Archive for August, 2012

How Vodafone’s Overseas Call Centre Lost Them a Customer

Yesterday Boy had another football party to go to. My wife tried to send a text to birthday boy’s mum an hour or so before it started and it bounced back which we found slightly odd. She tried to call, using the mobile rather than the landline and the connection dropped. She thought she’d seen that she had signal and so tried the text again a few minutes later. Again it didn’t work. Again it looked like she had signal. Since she was about to go out to the party she suddenly became worried something was up with her phone or our joint contract and asked me to go and get my phone which was charging. I got it and found that I too had signal bars showing but was unable to call anyone. Half an hour before she was due to take Boy to the party she thought she would call Vodafone and find out what was up. Our assumption was some sort of general service issue but it was worth checking that they had received the payments I knew I’d been making.

We keyed the call centre number on their website from the landline. At the start of this process you have to key your mobile number in. Then you go through a series of interminable option selecting moments until, 5 minutes later, you get to speak to a human. It turns out this isn’t actually an improvement.

The first thing my wife was asked was what her mobile number was. Why an earth had she had to key it in at the start of the process? This sort of thing is an early indicator that you are not talking to someone in the UK and indeed she wasn’t. She’d got through to Egypt. And Egypt did not want to talk to her. Since I was the main number on the account they would only talk to me unless she gave them a password which neither of us could remember because, up to then, we’d not needed to both speak to them. This is actually good practice and necessary to comply with the Data Protection Act (DPA) but it’s a might frustrating with time ticking down till party time, when a number (my wife’s) has already been entered in to the automated system.

So I took over the call. I have written about racism in the past so I hope you don’t think I’m out of order when I say that if I am phoning from England to an English company I expect to have someone on the end of the phone who can speak slowly and clearly in English. This girl couldn’t. I had to ask her to repeat almost everything she said. At this point it became obvious she was reading from a script and had no actual idea about phones. First question:

Her: Is the problem just in your postcode?

Me: How should I know? I haven’t left my postcode all day.

Her: Errrr. Ummmm

Then she asked what phones we had. So hang on. You know the DPA password for our account but not what phones we have. Really? How hard is that to put on a basic account information screen? So I started with my iPhone 4S. She then told me she was going to reset the battery. Reset the battery? What the actual fark is that for? No-one will ever know however because the two instructions she gave me to do this were the instructions to a) turn the phone off and b) take a screen grab, two things I do a few times a week. Having pointed this out to her she then changed tack completely and asked me to do a search for all providers in my settings. This seemed to mash the phone completely, probably another indicator of a local signal issue, but reporting this to her elicited surprise followed by silence.

At this point I noticed both my children. Child one was bashing the TV remote and child two was trying to eat the resulting battery removal. Shamefully I lost it with them instead of asking reasonably to put it down / take it out. The only mitigating circumstances in my defence were that I was now completely frustrated and there were now less than 5 minutes left till the Boy had to leave for the party. While my wife placated the children I decided to cut in to the script reading idiocy.

Me: Is our account paid up to date?

Her: Yes

Me: Had you checked that already?

Her: No

(I stifle a scream)

Me: Are there any signal problems?

Her: No

(I stifle another scream. Despite the appearance of signal bars on the phone there clearly are, something we proved later).

At this point my wife asked me to apologise to the children and took over the call. The password thing was forgotten at the other end. My wife asked to speak to a supervisor and was told it was not possible. Ok then she said, she had to go out now so could someone call us back after 6.30 (the call centre is open till 8pm, it says so on their website). No, she was told, it would take up to 48 hours for a manager to call us back.


After another request to please have a manager or supervisor call us back after 6.30 when Baby would be in bed and Boy in the bath or in bed we terminated the call with the Boy now in tears and 5 minutes late for his party, and the issue unresolved.

Boy went to the party with his mum. I left a couple of very unhappy tweets then played with Baby. At 4.30 I got a call from my wife’s mobile. The issue was clearly short term or related to our location since she was able to call from a mile away so I thought I would test this out my end. The screen shots below show the phone with full signal in the garden (where my wireless drops) and inside (where I get wireless). The second shot shows that even though I had full signal I still couldn’t make calls. However I no longer cared. My wife was safe with a phone, I could use the landline and I was happily playing with Baby.

5.27pm a manager from the Egyptian call centre called me back on the landline. I was home alonewith a toddler and therefore he got a flea in his ear. I told him we had asked to be called back after 6.30 which this was not. He said this was impossible as his office shut at 5.30 (remember their site says the lines are open till 8 – also it was precisely 3 minutes before his office closed and the previous call had taken nearly half an hour). No-one called us back after 6.30. As I write the problem still persists.

