I’m embarrassed to say just how much I’ve been paying for my calls and broadband package from BT. Perhaps the most infuriating thing about it (though these things are only relative) is that I’m paying for much trumpeted “free evening and weekend calls” that I never, ever make. I have an aversion to the telephone that’s as strong as my aversion to hard work – and phoning anybody up (especially a telecoms company like BT) is extremely hard work.
The industry must be very proud – so proud – of its unique reputation for astonishingly poor levels of customer service. The only competition in telecoms is towards abjection.
Frankly, I preferred the old monopoly. At least then you didn’t know you had a choice and could just put up with the telephone company. Thanks to the Tories, who are to blame for everything that’s wrong with modern society, we live with the illusion of choice, and the tantalising thought that things just might be a little less bad if we switch.
I’m not naive enough to think that anyone would be better than BT. But I just wanted to stop giving them money. I signed up for my current package simply because the offer – for broadband, calls, and BT Vision – was actually cheaper than the calls and broadband deal I was previously on. Oh yeah, that’s one of the biggest insults of telecoms. New customers not only get through on the phone, but also get better deals, than old customers, who have to put up with automated switchboard hell while being ripped off.
But the BT Vision (of course) was utter shit, so after spending a week or so trying to get the fucking box working, and after succeeding, noting that the service was worse than Freeview and blocked BBC iPlayer unless I paid extra, I switched it off and unplugged it.
The nightmare really began when I tried to send the box back. I’d paid £50 for it, and it was shit, so I would have liked a refund. I spent a week or so trying to get somebody on the phone who would send me a suitable returns package (knowing that if I just sent it back it’d get lost in the black hole of crapness and I’d never see my money). I was passed from customer service to “helpful engineering section” multiple times, listening to the swirling sounds of the global infrastructure as I was passed from country to country. See, they kept assuming that I was an idiot and needed help setting it up. No, I said, I’m not an idiot. I got it working, but it was shit, so I want to send it back. Swirl, swirl.
In the end, I sacrificed the £50. That’s the punchline. I would rather lose £50 than spend another minute on the phone to BT. In fact, I did eventually get someone to send me a returns bag, but Kafka had a hand in that, too: it was the wrong size. Eventually, I just sellotaped the bag to the front of the Vision box and sent it back. And I never saw my £50 and I never tried to phone BT again.
But you get these occasional messages. Ignored. Recently, they started to offer fibre in our local area, promising slightly-faster-but-not-really-worth-the-money speeds. But, again, switching might have meant a slight saving on the extortionate monthly broadband fee. They encourage you to go online to sign up. They don’t offer any extra download allowance, so it wasn’t that compelling. Of course, the website signup system doesn’t work. It’s designed not to work, I know this. They just want you on that 0800 number. But I didn’t do that, so I left it.
And then I got an email, which helpfully informed me that I hadn’t been using the BT Vision service much lately, and offering a free phonecall to a helpful engineer to get it set up properly. Because, like all their customers, I am an idiot. (If you breathe and are still with BT after attempting to deal with them on the phone, you are an idiot.)
So there they were, offering to fix the crap service I’d never actually used, hook up the box I’d sent back to them two years ago. And I’m still £50 down, plus about £180 per year because that’s how much over the odds I’ve been paying for the broadband and the calls I never make.
So I went online to uSwitch.com and signed up with someone else. Sky. Which is a whole other rambling story. No telly, just calls (that I’ll never make) and broadband. Much, much cheaper and no download limit.
So it’s farewell to complaining about BT and hello to complaining about Sky.
Here we go.
- BT Vision tops pay TV complaints (bbc.co.uk)
- BT Vision tops complaints table for pay TV subscribers (guardian.co.uk)
- Hate your BT Vision and TalkTalk service? Ofcom says you aren’t alone (pocket-lint.com)