• April 2012
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Broadly Speaking

At my business I get several calls in the week from companies wanting me to switch provider for electricity, gas, insurance, telecoms, credit card transaction terminals etc. etc.

I tend to make changes only if there is a significant saving to be made and even then I am wary.

On the few occasions that I’ve taken the plunge there has invariably been a problem ensuing which has made the apparent bargain less so.

When I changed credit card terminal machine a couple of years ago for instance, and despite checking with the salesman, I found three particular problems. 1) It seemed we could no longer offer our customers cashback on their purchases. 2) We couldn’t process transactions manually thus disabling the ability to make sales over the phone or on line and most importantly 3) When we cashed up at the end of the day, the money was not appearing in our account!

It took weeks of phone negotiation to sort this problem. “That salesman has left the company sir – he shouldn’t have made that promise – we can set up manual transactions for £100 and cashback for £200. What did you say your account number was? The money should be in your account it has left here in the normal way etc. etc.”

Eventually we discovered the money had gone to a holding account because the salesman had made an error in the account details.

It was a nightmare.

Changing power suppliers was the same. I won’t go into too much detail but only threatening Scottish Power with the ombudsman finally got them to switch my supply to Eon. Then because the switch was two months later than the agreed date they were going to charge me for the power we’d used during that time at standard tariff rates rather than my contract amount. The difference was hundreds of pounds. It had been their fault! Again after hours on the phone and various letters we got the problems sorted.

It was with a heavy heart therefore that I recently decided to change our home telecoms and broadband supplier from TalkTalk. Having previously been with Orange we went to TalkTalk a couple of years ago. The broadband speed has been pathetic (as low as 135 kb/s on occasion) and at least half a dozen times a week the broadband will simply cut off. Any attempt to discuss this with TalkTalk always ended up with us changing configuration at our end. Was the extension cable causing it? perhaps a new router? Was it because we lived more than a mile from the telephone exchange?

Recently a letter arrived from BT offering free broadband for three months if we signed up. A friend who knows about these things said that he wondered if BT’s speed would be any better as they were simply taking over the existing line.

I decided that there really was nothing to lose and the router duly arrived yesterday. I simply unplugged the old one and replaced it with the new one and hey presto! it worked right away. First stop was the line test site to see what the download speed was. BT had promised at least 2mb/s which although not fast was ten times faster than the dial up speeds we had previously. Bingo! on checking, the download speed was nearly 3mb/s beating TalkTalk’s best by at least 2mb.

So far so good. The booklet pointed out other advantages. As a BT customer I’d get free wireless access at all their thousands of hotspots over the country.

Fine and dandy.

I then thought I’d better register for MyBT. Maybe there they would have the settings for my email to be delivered to my Outlook Express. Enter account number it said. I checked the correspondence and emails. Nowhere did it list an account number. The webform advised if you don’t yet have an account number phone this 0800 number.


After pressing various options, the automated picket line (C Ferncake) then asked for my account number!

By pressing different numbers I eventually got through to a human who said she would text me a number which would satisfy the webform.

I entered this number and as if by magic my account number appeared on screen. Good….good. I only had to now enter my BT phone number which I did.

Red text on screen “We do not recognise this number. Please enter your BT number”. I then re-entered the number with care but got the same message.

Another final try brought up a screen saying that the webform had expired and to start again. I then went to my email to discover that in the previous 5 mins a message had arrived WITH MY NEW BT PHONE NUMBER! Aaaarrrrrrghh!!

More phone calls ensued. Yes we had established with the sales lady we had spoken to that we would retain our number, no we weren’t new occupiers in the house, no we would not be paying £25 to have our old number back. Eventually we had a promise from the lady on the phone to revert back to our old number in 24 hours.

I suppose it was a good outcome on the broadband front with at least reasonable connection speed.

As for the rest of the hoo ha, remember when there was one phone provider, one electricity provider, one gas provider etc.?

Life was simpler.

My phone problems yesterday are without doubt Maggie Thatcher’s fault.


Four Years Ago

Four years ago (yesterday) I posted an article headed Harmonica Madness on the blog.

It was just me linking to an old video of a harmonica band I’d seen on Youtube. Since then this posting has brought old friends, even families together. People who hadn’t seen each other in years or decades.

In recent days two more replies were added to the post from relatives of Ken Howell an excellent harmonica player who once was a member of the Morton Fraser Gang and a man I was privileged to meet on several occasions.

Blogging does have its rewards and this posting was one of them.