Friday, July 07, 2006

Customer Service

It's been a while since I wrote on here and I've got a wee bit of spare time on my hands and a lot of rage to share, so here we go...

At what point did companies get together and decide that customer service was no longer something that they cared about? I know I'm not the only one who's had shite customer service but recently, it appears that I've had almost nothing but shite customer service. Take, for example, the following scenario. I've just moved out of a flat which I occupied for exactly one calendar year. On entering, I took meter readings for Gas and Electricity and set up an account to pay both of these with our first culprits: Scottish Power. The deal was to pay £50 per month by direct debit, which would cover both Gas and Electricity and at the end of the year, we'd give final readings and either pay the difference or get the difference back. I have, in my possession, a letter which says EXACTLY that. After about 6 months of being charged £35 per month in direct debit and letters through the door from Scottish Gas piling up, addressed to the previous tenant, I though it'd maybe be a good idea to open one and find out what was going on. What I found was that Scottish Power had not been charging us £50 for Gas and Electricity as agreed in writing, but £35 for Electricity alone, and we had worked up a debt of around £200 with Scottish Gas. Not ideal.

Anyway, I contacted Scottish Gas, gave them the initial reading from when we moved in and the reading from that date and gave them my details and they set me up an account in my name, which they allowed me to pay off in installments of £37.50 per month and clear the remainder once the account was closed. Fine. So we come to the end of the time in the flat and close both accounts. In their defense, Scottish Power immediately told me how much they were owe me and returned the excess money which I had paid (just over £100) within a matter of days, sending with the cheque a letter confirming the close of the account. That was the only good customer service tale you will read in this entry. Scottish Gas for some unknown reason couldn't tell me for 2/3 days how much I was owe them and have yet to send me the details of this so that I can pay them! What the fuck is that all about? I'm owe them money and yet I can't get it paid!! What makes it worse is that my ex-flatmate needs to know how much money I'll need and the nearer to the end of the month we get, the less money either of us are likely to have! There's one last fact which will probably make you smile. When I got in touch the final time to confirm the amount i was to be billed for, I gave the woman my full name, address and postcode details and she told me that I didn't have an account with Scottish Gas. Fucking priceless!

Anyway, that's a gentle introduction. Next we have the awesome Bulldog Broadband. An account was set up with them in about August, finally installed in October and cancelled in mid-April, letting them know I wanted the account closed as of the last payment date in May - well over the 30 days notice they required by contract. The said 'No bother, you'll get a phonecall and a cancellation email through in a few days.' Perfect - cancellation call, final bill, paid, done. Not that easy tho, is it Bulldog. What they actually do is write down on their log that you've requested to cancel your line but not actually put this request through, so that when you call back again two weeks later, wondering why you've yet to hear from them, you get told that the request was never formally put through by the operator you spoke to. Fucking awesome. Did I say 'Write down somewhere that I want it cancelled but don't do anything about it', you fucking ballbag? No I did not, because that would be fucking stupid. Anyway, I made it clear that this was not my mistake and I would not pay past the date I had originally proposed and that would be the end of it. The lady apologised and put it through. Cue the phonecall and cancellation email. So that's Bulldog sorted then - cancelled account, final bill, payment, done!...or is it? No, that would be too simple for these guys! What they thought would be better, would be to cut my line off on the proposed date (which was fine) and then bill me at the end of May for the usage for May, right up until the end of June. Another phonecall. Another chance for me to explain step by step what has happened and then the guy has the cheek not to listen to a single word I said and tell me that I asked for my account to be cancelled at the end of June. Dude, you're a fucking liar!! I know what I said and that was not it. Furthermore, if you cut my line off at the end of May, why the fuck would I want to pay you till the end of June? I can't use the fucking thing! So the guy credits my account with a figure pertaining to the usage from May 28th-June 28th and says I'll get an email with the new bill in the next week. Awesome, probem solved. Account credited, leading to correct figure, final bill, paid, done........Or not! You see, nothing happened again for a couple of weeks, so another phonecall had to be made. This time I got a lady. The lady was very quick to inform me that there appeared to be no record of my call to the gentleman before and my account had not, in fact, been credited at all. The reason I was beign charged until the end of June is because that was the cancellation date I asked for. If you've been following this, you'll note that she is lying to me, based on the incorrect information which I had put right in the previous phonecall. Of course, I kept my cool and explained to her that I was paying her £90 and not a penny more and she'd do well to recognise this. Cue the decision to credit my account with £45.41 and issue the final bill. Oh, by the way, we issue bills once a month so it'll be with you between the 15th and the 19th! Great!

