Category Archives: Rants

(Yet) another rant about Vodafone

I don’t know where to start explaining how annoyed I am with Vodafone!

On Thursday my Android phone just suddenly died – I tried everything but nothing would make it come back to life again. So on Friday I looked at the Vodafone site. It took a while as the information was well hidden but I eventually found out that the phone was covered by a warranty and that as I had Vodafone’s Cover Me insurance I would get a courtesy phone too! I rang up and spoke to someone and he confirmed all of this and told me to take the phone into a Vodafone shop and they would sort it out for me. I felt quite pleased but experience told me it probably wouldn’t be as good as it seemed. In fact I put this on my Facebook status:

Have to say Vodafone surprised me today – turns out that according to the man I spoke to my phone is under warranty and my insurance will give me a courtesy phone while it’s being repaired. Now whether or not that is the reality when I go into the shop tomorrow remains to be seen!!

My expectation, having seen the subject to availability notice was that I would get to the shop to be told “sorry we don’t have any courtesy phones left” .Curiously it wasn’t the case although I think it would have been better if it had been. I took the phone in for repair and was given this phone:

Basically it’s a bog standard phone that allows me to make calls and send text messages and not much else. The man in the shop put my sim card into it and said “oh there’s no contacts on your sim card” Well duh! of course there aren’t my phone is an Android and they don’t work like that. I pointed out that if that was the phone they were giving me I would have no access to my contacts, diary or any of the other things I use my phone for. He suggested that I phone Customer Services.

So I did and this started a whole 3 hours of complete bollocks which ended up with the suggestion that they credit my account with £30 and I go round the second hand shops trying to find a second hand Android phone for that amount, pay for it myself and wait till next month to recover the money. The only thing that they were able to offer was money – I told them on several occasions that I’d rather have good service than money. Every person I spoke to said they could see my point of view but weren’t able to do anything about it!

At the end of the day Vodafone and other phone companies are selling products that go beyond a simple mobile phone. However that is all they are saying they offer when something goes wrong. Is it too much to ask that I be provided with a phone that works on the same operating system as the one I’ve been paying for for the last 18 months? I’ve paid something like £360 in insurance over the last 3 years and not claimed until now and this is the best they can offer – typical of insurance companies to take large premiums and pay out the absolute minimum.

It’s also the second phone in a row I’ve got by signing up to a 24 month contract only to find that the phone only lasts 18 months! I see from other comments on Facebook that I’m not alone in having this experience! I also can’t understand why Vodafone seem to spend so much time and effort trying to placate angry customers by offering to credit their accounts when they seem to spend so little time and effort keeping them happy in the first place. My contract ends in a few months and this time I fully intend to look around and see what is on offer from other companies before I decide on an upgrade from Vodafone – well done chaps I’ve been a customer for 10 years and you’ve pissed me off once too often!

So I tried to get to grips with the phone I was given. I’ve had smart phone for at least 7 or 8 years now and haven’t had to use the abc type input on a phone for at least 10 years so trying to get to grips with it was painfully slow – it took me 5 minutes to type the message “got a phone, of sorts” in a text message to Sarah and then I couldn’t bloody remember her number as I just use it stored in contacts! It was, however, my attempt to use the internet on it that was the final straw. It was slow, painfully slow and trying to do anything in a postage stamp sized screen drove me nuts.

So I went out to my shed and rummaged in my drawer. I found my old Qtek 9600 which I had when we went to Australia back in 2006. Even though the phone is probably 7 or 8 years old it still has more functionality on it than the one I was given as a “courtesy” phone. So the Samsung has gone back into the box where it will stay until I get to pick up my repaired phone. They said a week but I don’t intend to hold my breath!!

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and they wonder why people hate them!

Over heard in the bank today.

The woman in the queue in front of us had gone in to find out why she had received a letter telling her that her account was overdrawn even though she was no longer using it. She had moved her account to another bank but as it turned out for some reason when she had used Paypal the money had been deducted from this account instead of her new account. This had resulted in around £150 being taken out of her account.

Now given that there was no money in the account, nor had any regular payments been made into it, the bank had still authorised each of the transactions as and when they had come in. Given that we live in a world that is controlled by computers I can’t understand why banks continue to allow money to be removed from an account that has a negative balance or maybe this might explain it…..

As well as the £150 that had been withdrawn by Paypal from an account that had no money in it there was also the small matter of the £250 the bank had added in fees because she had withdrawn money from the account – that’s a nice little earner isn’t it no wonder they can afford to pay themselves huge bonuses – £250 for allowing transactions to go through that shouldn’t have.

