Sunday, 14 April 2013

The working week

Don't think of this as just a blog post. Consider it instead an open letter.  I'm aiming this at the utility companies, people who offer domestic services, like plumbing, electricians, etc.

Chaps. I'm going to tell you something that might just blow your mind. It's this.

You know your customers? You know, the people to whom you send bills? Those folk who ring you up and ask daft questions? Yep, those people. A lot of them - I'd guess a good proportion - work Monday to Friday, during what we'll call, oh, I don't know, working hours.

So if you want to provide a service to these customers in their homes, here's a rather novel idea. How about offering it at the weekend?

I know. It's dangerously radical. But it might just work.

I mention this because we've been getting letters from a company called E-On. For the non-Brits reading this, E-On is a major utility company in the UK that evidently allowed the Marketing Director's 8-year-old to come up with their corporate name.

The good people of E-On had been writing frantically to me over a period of about 12 months. I didn't owe them any money, which makes a pleasant change. They were writing because they wanted to change my electricity meter. Apparently there's a law. By all accounts, you have to get it changed every 10 years or so, in order to make sure it remains accurate. We've lived here for 16 years, happily motoring along with the meter that was here when we moved in, but who am I to get in the way of progress?

As it's not considered wise to go mucking about with what is essentially the main electricity supply to the house, they would need to cut power for 20 minutes while they swap meters. So the letters asked us for a convenient time when we'd be here.

They're really flexible, these E-On bods. I could pick any day, from Monday to Friday. Morning or afternoon. Positively bending over backwards to help, they were.

In the working week, between the hours of 8am and 6pm, this house is occupied by a cat. And while Eric is reasonably intelligent, I think it would be unfair to expect him to negotiate with an electrician.

So what did I do? I ignored the first letter. And the second, third and fourth, despite their increasingly desperate nature. My lights still worked. I was still receiving and paying the bills.

Eventually, I took pity on E-On. I made contact to tell them that we have this really weird practice in our house, called 'going to work' and what could they do about it?

"Oh, no problem. Let's get you a weekend appointment arranged."

"I'm sorry? But your letter, sorry, letters, don't mention weekends at all. They make it clear that it's Monday to Friday, or nothing."

"Ah yes," chuckled the operative, "we can do this on a Saturday or Sunday.  But you see, we don't mention weekends on the letter. Because if we did, people might want to book the appointments for then instead."

At this point, I actually took the phone away from my ear and stared at it. You know how, in old caper-style films, there'd be that bit where an old drunk witnesses something unlikely, then looks at his bottle of whisky in confusion? It was like that. Only with a phone. Not whisky.

"Yes," I said. "I suppose they might. Given the chance."

"Now sir," she said, not detecting my raised eyebrows over the phone, "I'll pass your details to the team that books weekend appointments." They have a team for this? Who knew? "They'll be in touch."

Which is how, a week or so later, on an early evening, I found myself speaking to the Weekend Meter Changing Appointment Booking Team. I'm not sure if that's their official title.

"Oh, I am glad we've been able to contact you sir," E-On's Emma said.

"I'm sorry, what do you mean?"

"Well, I've been calling your home number all day today to book your weekend appointment. But there hasn't been an answer."

"You've been calling me at home?"


"Because you need your meter-fitting-bloke to come round at the weekend?"

"That's right," she said, brightly. 

I briefly stared at the phone again. It seemed the right thing to do, in the circumstances. Come on Emma, I thought. Work with me here. I spoke slowly. "We need a weekend appointment as we're not here in the week. It's Thursday. You've been calling my home number all day and you haven't been getting an answer. Because.....?"

Nothing. Nada. Rien. The penny was not for dropping. I swear I could hear the sound of tumbleweed. In the distance, a lonesome coyote howled. This is how Kafka got started.

"Never mind, Emma. It's not important. How about Saturday next week?"

So, companies of Great Britain. Think about the weekend, why don't you? It doesn't have to be difficult.

Well, not unless you deliberately make it so.


misskate said...

That was hilarious!
I sort of empathize, but marvel at the idea of a weekend appointment. Come to Switzerland, I swear Kafka vacationed here.
(Seriously, I laughed so hard that I saved the post so I could read it again this morning.)

Ionela Stan said...

Very, very hilarious :D


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