“Good Morning, British Telecom blah, blah, blah, how may I help?”
“Wait a minute, are you sure this is BT, I mean, you sound English and everything”
“Yes, this is BT Sales, we use the English people to sell you things”
“Ah right, I understand, well, I’d like to cancel my BT account please”
“Oh, which account ?”
“All of them please, telephone, broadband and TV”
“Oh dear, can I ask why ?”
“Yes, because your broadband is shit and your TV service relies heavily on the shit broadband, so its shit too”
“Oh, well, we could do it cheaper, if you wait here a minute I’ll see how cheap we can get it”
…five minutes pass by…
“…half price, we can do it for half the price we’re charging now”
“What, for the whole year ?”
“Erm, yes, for the whole of next year”
“I’d still like to cancel please”
“Why ? We can do it for half price…”
“That just means you’ve been overcharging me by double for the last year, cancel please”
“Let me check your account first”
…five minutes pass by in the blink of an eye…
“You can’t cancel yet, its only October, but if you ring in November we’ll cancel it”
“I’d like to give you notice now though”
“No, ring back in November”
“Well can I write to you, can you give me an address to write to, there’s none on your letters”
“No, its all done on the telephone, goodbye”
And so we place the order with Virginmedia for the reconnection of our cable service and they ask if we’d like to transfer our telephone number from BT, I answer no, its OK because we hardly use the landline these days, just give us a new number.
They persuade me to transfer our old number – that was a mistake.
Two days later I get a letter from BT, another letter that has no senders address on it, just a phone number to ring, BT are very scared about receiving written, posted mail, maybe they don’t employ people who can read, or they are scared of paper cuts off carelessly opened envelopes – the letter says that they’ve received a request to transfer my phone number to another provider, so I’ve cancelled their service early and I have to pay a penalty now – bollacks to that I think.
So I ring them and tell them its all a mistake and in accordance with their letter I wish to cancel that request and continue receiving the excellent BT service, I smile while I say that on the phone and the BT lady believes me but she says that she can’t cancel the transfer because I have to cancel the transfer with Virginmedia first.
So I ring Virginmedia and I explain that BT want to charge me a penalty and that I’m really not that bothered about the bloody phone number anyway, so lets progress with the order but forget about transferring the number and just give me another phone number instead, the chap at Virgin agrees but tells me that I have to ring BT and tell them that I don’t want the transfer doing.
I tell him that BT told me that I have to tell Virgin not to do this, he says no, I have to tell BT to stop the transfer to Virgin and that they can’t cancel it, in fact they will wait for months if they have to as BT don’t usually pull their finger out so fast but the chap at Virgin promises that if they don’t ask for it then BT won’t transfer it, so it should all be ok.
I can see this situation as an aircraft spiralling slowly out of control, falling from the sky and no-one can stop it, BT won’t accept my word to NOT cancel the transfer of the number because Virgin have requested it on my behalf, and Virgin can’t now stop the transfer of the number because BT have already set a date for it to happen but if Virgin never ask for it then BT won’t know what to do and as long as that stalemate continues until November 11th then I won’t get the penalty charge.
Frankly I can’t be arsed arguing with the pair of them so I leave it with Virgin that they will not ask for the transfer before the end of November.
One week later (still in October) we get our new Virgin service re connected and the cable guy shows me a piece of paper on which is written our new phone number, I read it twice before I realise that its actually our old BT number, “Thats our old BT number” I say, “They’ve transferred it then” he says, “its working too, listen” and he holds up a handset of his own which is plugged into our new Virgin service and its true, its working.
Which means that I’ve now cancelled the BT service one month too early and there will be a penalty charge to pay.
I go to the phone thats still plugged into the BT phone line and wonder of wonders – its still working too.
“The same number is still working on the BT line” I tell him, “What will happen when it rings”
“Erm, I don’t know” he says and shifts from one leg to the other, “Erm can you sign my worksheet please and I’ll be off”
So for one month we’ve had two providers fighting over our phone line and despite BT sending us a final termination bill, their phone line is still working. I rang them yesterday and they asked for my account number, they couldn’t find it, “Is that because the account is cancelled then ?” I asked and the lady went away for five minutes and then confirmed that yes, I no longer had an account with BT, she sounded a bit annoyed about the news actually, like I was their last best customer or something.
But their phone line is still working.
And the Virgin version of the same phone number is working too.
Its all a bit X-Files, it shouldn’t happen but it does and I wonder now what will happen if I get two people to dial up the number and see if we can answer it on both the phone lines without the exchange exploding into a myriad of sparks.
And the penalty fee ?
£35, its cheaper to just pay it than have to listen to either the BT or Virgin fookwits trying to defend their corner.