Simon Carr: It was all supposed to be so simple ...

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The Independent Online

I was cold-called last year by TalkTalk. They said they could halve my phone bill. I told them that when I'd changed from BT to Onetel it had been a nightmare, and they said this would a totally smooth transfer, no interruptions, because TalkTalk had bought Onetel.

They said they'd send me a modem. I told them I didn't have any idea how to fix up modems. She said that a child could do it. I said, "Really? A child? Do you promise a child could do it?"

When I open the box I find they've sent me two modems and there are brochures and pamphlets and wiring, and as soon as I open the box I can see it's beyond a child.

So I ring the direct line number she has given me. It's the general number. Ten departments I get passed between. Each time they ask name, address, post code, bank details. Ten times. In the end, I get a Dave to come round and fix it up.

And then the business line stops ringing. I call the number from my mobile. It rings in my ear but it never goes through to the answering machine. "It's because we're upgrading your phone," they say. "It may take up to three days."

Are you mad, I say to them, my business can't do without phone access for three days! "You're not a business," they say. But I am a business. "No, this isn't a business line. Ring up faults." And they give me a number. It rings for 32 minutes. They say, "You've come through to residential. Go back to the help desk if you're a business. They've made a mistake."

In 18 minutes I get back to the help desk. They say the faults desk has made a mistake and to ring them again.After three hours of this, a manager has reported the fault and diverted calls from my business line to my private line so I won't miss any business. At 8am the next day I try the line. It's dead.

I ring customer service and say I am losing business and want a compensation form. She says, "But you're not a business." I tell her I am running a company here. She says, "No, you're not."

There will be four hours on the phone that morning, after the three hours the evening before. And eventually she consents to agree that I am a business because the direct debit is coming from a business account and my name isn't Mrs Limited, but if I am a business I haven't got a business line.

And what's the difference with a business line? Is it a different colour? A different texture? She said: "Don't get cheeky with me or I'll terminate this call."

She said the divert might not have been working because they were upgrading my line. "You can't claim compensation until the lines are all working. And we can't compensate you because you're not a business. The only way you can be classified as a business line now is by going back to your previous provider and getting them to recognise you as a business line and then coming back to us."

You promised there'd be no interruption! "No, we didn't." I said, You certainly did! And she said, "We can't have said that because there's always interruption." So, she shouldn't have told me that, should she? "I'm sure she didn't say it." How can you be sure? "Because there's always interruption."

What's the name of the gen-eral manager? "We can't reveal that."

It's Charles Dunston, for what it's worth. And in all, it took seven hours phoning over two days to sort out.

Google "talktalk problems" for more of this sort of thing. There are 102,000 pages of it.

Mallets at the ready ...

Nice to see croquet making a comeback. It's a bit like chess. There's no luck involved. It's strategic. It's visual. It provokes rage amongst those who are losing, and complete psychological collapse in the vanquished.

And if you start badly you may find your opponents coming back towards you; then you can make up five hoops and win, using their balls. "Why isn't it my go!" they seethe.

The greatest danger comes from the fact that no two households have the same rules. Putting a foot on a ball can generate arguments that travel through generations like an Appalachian blood feud.

Those mallets really hurt, I find.

* We're really running out of appetite for scandal now. Remember the shock of the Abrahams money, and the 25 million records lost? We'll never get that back. We're punch drunk.

The Leader of the House doesn't declare half her campaign funds and explains it with a shy smile. A Cabinet minister doesn't declare £103,000 donations, some from diamond brokers and Big Pharma, and says he's done nothing wrong at all.

The shadow Chancellor is in receipt of nearly half a million quids' worth of undeclared donations to run his office. The Prime Minister dispenses with spin and hires the most expert spinster in the city. This character was encouraging investment in a failing company in the States and (so a court deposition says) explained his technique of handing out "nine-tenths bullshit and one-tenth selected facts".

We get accused of spreading cynicism, but frankly I don't think that's fair