Friday, February 23, 2007

Clockwork Orange

It all started simply enough; I took my phone out of my laptop rucksack – as I do every day. The screen was three-quarters blank. I looked closely and could see a tiny crack on the inside of the screen. The outside of the phone itself was completely untouched. Nothing else in the rucksack; iPod, another phone, laptop, was damaged. The laptop had been on the table all night and not moved.

I knew straight away it would be awkward – I didn’t have the receipt and I bought it online from the Orange website. Luckily, mobile phone companies are meticulous in registering your products with them. I knew, therefore, with a bit of attentive service and a quick search of the database that they would be able to establish that it was my phone and that I hadn’t broken it. I’ve had similar things with Apple and Mazda in the last few months and although it’s all a bit awkward, they do get you on the sausage machine and get it sorted out.

I phoned the help line on the website and was scooted to a call centre somewhere around the world. They told me that there wasn’t a lot they could do about it because they couldn’t see the damage. They told me to go to an Orange shop. This didn’t seem unreasonable.

I went to the Orange shop in Wycombe, explained my situation and was told that they couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything about it because I didn’t have a receipt. It was like trying to penetrate the outer rim of a giant planet – or the peel on an orange, perhaps. They were totally disinterested in the problem. I pointed out that I had every other piece of information about the purchase – my debit card, the original box with endless barcodes, purchase date, delivery address etc.

To get me onside, pretty much the first thing I was told was that ‘for all we know you could have bought it from the market’. Brilliant. I was told to go to the call centre/website, because the shop had nothing to do with the website. The website told me to come to you, I told them, you’re all Orange, I told them, I don’t care how you’re organised, you’re all part of the same operation as far as I’m concerned. We’re not, she said, you are, I said, your t-shirts have the same logo as the one on my phone, where does it say that you’re different companies? We have different stock, she said, I don’t care, I said.

Eventually they called the help desk, and after several attempts they finally established it was my phone. Craig in the Wycombe branch of Orange, came out from the back of the shop, looked at my phone and said that it wasn’t customer damage. He even said he’d seen similar problems before and thought it might be something to do with a voltage surges. We were getting somewhere.

It didn’t help that the girl who served me insisted on serving other people whilst serving me; she was generally inattentive and even dropped the phone at one point because she was filling out some other form for some other poor bugger, cutting off the call centre meaning we had to start again.

Eventually she came off the phone and said that they wouldn’t fix it because it was customer damaged because it had been in my laptop bag. This is a bit like saying the cause of death of someone dieing in their sleep was ‘going to bed’. They couldn’t explain how I’d managed to break into a sealed unit and break the internal workings of the phone.

So, the shop people told me to call the call-centre, after some exasperation I left (the girl at one point going back to the fact I didn’t have a receipt and something about buying something from Comet – at which Craig interrupted and said ‘we’re beyond that’). Craig also admitted that I was stuck in the middle of their corporate shitehouse (last bit added by me). I went back and called the call centre and 45 minutes later I was in the same position – the phone was broken by me so they wouldn’t fix it.

I finally asked who it was that regulated Orange – e.g. who do I need to complain to. “Orange” said the operator. I said – no, who is your regulates your industry (Trading Standards? OfCOM?). She didn’t know. Can I talk to someone who does? You can talk to my supervisor. Thank you, I said. Then she cut me off.

What we’ve established that a phone bought legitimately by me from Orange is broken. The only person in the Orange corporation who has actually seen the phone says it’s not been damaged by the customer and it’s under warranty. Oh, and according to Craig, the people who sold it to me have a ‘six month duty of care’, whatever that is. It’s a recipe for getting it fixed, is it not?

Computer says no. It’s not going to be fixed because the person in the call centre who is hundreds, possibly thousands of miles away has, through ESP or some equally mystical power, managed to see the handset, calculate (possibly by going back in time and visiting my house in a ghostly form) that my stationary rucksack has maliciously attacked my phone (and only my phone). Presumably, therefore, I’m responsible for my rucksack and its wild ways – perhaps I should buy it a muzzle, especially with Millie in the house. Oh, and I’m £130 in the hole without a functioning mobile phone. And now they’ve raised the drawbridge. I can go through Trading Standards; which I think I will anyway, but ultimately I’m the one left without a phone, and though it is not my most treasured possession, I really do need it.

Ever feel you’ve been cheated?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pop music is wasted on the young

Tim Lovejoy has an interesting theory about TV production nowadays - basically all the people who were breaking ground with things like The Word and The Tube are the people making TV programmes today. Hence the reason we've gone through decade of programmes about doing houses up, then having children, coping with toddlers, buying second properties, then coming to terms with expanding waistlines and waning sex lives - basically as these producers grow up, they make programmes that suit them and their situation in life.

The Brits felt a bit like that; it wasn't the worst winners' roster ever; at least Annie Lennox's grip on best female solo artist is apparently loosened forever. But it was all very cosy and comfortable.

The production had very 30-something edginess - live (ooh what might happen), Russell Brand (ooh former drug addict, bit weird), and with swear words (bleeped out - you never know if children are watching). A lot was made of the fact it was live for the first time since the Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox debacle, but that was 18 years ago, which probably says a lot about the target audience.