The poor woman had suddenly found herself £400 overdrawn on an account that she was no longer using.

This happened to us a few years ago. We closed our joint account and paid off the outstanding overdraft. Only it turned out that the bank hadn’t closed it and had then added an interest charge which caused the account to go overdrawn and then they added a charge which then made it more overdrawn. So the next month they added another fee and another the month after until we got a letter telling us we were a couple of hundred pounds overdrawn,

Now we got the charges refunded and I think the poor girl in the bank did too but I wonder how many people aren’t so lucky and how much banks make from these little scams?

And they wonder why people hate them!

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Virgin on the Ridiculous

So it all started about a week ago when we noticed that our internet speed had dropped considerably. At first we thought it was a temporary blip but when the sluggishness continued we decided to contact Virgin Media and report a fault. Sarah phoned them and after about 30 minutes someone finally answered.

When the conversation turned technical Sarah handed the phone over to me but while we were waiting I had been conducting an online speed test which showed our download speed was currently 0.3 Mb/s – well short of the 10 Mb that our line should run at. The “technician” asked me to unplug our Ethernet cable from the modem which I did. He checked 3 times that the cable was unplugged before declaring that we needed an engineer to call. I handed the phone back to Sarah and one was duly booked – for the following Monday!

So we had to put up with slow internet speeds all weekend and were glad when Monday came around. The “engineer” arrived and started to fiddle about. before asking what the problem was! Sarah phoned me and I outlined the issues and what had happened up till that point. He fiddled a bit more and said that the incoming signal was too high and fitted an attenuator. When this didn’t work he then declared that our signal to noise ratio was too high.

A little aside at this point – OUR signal to noise ratio! Like it was something we had control over!

Anyway he decided that the problem lay elsewhere – in what ever the fibre version of the exchange is and as such it wasn’t something that could be sorted that day. So he left promising that he would escalate the issue to the people up the line and assured us that the problem would be gone within 24 hours.

Twenty six hours later I rang Virgin again. After being in a queue for about 20 minutes the call was answered by someone who was obviously in an overseas call centre. I explained the situation to her and she said that “According to her records the issue had been resolved and as far as she could see our modem was working normally” – I assured her it wasn’t because I had just done a speed test which showed our download speed to be 0.03Mb/s. At this point she insisted that she needed to do some tests and pointed me at a website which I had to enter a code into and when I pressed the button an exe file started to download.

Another little aside – if you’re going to make me download a file you should a) warn me and b) explain what the file is going to do.

Anyway 5 minutes later and much discussion went on before the file eventually downloaded – it was just over 1Mb and the download time on it’s own should have been enough to tell any competent person that there was an issue but no. At this point she asked me what I could see on my screen – I asked why this was relevant as she hadn’t asked me to do anything with the file I had downloaded and what was on my screen wasn’t going to help her diagnose the issue. She started to get really stroppy with me – At one point I had to say to her “Look I am the customer so why don’t you just shut up and let me finish what I am trying to say to you”. After a while I got really annoyed with her and I then asked to speak to a supervisor. She agreed.

The “technician” really had a very poor command of the English language which was illustrated a few minutes later when she returned briefly to tell me she was going to cancel the call. I said I’m sorry what do you mean to which she replied she was going to cancel the call through to her supervisor!

I think I must have caught the supervisor in the toilet or at least that’s what it sounded like the line was so bad! I explained what had happened up to that point and he said he would put me through to someone in technical support (well who the hell was I talking to before?) – I then got some awful music on hold to listen to. After a few minutes the music stopped but no one answered. I waited and was just about to hang up thinking the call had dropped when someone finally said hello. At least it sounded like there wasn’t going to be any language issues this time.

In fact he was quite helpful – he said that the work that the “engineer” had mentioned had been done but obviously wasn’t the cause of my problems. He told me he was going to log into my modem and when he did he said that there was a low power level and that we would require another visit from an “engineer” – he told me the earliest he could get someone to me would be Saturday afternoon – another 4 day wait! I said I wasn’t happy with that and he suggested I call back in the morning to see if they could get anyone out to me sooner – so I said I would and I hung up after just about 45 minutes.

The next morning I called again and when the phone was answered I spoke to someone who obviously had a listening problem (another one?) I explained about the previous nights conversation and how I had been told to phone back in the morning to see if they could get anyone out sooner. He replied with but you’ve got a visit booked for Saturday. I pointed out that he obviously hadn’t listened to what I was saying and repeated what I had said. He said he couldn’t get anyone out any sooner so I asked to speak to customer service.

