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

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

Recruitment Genius: Partner Manager - EMEA

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Partner Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - OTE £100,000

£45000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Sales Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company provides IT support...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manager is for a successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green

We all have a problem with drink, not just Charles Kennedy

Simon Kelner
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific