It’s the sort of thing which only happens to old people who are out of touch – I accept that – but here’s my latest example of how the modern world and its technology have a constant ability to annoy the hell out of me.
In my home I have my television service, land line and broadband all supplied by a single well-known utility supplier. I shall not name it both to protect myself and also to protect them as what happened yesterday was not their fault.
About a fortnight ago I called out one of their broadband engineers because my internet service was ‘going down’ with irritating frequency. I’m a man of the world, I expect my internet to go down occasionally – it’s usually just a case of rebooting your router (and sometimes also your computer) and bingo! – you’re back in business!
As I said, usually.
The problem was that my internet was ‘going down’ not just very occasionally, but at one point it was going down several times a day, sometimes for twelve hours at a stretch.
This was unacceptable. There’s nothing more annoying that getting up in the middle of the night – as I habitually do – in order to go on the internet … and you discover that you can do absolutely everything that it is possible to do on a computer, save for the one and only thing you actually want to do … which is go on the internet.
Especially when your broadband system won’t allow you to for over twelve hours.
So the engineer came.
He said that the reasons for my dodgy internet service could be several, but his suggested cure was to take away the old router and instead install a brand new, up to date, version which I was overdue to have in any event.
It didn’t take long to agree to that, especially since there appeared to be no extra charge for the switch.
Thus it occurred. Not only would the new router be better, quicker and more efficient, it would supply broadband more strongly and quickly than ever before. What’s not to like?
Then, as we chatted before the engineer departed, mention was made of my television box, which had a tendency to supply imperfect pictures on certain channels that I occasionally liked to watch – the video bled and dissembled across the screen, the sound was distorted and frankly the programmes were physically unwatchable.
The engineer explained that, although he was a ‘broadband only’ engineer, he knew a fair bit about television boxes as well and – after checking my account – although he couldn’t work on my box (him not being a television box engineer, you understand) he could see that I was due an upgrade to the new, sooper-dooper television box. He gave me the number to ring and suggested that I order one.
After he had departed, I rang the number and did just that. Unfortunately, instead of (as I had hoped, since my relationship with technology starts and finishes with Murphy’s Law – the one saying that, if it is theoretically possible for something technical to go wrong, then at some point it will) this would be a small matter of a television engineer coming out to bring the new box and install it – it wasn’t going to be that simple.
No. They didn’t do that.
Instead – in the first instance – they only sent the new box out to the customer by courier. When it arrived, the customer would have to install it himself. If he had a problem in doing so, he could ring the helpline number … and in, in a case of terminal extremis, they might send out an engineer to help.
Explaining that I was completely hopeless with technology to the point where everything I ever touched or attempted to do with it would automatically go wrong, I asked whether they couldn’t just send out an engineer (with a new box) straight away … and we could all relax and be done with it.
No, they couldn’t.
Yesterday my new box arrived. I unpacked it, already sensing and fearing the worst. The instructions said the first thing to do, even before installing it (that was the second thing to do), was to “Call in to activate your new box”.
So that is what I did. That was the point at which things began to go awry. The customer helpline operative assumed that the new box had been plugged in and was now just awaiting ‘activation’.
Well, no it wasn’t – because the instruction had said “Call in and activate first”.
So we rang off … and spent about half an hour trying to de-engage the old box from the television and install the new one.
It was whilst doing this that the Big Problem Of The Day was identified.
About six or seven years ago, I had an argument with some HDMI leads which were supposed to go from some device or another into the back of the television. They wouldn’t fit into the HDMI socket on the back of the television. So I tried to force them in – and buggered said HDMI socket on the back of the television.
In the intervening six or seven years this had not been a problem. I haven’t had to use an HDMI socket on my television (which is fortunate, of course, because I haven’t got one that isn’t buggered). The existing television box operated via Scart leads into the back of the television, and there were plenty of Scart lead receivers in the back of it.
Fast-forward to yesterday.
It became apparent that our new sooper-dooper television box doesn’t operate via Scart leads. They’ve changed the bloody technology so that it now only operates via an HDMI lead.
And guess what? [You know the rest]. I had buggered the only HDMI receiving socket on my television some six or seven years ago!
We rang the customer helpline back and explained the situation. We wouldn’t be able to connect the new box to the television until we had first repaired the television and/or installed a new HDMI socket in it.
This was not a problem, said the helpline operative. All we had to do was call in again when the television was connected properly and they would then ‘do the necessary’ over the phone.
And so (we thought) that was that.
Until further developments occurred yesterday.
Firstly, I received a text message from the utility company, asking me to complete a small survey on the standard of their customer relations during our recent contact with them.
The first question in the survey was “On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with your dealings with our helpline today? Did it resolve your problem?”
Well, the true answer to that is that no – it hasn’t resolved my problem and no, I’m not satisfied with my dealings with their helpline … but not for the reasons they might think.
I cannot start using my new box because my television is not in full working order. Everything would be fine if they hadn’t changed their ‘connecting’ line from Scart to HDMI, but because they did – and my HDMI socket is buggered – I have basically gone back to using my old box until I can get a TV repairman in.
And that’s the next problem.
Firstly, I get a message on my TV screen now saying there’s a problem arising from my recent change of service. [YES, THE PROBLEM IS THAT I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO CHANGE IT!]
Secondly, yesterday early evening, I received an email from the utility supplier telling me that as a result of my change to the new box my next bill will be [whatever it was going to be].
[WELL, THAT’S ALSO WRONG, BECAUSE I HAVENT CHANGED MY BOX YET!]
So later today, when I can steel myself to do it, I’m going to have to call the utility company and explain that (1) I haven’t activated my new box yet because I’m carrying on with the old box until I can get a TV repairman to sort out my HDMI socket; and (2) since I haven’t activated my new box yet – see above – they shouldn’t be charging me a different rate … because I’m still using the old box!
Give me strength!
Me and technology, we just don’t go together. As I’ve been telling Rust readers for years.
(And the irony of all this is that, even before the whole process began, I knew – and said – that it was bound to be a disaster. And it duly was …)