The phone call to customer service went as you would expect – there was lots of sympathy and apology and had the conversation ended there or with an offer to get someone out sooner or some sort of compensation then it would of been fine. However the conversation ended with the lady talking to the technical people to see if they could get someone out sooner and then putting me through because and I quote “they can’t see what is wrong with your modem”.

The lady I spoke to then insisted that we do a whole load of tests and explained to me that Virigin don’t support my Belkin router (I don’t recall asking them to) and she told me the only way she could check my modem was by me disconnecting the router and plugging my computer directly into the modem. I pointed out that two previous tests had been carried out by Virgin without me having to do this and she got stroppy with me and told me that an engineer shouldn’t have even been sent out without this test being performed.

I was reluctant to do so because a) the computer next to the modem wasn’t even turned on and b) I knew it wouldn’t work. The reason I knew it wouldn’t work was that my network is set up to use the router as a DCHP server and it allocates ip addresses  when you power up. If I plugged the network cable directly into the modem the pc wouldn’t have an ip address unless I changed the configuration. Anyway I decided to do as she asked and then see what happened but while the pc was booting the line went dead. I waited to see if she would come back but after a while decided I had been cut off so I hung up and rang back.

When the phone was answered I thought at first I’d got back to the same person as the Scottish accent was very similar. Once again I explained what had happened and that the previous person I had spoken to had said she could see a problem with my modem whereas the person last night said that he could. She looked and told me straight away that she could see 2 reasons why I needed an engineer to come out. She said that my upstream power level was too low and that my modem had failed to connect to the server over 500 times in the previous 10 hours. She was really annoyed that the previous person had messed me about and hadn’t picked up on these indicators. So much so that she said she would e-mail her and tell her where she was going wrong and also said she would go and speak to her manager about the situation! But sadly she couldn’t get anyone out to me any sooner

So on the Saturday despite the fact that I had asked for between 12 & 4 and specified that it not be before 12:30 as i had to pick Sarah up from her OU tutorial the phone rang at about 11:45 and it was the engineer to say he’d be with us shortly! I pointed out that I had to go out and he got quite stroppy with me and the upshot of it was if he didn’t come now he was saying it would have to be rebooked and we’d have to wait another 4 days. So naturally I told him to come and sent Sarah a text to explain.

To give the guy his due, despite the above exchange, he was very very good once he arrived. After a quick run down he looked at the attenuator that the previous guy had put in and said “well that ain’t going to do anything” and very quickly agreed that the modem needed to be replaced. He went to get one. While he was out I suddenly remembered about our broken tv remote that wouldn’t control the TV volume so when he returned I asked him if he could have a look at that as well.

I explained that I knew the code for the TV but that it wouldn’t accept it. In typical Virgin fashion this was ignored and he set about trying all of the codes for our make of TV (there are loads that’s why I wrote the correct one down) while I sat on the sofa rolling my eyes behind him and wishing they’d believe me just once!

Anyway he gave up and we set about replacing the modem. The new one turned out to be a router as well so he suggested that I might want to ditch the netgear one that had been connected to our old modem. The network came up and while he tried to test the TV remote I downloaded one of the files that I’d been testing it with for the previous week or so. Whereas it had been downloading at 250b/s and estimating a download time of 10 hours it now downloaded that speeds in excess of 350kb/s and had finished by the time he had come to the conclusion that the problem was also with the TV remote.

He went off to the van to get a new one and came back and entered the code I’d given him and hey presto it worked. In fact he gave us 2 remotes which will come in very handy when Ben misplaces one. So as it was all working I went off to collect Sarah from college.

So there we have it 12 days, many phonecalls – some lasting in excess of 40 minutes, much pulling out of hair, fustration, a delayed OU assignment and much fustration for the A level and GSCE students and much more finally sorted. I have many questions I would like to ask Virgin Media about their service but frankly I’m not sure I’d get anyone who would understand, care or be able to do anything about it. As far as I can see the company are a national laughing stock who nobody has a good word for and frankly they don’t seem to care. Big business in the 21st century – shocking really!

I think the thing that annoys me most is the assumption by almost all of Virgin’s technical team that the person who is calling them knows nothing about computers or networks and that they have to start from the beginning and work on the assumption that they have to do everything in the most basic fashion. While this may be true for a great majority of their customers there are obviously going to be a number who do know what they are talking about and really resent being talked to as if they are stupid – particularly when the person doing the talking actually knows nothing and is simply following a script on the pc at their end. I also don’t understand how you can get one person who can’t see a fault and then a minute or two later someone else who can – surely they’re all looking at the same data – I’m guessing some of the people don’t know what they’re looking for!

