Dear BT. I’d like less conversation and more action… – Slugger O’Toole

It all started in the bleak distant past a few months ago when I was struck by lightning. Well I wasn’t but my land phone was and the phone and its extensions became useless. I contacted BT to see if they could check the line for me just to confirm I was correct in my assumptions. When an engineer arrived he did exactly that and advised me that I should buy a whole new system.

A few weeks later, I saw on my bank statement that BT had charged my direct debit an additional £85 and tried to access my account online with BT to find out exactly what it was for. He let me sign in, but when I clicked on My Account, a picture from the 1950s of smiling girls inserting things into my old-fashioned PBX appeared on my screen with a message saying they were sorry but they couldn’t get my account. Account details at the moment. For a moment I thought that not only hours but perhaps days of torment on the computer awaited us. If only I had known…

I called the helpline and after staying long enough to make myself several cups of coffee and give my desk a massive tidy, a guy named Matthew (who later advised me his name didn’t have two) offered me his help. We started by changing my password which I had already tried a few times off my bat. Then we discussed my mother’s maiden name, the name of my first car, my first dog, my date of birth, the first line of my address and a lot of other things. After a while, Matthew knew more about me than my mother, but did not reveal my account and details. Then Matthew decided it was my computer’s fault. It was clogged and needed cleaning. I duly followed his instructions which resulted in a nice clean PC but it didn’t make a difference to the problem. Then he asked me why I wanted to view my account and I told him. He said I had been assigned the engineer which I should have done.

“And therefore You are My account can be seen! He did not comment on that, but said he would arrange a refund of £85. I expressed my gratitude. Then we spoke in general and he told me how he enjoyed working from home and was looking forward to going to Tenerife for a week the next. Although he intended to resolve My problem is before he left.We tried to change the username,password and my mother’s name several times to no avail.I wished him a good vacation and left it at that.Our conversation took place all morning and I had things to do.

Wednesday 10NS November.

About three weeks later, I still couldn’t access my BT account and realized I hadn’t heard more from the bold Matthew with two accounts. I emailed him at the address he gave me – in complete secrecy, with swearing and heartbroken, I wouldn’t use it unless I was desperate. Bounce the email again. Perhaps he decided to stay in Tenerife.

Well, I thought there was plenty of “help” out at sea and called BT again. This time I talked to a guy named Aran (I assumed it was two of them). On his instructions, I again changed my username, password, my mother’s maiden name, my first dog’s name and added several constellations in the sky – to no avail. Arran was unable to get the BT to access my account on my behalf.

“Weird,” I noted, “BT is able to access my bank account every month and withdraw money from it, but I can’t access their account to see what they’re paying me for.”

Aran laughed sympathetically (as he’s obviously been trained to deal with old ladies) in total agreement with me which farted a bit from my sails. However, he seemed determined to get to the root of the problem and would call me back.

I was about to sit down to lunch when he called me again and asked me to reach for my computer. I left my soup to get cold and again on his instructions I made various attempts to log into my BT account. This confused Aran even more because whatever he asked me to do, he did the opposite on his end. I don’t know how these things work, but he was supposed to see what I did and when I put my mother’s maiden name on it showed up the first name of my deceased husband’s mother. Then I realized the problem. My husband and my mother had never ridden…..strange things in heaven and earth Horatio…..when I mentioned it to him in a joking manner, his mutual laughter sounded hollow.

“Look,” he said, “I’m sorry but that made me puzzled—I will have to refer you to a higher team. Copernicus.”

“My God.” I said, “That sounds like something from MI5.”

“Well,” said he, “it’s kind of like, and they’ll get occasional if I don’t try all the normal possibilities before I hand you over to them.” I felt like a wounded, leash dog being taken to an important specialist who was busy and had very little affection towards my own breed.

Aran announced that he would call back in an hour.

“No, you won’t.” I said, “I have things to do and I won’t be back until 3.30.” Again, I lost a whole morning.

“I’ll call you at 3.30.” Announce and hang up.

Driving to do the things I had to do – Walking my son’s dog for beginners – I got a phone call (hands free) from a BT girl named Sharon from Cardiff who heard I had problems and could she help me? As I drove up the hill to my son’s house, I gradually became out of range and cut off to my relief.

When I got home with my teeth flossed for 3.25, I found a text sent shortly after the call from Sharon. “Hi Felicity, I’m Gareth from BT in Cardiff here. In the next five minutes I’ll call you from 0800. This is to check if there’s anything we can help with. Thanks.” Then, there are two more messages that say, “Hi, BT is here. Your PIN is 7555. You will only be able to use it once.” Use it? Why?

Then another text: “Hi Mrs. Graham, it’s Sharon from BT in Cardiff here. In the next five minutes I’ll call you from 0800. This is to check if there’s anything we can help with. Thanks.”

Then a few minutes later: “Hi Sharon from BT here. Sorry I couldn’t hear you. I will arrange a call later today, hopefully the phone signal is better. Kind regards [email protected] bt. Please do not respond to this text – we will not see it. Thanks”

Then about an hour later: “Hey BT here. I’m about to call 0800 to check the BT ID issue. Please don’t reply to this text – we won’t see it. Thanks.”

Then: “Hi Sharon from BT is here. Hi Mrs. Graham, I tried to call you at the time but the call didn’t go through. Don’t worry, I’ve spoken with my manager and we have brought this up to a higher team. I appreciate that you have been told this once before and we’re still very close to fixing it so we apologize for that. I think there was an issue on our end, give us 48 hours with this to do some digging and as soon as we hear back from this team we will get back to you to try again. We apologize again. Be with you soon. Please Don’t reply to this text – we won’t see it. Thanks.

Then about two hours later: “Hi Mrs. Graham, I’m Christopher (two people – really far away) from BT in Cardiff here. In the next five minutes I’ll call you from 0800. This is to check if there’s anything we can help with. Thanks. “

If any of these people talked to Aran – they’d know I’m doing other things – or if Aran talked to them? Is this “team” work?

No call from Arran even though I rushed like crazy to get home for 3.25. I stopped right around the corner unable to stumble upon anything in case he called me. At 4.30 the phone rang and it was someone else whose name I didn’t get from BT to ask me to try again to get into my account and press this and the other to change the password and all that stuff.

“I’m sorry but I don’t think I can do that again.” I created.

Soft soap spilled down the line, “Oh, go on Felicity, do it for me, please.” Hahaha! Were you now with Copernicus – was this class a kind of BT Bond?

So I did it all again but I still had the fifties smile and say “sorry we can’t access your account.” Bond said he would come back to me. I was hoping so – it looked rather cute.

The next day, after spending quality phone-free time at the Ulster Museum with two friends, I went to my computer to look at my emails. A red box appeared above my login box that read: “Please check that your username and password are entered correctly and try again. If you need help remembering your username or password, you can use the links below.” Felt annihilated, I gave up and went to bed.

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