There can be little doubt that telecommunications companies crop up more than any other type of service provider when it comes to complaints (see the Best Ever Complaint Letters Page for one or two remarkable examples). The problem of course is that you can’t even shout at the morons, because they’ll cut off your phone – if they haven’t done so already!
Such was the situation that DCR contributor Mr. Keith Hunt found himself in back in 2011 when our beloved British Telecom (BT) were implementing a ‘network upgrade’. Unable to telephone or email, he naturally decided to pen another of his excellent letters:
Dear Mr. BT,
Thank you for the email from your British Telecom Migration Team regarding the network upgrade on my line, due to take place last Wednesday, the 20th July.
I must confess to a wry smile when I read your statement that I might temporarily lose the use of my phone for ‘up to 10 minutes’, because the words “over” and “optimistic” sprang to mind ‐ curiously enough in that very order.
I was right, wasn’t I?
Now although life is short, at the time I felt that I could live with not having a phone or internet connection for 10 minutes because I would be at work but even if I hadn’t been, rather than checking online to see if I’d won Tuesday’s Euromillions Lottery, I could instead have used the time at home constructively – perhaps to read a book for a little while, do the washing‐up or even listen to that quaint old thing we used to call the radio.
I wasn’t surprised therefore on the 20th at midday to receive a text at work from my son informing me that the broadband wasn’t working. I replied explaining that you were upgrading the line to a new fibre-optic, mega‐sonic speed internet connection and that he should ‘wait a few minutes’. He told me that it didn’t matter because he was going out.
I was a little surprised however to receive a text from my wife at 2.37pm who informed me that the phone wasn’t working. I told her that the Mr British Telecom’s Migration Team were busy fiddling with their knobs1 to make our line ‘better’ (she’s not very technical) and that they were probably taking a long lunch and the phone would work again soon.
I was more than a little surprised when arriving home at 7.00pm to discover that you still hadn’t finished.
Nor had you finished by midnight.
My surprise increased dramatically on getting up the next morning to find I still had a dead phone and an internet connection speed of zero mega‐gigaflops per second.2
Indeed this surprise was nothing compared to my astonishment on reaching work and reading another email from your British Telecom Migration Team telling me that my upgrade was now “complete”. You will not be surprised to learn that at this point the words: “No it bloody well isn’t” issued forth from my lips in quite a loud manner.
Luckily, work is quite old‐fashioned and still had both an internet connection and phone line so I visited your British Telecom web site to see if I could report this problem to you personally. Of course on reaching the first help page I had to shut down the window that immediately popped up asking me if I’d found the help pages helpful because you hadn’t actually helped me at all yet. Nevertheless I eventually found the page to check my line, entered my number and pushed the button and waited.
“Your phone line isn’t working” said the resulting page.
Really? You do amaze me.
“Would you like to report this fault?”. Yes please. I pushed the button and waited again.
On seeing: “By which method would you prefer to be kept informed as to the progress of the repair?”, I obviously chose ‘by text’ as opposed to other methods because, funnily enough, I DON’T HAVE A PHONE OR AN INTERNET CONNECTION AT HOME (AND I DON’T OWN AN OWL!)3
It’s at this point that I’d like to congratulate you Mr Bee. Within three minutes, you had texted me not once, but twice.
The first to was tell me you’d received my report and the second was to inform me when the repair would be carried out.
Well done British Telecom!
Even my youngest son would not have been able to input letters on his phone that fast and he even uses both thumbs to do it. I think you should consider contacting the Guinness Book of World Records to see if you can enter. I was very impressed at your ruthless efficiency and you didn’t even use the abbreviation ‘U’ or ‘R’ once.
I was not so impressed to read the second text however. It said: “Your repair will be completed by 5.00pm ….”
(Good so far)….
“…..on Tuesday, July 26th” !
SIX days ???
Are you having a laugh??
What has happened to the British Telecom Migration Team? Have they all flown South to escape the English Summer? And how can you possibly confuse the figure of ‘10’ with ‘8,640’ minutes??
