom at their own game. While discussing my service options for my new abode with the well-up-for-it sales rep, I was acquainted with all the latest exciting broadband, telephone and televisual services. But I wasn’t just going to take that.
Yes, that’s all very nice, but can you take me to infinity and beyond?
“Of course we can, sir! No problem.”
So I’m the first and only person in the UK to receive Bullshit Telecom’s Ethereal package. What this means is that I can talk to sentient beings in crystal-clear tones. My broadband’s data throughput is lovely and responsive. And the television is a treat. I’ve had it for a few weeks now and I can say it really is terribly good.
But it’s the small details I really like. For instance, I no longer get a dialling tone. Instead, when I pick up the phone, all I can hear are choirs of angels.
That’s Bullshit Telecom for you!