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It is a source of wry amusement (though not of surprise, at least to a structuralist who knows that every statement implies the possibility of its opposite and that sod’s law rules over all), that the growth of corporate ‘customer service’ departments has led to the near-extinction of the last vestiges of anything remotely worthy of the name. Indeed, dedicated ‘customer vexation’ departments couldn’t do a worse or more annoying job.

Yes, of course a department in which dedicated and well-informed bright young things answered each phone call personally within three rings and gave careful consideration to every petty query would be prohibitively expensive and counter productive, as the sparky employees would soon lose the will to live faced with endless queries about which is the ‘any’ key they’ve been asked to press and who haven’t checked that their spodulator is actually plugged in and switched on. And the cost of that would be passed on to the punters. 

But after a day in which I should have been recording a video, rehearsing Under Milk Wood and trying once more to tune a banjolele, but have instead spent ages on phone and website trying to sort out my non-functioning electricity meter, book a visit for a gas inspection and get a replacement for my tv-box remote control, I am more convinced by those who want to go off-grid, live by nature’s clock and shit like bears in the woods. That and firebomb a few offices — though that way only the poor schmucks they use to keep their customers from holding them to account for shoddy, not to say shite service would bear the brunt of my frustration.

Let’s bypass the on-going saga of utility futilities and go straight to the gas inspection. My landlord has been getting me to arrange this for him ever since he fled the country to work in Hong Kong and snorkel off some of the world’s most exotic beaches (which seems to take up most of his time, if his social media feeds are anything to go by). Every year there have been more hoops to jump through to arrange it and I think (hope) we just hit peak hoop. In previous years I think I’ve gone straight to the local firm who do the actual work and arranged with Morag that Angus will come oot next Tuesday.

Not any more.

The insurers don’t have one of those annoying, “if you are calling about a claim, press one” systems. Oh no, they have a fucking infuriating, “if you are calling about a claim, please say, ‘I am calling about a claim'” systems. Shades of the sketch with two Scotsmen screaming “Ulevun” in a speak-your-floor lift!

There was a twenty-tiny-digit number on the letter I got, telling me the inspection was due, but it didn’t say that was the account number so when the voice asked for policy number I said “don’t know”, which didn’t phase it, so, in my best re-ceived pro-nun-ci-a-tion, I gave the property address, phone number, my inside leg measurement and whatever other trivia it asked for, eventually to be asked the obvious question of what I was ringing about. From the series of options I clearly stated I was ringing to “arrange a gas inspection”, and was immediately put through to a woman who asked me when I put in my original damages claim. And then redirected me to the gas inspections department, which a human operator could have done ten minutes earlier, if it wasn’t for all that bollocks.

Once on the phone to the cheery Diane, it was plain sailing and very chatty. No, I don’t have a dog … well, I have a stuffed one, but he’s usually harmless. Diane makes note to warn fitter: ‘looney’.

Then it’s the tellybroadbandphone provider. Look online. Lots of helpful FAQs (so called because within five seconds they have you yelling, “What the FAQ would I ask that for?”) and a tree of options within options that would dwarf Darwin’s tree of life if it contained every species that ever lived. Eventually I get to ‘lost or broken tv remote’, which will have to do, though its more a case of tv remote falling to bits with old age, rather like its owner, who would quite like a modern replacement for the whole cable box, which is so old it isn’t even shown on their screen as one of the models. Not that it matters, as the best the ‘help’ system seems to do is direct me to ring 150 on my phone and press option two. Only, option two is for phone issues, not telly. But option two within option one (faults) within option one (telly) does seem more hopeful. It’s to do with telly service not working, which is as near as it gets.

And the system asks me to stop watching telly (I wasn’t) and make sure everything is plugged in (it was) while they run a remote test, which would take a few minutes (I didn’t select, I hung up).

Now this did fix my wifi issues last month so it’s not totally stupid, except in this case I know the telly box is working fine and nothing they can do remotely will be remotely useful in correcting or even identifying a bust spring in a remote and ageing remote control. Remotely.

But nothing you can press gets you straight to an operator. I’m now told that selecting “I’m thinking of switching to a new provider” can do the trick, but I fear that would only be after selecting options within options of how long I’ve been with these, why I’m not happy and so on, none of which would be the expletive-laden option I’d most like to choose.

I should just say I had been trying the other option of ‘live chat’ from the get-go, but was constantly told that the team (active 8am to 8pm on Wednesdays) was not available right now (from 10am to 2pm on this fucking Wednesday).

But do I have any faith that, even if I switched to a promising new mob, they’d be any better (or remain good value) once I was a settled customer, would be worth all the upheaval of changing router, telly box, phone line? No, I don’t.

I’ll keep tweaking the batteries and try again tomorrow.

When I’ve tuned the banjolele.

For which my shiny new carrying case arrived today, yay. I’ve even decorated it with a Woody Guthrie tribute (and parody) sticker [This machine annoys fascists, (and everybody else, actually)]. Scottish fucking Power, Homeserve, Virgin bloody media, you may be masters of irritation but I reckon I can deliver far more offence, frustration and annoyance at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.

Bar Bados, 8pm, nightly except Mondays. You have been warned.