Today, thinking that you may have mis‐texted, I arrived at work and phoned you instead. During the ensuing long, one‐sided conversation with your automated robot system I think I must have pressed more buttons on the telephone than Neil Armstrong did during the entire Apollo 11 mission to the moon and back. Eventually, the British Telecom she‐bot told me that the nice repair man would begin to LOOK at my problem on the 26th!!
You mean that you’re not actually working on it now?? Have the British Telecom Migration Team migrated to Homebase 4 to exchange that fibre‐optic cable that must be just 6 inches too short to reach my socket??
“There is a problem at our exchange” I am told. A problem? Clearly! Has it been nuked?? Have you lost the key and are unable to gain entry?? Have you checked under the mat?
Is Rupert Murdoch a shareholder in your company? Did he perhaps hack into my mobile and overhear me say several dubious things about him and government conspiracies and this is his way of getting revenge?
Yes, we have mobile phones to ‘fall back on’ but some of us don’t have posh contracts with one million free minutes and unlimited web surfing (Oh, yes – I remember that). Some of us are on pay‐as‐you‐go because some of us have too much month left at the end of the money after paying the prices for your telephone line rental , calls and broadband.
Fortunately I don’t feel alone right now. If it’s a problem at the British Telecom exchange there are probably thousands of people in the same boat as me. In fact, I’m going to phone our friends up the road and see how they’re doing.
Oh, no. I can’t can I?
I hope it’s not seriously going to take that long and I do hope the Migration Team are having a nice holiday.
Needless to say Keith had a call from BT on his mobile less than two minutes after BT received his complaint! Quite impressive. But when asked the obvious question as to when it would be fixed, the lovely lady replied:
“Tuesday 26th”. (!!??)
But it didn’t happen. By the 29th, Keith was putting pen to paper again:
Dear Mr BT.
Happy anniversary for Wednesday.
Did you think I’d forgotten? Don’t be silly – you should know me better than that by now. No, indeed I would really liked to have called you or emailed on the exact date but I didn’t have a phone line or internet connection at that precise moment.
A bit like now in fact.
I know it’s only been a two or three days since my promised reconnection on the 26th but it seem so much longer, doesn’t it? It’s my understanding that a 1 year anniversary is known as ‘paper’ but I’m not sure what a 1 week’s anniversary would be called and obviously I can’t look it up on the internet. Logic dictates that it must be smaller and thinner than ‘paper’ so I’m going to guess at ‘hair’.
So, happy ‘hair’ anniversary Mr Bee. In celebration I would have liked to have sent you one of my hairs for you to keep and cherish forever but what few I had, have now been torn out in frustration.
To be brutally frank, I’m beginning to wonder where our relationship is heading.
You teased me on Monday 25th didn’t you? I was thrilled when at around 1.15pm I received a phone call on my mobile, a full 1,440 minutes ahead of your predicted repair date, from a person who introduced herself as ‘Anne Engineer’. (She has quite a masculine voice doesn’t she?) Anyway, she explained that she was working on my fault and asked me what the symptoms were. I explained that although I’m not a doctor, my amateur diagnosis was that ‘I had no phone line’. She promised to work on it.
Thank you Anne.
Then you teased me again on Tuesday with a text message. I had a huge smile on my face when I read: “Hello, this is Mr BT….” but sadly, that faded quite rapidly as I read the rest of your message: “…It’s still not fixed”. And that’s the last I’ve heard.
It’s now Friday the 29th.
After your hollow promise of me having to lose my phone connection for ten minutes, here we are – nine DAYS later (or twelve thousand, nine hundred and sixty minutes in Telecom time) and I still have no phone.
I’m beginning to think that I was right in my first letter; in that your exchange has been hit by a small, tactical nuclear weapon. Given that, just like at Chernobyl, your Migration Team have probably had to draw straws to choose which unlucky person would ‘volunteer’ to enter the building.