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The Price Drop Con

We got a letter through our letter box yesterday from Tesco Club Card. It trumpeted their new price initiative Price Drop where they claim they are dropping their prices on up to 3000 items in order to make our lives a little better in these tough economic times. On the whole it seems like a very good thing for them to do until you read on…..

At the bottom of the letter they go on to explain that in order to do this they are reverting their clubcard points back to one point per pound spent as opposed to their double club card points scheme they’ve been running for a few years now. Incidentally they did this on petrol a few months ago reducing the points to one point for every £2 spent but they kept that very quiet at the time.

As it is we needed to go to Tesco last night so we got the chance to check out some of their claims

The first thing we noticed was that they had dropped the price of a 4 pint bottle of milk from £1.49 to £1.25. At first glance that would seem good but I know that until 2 weeks ago they were running a promotion of 3 for £3 on that line. So if we had bought 3 bottles last night we would have paid £3.75 an increase of 75p. Now that’s hardly a good start. We only bought 1 as we can get a 2 litre bottle of milk at out local corner shop for only 95p and while this bottle is slightly smaller it still works out cheaper. If our local shop can sell it for this price why can’t Tesco with all it’s buying power.

Then there were other things that didn’t seem right. A tray of cat food where the “old” price was advertised as being higher than what we remembered paying for it the week before (I had remarked that it had only been 1p more than a rival brand and now the Price drop tag claimed it had been more than 50p dearer). Other things had been reduced from prices that we felt were higher than we had been paying. About the only thing we found that did seem cheaper was a loaf of their baked in store bread that seems to have been reduced by 5p to £1.

Obviously we didn’t check everything but the overwhelming feeling was that maybe the Price Drops had been exaggerated somewhat.

So in order to take off a few pence here and there Tesco have dropped back their rewards program. My understanding is that market analysts have been predicting this for sometime as they felt it was unsustainable to keep it at 2p in the pound. Tesco’s are obviously claiming that we will benefit from the Price Drop reductions but we will only do that if two things happen. Firstly we will have to buy the things that they have reduced the price on. Personally I would prefer to get 2p in the pound back on my shopping rather than 1p and a few dubious price reductions which, and this is the second thing, could be slowly forgotten about in the coming weeks and months once the shock of the points reduction has subsided – classic smoke and mirrors.

Tesco must be working on the principle that all their customers are stupid – not a great way to treat the people who come into your stores and spend the money you need to keep your empire in the profits to which you have become accustomed!

While we are on the subject of Tesco I must have a bit of a moan about their new Gillingham store. The store was expanded last year to become a Tesco Extra and since then it has seriously gone to the dogs. As customers we put up with months of works to end up with a store that has become overcrowded and so badly stocked it makes me wonder how they keep going. The first thing you notice as you enter the store is the lack of space. There is hardly any room inside the door and once you’re inside the aisles are narrower than before and most of them are piled with displays of booze, clothes and other non essential stuff. We were really looking forward to the new store opening but in order to add space for LCD TV’s DVD’s and the like the store has been completely ruined.

Week after week we are faced with half empty shelves, sometimes of really basic things – they had a real problem with constantly running out of milk and this got so bad that they had to put a sign on the milk shelves pointing out to their staff that it was a priority fill item! Last night they had no bags of sugar and there were items where the shelf had been empty when we last went on Saturday and still hadn’t been filled up! If you go in the evening the staff are filling the shelves and really don’t give a toss about the customers leaving trolleys all over the place, blocking aisles throwing rubbish around, and stacking food in front of the shelves so that it’s difficult to reach anything.Outside isn’t any better with a few safety issues. One of the doors to the store is such that as soon as you exit it you are virtually in the road and it’s so blind it would be easy to step in front of a car! The carpark itself slopes so badly that in certain areas it is impossible to let go of your trolley without it rolling down the hill and into other cars. (Incidentally it will be interesting to see if a really heavy rain storm will have the same effect as there is nothing to stop the water flowing into the store!). The entrance to the petrol station regularly becomes a bottle neck and the new trolleys they got are designed so badly that they jam everytime they are stacked inside each other.

A few years ago we shopped almost exclusively at Tesco but now we find ourselves making the longer trip to Asda on more and more occasions. Their store is much more spacious that the Tesco one but they too still have things that annoy me. It’s sad for Tesco that the only saving grace they have is that the opposition are that much better than them!

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Water update

Following on from my previous blog I thought I’d give an update on Southern Water’s abortive attempts to install compulsory water meters in our street. After 3 days or so of randomly digging holes in our street it seems they have been unable to fit any water meters at all. Seems that they haven’t taken into account the proximity of electric cables to the water pipes and the design of the water meter means they can’t fit them. They’ve gone away to stratch their heads for a bit but have promised to return. Let’s hope they got the meters on sale or return!