I don’t want ‘isn’t this terrible’ comments because, on the grand scale of things, it isn’t. My mobile phone won’t make calls from my home but that’s OK because I have a home phone. I lost it with my children as a result of the frustration caused by their call centre but that’s my problem, my parenting failure. Still, it just shows that half an hour with an Egyptian call centre is more frustrating than an entire day of screeching and toy throwing and covertly hiding plastic things in the oven.

No, here’s the point. I will not be renewing my contract with Vodafone. In fact I will be seeking advice on how I can get out of the current one. Their ‘great’ business idea – outsource the call centre to overseas to save money – has lost them the business. Not because the operative was foreign but because she was completely unable to do her job. The one person who should have been able to help was only able to flounder hopelessly, read off a script, not check the bleeding obvious, not have all our account information to hand and not able to communicate effectively in the language of the person calling her.

This country is currently, arguably in double dip recession. There is an unemployment problem and it is at its most acute in the 18-24 age group. Both my wife and I “made our bones” in call centres. It is pretty shite work. Regimented hours, unreasonable targets, odd shifts, angry customers. Yet it is exactly this that sets you up for the world of work, that gives you knowledge and yet incentivises you to get the heck out for something better. I cannot believe that in the current climate there aren’t people in the UK crying out for call centre jobs. They certainly couldn’t do a worse jobs than the ones currently being employed to do it.

Bye bye Vodafone.


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Two Men Have a Conversation About….. a Goat

Scene: Two hikers, Richard and Phillip, are on top of a hill, having a rest and looking down.

Richard: I say Phillip, what’s that little white thing down there?

Phillip: Where? What white thing? All I can see is a couple of pink things bobbing up and down and moaning.

Richard: No, no, that’s those two Swedish ramblers shagging – I think she’s doing the reverse cowgirl. No I meant the OTHER side of the hill

Phillip: (disappointed) Oh I see. (Takes another sneaky peek then looks on the other side of the hill).Oh THAT. That’s a goat.

Richard: A STOAT? You stupid old fucker. Stoats are a bit more like a weasel. You’re nearly as blind as I am deaf. No that thing looks more like a cross between the devil and a small sheep. In fact quite like a goat.


(At this point I would like kudos from the reader for avoiding the stoatily different gag. Ooops)

Richard: Haha. Only KIDDING. Goat jokes. You can’t bleat them.

*Awkward silence*

Phillip: What’s it eating?

Richard: Looks like grass. Although of course you do know that goats will eat anything don’t you?

Phillip: No I’m sorry, I don’t think they do. I think that’s the sort of clichéd, hackneyed myth that parents tell their children to stop them putting their arms in goat’s mouths at Petting Farms.

Richard: No it isn’t. It’s a well known fact.

Phillip: OK then. Have you ever seen a goat eating a Boing 747 Jumbo Jet?

Richard: Well, no, not actually seen. But I bet it would.

Phillip: Ok then, how about eating a thermonuclear warhead?

Richard: No.

Phillip: Original Source Lime Shower Gel? Tampons? A stock pot? Balls from a soft play ball pit? Have they ever eaten ANOTHER GOAT Richard? Are they little fucking cannibals? Oh look, there’s the famous head shrinking cannibal goat tribe of rural West Sussex! How about the antimacassar from the first class carriage of the 6.53 to Newhaven Harbour? Pig bollocks? Red Bull cans?

Richard: No. But then again up till now I’d never seen the reverse cowgirl used in an open field before but those Swedes look like experts.

Phillip: Stop watching the free sex show you fucking pervert. Concentrate on the oddity that is a goat, in a field, eating grass.

Richard: It’s not eating grass any more. In fact it appears to be dumping it out again.

Phillip: THAT’S DISGUSTING. Have you ever smelled goat shit? Soon the whole valley will be reeking of poo.

Richard: Imagine what it would smell like after it had eaten a 747, a thermonuclear warhead and some pig bollocks.


*another awkward silence*

Richard: Oh well, that’s all the tea and bourbons gone. I suppose we’d better head back to the station.

(Behind them the goat starts eating the antimacassar from the first class carriage of the 6.53 to Newhaven Town while the Swedes move on to doggy style).


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I’m Lovely? Not After You’ve Read This….

So that motherventing has tagged me in a meme to do with being lovely. Only it involves answering questions about marmite. Obviously. So, er, THANKS Mrs. No really. Thanks. Ever so.

