Alice-Azania Jarvis: ‘The baliffs are after me - I’m not opening the door to anyone

Bailiffs. No one likes them but, these days, they’re laughing all the way to the bank. I had my first run-in with one last week. For the moment, at least, they’ve been called off my case (a victory for common man, I like |to think) – but, my goodness, they were nasty.

By “run in” of course, I don’t mean anything physical. They didn’t even show up at my flat (God knows what would have happened then. What on earth would they have seized? My hair straighteners? My fridge?)

No, they simply sent a note. A very strongly worded note with LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS AND BOLD TYPEFACES. And lots of red. Red everywhere: on the envelope, running down along the margins, in the box marked “pre-court division”.

I mean, talk about in the red.

Apparently (or so claimed the note) I had failed to pay my water bill. I’d failed to pay it, and as a result owed a ridiculous amount of money to someone, somewhere who (supposedly) had called my local debt-recovery agents. And it was their job, these heroes, to sort it all |out: Dear Miss Jarvis, you have failed as a |citizen, if you do not call us RIGHT NOW (capitals, bold font) we will take away your fridge. And your microwave. And your hair straighteners.

All well and good (if not ideal) – except that I’ve already paid my bill.

I know I have, because I did it the other day over the phone, with the help of one of Thames Water’s very lovely customer service people. And it says so on my bank statement. And, well, you wouldn’t just imagine something as mundane as that, would you?

So I called the number at the bottom of the bailiff’s note, and did my best impression of someone very important feeling very affronted indeed, until eventually the spotty youth on the other end of the phone |line interrupted.

“Fine,” he sulked. “But you’ll have to send us |some proof.”

A bank statement would, apparently, suffice. Or a receipt from Thames Water.

But really, why should I have to? It was their error, not mine. And if the onus is on me to prove that I am innocent of the heinous deed, rather than presumed guilty of it, then how am I supposed to believe it was an honest mistake and not some speculative attempt to try their luck? Which, incidentally, is precisely what I think it was.

So now, instead of sending off my bank statement, I’ve alerted Thames Water to the situation. They’ve said they will sort it out, and hopefully they will. In the meantime, I’m not answering my door. To anyone.

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