Anyway after they had left on Friday evening Sarah spotted that at the top of our street the brave and wonderful contractors who are (trying to) install water meters in order to allow us to save water had left a pipe gushing water into the street. Presumably as it was Friday night they had planned to leave this gushing away all weekend wasting gallons and gallons – maybe we’re not so water stressed after all.

She phoned up Southern Water and they did send out a plumber and a work team to fix it but it makes you wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t. I do wonder if Southern Water have made a good choice of contractors with Balfour Beatty and if they aren’t trying to do this whole water meter installation thing on the cheap.

And while we are on the subject of Balfour Beatty we spotted this sign on Sunday walking back from the shops. It was attached to one of the barriers they’d left strewn around the street over the weekend – presumably because that was easier than taking them back to the depot. The sign gives a list of points that the contractors should follow when working on behalf of Southern Water.

I think you can see from this blog and the previous blog that none of these points have been adhered to.

And while we’re on the subject of updating the customer. As we left the house on Sunday I lifted up the flap outside and instead of seeing the stopcock all I could see was tarmac. When they filled in the hole after their attempt to install the meter they have truly filled it in and prevented access to the stopcock. Did they tell us this when they did it – No! Did they tell us this when they phoned on Monday to explain why we didn’t have a water meter – No!

So Sarah raised it with them. Oh well they replied – you will have a stopcock inside the house you can use that in an emergency. It’s just as well we found out ourselves before we did have and emergency and had to spend ages trying to find out where the internal one was to turn off the water.

Southern Water are proving to be a proper shower!

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Water bunch of tossers

It all started just after 7:30 this morning when we heard lots of raucous shouting outside our house and thinking there were a group of hooligans rampaging down our street we looked out to find that the hooligans in question were from Southern Water and they had come to fit water meters in our street. The shouting continued and then on the dot of 8am the drilling started. They were using a pneumatic drill and a cutter to cut open the area around the stop cock outside houses in order to gain access to the pipes to fit the meters.

Southern Water digging up the street at 8am by deadheaduk

Sarah wasn’t best pleased about this and rang Southern Water to complain. Their attitude was simply that they were sure it was perfectly legal for them to start drilling at that time. Sarah pointed out that whereas it might be legal it wasn’t very considerate especially given that it was the school holidays. The customer service person said that the complaint would be noted and passed on to the relevant place (probably a round receptacle next to her desk!)

When I left for work I could see that they had cut a hole in front of a number of houses in out street – the hole was roughly the same size as the opening to each property and effectively cut off any access to the house. They had surrounded the digging area with blue fences which had signs asking pedestrians to use the other footpath. I could see this would be difficult as they were digging on both sides of the street. Anyone in a wheelchair or with a pushchair would most likely have to walk in the road or zigzag their way down the street crossing from pavement to pavement.

So then they reached our house and cut the same big hole in front of our gateway – in order to allow you to visualise this I will explain that while the hole was there the only way to get from the street to the front door would be to climb over the wall! Common courtesy would expect that the workmen would knock on the door, explain what they were about to do and how long it would take them, check if anyone in the house had access needs etc. However this wasn’t what happened – the workmen just walked up and started digging a hole. If anyone inside had been in a wheelchair or had mobility issues and needed to get in or out urgently they have been stuffed.

No way in, No way out!

So why exactly are we having water meters fitted? Well according to the side of the vans it’s to save energy, save water and to save money! The posters and the website will tell you further that the South East has been declared a “Water stressed area” and that is why the compulsory water meters are being fitted. So, I wondered, who did this declaring and it took me ages to find the answer to that question. I tried Southern Water’s site, I tried OFWAT, I looked it up on the BBC and Google’d it but to no avail. Eventually I did find an answer and the declaration came from DEFRA. I have to confess that the term water stressed bothers me in this context – it conjures up thoughts of the Sudan or Ethiopia rather then the Garden of England (especially as it has rained pretty consistently for the last few weeks and it’s meant to be summer). I suspect the term is designed to cover the real problem which is one of huge population growth and under investment in the water supply. The country as a whole isn’t water stressed so rather then come up with solutions which, for example, pipe water in from areas with high rainfall the companies will install meters on the pretext of  saving water but will no doubt in the long run lead to higher water charges for families and higher profits for the company with minimal effort on it’s part – I’m sure the shareholders will be very happy. But I digress…..