What I have to do though seems really quite simple. Answer 5 questions, tag some bloggers who I consider to be lovely and get them to answer the same questions. The point presumably being that, since one question is about Boris Johnson there is no way you’ll look lovely at the end of the exercise.

1. If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?

Wonder Woman. For the boots and whirling.

2. Marmite on toast. Match made in heaven or hell. 

Hell. Fucking horrible stuff. You do know what it LOOKS like right? And what is the point in that taste? Umami? If I want umami I’ll just get Heston Blumenthal to whip me up a Japanese soup with candied prawns and frozen noodles in. It is, though, apparently good for a hangover, what with all the vitamins. But then so is a bacon sandwich, three Nuerofen and more booze.

*gets chucked into MoVo’s dungeon*

3. Boris Johnson. Discuss.

You may have seen I’m a slight lefty even though I had ‘reactionary old fuddy duddy’ on my twitter profile for a bit, which got me followed by Grant Shapps for about 5 tweets (it was a joke, fall out from a facebook argument about the Green Party and constitutional reform. NEVER have an in-joke on your twitter profile kids). However there are Tories who I think are OK-ish. For years Andrew Bowden was respected as a hard working community MP for Brighton Kemp Town. I have always had soft spots for Ken Clarke and Winston Churchill too though possibly this is because of the booze and cigars. There are also left leaning politicians I can’t stand (Ken Livingstone springs to mind).

Boris though falls fair and square in to the ‘what a cunt’ group. In fact what a cunt on a zip-wire. Strip away the bumbling and the hair (please strip away the hair) and you’re left with a scheming Old Etonian career politician. That act? It’s ALL a stunt. Which rhymes with cunt.

4. Full fat, semi skimmed, or skimmed? 

I hate cow’s milk. Never drink it. don’t have cereal or builder’s tea and take my coffee black. I do, however, adore cheese. So the answer is full fat cow’s, sheep and goat’s milk made in to cheese.

5. Bum exercises. Squats, lunges, or sofa?

WHAT? What kind of sweet hell are BUM EXERCISES? I have never done a bum exercise in my life. If I did it in the house then the other three inhabitants would laugh me out of it and if I did it in a gym, being as I’m in Brighton, I’d end up having dinner with a tattooed choreographer named Jim.

Er tags. Well JBMumOfOne who started all this and MoVo herself are very lovely indeed but they’ve done it. So it’s to the Dads I turn here. Eddsnotdead and Bugbear are diamond geezers which is the bloke equivalent of lovely. Of course I don’t know if they WANT to do this sort of stuff but I’ve mentioned them now and thus consider the tag passed. If you do then answer the 5 questions. If not – meh.

Will that do?

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I Have Not (Quite) Put Away Childish Things

Once, in an old job, I went on a residential training course for a week. The company must have been doing OK at the time as it was at a swish hotel in Sandbanks, Dorset. The point was working in a team. Not just team building but understanding the different types of people that make up a team at work.

The hotel had a gym and a heated outdoor pool (though it was January) and a bar. It did a very good cooked breakfast. At the end of a day’s training most of us headed to the gym. I did a desultory 15 minutes cardio and went back to my room. The trainer and one or two others did full work outs. After dinner we went to the bar, most stopping for a drink or two. Me and another couple of guys would move from beer to gin and tonics and still be in the bar at midnight. Everyone tried the excellent cooked breakfast once but then most moved on to fruit or cereal. I had the Full English, every day for a week. It came as no surprise when, early on, we did a personality test and mine came out quite childish.

At first I wondered if this would harm my career. Luckily the senior manager I was reporting to at the time thought the course was a load of pretentious old bollocks and had behaved much worse than any of us. Also I was about to head back to a project in India that no-one else wanted to do but that I was really enjoying. I got to keep my childish personality AND be a company hero. Yay me.

Eventually the wife and I had children and I moved on to a couple of other jobs where I was the guy in charge rather than part of the team. This has booted the inner child right out of me. Children make you grow up instantly (or at least they should). In bed by 10 every day because you’re shattered. Fry ups an extreme rarity. Suddenly you have this other life to look after and keep safe and happy. You have to try to be there till they are ready to fly the nest themselves and that suddenly means looking after yourself, finding money, generally knuckling down, understanding form filling, systems. Finding them schools. Teaching them with love and respect if you can for frustration leads to failure. Lord of the Flies shows us what happens when children look after children.

So if I did that test today I bet I’d be a lot less childish. But I haven’t lost it completely.

