Cooking with gas

This week's announcement of a 150 per cent increase in complaints about British Gas shows a sad lack of appreciation for its extraordinary achievements, as I discovered recently when trying to buy a gas cooker.

In the bad old days, I would have visited my local showroom to find queues of people trying to pay gas bills and assistants so busy phoning Head Office or doing paperwork that they had no time to sell anything.

A conventional management would have tinkered around to reduce customer dissatisfaction, but British Gas, under the inspiring leadership of Cedric Brown, went to the heart of the matter, closing down showrooms and getting rid of the customers.

With all my local gas shops gone, I no longer had a clue where to get a cooker. When I looked in my telephone directory, I found the few remaining British Gas shops listed without phone numbers. No doubt a wise decision. Publicising the number would only encourage people to phone them, and before you could say "75 per cent pay rise", they'd all be engaged.

At least there was a depleted list of far-flung addresses, some of which I visited only to find that they too had been culled. I deduced that while most of the showrooms listed were closed, those that were still open were unlisted. Nice one, Cedric. With showrooms as rare as hen's teeth, you can't risk getting them clogged up with customers. Talking of things getting clogged up, by the way, a few years ago a serviceman came so ill-betooled that he had to use the glittering pin of his ear-ring to unclog my jets. It was a gas.

But I digress. A mere month or so after embarking on my quest, I found an unclosed showroom and ordered a cooker. Nobody turned up on the appointed installation day but a week later someone did arrive, gazed at the existing gas cooker and announced, with stunning paradox: "You can't have a gas cooker there."

The showroom pleaded ignorance; they thought it had been installed. "The whole organisation is a shambles," one assistant understated, "but I'm being made redundant next month, so I don't care." Subsequent attempts to find out precisely why I cannot have the cooker installed and what has happened to the money I paid for it have gone unrewarded.

The process of buying a gas cooker had been made so ghastly that anyone who succeeded would probably put their head into it. By making such purcheses well nigh impossible, British Gas must have saved countless lives. Their directors are worth all the noughts in their salaries and only a humourless churl would deprive them of their charter mark.

Now can anyone tell me where I can get an electric cooker?