July 2011 - seems to be plenty of water

So there we are with a big hole outside the house and there are lots of people standing round it. There’s a great deal of discussion going on, people scratching their heads, havin a fag and generally doing very little. Then suddenly they’ve all gone leaving the hole and a huge cutting tool unattended outside our house. Sarah goes out and is asked by a workman up the street if our water is back on yet. She informs him that she didn’t even know if had been off and points out the cutting tool. “well they need that to dig the holes” is the curt reply. After she goes back inside she can hear the workman complaining about her to his mate so she makes the second phonecall to complain.

The workmen make themselves comfy on next door's wall

This time the customer services person is more understanding, yes they should have told us they were going to start work outside our house, no the cutting tool shouldn’t have been left there. They admit that there have been a number of complaints and that the comments will be brought to the attention of their contractors (Balfour Beatty).

And now for the punchline!

Due to a technical issue they have been unable to fit a water meter to our pipe and will have to return in the coming weeks to do it again!!!!!!

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Another rant about E-On

A few weeks ago we got a letter from E-On saying that they needed to carry out a safety inspection on our gas meter and that as they had tried to contact us and we hadn’t got back to them they had made an appointment and if we didn’t change or keep it they would be forced to take legal action against us which could result in costs of over £200. Sarah rang them back and made an appointment for this morning as we were going to be away on holiday on the day they originally suggested. The appointment was for between 8am and 10am this morning. The problem we have is that the gas and electric meters are in the cupboard under the stairs and although it only needs to have a few things moved to reach the electric meter getting to the gas meter means emptying the whole cupboard. I keep telling E-On that’s it’s not my fault that when the gas meter was installed back in 1957 it was installed at the back of the cupboard, anyway I digress.

So this morning I had to empty the cupboard which was the last thing I needed on not only a Monday morning but the first day back after my holiday. I started to take out all of the things that were in there  and was quite surprised to find that there was an old CRT computer monitor in there – I thought we’d got rid of them all – so I put it in the shed and stuck it on Freecycle to try and get rid of it. I pondered whether or not to move the wine rack as it was possible to get to the meter without moving it but, I reasoned to myself, what if they needed to get the test equipment in there, so I moved it. Having done all this I set off to work but only got as far as the car when the E-On man turned up. I let him in and showed him the cupboard and he preceded to read the electric meter. I asked him about the safety test but he said all that he had been asked to do was read the electric meter.

I explained the situation and Sarah came down and found the letter. I left for work and she phone E-On to find out what was going on. It turned out that he was meant to do a safety check and also read the gas meter but apparently the way the system works he was sent two work orders from E-On one for the gas and one for the electric but at first glance only one of these showed up on his system. He told Sarah that this often happens and sure enough when he looked it was there (obviously he didn’t actually try to look when originally asked but managed to find it only after we’d called E-On). So he set about carrying out the safety inspection. This apparently consisted of him looking at the meter and saying yeah that looks fine! A visual inspection was all the safety check consisted of!

So we now know the following

1. Our meter is very old – but we knew that already after all it has got the date on it!

2. It has lead pipes going in and out of it.

3. It is likely that E-On will want to change it.

4. It is also likely that when the people come to change it they will refuse to do so because of the lead pipes.

5. It looks as if it’s ok!

So another thing to add to my list of moans about E-On – but while we’re on the subject I also found out something else about this annoying utility company. A few months ago it was suggested that we change tariff which we did but what they didn’t tell us was that the tariff we went onto didn’t qualify for Tesco Clubcard points – this was nowhere to be seen when we looked at the differences between the two – I only found out when my Tesco Clubcard statement came in the other day and there were no points from E-On. I went online thinking that maybe I had to re-register after changing Tariff but when I tried I found that the tariff I’m on doesn’t qualify for points. Another example of how this company treats it’s customers.

I’m beginning to think that this and the recent example of the Water company putting up our prices way above the rate of inflation in order to fund the installation of water meters in our area (presumably so they can charge us more in the long run) is another reason why we should be seriously considering the re-nationalisation of the utilities in this country – utilities are important for the day to day wellbeing of everyone and not for some finance people to cream off the profits. The idea of privatisation and competition may have been a good one but when making a few people money has become more important that investing in what is needed then maybe it’s time to say enough is enough.

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Is it just me?

Is it just me that these things happen to?

My car had broken down so I had to get a train to work. Yesterday on the way home I arrived at Bromley South at 6:15 and there were two trains listed – one at 6:30 to Rochester and then another at 6:45 to Gillingham. I phoned Sarah to see if there was any benefit to getting the Rochester train and there wasn’t  – bascially I would get off it and wait 2 minutes and get on the 6:45 train for the rest of the journey.