I have a few days off at the moment. We are not away, we’re just having some family time. The first bit of this was at my sister in law’s and she happens to know someone who hires out bouncy castles. There was a bouncy castle waiting for us in the garden. The kids howled with excitement and piled on, along with their cousin and her friend. I sat in the sun with a cold drink, watching and keeping them safe. And what I was thinking was ‘hurry the fuck up – I want a go’.

Two minutes on a bouncy castle is all it takes. Sure there are other stress relievers. Sex. Alcohol. Sitting in a stand full of football fans going mental for your team. But after two minutes on a bouncy castle you are 8 years old again and all you want to do is find your Mum and ask for a Zoom.

The other great childish love of my life is a water slide. Water parks in general really but flumes in particular. When we went on holiday to an all inclusive place one of the things that made up my mind on the resort was ‘quality of water slide’.  When I was about 12 they built 3 slides at my local pool. The fastest of these was called the ‘black hole’. It was red outside and black inside and had two massively steep descents. I would spend whole afternoons just going on the black hole. And here’s the thing. If you’re a fat bastard like me you now go EVEN FASTER and make an EVEN BIGGER SPLASH at the end. Sure there’s a greater chance of you getting stuck in the tube but what’s life without risk eh? We take the kids 10 miles outside town when we take them swimming because the pool is more baby and child friendly but, like our holiday, I am enormously impressed with their water slides. And the kids just happen to be getting to an age where they’ll enjoy them.

When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. Now I’m a parent I have put away childish things. Except bouncy castles and water slides.

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Announcing the Closure of “The Snip Section”

I’m done.

All that worrying is over and the recovery is very nearly too. OK, at the moment I couldn’t run the 100 metre sprint or dance the nutcracker (sorry) but then I couldn’t anyway.

My op is over and apparently successful and I am back at work. All those misnomers (yes of course I knew it was my testicles that were being operated on and not my, ahem, wanger but nob gags are funnier) are done. Last week I went to a clinic and under local anaesthitic my vasa deferentia were severed. To prepare for this I had to remove my genital hair ‘using cream’. After my last post mentioning this I was helpfully sent this by a (very nice) tweep. Luckily Mrs Slightlysuburban had got me some high class cream from, er, Avon. It stung a bit but did the job. Hardly blogworthy.

I was awake the whole time and, a couple of sharp scratches when the local went in aside, it was painless. Just me, an elderly female nurse who must have seen more cocks that Jordan and my friendly neighbourhood conker surgeon. She was having problems getting rid of a wasp’s nest in her neighbours garden and he was having a BBQ that night. I know this because they were discussing it while I was being ‘done’. Also he had an ipod playing on speakers. It was Oasis. I suspect actually they have to choose the playlist rather carefully. Here’s what they couldn’t play:

– Who’s Sorry Now by Connie Francis

– Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis

– Rock and a Hard Place by The Rolling Stones

– French Kiss by Lil Louis (you may have to have been in to house music in the late 80s to get this)

– Anything by the Scissor Sisters

– Anything by Willie Nelson

and probably a few more.

Afterwards my wife drove me straight home. The local was still working, it was a lovely day and I sat in the garden and read and took paracetamol before it started hurting just like the specialist said. I read 3 whole chapters of Paul Theroux and, as I had no sun cream on, went back inside and lolled on the sofa. Two hours later I needed a wee. When I tried to get up I nearly screamed the house down.

I was signed off for a week (though I managed to write one blog post and talk an enormous amount of bollocks on Twitter) and the recovery got worse before it got better. Luckily I heeded some advice I’d had and had plenty of paracetamol and clean, very tight underwear to hand. Right now it barely hurts at all. I’m hoping I’m out of the woods.

I received an enormous amount of support. To those of you who’d been there, done that, thanks and to the one who is about to, good luck. It is really not that bad. The op certainly is painless and the bruises when they come are at least amusing and spectacular.

My greatest feet was avoiding Baby’s flailing arms and legs and her special flying headbutt move. As I couldn’t move for part of the time this partly consisted of going everywhere with a cushion on my goolies.

I shall have no more children. They make it quite clear it’s irreversible. This had the mawkish effect of making me regard my children in a new light while I was laid up. I’m so proud of them. My funny, caring arty Boy and my lethal, sporty, noisy whirlwind Baby. They’re perfect and they cannot be replaced. My family is complete.

The final thing of note is that I am not technically all clear for another 16 weeks so the above is subject to Mrs SSD remembering her pills and me ‘getting the urge’ again (and that urge not to be to lie down with a paracetamol and some rum). Still, the rough time of when we should be all clear is established. Mainly because I have written ‘have a wank’ on the calendar. Since Boy can now read I’m about to change it to ‘WALK’. But I’ll know what it means.

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