I am sorry to do it to you again but I have had another consumer experience. My parents are on a very slow dial up and accordingly ring us frequently and get us to do internet research for them. I keep telling then to get broadband but being on a limited budget they are rightly concerned about cost. So today Mum asks me to use my internet to research some deals for her. No problem.
I check her number on several sites and no one seems to provide broadband to her address ( which is 1.5 miles from a town with a population of 14,756). Talktalk however has a free broadband deal packaged with phone calls which is very cheap and which we use. It is not availble for her but they can at least get broadband to her for £15 per month. The web site says they are trying to get the free deal available to more areas and to ring for more information.
( you can see where this is is going now can't you!)
I Ring. I give the number and postcode of my parents's house and explain. I am told that if I check the number on the site I will be able to find out if broadband is available and, if it is not, there is a number to call to find out when it will be available.
"I know. I rang it. I am talking to you on it."
"No, There's another number."
"Fine. Can you tell me what it is please?"
"It's on the website."
" I don't have time to look for it I have other calls waiting. Its on the website."
I hang up. Try to find another number. Can't. Ring back. Get put on hold. Get cut off.
I ring again. I get a Scottish person. I have to give the number and postcode. I explain what I need. The woman is trying to be helpful, but doesn't know and will have to put me through to a supervisor who holds the schedule for the unbundling of exchanges. Fine. I go on hold.
Twenty five minutes later I get an Anerican man who says,
"Phone number." (Note- he says it. He doesn't ask for it. There is no questioning tone or indeed questioning word. He is rude. I decide to play back.
"I don't understand."
"Oh, you are wondering if you could please take my phone number?"
"Yes. Phone number."
I give it. I give the postcode. I explain the story and tell him I need the date the exchange will be unbundled, please.
"Right. Wait a second while I check your account."
"I don't have an account. I've just said, I am ringing to try and set one up."
" Just a second. You're right. You don't have an account."
I confess. I get snotty. I tell him he is the third person I have spoken to that I was on hold for 25 mins and could he possibly just answer the question. He seems to wake up then and read his 'Dealing with Difficult Customers handbook' and in a very over-patient voice says,
"Well I am a new advisor and so I need all the information to assist you m'aam but I am really wanting to help you whatever the problems you have had before. I am going to do my best to give you very good service from now on. So, can I take the number again?"
He is lucky he is not within slapping distance.
I demand a supervisor and explain again. I go on hold.
Eventually I get Ray in 'Retentions'. What we are retaining, I know not. The account I do not have? Water? Whatever, Ray knows his stuff. Turns out if you go to www.samknows.com you can check all the phone exchanges to see what providers work from which exchanges. Its brilliant. The only one for Penrith is Sky. To get Sky broadband you need to get Sky TV. Mum and Dad don't, can't afford it and don't want it anyway.
I ring Mum and tell her to move house. Oh, and I get her permission to email her MP on her behalf and ask whether anyone is doing anything to ensure that people in towns of not totally inconsiderable size can get broadband. It's ridiculous!