It’s a common petty frustration of our age – the idiot switchboard that routes you where you anywhere but where you want to go. And if you’re a member of the public fed up with being given the digital runaround where do you take your grievance? Which? Magazine, surely.
But where do you take your grievance if it’s Which? that gives you the telephonic bum’s rush?
Ringing up with a wee story they tried to suggest that I speak to the press office. But the press office, I suggested, is for journalists ringing up with a question. I was ringing up with a story and needed the editorial team. No can do. I’d have to speak to customer services and without more ado I was dropped into an automated labyrinth none of whose exits were the one I needed.
So I rang back again only to be told that I’d had it explained to me that I couldn’t speak to a journalist because… I was a journalist. So I persuaded them to put me through to the press office hoping that a Which? press officer might be less dim and obtuse.
No joy there either. After two minutes after they said they’d find me someone to speak to they cut me off. Hopeless.
So, no point taking stories to Which? then. But for frustrated consumers, fed up with the Consumers Association, there’s the internet. So here it is, that wee story, and it is very wee, but interesting.
Just over four years ago I bought a Samsung LCD TV. Not a huge one by modern standards, 32″, but big enough. Then, last November, having been on the blink a while it stopped working.
That was fine with me but for Luca, age five and a big CBBC fan, it wasn’t. So I rang around various TV repair businesses in and around Tunbridge Wells and was quoted between £80 and £100 for them to come out, look at it and fix it – parts not included.
I thought that was a bit steep and eventually found a guy from TV Aerial Services in Northiam whose call out fee was about £15 against £65 for fixing it. Like everyone else he said he suspected the problem was the power board as it had been turning itself off and then on again.
He drove out, couldn’t fix it on the spot so took the power board back with him. Over the next couple of weeks he told me that it couldn’t be fixed and that he’d have to get a new board at £40 if he could get a refurbished one or £120 for a new one.
And that was the last I heard from him. I did ring him up a couple of months later to say that I didn’t think much of his disappearing off with the power board from my TV but he didn’t seem overly bothered.
However that left me with a defuct TV and for the last six months it”s just been sitting around in pieces. Then, after a couple of abortive attempts involving conversations with people who sounded like TV spares was a sideline to fill in between crack cocaine deals, I got around to tracking down a new powerboard for it.
Eventually I send an email to LCDTVparts.co.uk and they were really nice, pointed me to the replacement board they thought I needed and told me they’d refund me if it was the wrong one.
What’s more is that they were very happy to tell me how to install it so when it arrived I had them on the phone telling me what to plug where. In truth there were only 5 plugs to plug onto the board. Four of those could only have gone in one place and they gave me a steer with the fifth.
It works. It cost me £24.99. That’s right – all these TV repair people were offering to take me for up to £200 and it’s cost £24.99. The real scandal is that there’s nothing to it. A ten year old could fix your TV.
The shame of it is that this something for nothing culture now runs through British society from top to bottom, from the traders who gamble the millions of others to the repair people who pretend expertise when they either have none or none is required. On the day Bob Diamond quit I’m wondering whether he’s just the poster boy for a far wider malaise and that scapegoating him isn’t just an easier option than addressing the wider problem.