Uncannily, the BT Customer Care Unit called early in the day to discuss
their service. They have been calling quite persistently but I normally
avoid them by claiming to be the cleaner. Still, this time we went
After introductions, the first question was to determine if I was
responsible for the bill (responsible, yes, but financially liable, no).
Undeterred, the nice young woman asked if I was authorised to make
alterations to the account (why not!) and then, to check I wasn’t
actually the cleaner, asked a couple of questions about the bill and who
pays it, but not for any customer account number. Perhaps they should
check with the real bill payer before instigating all my additions to
Having established my authority, we began a long, scripted discussion on
the additional BT services available. We then ploughed through several
other benefits, most of which sounded fine if you didn’t have a crying
baby disturbing you.
The sales pitch was heavy going, to the extent that I had to hold back
from pleading with her to skip to the next paragraph. Clearly there was
a set ’sales patter’ but with no ad-libbing it became irritating and a
GUARDIAN BOOK CLUB
Someone wise told me recently you should buy a book a week, so I
responded to a book offer through the Guardian. Easy. The whole thing
was friendly, if computerised, with no heavy sales pitch or a
requirement to join a club for the next ten years. It only took three
minutes and made me feel in touch with technology ( a breakthrough).
TWININGS SPECIALITY TEAS
Because there was a number on the press ad clearly visible but not
screamingly huge, I called the Twinings Speciality Teas Helpline. The
phone answered immediately (I was still choosing my free tea), ’Phil’
introduced himself and asked how he might help. I explained I’d seen an
ad and would like some free samples. Phil didn’t ask any questions about
the ad (their only one?) but went straight for name and address, then
advised that delivery would be within 28 days and signed off with a
polite ’thank you for your call’. What, no hidden catch?
The ultimate - the shopping channel. Among endless sports channels
(football football football) is QVC, which features wonder products for
everything from trimming hedges to trimming thighs. It’s simple - the
phone number is displayed constantly, each product has a code and you
just call to snap up your bargain before they all sell out. The beauty
hour had many miracle products at ’low low’ prices and some had
apparently sold out by the time I called. The phone was answered first
ring, there was a brief welcome and a request for my membership number.
I didn’t have one, but no problem. We went straight to my order then did
all the detail and finished with my new membership account number so I
could call again anytime .
COW & GATE
The baby information service number was small and hard to find, but they
answered immediately and the advisors were friendly and helpful, one
even called back with more advice - just like having a chat with the
AMERICAN EXPRESS BLUE
Once more, snappy answering. I said I’d seen an ad and wanted to
This time they did ask about the ad but quickly got into the normal
detail including electoral register questions.
I was advised I was eligible to join (I must have scraped through the
hasty credit check) and I’d receive the information in three days. Plus,
if I had any further questions I was invited to call back. All in all,
ADMIRAL CAR INSURANCE
Something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, car insurance. Seeing a
television commercial for Admiral with a giant-size number on it, I
called to discuss a quote. It took ten rings to answer but they were
then very friendly and within four minutes had a guideline quote which,
incidentally, was pounds 40 cheaper than my current policy (that’ll help
pay for the shopping channel shopping spree). As my current insurance
expires in a month they gave me a quick reference number and invited me
to call back, but didn’t do a heavy sales push, thankfully!
ACE GENTLE BLEACH
Time for more consumer advice. I called the Ace Gentle Bleach Consumer
Advice Freephone (printed - albeit small - on the back of packaging).
Answering on the second ring, the Ace people were clear and precise (if
a little formal) about how to use Ace to remove all manner of shocking
If it works as well as they say it will, it should be on the shopping
channel’s miracle products top ten!
RED HOUSE BOOK CLUB
Back to books. To enhance my knowledge of fairy tales and nursery rhymes
(such a misspent youth) I joined the Red House book club, having found a
leaflet with a big phone number in a paper or magazine. Yet more
answering efficiency and a quick transfer to new members. Here I was
asked where I had heard of Red House and even the reference code of the
leaflet was taken (real data capturing!). Again it was quick, easy and
painless spending money and, anyway, I got two free books and a
One last thing before I go. The Dyson helpline. Inexplicably when
hoovering, my new ’knobs and whistles’ Dyson stopped. While dismantling
to detect the fault, I also called the number conveniently displayed on
It rang and I was put on hold - for about ten minutes! Just as I had
finished rehearsing my indignant speech, a sweet old lady answered
and ... I just couldn’t.
So I meekly explained and this advice I now share with all you Dyson
owners: when your machine inexplicably stops, don’t take it apart, just
leave it to cool. That’s what I’ll do if mine ever gets re-assembled.