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Waiting for God-knows

What is it with utility contractors and call-outs? One of the most frustrating aspects of modern life is having something go wrong in your home which necessitates the call out of an engineer.

Take a hypothetical example which actually happened to me this week.

Suddenly one day, about a month ago, my land phone line stopped working. Well, not ‘stopped working’ as such. It still rang but when I picked up the receiver to respond, all I could hear was an atmosphere and – as if two stages removed – the ‘bbbrrrr …. bbbrrrr’ of a ring tone. The person ringing me could not get through to me, nor me to him or her. Trying to make a call out was also impossible.

The truth is that, by my design, only half a dozen friends and family – and about 10,000 junk mailers, insurance salesman, PPI ‘repayment’ ambulance and financial consultants – actually know my home phone number so it doesn’t get used much. Plus when it does, about 85% of the time the call is unsolicited and unwanted anyway. Which partly explains why it took me nearly a month to get around to getting it assessed and repaired – I was actually enjoying not receiving calls and was operating to my own satisfaction entirely off my mobile.

When finally I did make an effort to contact my land line supplier, it took two calls to an 0800 number at vast expense to make any progress – on the first occasion, (after a period) I bailed out, simply from boredom because I was fed up going round and around its automatic call-receiving system without ever getting to speak to a live human being.

Last Tuesday an engineer was booked to come and see me – I was given a block from 0800 to 1200 hours during which he might/was going to appear. Accordingly, despite all the chores I had scheduled to undertake, (thank God I do not work) I was obliged to confine myself to barracks all morning. Inevitably the engineer did not arrive until 1140 hours, just about the same time as I had decided to abandon two afternoon appointments, plus a lunch, and was bemoaning to myself the fact that I’d spent all morning staring blankly at junk programming on television instead of getting on with business.

When the engineer arrived and set up, he soon announced that there was something wrong with my telephone line both inside the home and also up the exterior side of the building. It was too big a job for him to attend to so he’d arranged for a specialist to come and visit on Friday (yesterday).

On this occasion, the period during which the engineer would arrive was given as ‘between 1300 and 1800 hours’.

Yes, you’ve guessed it. I duly stayed in from 1300 to 1800 hours – as it happens at least passably entertained for part of it by the Andy Murray semi-final at the French Open tennis being broadcast live on ESPN – without any sign of the engineer.

I had just decided to curse all utility engineers in a post to the Rust, attack the organisation concerned first thing on Monday and make myself an evening meal … when, at 1820 hours a cheery voice rang me on my mobile to explain he was the phone engineer concerned, he had been delayed on his previous job … and was now being delayed by the Friday rush-hour traffic … but he was on his way to me.

He arrived about 1845 hours and departed shortly before 2000 hours, by which time I had been obliged to eat my evening meal in front of him and was aching to go to bed (8.00pm being my normal hour of retiring on a Friday night).

Even I can understand that – from a utility company’s point of view – giving customers a definitive time at which their engineer will arrive to do the work is virtually impossible. Plus, when an engineer arrives at any given job, all sorts of practicalities and unforeseen issues can arise. However, the inconvenience to customers of having to take half a day off work, or (if you don’t work) remain at home for a set 4 or 6 hour period, at the call of the utility company … and then to find that they don’t turn up (if they turn up at all) until 95% of said period has expired … is decidedly inconvenient.

I’d like to propose to the new Tory government that they introduce legislation to the effect that, whenever a utility or contractor requires a customer to stay at home for a period of more than one hour (during which they have indicated they will arrive to do booked work), said utility or contractor will deduct 25% of the final bill for every 25% of the stated period that passes before they arrive, or – in the case where it is a free call-out to the customer – pay the customer £25 in cash for every such hour.

That might sharpen up their punctuality a bit.

[Or maybe not – they make such huge profits that ‘paying out’ under this scheme would probably be mere loose change to them!] …

About Bryn Thomas

After a longer career in travel agency than he would care to admit, Bryn became a freelance review of hotels and guest houses at the suggestion of a former client and publisher. He still travels and writes for pleasure. More Posts