Give me back my line!

Q: How many BT engineers does it take to install a telephone line?

A: I have no idea because I ain’t seen one yet (10 days – yes TEN days and still waiting) – obviously since the turn of the millennium, BT engineers have become a rare, endangered species, due to join their friend the Dodo in the Natural History Museum any day soon!

When I was offered this column I didn’t originally intend to use it to avenge personal grievances but, hey, SHIT happens and it’s time to make someone pay.(If I have anything to do with it that person will be Sir Ian Vallance – the Chairman of BT.)

How can I begin to explain the Byzantine incompetence by which BT have failed to deliver me a decent service when it is so labyrinthine I don’t even understand it myself yet?

Why has the simple act of moving flat become something that BT cannot – in all the combined ‘wisdom’ of their various call centres – get to grips with?

Oh yes… the call centres. If you’ve experienced the delights of phoning BT endlessly every single day for over a week – often in hot, sweaty, salacious phone boxes and having to wait between 30-40 minutes for an automaton to ‘pick-up’- you will know of the particular British torture I am referring.

The call centres… where on Monday, Mavis in Swansea says she’s sorted your order, your BT chargecard (which was working fine prior to your move, but no longer), your call minder service and ordered your new phone books.

Then on Wednesday, Sarah in Shrewsbury says she can see no such things having been processed on her screen and would you mind repeating the whole lot from the beginning?

The call centres… where you will hear (many times a day) the pusillanimous operators proffer the pathetic shibboleth ‘Oh yes, I do understand, Miss Sharanski’ (and if you believe that’s my real name, you’ll believe anything.

The call centres … who continually try to ring me back on(let’s say)999-1234 (the number BT advised they had allocated to my phone)… and took nine days for themselves to realise they had crossed my line and the number appearing on their screen did not match!

Nine days? The world was created in less(allegedly).

That the call centres have been ringing the wrong number and wondering why they haven’t obtained me (stupid customer obviously – rings up to complain and then immediately disappears the minute she’s put the phone down – must be a nutter)… isn’t half as important as the fact that all my friends, family, editors, employers, acquaintances, hangers-on, stalkers (and bank managers – although maybe they also qualify as stalkers) have also been ringing the wrong number!

Just to add to the fun of the ‘hunt Sharon Sharanski’game, BT also ensured that all the calls for me went straight through to the call minder service on the wrong number, and – you’ll laugh at this, I know I did! – denied me access to my own call minder service.

Eventually – on the ninth day – after so many exasperated phone calls I sound as if I deliberately sandpaper my throat for breakfast – one of the operators realised their mistake and how frustrated I must be. Now this call centre operator did something unique and unheard of – she helped (she must be a temp or brand new on her first day or something – bound to be sacked immediately after this) by setting me up with a PIN code to access my own messages (albeit still on the wrong phone number).

She also agreed that I really really DID need an engineer (despite my having asked, begged and pleaded on numerous previous occasions – only to be told “Oh no, we can sort this out from here”). Therefore, on the ninth day I stayed home and waited… and waited… However it is now 20 hours into the tenth day, fast approaching the 11th and there is still no sign of an engineer.

The only thing she didn’t do – this (somewhat) helpful operator – was to tell me the (real) number of the crossed line that I’ve been using for the past week and a half – oh no – ‘data protection’ you see. Well, sod that – a quick call to me best mate soon sorted that out: I put the phone down, got me best mate to dial 1471 and call me back and tell me what the f**k my own number was! (Good grief and halleluja!)

Really – you never know how much recondite knowledge about the sneaky 141/1471 codes (gained from your days stalking Boyzone, of course) is going to prove useful later in life.

Short of remaining housebound for the next century, I still don’t have a scintilla of hope of getting this fixed before I draw my pension. An acquaintance of mine – a newshound lecturer from journalism college (yeah I went – yawn, yawn) – suggested I phone the BT press office and use my weight as a journalist to get things moving.(*) But why should I have to?

Why is it not possible for BT to provide a decent service to all its customers without threatening negative press, blackmail or nepotism?

And why – last but by no means least – does the image of a group of untrained headsetted primates being paid KP vouchers suddenly spring to mind? Answers on a postcard please… (phoning me sure won’t do any good).

*P.S. The press office couldn’t give two KP vouchers – told me to bog off and that there are lots of people waiting longer than 10 days (oh really? what does that say?).