However, as the Rochester train arrived, I decided that waiting in the chilly evening air for 2 minutes on the platform at Rochester was preferable to waiting for 15 minutes at Bromley and as the train almost emptied of passengers I hopped on it. The train set off and shortly stopped at St Mary’s Cray.

The next stop was Swanley but the train stopped outside the station and after a minute or two the driver announced that there would be a short delay as a passenger had been taken ill on the train that was stopped at the station ahead and they were waiting for an ambulance. This ambulance obviously took it’s time as we were there for around 40 minutes and while we sat there the 8:45 train went past on the other line – as did several others that I could have got. The train we were on was too close to the station for it to change onto the other tracks but all the trains behind it were diverted around the obstruction!

Eventually at about 7:15 the train started to move only for the driver to announce that the train was now terminating at Swanley so we would all have to get off and wait for the next train to Gillingham which was about 10 minutes behind us. So we all filed off the train and stood on the very cold platform until the train arrived at 7:30 (with of course the annoyance of yet another fast train to Gillingham zipping through the station while we waited). The train that arrived was a short one so there was a mad scrmble for seats as we all tried to get onto it.

I eventually got home at 8:10 cold and tired – I would of complained but by that time all of the station staff had gone home!

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Kicking Against the Pricks

Now don’t get me wrong I love my Android phone – I won’t join the sheep and sell my soul to Apple for an iphone which does half of what my Android can do but costs twice as much. But……I had a problem. Eighteen months ago I signed up to a two year contract with my HTC magic phone and for most of that time I’ve been really really happy. Until a few months ago.

My HTC Magic had been running Android V1.6 and as such was a lovely little phone. Then suddenly, out of the blue, Vodafone released an upgrade for Magic users which took the phone up to the latest version which was 2.2 or Froyo as it was widely known. In retrospect this was a mistake which I will explain shortly but I think Vodafone had been under a lot of pressure to release the upgrade and for a long time it looked as if they were dragging their feet. However looking back they were actually being quite sensible. The problem would appear to be that the Magic just simply wasn’t powerful enough or had enough memory to run the new software.

Not that anyone at Vodafaone would actually admit that out loud but it did leave me with a problem. The phone became very sluggish and crashed every so often – usually when you really needed it to work. I use the phone as a camera a lot and when you have to wait 2 minutes for the camera function to start up it can be a bit embarrassing – especially when everyone else has taken the shot and you’re still standing there saying “Oh sorry can you just hang on a minute!” It also locked when phonecalls came in and meant I had to call people back. It was getting to the point where it was almost getting chucked with fustration!”

So a week ago I was walking past the Vodafone shop and saw the Sumsung Tablet as shown in the picture above) so I popped in to have a look. While I was standing there one of the assistants came over and asked if he could help. I explained that I was just looking and that I was tied to a 24 month contact that still had a while to run. He told me that I could upgrade 6 months early and when he checked the new date I could upgrade was 16th April. I made a note in my diary and took his name just in case! I also picked up a copy of the brochure so I could peruse the phones and decide which on to go for.

So after another frustrating day I e-mailed Vodafone to see if I could speed up the process and on the Tuesday I got a message which now said I could upgrade on the 4th April which was moving in the right direction. I decided to call them and see if I could push this further but their customer service department was awful. I don’t know where it’s based but none of the staff seem to have been taught how to empathise with customers, it’s all very deadpan and matter of fact. After arguing with the guy for a few minutes and trying to get across to him that simply repeating what he had just said doesn’t constitue explaining something he put me on hold to speak to technical services. While I was waiting the line went dead.

I decided to wait before calling back and while I waited I got a text saying my order had been dispatched!!!! What order!! So I phoned back and spoke to another deadpan individual who informed me that the technical people had said that the problem was most likely to be the sim card and they were sending me another one. I told him that I didn’t think that was the problem and hung up – shortly afterwards I got an e-mail in rather poor English telling me the same thing.

The card arrived on Thursday and as I had come to expect from Vodafone there was no instructions as to what I should do. So I called up and spoke to the same call centre who once again had no customer empathy and were less than helpful. I eventually got it out of them what I should do and hung up. A few minutes later I got an automated call asking me to rank the service I had just recieved so I gave them 2 out of 5 for service and gave them one for would I recommend Vodafone to a friend. A few minutes later a call back – I told him that I was driving and asked him to call back 10 minutes later which he did but I couldn’t answer the call because the bloody phone had locked up! Needless to say the sim card didn’t make any difference.