The performances were all very slick but uninspiring, which is something we've learnt from the Americans - put on a shitload of lights and video screens, then nobody will notice that the songs are a bit lame. Oasis were the exception, they were neither slick nor inspiring - it's a fine line with Liam, but he never used to shout like that, I'm sure.

And, isn't it terrifying what America has done to Joss Stone? Gone is the kooky Devonian with a voice like Aretha Franklin. She now seems to speak like she's reading from an auto cue, does that annoying 'born to sing' thing where she breaks out in song in the middle of sentences and puts a 'd' on the end of alright. It makes you shudder.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ruffs 2007

It's awards season, so it's about time to reveal the winner's in the third annual Ruffs - the top 10 albums of the year. Last year, that is.

1. Costello Music - Fratellis
2. Whatever People Say I am is What I'm Not - Arctic Monkeys
3. Live on Bondi Beach - Fatboy Slim
4. FabricLive 30 - Stanton Warriors
5. The Warning - Hot Chip
6. Sexor - Tiga
7. Itchy Scratch Radio - Basement Jaxx
8. Sam's Town - Killers
9. How to Get Everything You Ever Wanted in Ten Easy Steps - Ordinary Boys
10. Eraser - Thom Yorke

And, at risk of getting too much like the Grammy's, I'm introducing a second award this year, the tune of the year.

1. Creeping up the backstairs - Fratellis
2. Run 4 Cover - Basement Jaxx
3. Louder Than A Bomb - Tiga
4. Young Folks - Peter, Bjorn and John
5. Standing in the Way of Control - Gossip
6. Shake That Ass Bitch - Splack Pack
7. Touch It - Busta Rhymes
8. Empire - Kasabian
9. Monster - Automatic
10. Over and Over - Hot Chip

Well done the Fratellis.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow go area

Our house has something in common with the National Grid; they are both barometers for national activity. Those on the grid can assess what the country is up to by the surges in power they experience; our house is on such a busy road it only takes a quick glance out the window to know what the world is up to.

I can confirm that the schlep to work was a tentative one this morning. This helps, because on the rare occasions it does snow, we both endure quite a lot of hand wringing over whether we should head out to work or not.

Emma has a harder job than me, she is part of the team that decides whether the school stays open or not. She then has to contact the local radio - with a coded message to ward of cheeky tykes – to tell them the news.

The impact of the decision is enormous; all children and teachers are sent home, the parents of those children have to arrange alternative childcare, or take time off work, their work is affected and so on. You really don’t want to close the school only to find that the snow has melted before elevenses.

My decision is slightly easier; especially this morning because I’d already planned to work at home. Rather than crawling into the office, I spent the day sending out emails into the ether not knowing who was in the office and who was buried in a snowdrift. Occasionally a reply popped into my inbox. It was like we’d just emerged from a nuclear attack and I was making tentative contact with survivors through a fierce nuclear winter.

One email suggested that people were wimps for cancelling meetings. On the radio, the bloke from the CBI came out and said the snow would cost the UK economy £400 million. There’s probably an office deep in the CBI which dreams up such pointless and blatantly inaccurate statistics by throwing a dart at a specially made board. As they said on Radio 5 when they read it out – so what are we supposed to do about it?

It’s true we probably over react to adverse weather, but without decent religious fervour in this country, we don’t have enough bank holidays and saints days to take off work. With weather a national obsession, we should have ad hoc weather based bank holidays. My family occasionally announce ‘Oh bugger it’ times, which is basically when crisis has gone beyond the point of salvage. I think we should have national ‘Oh bugger it’ times.

Rather than toiling over the should I shouldn’t I decision as to whether to head out or not, why not simply have, er, Shilpa Shetty come onto the telly to announce a national oh bugger it. The nation would rejoice and head for their duvets. We can but dream.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Scot nothing to do with me

A Welsh contractor I work with wished me well in the Six Nations and commented that it was good to see Johnny Wilkinson back. When he said 'me' he meant 'us' and by 'us' he meant England.

Although i was born in England, and speak with an English accent, I'm half Scottish. I feel Scottish. Perhaps its some kind of underdog spirit, maybe its my tough working class Broxburn ancestry feeling more 'real' than my comfortable south-east middle class upbringing, maybe it's simply that Scotland had a better football team in my formative years. Whatever it is, I am more spiritually aligned to the Scots.

I don't feel English, I don't subscribe to the English way. I don't want to be known a jumped up little twerp who expects to have a seat at the global top table. In essence this is what it means to be English; whether its the overpaid, arrogant, under performing football team or their increasingly hysterical cricketers. I've never wanted the rugby team to do well; which has a lot to do with Will Carling who is the classic English nob end, and I constantly find myself hoping that the cricketers can find new depths of awfulness on the current Ashes tour. I dream of seeing them all out for 6 runs or something. None of which is particularly patriotic.

On the football pitch I follow the fortunes of both countries, but when they come together, I follow the Scots. This is not the most rewarding of strategies, it must be said. In fact, this half and half split does leave me somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I would never be accepted by the Tartan Army but I cannot assimilate myself to the Barmy Army. I'm like an ignored minority, I feel isolated and persecuted, I could roll my eyes and frown with some vigour such is the institutionalised racism I face every day of my life.

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