Anne lost, didn’t she? This would certainly account for her deep voice and the fact that she now glows in the dark. I expect that my short length of fibre‐optic cable, sitting discarded in the corner of your exchange now has a radioactive half‐life of 50,000 years and I would recommend that Anne doesn’t touch it in case of any possible Health & Safety ramifications or potential litigation.
Despite the stress over the last nine days I’m still in reasonable health, thank you for asking. I just think that it’s a good job that I’m not elderly or infirmed and have the need for a ‘Careline’ panic button linked to my phone to press in cases of emergencies. Guess why? Go on – I dare you.
Some elderly people are not as au fait with modern technology as you or I Mr Bee and may not have access to an iPhone, iPad, iMessengerPigeon or even a mobile phone. I wonder how they’re getting on?
I hope they’re not lying lifeless in the middle of their hallway at the moment ‐ just like my phone ‐ with a doctor standing over them asking: “And what exactly seems to be the matter?”.
I like your new TV advert Mr Bee. You know the one I mean? The one where all the blue lines cascade through cities and towns into a house and into the lucky family’s computers, X‐boxes and PS3’s to show your unhindered and uninterrupted wi‐fi coverage. Have you seen it? You must remember it, yes ‐ no?
It’s the one I paid for.
My son and I have spent a long time over the last few days looking for our own blue lines and despite us opening all doors and windows and moving various large items of furniture, we still failed to allow in or discover one single line of any colour.
So in my humble opinion, our wi‐fi is SO interrupted that I would have to describe it as being completely and utterly rupted. Perhaps you could try opening a window at your end to see if that might help.
I called your she‐bot automated person again today who has a marginally sexier voice than Anne. I took a very positive attitude about it – for me to press so many buttons in such rapid succession is good practice for using our game console’s hand controller because usually I’m rubbish at playing the online version of ‘Call of Duty’. The good news is that it’s been so long since my son has played online he might have forgotten everything and I might stand a chance of beating him. I’m about to write to the game’s software team suggesting they create a new ‘BT ‐ The Final Decimation’ level. I’m very much looking forward to that.
Phoning the she‐bot was a bit like a computer game actually – after hours of battling through many levels, you think you’ve won when all of a sudden you’re told by the end‐of‐level Boss to ‘press button 2 to continue’ and then all you hear is: “Thank you for calling BT. Goodbye” and you have to start the game again. It’s not as addictive as playing Worms or Bejewelled I have to say.
I’m hoping my phone will work soon Mr BT. My voicemail is probably full and I’m looking forward to making and receiving calls again.
I hope the very first call I get is from your Subscribers & Accounts Department.
It’s been SUCH a long time and we have SO much to talk about.
Yours in baldness,
Keith isn’t the only one to suffer telecoms connection issues. Unfortunately, telecoms companies (and power companies) never actually meet their millions of customers and so have developed an unhealthy disregard for them.
As a result DCR receives a lot of complaints about them. Here are a couple of them: The first is a letter to Virgin Media about incompetence and total lack of customer service regarding a similar issue to Keith’s. The second is a very angry letter to NTL which begins ‘Dear Cretins’ and ends with ‘May you rot in hell’ with much similar language in between.
For American readers: I would hate for you to miss Keith’s excellent double-entendre here (by the way double-entendre is French expression meaning double-meaning. We also use it in English just like chauffeur and carte-blanche and cliché). Anyway, to explain: ‘Knob’ in British English is not just a button or dial on a piece of electrical or mechanical equipment. Here, it also means penis. So, if the Migration team were fiddling with their knobs…. Well, you get the general idea ↩
For American readers: A flop, or gigaflop or indeed a mega-gigaflop (which would be an awful lot of flops) is not in fact a uniquely British unit of internet transmission speed. Keith made it up ↩
Keith’s reference to an owl probably has something to do with the fact that ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2’ had just been released ↩
For American readers: Homebase is our equivalent of Home Depot. Except that isn’t strictly true. B&Q is our equivalent of Home Depot. It even uses the same orange signage colour. Homebase was an inferior version and the few remaining stores are universally crap and have always just sold the last one of whatever it is I go there to buy ↩