Isn’t living in the future marvellous?

Yesterday I needed to phone my broadband provider to give them the news that we’re moving to another company, on account of the fact that their modus operandi is to sign users up for a certain monthly fee and then 18 months later to double it – entrusting in apathy, I expect, to retain customers and rake in more money.

Conveniently, notifying them that you want to leave is not one of the operations that can be carried out via their website – so the only way to proceed is to phone them.

As I was taking the dog for a walk I figured that served as the perfect opportunity to phone – there’s very little phone reception in our house on my network (ironic really, in light of the fact their name suggests both what they’re capable of providing and also a summary of the locations to which they provide it) and so an hour in the great outdoors (of the local park) ought to be ample time to get this dealt with… surely?

About 10 minutes into my walk I learn that my bluetooth headphones are – to apply the correct piece of engineering jargon to the situation – fucked. Not due to the normal reasons bluetooth headphones don’t work (i.e. BECAUSE BLUETOOTH IS AN UNWORKABLE PILE OF FLAKY BULLSHIT), but because the law of cheap consumer electronics dictates: one day shit’s just gonna stop working. Specifically, in this case, something about rotating one’s head more than 15 degrees from centre in either direction causing a contact inside the headphones to disconnect and immediately switch off. Tricky to avoid when flinging a tennis ball around for a demanding labrador.

The only course of action left was to hold the phone up to my ear whilst on hold for the obligatory extended period – because I’m not one of those people who impinges on the lives of others with speakerphone.

So I phone them – after being auto-dumped twice with a message saying “We’re extremely busy, please try again later” I managed to get to a menu helping guide me to the right queue to be endlessly stuck in through a series of choices. To their credit they managed to make me feel a bit involved in the process by robo-asking “Is the account you’re calling about registered to the postcode ending in…”, reassuring me to some extent that they’d streamlined this to the point where someone, somewhere would know I had attempted contact. Of course the payoff was them saying “Did you know you can do MOST of your account actions via our website? We’ve just sent you a link to log in…”, so they clearly haven’t joined up with my logged-in account activity of looking for the HOW DO I CANCEL MY ACCOUNT page.

20 minutes into being on hold and I was distracted by a man waving at me and shouting something… and he appeared to be shouting that something AT ME, so I (reluctantly) took the phone off my ear to listen. Sod’s law usually dictates this is when the call will be answered. He was trying to point out that somehow my ear’s contact with the phone had switched the phone’s torch on and he didn’t want my battery to run out while I was on a call – so a friendly wave of thanks and all was well. And, by a stroke of luck, I was still on hold and hadn’t missed my chance.

About 45 minutes into my being on hold and feeling reassured about how important my call is to the business, I begin to wonder if this sort of thing is a machiavellian business practice designed to extort the customer. As I said: if you can *only* cancel an account through the call centre and *most* actions can be carried out via the website, then it stands to reason that most of the phone traffic must be people trying to leave. And therefore what’s the business impetus to deal with that in any rush? Every day delayed increases the chances of your 30 day notice period rolling into the next (extortionate) billing cycle. I guess one *could* complain… if it were at all possible to get through to the call centre.

My reveries were disturbed by an unusual ringtone which signified an internal transfer before being answered by a surprisingly laid back and unprofessional “Hiya, what can I do for you?”. I started responding with some laid-back banter about them being busy there, and it getting to the business end of the day, before cutting to the chase with “So, I need to cancel my broadband account”. “Your broadband account?”. “Yeah… we’re moving to another provider and need to cancel this one – is that something you can help with?”. Some confused mumbling & noise on the other end prompted me to take my phone away from my ear and look at it. It transpired that this time I’d somehow ear-speed-dialled my mate Adrian on his snow holiday in Austria (putting my on-hold call on hold), thus fully explaining the confusion, the lack of professionalism, and the ringtone. However, as HE couldn’t help me with my fucking broadband, I bade him adieu and returned to being on hold [i]This exchange highlighted just how far a conversation between 2 blokes can get when ladsy non-specific banter is employed.

Reader, this is where I realised how deep The Bluetooth Conspiracy goes. Modern call centre business practices make it impractical to operate a phone WITHOUT bluetooth headphones. The touchscreen hegemony dictates this unless you fancy any number of random adventures on your way to cancelling a broadband contract.

At any rate I decided the only remaining course of action was to switch to speaker – as I was starting to get sore arms from holding my phone up to my ear the whole time.

I thus spent the next 35 minutes walking around the rest of the park and then back home with the broadband company’s shitty on-hold music blasting out of the shitty tinny speaker on my phone, before eventually arriving home and getting cut off as my phone came into range of our Wifi router, and switched over from the 4G signal to the Wifi Calling signal, which also doesn’t work particularly well (see above).

So there we have it – 1 hour & 20 minutes on hold to get nowhere in a broadband cancellation, including a sizeable chunk of time spent making the other patrons of our local park think that not only am I the sort of prick who walks around listening to music on his phone speaker, but that I’m also the kind of prick who listens to the sort of shit music that they happened to have in their hold system out loud on a phone speaker.

Still – the dog got a nice walk out of it.

Footnotes

Footnotes
i This exchange highlighted just how far a conversation between 2 blokes can get when ladsy non-specific banter is employed