Friday, 31 December 2010

Unusually High Volumes of Bullshit

This will be my last post of 2010. I have mulled over a couple of options for today's topic. Should I end the year on a positive note, a forwards looking constructive piece for the good of all humanity? Should I perhaps try to sum up 2010 as it meanders towards its sunset with some form of literary montage post of all this last year's events? No, I don't have the former in me, nor the skill for the latter, plus I wasn't paying attention for much of 2010. Instead, I shall have a quick word or two about the lies we hear on the phone.

The last few years have seen a proliferation in 08 numbers. Almost every company of any size whatsoever has one it seems. Whilst some providers (mobile and landline) are starting to include 0845 and 0870 numbers in free minute packages there are thousands of pricey 0844 and 0871 numbers in operation. As the revenue from 0845 and 0870 dries up, many companies are migrating to the money-spinning alternatives.

The first lie here is the unspoken one - that they don't tell you they make money out of your calls. It is ironic that most complaints numbers benefit the company against whom you are complaining. They share the profits with the provider from your expensive session of frantic button pressing in a desperate attempt to just, please, speak to a human.

The second is when they say that they don't earn any money from your call. If you are calling on one of these numbers, money is being made over and above your normal tariff. If it isn't going to the company directly, they aren't doing the provider a favour out of altruistic feeling. They will receive benefit in kind from the provider, so they are getting paid whatever they say.

Then the third and worst lie is the one you have definitely all heard : "We are experiencing higher than usual call volumes so apologise for the delay". The 08 number rules are vague, so they can leave you on hold as long as they want, and boy do they want. They want you to listen to Greensleeves over and over again. They want you to tap in 17 different buttons from the cascading menus "so that you can be put through to the appropriate department" and then end up speaking to the same person anyway.

Now we all know many of the people behind these companies are a bunch of thieving scoundrels who would sell their own grandmothers for sixpence, so this should come as no surprise that they charge you to call them. I want all the businesses with these numbers to make a New Year's Resolution. If they won't revert to free numbers, I just wish they would have the decency to say from now on:

"Hello, and thank you for calling (insert name of morally bankrupt organisation), we value your call. We value it at 3p per minute. Thousands of you call to complain about our shoddy services daily, so factor in your inevitable wait time and do the maths. We have. Thanks. We really value your call. Today we are experiencing the exact same volume of calls as usual. We even fired a couple of call centre workers to bump up our profits from your wait time. Please listen to all of the following options because it might make the wait feel shorter. Rest assured, whatever your selections you will then be placed in a queue if not arbitrarily cut off and your query will be inexpertly misunderstood by our resident semi-trained baboons. We value your call. Give us your money. If you want to complain about this complaints procedure, please feel free to call back, again and again."

What are the chances? Happy New Year...

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