Now we move on to my particular favourites, 1-2-Let. This is a letting agency which left us without major electrical applicances for large parts of the year and did nothing to compensate us, never gave us an inventory form, took a month to repair a faulty lock and claimed that we had defaulted on our second rent payment, despite these being via a direct debit from an account with several thousand pounds in it, which has worked fine for the first payment. They left me to move 2 beds onto our cupboards where they lay for 3 months, despite their assurances that they'd be gone before we left in order to make way for my own bed which I was bringing. At one point, I requested to move out a week later than planned and was told this'd be fine. I called a week later to confirm and was told they needed this request in writing. Straight off the phone, I wrote and mailed the letter, asking for written confirmation. This never arrived and we were forced to make alternative arrangements and move out on our originally scheduled date. As you can see, I have somewhat of a history with this company!

Anyway, I decided that it's be a good idea to go along to the inspection with these guys after we'd left, because I wasn't keen on getting shafted for any parts of the deposit - which is something that's happened before. It went fine and there was a decision to take off cleaning costs for 2 carpets, totalling £60. That meant that the remainder of the deposit (£490) was due to be returned. I explained that I would get copies of the closing utility bills to them asap, but was told that this wasn't going to be a problem and they only said that on the lease as a precaution. She took my bank details and said 'I'll put the money in your account as soon as I get into the office and if it's not done today, it'll be done tomorrow.' That was Monday. I have digital banking and kept a close eye on my account. 3 working days sound about right? Nothing in a week. So I phone up and get put through to the girl who I met at the inspection. Sorry about that, it'll go in today. Magic, sorted. Then Thursday comes with no sign of the money and I send them an email in the morning with my full bank details, explaining that I need the money because my new landlord needs rent money. This is no lie. Quite often landlords want rent money and this was no different. No response to the email by Friday lunchtime so I call. The lady I spoke to is on holiday and the woman who deals with deposits is unavailable so she'll call back. 4pm. No call back. I call again. Put on hold twice, with a pause in the middle where I am asked whether I've provided copies of my final utility bills and I explain the situation, telling her that I have written a cheque which is going through as we speak, with my new landlord. On hold again and finally she apologises and says the money will be with me on Monday or Tuesday and if it's not, I should call back. Understand this - I will call back. Again and again and again until I get my fucking money. My ex-flatmate also needs the money. Neither of us can afford to wait. We've done what was requested of us, now we want our money. Why is that so difficult to organise? From this chair I can transfer money to anyone in the world, assuming I have the funds and their account details. It's not a hard thing to do.

What I guess I should add here is that this situation has pissed me off so much that I have decided to pursue the matters I discussed about not having the electrical appliances we were meant to and the other general complaints. I have quite a bit of time on my hands this summer and I have, in my possession, copies of the original letter I sent, detailing my compaints and requesting compensation and a letter of reply, where they say they'll consider this and get back to me. The letter is maybe 4 months old. I'm not gonna say whether they got back to me on that one. You can probably guess! Anyway, it just so happens that I know an organisation who have a small amount of money put to the side to help me out with Small Claims Court suit - just in case it goes that far ;) And if you think that little wink means I'm joking - you don't know me well enough!

Another organisation lacking any kind of skills whatsoever are Glasgow City Council: Council Tax Office. But that's a story for another day!!