Saturday, 12 January 2008

‘Suffer and Pay’ is the order of the day with phone charges!


I’m feeling lucky, like the perp in Dirty Harry. Maybe the time has come once again to try and sign up with Talk Talk.
Oh no! Please no! Not again!
Just the thought of it sends a tired sigh diving down my spine.
When you’re a Jewish son who lives in a different country to his family, the phone plays a daily role.
Like, we talk, and then we talk, and then we call back and talk some more.
If I signed up to Talk Talk’s ‘Talk Lite’ and ‘Talk 3 International’ packages, I would make massive savings.
‘Talk Lite’ is only availiable if you sign up online, and so several times I have wandered through their website, filling in page after page of sign-up, until, like a block of ice hammered onto a rampant member, at the very last moment they refuse.
Nu-uh. No thankyoooo. Ezzz nooo posseeeeblay, amigo. Gotcha again.
On the phone I go, to tell them what happened, and they explain that my telephone number already has an existing account on it.
“Yes, I know it does, Niamh. That would have been the bloke who used to live in my house five years ago. Could you cancel it, please?”
“Sure, that’s done! You can go off and sign up now!”
“Are you sure, Niamh? You see, I’ve already called four times before about this. I’ve spoken to so many of your colleagues I’m beginning to feel a bit like a stalker at this stage of things. I know Katie, and Anita and all the crew. And each time they say just what you said, and then I go off to try it on my computer and it still doesn’t work. But I want to believe you. I really really do. You sound like a nice girl who visits her mother. And I want to give Talk Talk my money but-”
“Sure, that’s done! You can go off and sign up now!”
“Are you sure, Niamh?”
“What did you say about being a stalker?”
So I tried it and it didn’t work, and then I had a private manly little cry.
And then I left it for another few months.
Then the Snapper had a go. Maybe with her womanly ways she would see a blip that I had missed.
But no. She too was told that the old account was finally cleared, destroyed, null and void, an ex-account, dead gone pining for the optic fibres, and so off we went, onto their website and filled out absolutely everything again, only to be told ‘No, nyah-nyah nya nyaaaahhhh-nahhhh!’
So today I’m feeling lucky, but should I risk it?
Trying to spend money shouldn’t be this difficult.
You might think that in our consumer society, companies would make it as easy as they can for us to pay our money; sign on the dotted line, roll in with wads of green folding, cross their palms with shiny euro.
But the relationship between them buyers and us sellers has deteriorated to such an extent that global Corporates now treat us with contempt and derision, while fledgling start-ups struggle to offer anything approaching efficiency.
All I want is a reliable service that doesn’t cost the earth, and feel reluctant to sign up with every fly-by-night outfit that sends some poor unsuspecting salesperson, armed only with a smile and a clipboard, to knock on my door just as the footie has started on TV.
So I settle for the safety of the status quo. Every two months I pay a massive amount of money to eircom for their grossly-inflated line rental charge, and resist the bombardment from other telecoms companies to swap.
With Options and World Select I don’t do badly out of eircom, but hey, what is this?
Right there on the front page of my eircom bill is a bold-printed ‘Did You Know?’ advertisement, which says:
“Introducing 2 new voice packages: eircom talktime UK and eircom talktime international, which include line rental, local, national, and international calls all for just €35.99 per month.”
There it was, in print.
So I called eircom’s sales number, and was intercepted by not one, but two of the most infuriating voice menus I have ever encountered. It is impossible to believe; to mentally absorb in any calm or untroubled way, that this is how the nation’s supposed No.1 telecommunications provider treats people approaching their sales department.
But I remember my manners when I finally get through to a human, who naturally asks for all the information that I have already given, first to a talking computer and then into the keypad.
“Sinead is it? Hi Sinead. I wonder if you can just clear something up for me? I was looking at my bill, and noticed the bit that’s advertising the new voice packages.”
“Oh, the talktime packages?”
“The very same, Sinead. What I was wondering was this: When they say “eircom talktime UK and eircom talktime International includes line rental, local, national, and international calls all for just €35.99 per month, do they really mean it?”
“Do they mean what?”
“Do they mean what they say? Do they mean that if I take talktime International, I pay you €35.99 a month, and that covers my line rental, local national and international calls?”
“Well, no, of course it doesn’t mean that.”
“Well, thanks Sinead. Goodbye.”
Just as I thought. Throughout decades of state-owned services, we were lectured by the political Right about how, once monopolies were broken, we would all benefit from the effects of ‘healthy competition’.
Yet now, between the labouring old monolith that is eircom and the jabbering carnivorous beasties that are talk talk, Perlico and all the other bottom feeders, I find myself being deceived in print, unable to sign up and generally left drowning in a sea of junk mail, useless offers and absurdly expensive services.
There was a similar telecoms situation when I lived in America in the mid 1990’s, but the way they dealt with it could not have been more different.
We left our provider AT&T, and switched to MCI, because they offered us $100 free calls for the move. Then, unsolicited in the mail, we received a cheque for $100 from AT&T, which we could cash the moment we switched back to them.
We played them off against each other and made several hundred bucks a year.
Now that’s what I call a special offer.


david santos said...

Good posting, thank you.

have a good weekend

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks David - you too.