Communication breakdown: the journo's dread

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“Is everything ok?” asked the email from an editor in Abu Dhabi on Monday morning. And aside from the pound collapsing against the Euro, it was.

The sun was shining; United beat Stoke 5-0 on Saturday – a scoreline equalled by Manchester La Fianna in Sitges; the rain held off at Old Trafford and the new edition of United We Stand sold well; and work was fine.

“It’s just that we didn’t get your article yesterday.”

I’d sent the reaction piece on Real Madrid’s defeat at Valladolid 24 hours earlier. Having watched the match, I’d got up early on Sunday to write it, leaving friends on Saturday night despite their cries of “just come for one.”

The article didn’t arrive. Maybe pirates had intercepted it off the horn of Africa. Maybe Manchester City’s owners in the Gulf State have banned my email.

Either way, a journalist who doesn’t meet deadlines may as well stop being a journalist.

"Arr! Give us yer words!"  

The problem was down to the internet company Pipex, who sponsored Fulham between 2005 and 2007. In the past three months they have managed to delete over 200 of my emails and cut the service seven times, including once on deadline week. In the last four days they’ve not been sending my emails – despite them appearing to be sent.

So the La Fianna lads didn’t get the team I sent out last Thursday, and another newspaper didn’t get my reply saying I would like to interview Maradona for them.

Despite having the option of using the likes of Hotmail or Yahoo for free, I’ve paid Pipex for 11 years for a supposedly professional service. This year it has been anything but.

When there’s a problem you can’t ring them from abroad because they’ve abandoned all their numbers for dreaded (and expensive) 0871 versions. I found a way around that, only to be directed to a call centre where the staff’s grasp of English was questionable. One refused to proceed with my complaint because I wasn’t giving her the correct phone number.

“Your phone number should start with zero, sir.”

“Zero and ‘0’ are the same,” I replied.

The call centres were always unable to help and never deviated from the line: “We’re experiencing technical issues. We understand your frustration, sir.”

“It’s like talking to a robot,” I said to one.

“We understand your frustration, sir.”

The email from Abu Dhabi was the tipping point; I’m cancelling Pipex and reluctantly changing my email address.

"We understand your frustration, sir.” 

But they're not the only ones. O2, the mobile company I have effectively been with since 1992, sold me a faulty iPhone last month. The same O2 who started charging me to receive calls in Spain six months after I signed a contract that allowed me to receive free calls.

“Do you really think I'd change a contract for one that started charging me?” I asked in exasperation to an O2 fool who was thicker than a loaf of Hovis. They eventually offered a full refund and I’ve complained to Ofcom.

But could I get O2 to change my iPhone for one that worked? No. I was given conflicting information several times, before they asked me to wait at my mum’s for two days for a new one.

“But I work,” I said. “I can come and collect a new one? Name your city – Manchester, Middlesbrough, Glasgow, Newcastle, London, Barcelona. I can be there.”

“I’m sorry sir, we understand your frustration, but we’re not part of the O2 that has shops."

Lord, give me strength.

As it transpired a former Manchester City youth player who wants to be a football agent sorted it direct with Apple. He manages O2’s shop in Manchester. I’ll never knock City fans, nor their team that never wins, again.

Well, for about a month at least.

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