Would you say that telephone and internet services can be defined as utilities in the same way that the provision of gas, electricity and water services can? I don't know and on some level don't really care. In fact, the thought just occurred to me as I began writing this. Anyway, I was browsing through some bank statements toward the end of last week and noticed what turned out to be a recurring amount, which I did not recognise. So, obviously, my first thought was to get on the phone to investigate.
Thus began a misadventure akin to some dystopian tale. Firstly, the dreaded multiple choice self-service inquiry line, ostensibly designed to triage your call to the correct department. However, it leaves users feeling that they are being pushed away from the telephone to the website, to be dealt with by chat bots. The menu of choice is typically along the lines of:
– to tell us your good news stories relating to your relationship with us, the number X telephone/internet services provider in UK.
– to tell us why you love our outreach programme, bringing hope as it does to literally some disenfranchised people around the globe (well, at least the ones we consider worthy).
– to tell us why today has been your best yet and why/how we have contributed to this.
– to enthuse about our brand or logo and enable us to understand and maintain our buoyant market position and how best to grow our future profits.
– to make a payment (if you must and are too lazy or slovenly to make the effort to create a direct debit).
– any other issue.
So it was 6 for me, the utility option for what might be described as the new utility (or not depending on your answer to the question I posed at the top of the article). I spent the next one hour and 50 minutes (turns out iPhones are fantastic for evidence-based phone call duration times) in various queues, punctuated by the occasional human interaction as I pursued resolution to my call, which as you will not be surprised ended only in partial success.
Towards the end of the call, I was told that someone would call me back within five minutes to fully resolve the matter. I held out no confidence this would happen, but battered, bruised and exhausted, decided that, in the interest of my own welfare, I should end the call. However, not before I told the person I was speaking with that I was highly dubious that the call would come. Despite this, I was reassured it would. It did not.
It is not only self-serve telephone/internet providers. Remember shopping used to be a casual process requiring only that you enter the supermarket, choose your items and join the shortest till queue. Now it's more like a strategic operation as you approach the self-service point with a measure of trepidation. Riven by the fear that you might make a mistake when self-scanning – and invite on the ultimate shame as the teenage self-scan lurker/designated helper saunters confidently to your aid – as you try to decide if the cake in your now sweaty hand is a chelsea bun, cinnamon whirl, pan au raisin or none of the above. And hell mend you if you need to purchase a bag – impossible in a self-scan environment! The day after the unresolved call, I received the obligatory survey to complete welcoming my feedback. But would they, would they really?
The New York Times
is running a six-word short story page called 'Reflections on the Pandemic'. It is derived from Hemingway's 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn'. How about an SR version? Mine is: 'Misses, am I still alive today?'
To take part, send your entry/entries to firstname.lastname@example.org – Ed
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com