You don’t need me to tell you that moving house is among life’s most stressful events, but I’d be willing to wager that moving the broadband from one house to another is right up there, too. There has to be a word in the German language for the singular emotion you feel when, after ringing a broadband provider about a dozen times, someone on the other line asks you to explain your sorry situation all over again. It was the point earlier this week when I officially, to use official techie speak, Lost The Rag.
It should have been straightforward. Two weeks before moving house, I made the obligatory phone call to notify our broadband provider about our house move. I was assured we would be inconvenienced and without broadband for a day or two, tops. Between then and now, things went bewilderingly pear-shaped. I’ll spare you the boring minutiae, but every single call to the broadband provider, after a half-hour wait, ended in a weird impasse; vague reassurances that something probably could be done. “This is how it needs to be fixed,” I would tell these people, in every permutation of the phrase I could manage. “I don’t think it is, but we’re not sure what to do,” would come the reply.
For the first half-dozen times I called, I was calm and polite. Eager to co-operate. These calls are recorded, you know, and the last thing I wanted was to end up as ‘Exhibit A’ on a training course as a complete and utter Karen (or worse, for someone in training to go, ‘I think I know that person’). For the next half-dozen calls, politesse went out the window, and I hate having to be that hysterical person. I could hear myself repeating the same issue as the person on the other line scrambled to catch up through the notes on the account.
You hear the phrase ‘gaslighting’ a lot — where someone attempts to sow self-doubt, confusion and frustration in someone else’s mind — and I started to feel that awful, unsettling feeling. Eventually, out of sheer frustration, I wept on the phone. Later, I told one agent I wanted to cancel the service. There was a theatrical sigh on the other end. “If that’s what you want, I can put you through to cancellation.” Have you ever tried to cancel one of these services? I’d rather put myself into a woodchipper.
Whatever about the lack of service, it feels like a fortnight of listening to hold music (surely chosen for its enraging properties) and, eventually, the sweet nothings of a customer agent who cannot or will not progress your case, has done irreparable things to my brain.
Friends reported similar situations with other providers; some were left for months without broadband. Others mentioned drawn-out processes with zero resolution. One friend took a day off work to wait for a technician that never came. Someone else mentioned a 45-minute hold on the customer service line, only to be cut off during a transfer attempt. One company is as frustrating as the next. The general consensus is that there’s no one ‘good’ company to deal with. “Scream into a pillow is my only advice,” offered one pal.
How has it come to this? How has it become normal to pay for a service you don’t even receive, and to bang your fists in order to get it? Why is this frustrating jig seemingly the only acceptable way to deal with these companies? Once upon a time, a complaint to a big business was taken seriously. A corporation might have been embarrassed at any accusation of offering a below-par product or service. Now, they seem to shrug their shoulders in one massive ‘suck it up’ sentiment.
The Covid pandemic affected a vast swathe of businesses. Some couldn’t provide normal service during lockdown; others might have found it a great opportunity to cut corners at a time when the public would arguably have been at their most understanding. During one of the times we were allowed to travel during the pandemic, I spent a weekend in a hotel to find most of their amenities shut down, the trimmings gone. Swimming pool showers not working? Covid. Hotel buffet not happening? Covid. We naturally accepted this new way of doing things, if it meant keeping everyone healthy and safe. Many businesses bounced back after lockdown, redoubling their efforts to offer the same service as before. But some, it must be said, didn’t bounce back at all. A more stripped-back and pared-down service simply became their new normal.
As I write, we are still without broadband, and have no idea when we won’t be. The good news with the provider is that an agent keeps ringing me with updates every day. I appreciate his dedication. If only he weren’t ringing me to tell me that he has no news, not yet.