Oh, I suppose I might as well give it a whirl, I thought, as the recorded voice began its dirge: ‘If you are calling to cancel your BT service, please press one…’
It would have been more accurate to say: ‘If you never use your landline and have only now, while doing your New Year financial panicking, noticed you pay twice as much for your broadband and phone package as you thought and have had a mild stroke from the shock, press one.’
I pressed one and the voice said I was in the queue for an adviser. The line then went dead-sounding, possibly to make me give up. But I didn’t. And after a while it beeped and an impossibly cheerful Scottish chap, who I could have sworn introduced himself as Callum McCallum, said: ‘I am with your customer value team!’
I told him I was a customer who would like some value. Was there anything he could do to reduce my bill from £52.49 a month for broadband and a landline I never use?
The answer was no, sadly, he could not reduce it. I was out of contract and the deal I had taken out two years before was over. ‘You are on a standard price for your service,’ he said, using the lesser known definition of the term ‘standard’ (meaning extremely non-standard), ‘which is Superfast Fibre One, unlimited 54 to 55 megabits per seconds’.
‘You mean megabytes, surely?’ I said.
‘That’s right, megabits,’ he said.
I sighed. ‘Look, is there anything you can do to get this down a bit?’ Or should I have said a megabit? ‘Can’t I just stay with BT rather than switch to another company?’
‘Can I ask who your mobile provider is?’ he said, with a mischievous intonation. I told him EE, but that was another can of worms that had been well and truly nailed shut recently with a new two-year contract, so he couldn’t sell me any of that.
‘The reason I ask,’ he said, ‘is that BT has recently taken them over so you can get a discount if you bring your mobile phone to BT Mobile.’
‘Hang on, I thought you just said EE was BT? Can’t I just have the cheap deal if I’ve got EE and BT is EE?’
There then ensued a conversation of such madness I can’t recount it. Suffice to say, in order to take advantage of being an EE customer with BT who own EE, I would have to take out a new EE contract that day, not the contract I took out a few months ago.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘let’s just forget the whole EE is BT thing. What can you do to make my broadband cheaper or I’m leaving right now.’
‘If you renew your contract with us for 18 months,’ he said, ‘I can put you on a package called Superfast Fibre Plus with 80 megabits a second for… £47.49 a month!’ He sounded unfeasibly pleased.
‘But that’s only a few pounds cheaper! Why on earth would I do that? It would be madness to tie myself down to another contract for a few pounds saving.’
‘That’s a faster speed than you have now.’
‘But I don’t want a faster speed. I want cheaper broadband, not better broadband. Can’t you sell me a slower speed? Can’t you sell me some worse broadband for less money?’
‘They are all the offers on your account,’ he said, as I Googled BT Broadband and found a deal for £25 a month. ‘Those are new customer offers,’ he said when I told him about that.
So I told him I wanted to cancel my account right there and then.
This, of course, led him to the line on the crib sheet he was following that read something like Put Caller On Hold While You ‘Check With Manager’.
‘I’ll just go and ask my manager,’ he said, putting me on hold. I imagine he then turned to the chap in headphones sitting next to him, also holding a caller, and said: ‘You coming bowling later?’ To which the colleague replied: ‘Nah. The wife’s got friends coming round for dinner. I’m on a short lead.’ ‘Shame,’ I think he said. ‘Maybe next time. Oh hang on, that’s 60 seconds.’
In any case, a minute later he came back on the line: ‘So I spoke to my manager about this and what my manager has offered you is…’ ‘Ye-es…?’
‘…if you renew your package for 18 months it will be £41.99 for Superfast Fibre One, the same as you have now.’
After that it would go back up to £52.49 again. And I will have to ring in again and threaten to leave. But this is the way they like to do things.