As far as I was concerned they had seriously pissed me off and this wasn’t over. Ideally what I would have liked to do was  ride out the contract and then move my business elsewhere but with a phone that the thought of having to wait 2 weeks to upgrade was not pleasing then the thought of waiting 6 months was a nightmare. I decided to go back to the shop on Saturday and try again only this time face to face. I wanted to look at phones anyway as I couldn’t make my mind up between the Nexus S and the Desire HD.

So on Saturday I went into the shop and was disappointed that the guy I’d spoken to the previous week wasn’t there. They were very busy and I had to wait a while. Then luckily for me the guy suddenly appeared and I told him my whole tale of woe. He was very apologetic about the service that I had received and suggested that I complain. Curiously some of the things he said were the exact opposite of what I’d been told online/phone. I said to him that it was like dealing with two different companies and that it appeared that the shops and online/phone parts of Vodafone were in competition with each other, and that they used that to play customers off.

At first he said that there was nothing he could do but as we talked he asked me if I would mind a new telephone number. I said that it wouldn’t be the end of the world so he made a suggestion. He said he would reduce my current price paln down to the bare minimum – £10 a month. Then he would give me the phone on a 24 month contract but would give me the first two months free (That’s a £60 refund to cover the cost of the 6 months at £10 a month). That sounded good to me – especially as the two contracts would run together for the first 6 months so that I would end up with the new 24 month contract starting in October when the current one finished effectively making it a 30 month contract. (I’d been told that this wouldn’t happen by the man on the phone but didn’t believe it for one second.)

So all I had to do was decide which of the two phones to go for! I eventually went for the Desire HD because the Nexus doesn’t have a memory card slot and although it had a massive 16GB of storage if anything happened to the phone I wouldn’t be able to retrieve the data. So the man went out the back to get me a phone and guess what – they’d run out!! So I have to wait till tomorrow to get my hands on it.

It just goes to show that if you kick hard enough against big corporations eventually you’ll get what you want!

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Banking Crisis

Mid morning yesterday I got a phonecall from a Birmingham number and when I answered it there was a computerised voise asking to speak to my wife. As she wasn’t here I hung up. Later the same day I got another call from a London number and once again the same computerised voice. This time I answered the first question to say I wasn’t my wife expecting to be able to tell a humanoid that they were ringing the wrong number. I was then asked if my wife was able to come to the phone, as I was at work I answered no. Then a third question at which point I gave up again and hung up.

I sent my wife a text telling her than the bank in question (I won’t name them in case I upset their Spanish owners!) were trying to reach her and giving her the number. She rang the number after work and was greeted by the same computerised voice which asked her to enter her details. After doing so it then demanded money so fearing it was a phishing scam she hung up and went into a branch. The branch confirmed that they were trying to get hold of her and that it was to do with the joint account (which we closed last September). They gave a number to call and she called me as it was for the joint account.

The upshot of it was that she had called to close the account last year and requested to know how much we owed them and then paid the requested amount over the phone. It would then appear that a fee was added to the account, which should have been closed, and then this has snowballed over the past 5 months to the point where they were trying to get us to pay them £128 for an account we hadn’t even been using and one that we thought we had closed. I discovered this after speaking to someone in their collections team who was in a distant call centre (or at least that’s what the telephone line quality would suggest). I explained the situation to her, she then asked me some security questions – one of which was can you tell me a recent transaction on the account er no the account is supposed to be closed!

Then I explained it again, and again until finally she said “oh I can see what has happened” and then spent the next ten minutes removing all of their charges so that the account balance could go back to zero and the account could be closed properly (or at least hopefully this time). It’s no wonder banks make so much profit if they can try and charge £128 in fees in 5 months on an account that hasn’t even been used!

There are several things that worry me about all of this – most of all their chosen way of collecting. In this age of electronic fraud do you really think that a computerised voice at the end of the phone is going to reassure people that a call is genuine? If it had been a phishing situation and we had been defrauded out of money the banks would have probably said “Well weren’t you suspicious that it was an automated system” After all they are the ones who are always telling us to be on our guard and not to give out our details out if we are suspicious.

Another thing that annoys me is what sort of service is this, are we so unworthy that the bank doesn’t consider it worth wasting the time of an employee to collect money off us? It’s bad enough having to negotiate the automated systems when you ring them but I think this is the most impersonal thing I have ever come across.  It shows that this particular bank has lost all respect for it’s customers and they are not alone – another bank we have dealings with use the same system to contact us. I guess that if they can get away with using computers like this they can make even more of their menial staff redundant and that will leave even more cream for those at the top to take as bonus payments.

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