Dom Joly: Mr Angry makes a phone call

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The Independent Online

I suffered total phone rage last week. My mum is signed up to some dastardly outfit called Tiscali/TalkTalk. They provide her with broadband. I set it up for her originally and so the account is in my name. My mum now wants to transfer her broadband provider to BT so that she only gets one bill. You'd think this was fairly easy. You'd be wrong. She tried to do this herself and, after innumerable phone calls, finally got through to a human only to be told that, despite her paying the bill every month, they were not allowed to talk to her as the account was in my name.

So I called... and called... and called. At times it felt like being in a Kafkaesque nightmare – a monotone electronic voice told me that I had six minutes to wait, and that my call was really important to it. After half an hour I was told that I had less than one minute to wait and that my call was still, apparently, really important to it. Ninety-six minutes later, I was cut off and left in a state of seething, impotent rage. I retried twice during the same day and pretty much exactly the same thing happened. On top of the obvious frustration involved, I had the extra pleasure of paying for the privilege of listening to this revolting charade that passes for Tiscali/Talk Talk customer service.

Finally, I snapped and went on to Twitter to warn people about the perils of dealing with this firm. No better word came to mind to describe them than the rudest word there is. It was thus duly used with a request to "re-tweet" (pass the message on). I clearly touched a nerve. Responses in agreement started to pour in. I also got, in true Twitter fashion, a handful of people who contacted me to complain about my use of the word. This always happens on Twitter. There's a sizeable group of people who sit online waiting to be offended by something and then insist on letting you know how just offended they are.

Any normal person would ignore stuff they didn't like or, if they really felt strongly, block you so that they needn't be subjected to your offensive Tweeting again. Sadly, it never works like this – people always want to let you know exactly how offended they are.

The "offended" started suggesting that I be "reported to Twitter". What a crazy world we live in where the use of a single word can spark calls for censorship. Maybe they think North Korea has it right.

I was in that wretched country last year and now wonder whether this is where Tiscali/TalkTalk base their call-centre. I stayed in an ugly skyscraper of a hotel on an island in the middle of the Taedong river. Despite the size of the building, everybody in my group was on the 31st floor, and there were rumours that the rest of the building was empty. I now suspect that this is where Tiscali/Talk Talk is based.

Finally, I got an interesting Tweet from an anonymous Tiscali/Talk Talk employee. If I rang the number that they publicised should you want to sign up with them, I would be through in seconds, and I should then ask to be transferred.

I rang the number and a keen little voice answered in seconds. The voice got a lot less keen when I explained my beef and demanded to be put through to the North Korean section. I was put on hold and then ... the dreaded electronic voice was murmuring in my ear again, like a bad recurring dream ... "Your call is important," she intoned "you will be answered in approximately... [very important word that] six minutes...."

I hung up and poured myself a stiff drink. This is going to be a protracted battle....