Tom Rayment works in the oil and gas business so he should know a bit about energy. His flat in Kent had recently been without power for three days and Tom was getting rather bored so he decided to amuse himself by writing a complaint to his energy provider, EDF. To add a little interest to his dull day, he resolved to embroider his tale of woe somewhat. Little did he realise that it would lead to a visit from the boys in blue….
Dear Customer Relations,
I am an EDF1 customer residing in the Dartford area2 and have been severely affected by the recent power cut caused by vandals interfering with cabling. I went without any power at all for a total of 62 hours which has resulted in a great deal of personal trauma for which I feel I am deserving of some compensation.
In 2003 my Uncle died of fourteen stab wounds to the torso after an after dinner parlour game went horribly awry. His last will and testament requested his body to be cryogenically frozen such that in the event of a cure being found for his ailment he can be revived sometime in the future. Sadly he left little money in his estate and so by means of improvisation he was placed in my loft contained in a commercially available chest freezer.
Since then he has been happily resting in peas3 – until this week of course.
I hope you can imagine my horror when the power failure caused his body to begin to slowly defrost4 and let me tell you, the smell of rotting flesh really put me off my salad. His remains are now unrecoverable and I therefore request compensation for this loss. I estimate his life to be worth approximately £120,000 but I am willing to settle for half of that value in cash or the equivalent nectar points (12,000,000 I believe).5 I also had to throw away a lot of petit pois6 but I am willing forgo that loss.
I hope this matter can be resolved swiftly.
Tom didn’t have long to wait for a response, albeit from an anonymous member of the Customer Relations Team:
Good afternoon Mr Rayment,
Thank you for your e-mail, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused. With regards to any guaranteed standard payments we are still in discussion with our regulator Ofgem.7
When this decision has been made we will be contacting all affected customers pro-actively in the near future, if you do not receive any correspondence within the next two weeks please contact us.
Customer Relations Team
EDF Energy Networks
Well that wouldn’t do, obviously. So Tom fired off another salvo:
Dear Customer Relations Team,
Thank you for your swift response. I am, however, surprised at the impersonal nature of your reply.
If I’m honest it seems a little cold-hearted, unlike my now-defrosted uncle.
This has caused great upset for myself and my three albino cousins, as if the ‘inconvenience’ of his demise was not hard enough for little Sonny (3), Rosie (5) and Ebony (8). They’ve had a rough time but fortunately they’re very bright kids.
I hope a reasonable settlement can be agreed soon as I really do not want to pursue the legal route.
Back came the EDF team once again, full of sympathy and understanding:
Good afternoon Mr Rayment,
Thank you for your response.
Of course I was very sorry to learn of the sad circumstances leading to your claim.
This is obviously a very unusual situation and would clearly not be covered by any guaranteed standard payments that might eventually be agreed with Ofgem.
In view of that I can only really suggest that you do, indeed, seek independent legal advice as to your position.
In the meantime I hope that you soon have the opportunity to lay your Uncle to rest without too much further distress.
Customer Relations Team
EDF Energy Networks
A few days later, Tom returned from work to find a police car parked outside his home. It turned out that EDF had called the police to investigate the putrefying cadaver in the loft. To be fair to the police, they did understand that Tom had probably been indulging in a bit of fun at EDF’s expense but nonetheless, he was warned that he could have been charged with ‘malicious emailing’ and/or ‘wasting police time’ (because the plods had called a number of times when Tom wasn’t at home).
Tom politely pointed out that if anyone was wasting police time, it was EDF and furthermore, that the police could have used their deductive reasoning to establish that as he was in full time employment, he was unlikely to be at home during the day in the middle of the week. Just before departing, the police office asked, just in case: “So, you don’t have a dead body in the loft then?”.
Tom replied with a raised eyebrow and a stony silence.
Then he went inside and changed his electricity supplier.
For American readers: EDF, or Électricité de France S.A. to give it its full title, is the world’s largest producer of electricity and, as its name suggests, is French! In fact, it is largely owned by the French government. Why then I hear you say, are they providing electricity in one of England’s fair counties? Well, the truth is that they haven’t managed to beat the English since we had an off day back in 1066 and this bothers the French considerably. They have therefore started quietly buying all our power companies. Rumour has it that once they have acquired all of them, they plan to switch off the United Kingdom altogether, returning us to the dark ages. That is why we are building so many windmills – so at least we will have enough electricity to keep the breweries working. ↩
For American readers: People have been living in Dartford for 250,000 years, which is amazing because it isn’t a very interesting place. It lies in the County of Kent, which is basically the bottom right extremity of the British Isles and where we all go to catch the ferry to France to buy cheap cigarettes and booze. Unfortunately, we are unable to buy cheap electricity. ↩
For American readers: This is a pun – also called paronomasia, is a form of word play that suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. This particular example is a homophonic (not homophobic!) pun because it substitutes one word (peace) with another that has a similar sound (peas). ‘Resting in peace’/’Resting in (frozen) peas’. Get it? Splendid. Thank God it wasn’t irony. ↩
Whereas this is a rather naughty split infinitive! It should say ‘…begin slowly to defrost’ ↩
For American Readers: The Nectar Loyalty card scheme operates in the UK and Nectar Points are collected when you spend money with member companies. Strangely, given that Americans can’t particpate, both Hertz and American Express are in the scheme. EDF however, left the scheme at the end of 2010 (the tight-arsed bastards) so Tom was wasting his time anyway. ↩
For American readers: The French again. Petit pois are peas, small ones. ↩
For American readers: The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), supporting the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority, GEMA, is the Government regulator for the electricity and downstream natural gas markets in Great Britain. It was formed by the merger of the Office of Electricity Regulation, OFFER, and Office of Gas Supply, Ofgas. The purpose of this bureaucratic shambles is to stop the electricity companies from taking undue advantage of their near-monopoly position and thereby screwing their customers. Needless to say, they are spectacularly crap at their job. ↩