Oi, BT, forget the sport and sort my colleague out

If I worked at BT, the comments section would keep me awake at nights

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The Independent Online

I’ve always been slightly in awe of my colleague Gillian.

She knows about bands, is friends with a thrillingly fast crowd, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Young Adult books of the early Nineties, has nice hair and possesses the coolest, calmest telephone manner of anyone, ever. That is, until recently. Over the last 10 months, she has spent a great many lunchtimes on the phone to BT. The problem, which I can recount verbatim, such are the number of times I’ve heard it, is that she hasn’t had any internet access since November. Quite reasonably, she’s been trying to find out why, and has withheld payment for a service that BT can’t seem to provide. Last week, it came to a head. After two hours of politely telling five different BT departments the problem, before being passed back to the first one again, Gillian broke. She didn’t scream, shout and swear as I, I’m ashamed to say, would have done as early as 30 November 2012, but just silently wept in sheer frustration.

No one makes Gillian cry on my watch. This is the girl who once got an earbashing from Sir Phillip Green over an article and took it in her stride. I took to Twitter to upbraid BT’s customer “care” team and – fancy! – tweets from a ratty hack got their attention. A week on, however, no internet. No call, no apology, nada. Of course, last week was a big week for BT, what with it launching its whizzbang sports tellybox service. Perhaps it was too busy to bother.

But it’s not just moany old journalists getting the short end of the stick – an article on one newspaper’s website last week told the woeful tale of a family who’d had a similar experience. If I worked at BT, the comments section would keep me awake at nights. Of course, since I am a moany old journalist, my advice was to push the nuclear button – phone the press office. Apparently, Gillian’s case has been “escalated to our exec-level complaints team”. What about all the other customers of its internet service, which these days isn’t a luxury but a utility – who don’t have an exec-level bossyboots of an editor as an unofficial support group?

At the time of writing BT had yet to pick up the phone, either to comment for this column, or to apologise  Gillian. Still, at least there’s that nice new sport service to watch. If you have internet access, of course.