Nick Lezard: Who will ring the bell now to engage in pointless banter?

Share
Related Topics

It is with great sadness that I learn of British Gas's decision to abandon its practice of trying to sell its gas to customers by sending people out to ring on their doorbells.

This follows a similar decision from Scottish and Southern Energy. I am old enough to remember rag-and-bone men with horse and cart, French onion-sellers on bicycles, and knife-sharpeners. And now another aspect of the personal urban touch bites the dust. How one will miss those delightful exchanges which brought such welcome relief during those long hours spent alone in the house.

"Good morning/afternoon sir. Are you responsible for electricity bills in your household?"

"Er ... er ..." (This translates roughly as: "Well, ultimately, I pay for most of the stuff round here, because I make most of the money, but I am rather hopeless at organising this kind of thing, so the wife really takes care of that. Also, it is 11 o'clock in the morning and I am not really at my best until about three in the afternoon.")

"Have you considered changing your gas and/or electricity supplier?"

"Er ... er ..." (This translates roughly as: "Ever since gas companies started delivering electricity and electricity companies started supplying gas, I feel as though events have long since overtaken my comprehension of them, so feel somewhat ill-equipped to take part in any meaningful conversation about this kind of thing. And frankly, I don't think it'll be much better at three in the afternoon, either.")

"Did you know that you can make considerable savings by switching from [interchangeable Company A] to [interchangeable Company B]?"

"Er ..." (Translation: "I am beginning to smell a rat here, and may I say that I don't like the look of that tie.")

"Do you know which company supplies your gas/electricity/whatever?"

"Haven't the foggiest, pal."

(I always like this part of the conversation, if conversation it can be called. My favourite bit is when my interlocutor pinches the bridge of his nose, as if to marvel that someone so clueless could actually earn enough money to buy a box of matches, let alone enough gas or electricity to boil a pan of water.)

And then they say they'll come back later, and they never really do, or if they do I just stare blankly at them and drool a bit, and I pity them their cheap suits, their dreadful jobs, their confused and confusable customers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc