Like many of you I detest foreign call centres, everything about them is horrible. The silly attempts to sound local “I would be wishing you a Happy New Year” or “How good to hear from you I look forward to serving you good” to name but two. There is an unpleasant dishonesty in this, please don’t ask me how I am “this morning” when it is 10pm in your Calcutta call centre, contrary to corporate beliefs this does not ‘foster a relationship’ it makes me hate you. Then there is the one thing that they cannot script into foreign call centres, the art of negotiation. An English call centre is like an English market stall, the conversations that we have are a constant churning negotiation albeit with little change in position. With a foreign call centre there are one or two decision gates and that is it, they stall and there is no movement. Gone are the days of “let me speak to your manager” because Manjita’s manager is going to tell you the same thing, he is reading from the same 5 page leaflet and rules are rules. Don’t misunderstand me the result is the same but the English have a culture of sympathetic noises and conciliatory tones that makes the whole experience somehow seem better.
I had cause to change my electricity supplier recently and was pleased to see that the new provider operated from English call centres, what a pleasant surprise. What they hadn’t told me, but quickly became apparent when I called them, was that the English call centre had a starting age of 60. I gave my details to a half deaf half-wit who made me repeat everything several times. When he asked for my postcode I started phonetically with “Charlie” only to be greeted by a patiently enunciated “no sir your post code” but I persevered as he taped my answers into the computer with a solitary arthritic digit. When he asked for my phone number I enquired as to why he needed it and he said “In case we get cut off so I can call you back” on the third repeat of the number I saw my chance for freedom and confirmed the incorrect number. Another few questions and the will was well and truly beaten out of me so I killed the call. I can only apologise to whoever gramps phoned next, it wasn’t a prank call from the Alzheimer’s society he really did work for an energy company.
The next day I tackled the same arrangement by way of one of those ‘live chat’ things. When Manhandru answered I realised that if this service had also remained in the UK then it was based in Birmingham which offered no more advantage. Could they help me apply because the online quote didn’t do quarterly payment options I enquired, “yes this is certainly something that I can do with you” was not an inspiring reply. When he directed me to a link I advised that I had already filled the form in and it asked me to call, it was ok he assured me he “would help me fill it in”. Ah but you misunderstand I insisted, I can fill the form in but it doesn’t cover my circumstances. I had to decline repeated offers of assistance to fill my name and address in before he conceded that I should “call the help centre”. I had to ask whether this was the “English geriatric help line” that I had called yesterday and was advised “yes sir they can help you”.
Swearing that this would be my last attempt I hit that gem of a thing, more rare than diamonds or gold, an English call centre operative. She clearly didn’t want to be there or to read out the garbage that they are obliged to so we skipped merrily through that with good humour on her part and good grace on mine. Did I want her to read the terms and conditions out aloud or should she email them? “burn them for all I care just please don’t read them out”. The killer question though was “why are you moving your electricity supplier” which I considered before answering “because your electricity smells nicer”. After a snigger she asked “no really” and in best straight face I answered “yes the current supplier is horrible, smells worse than wet dogs. My friend has yours and his house smells much better” As she typed my reason in the box doubtless marked “other” she did quietly ask “do you have any pets” and I assured her that I didn’t, she was probably worried they wouldn’t like the smell of the new electricity bless her.
In other news I purchased a new washing machine, unusually I took this step before the old one exploded. The old one was not in the best of health but, like an faithful old dog facing the lethal injection, it performed perfectly after the new one was ordered. When I ordered the machine I looked at the schedule of charges and agreed to £10 to remove the old one given the hassle the task would be. The £5 to disconnect was a no go since I did this myself but the £20 to install was a tough question. I know in reality that there is nothing involved in installing the machine and the delivery guys would bring it as far as the kitchen as part of the delivery but there was one killer, the wrapping disposal. Whenever I purchase large article I spend an eternity breaking down the packaging to bag it as refuse then have to vacuum the widely distributed polystyrene chips. But £20, just to take some wrapping away? what the hell it’s a New Year damn the expense, I ticked the box and paid my invoice.
When the washing machine arrived I knew that I had been had, there was no packaging. As experts in deliveries the logistics firm had obviously realised that cumbersome packaging invariably has to be lost before delivery to ease access through doorways. Given the New Year I smiled through gritted teeth as an 18-year-old ‘installed’ the machine and cautioned that I should consider a clip for the waste hose, I assured him I would, I could have brought a lot of clips for £20! My new machine is shiny, lights up and beeps so it must be better but I may not have though the purchase through as fully as one should. My old machine had a 6KG load but struggled with a double bed so I had to divide bed linen into two loads. Ever a fan of efficiency I opted for an 8KG machine that would comfortably take the bed linen on with room to spare. After the delivery guys left my machine blinked at me expectantly like an eager puppy, we both knew that it needed a trial run. I had some laundry waiting and launched it into the machine, well to steal a friends phrase it was like throwing a peanut down a bowling alley!
I ate a sloppy lunch so that my hoodie needed washing, well you can’t change a hoodie without the T-shirt can you? In they went and along with an errant pair of socks but still it sits in the kitchen blinking at me, desperate to show its capability, while my laundry basket remains stubbornly empty. At this rate it will be next week before I use the machine, I may need some more shirts to cope with bi-weekly washing!