Like a Blog With a Bone

Those of you who attend my weekly (virtual) pub nights at Ye Olde Cock & Balls each Friday evening will be aware that, for the past couple of weeks, I have been encountering some problems with the strength of our internet connection – particularly during the picture round of my quiz.

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Well, after trying to contact our broadband provider, Sky, for a fortnight now, including one ‘online chat’ session where, having waited for two hours, our connection was lost and it kicked me out (hey, irony, fuck you), I have finally resolved the situation.

And, by that, I mean I properly resolved the situation, rather than simply ripping all of the Sky equipment from the various sockets in our lounge, dousing it in lighter fluid, and then torching the entire lot in the back garden (which, believe me, was next on my list of potential solutions). Even more amazingly, I am still a Sky customer.

Look, I know I should probably have considered switching our various packages to an alternative provider, but the truth is my wife and I really like some of the Sky-specific channels, and would hate to be without them. Plus, the boys love the wide range of children’s shows available on our additional ‘Entertainment Package’.

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Finally, above all else, I hate change, and I am inherently lazy, so I often find it preferable to stay with a company rather than shop around for a better deal. Yes, I know I negotiate for a living, but please also bear in mind that I largely dislike my chosen career, and would rather not bring that aspect of it home. Besides, do chefs walk through the door after a busy day in the kitchen and instantly want to cook for the family? No. Do cleaners come back from work and immediately make a start scrubbing the oven? Unlikely. Do strippers arrive home and promptly undress seductively for their partners?…. Well, only in my dreams. You get the idea.

My point is, for various reasons, I didn’t want to actually leave Sky, but equally we could not continue as a family with such a piss-poor broadband connection – not least because we now have two adults working remotely, two children being home-schooled on laptops, and various other essential devices (such as phones and tablets) all draining our WiFi, which only had the strength of an asthmatic pensioner atop a mountain in the first place.

So, yesterday, I put my big boy pants on, picked up the phone, and dialled the Sky complaint line. The following is an entirely accurate* account of the events which followed (apart from the fact I have made up the names of the people I spoke to, partly to protect their anonymity, but mostly because I can’t for the life of me remember what they were called)….

*sort of.

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Automated Message: “Hi. Thanks for contacting Sky. Sorry, but we’re experiencing a really high call volume at present, so we’re having to prioritise our customers and can only currently deal with customers who are aged seventy or over, suffering with ill-health, or are classified as being a ‘key worker’, which includes all medical staff and teachers. If you do not fall into any of these categories, please hang up and try again when this shit-storm is finally over….

….

Ok, before we connect you through to one of our advisers, we will need to take you through security. Do you know your Sky account password?”

Me: “No”

Automated Message: “Ok. No problem. Can we take your mother’s maiden name instead?”

Me: “ **** ”

Automated Message: “Sorry, that’s not correct either.”

Me: “It fucking is…. Oh, unless the account is in my wife’s name?”

Automated Message: “Please say your mother’s maiden name.”

Me: “ **** ”

Automated Message: “Please hold for the next adviser.”

Me: “I could’ve sworn the Sky account was in my name….”

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Adolf: “Hi, you’re through to Adolf, thanks for holding.”

Me: “No problem. It’s marginally preferable to listening to my children screaming.”

Adolf: “Ha ha! I know what you mean, mate.”

Me: “I’m not your mate. Let’s get on with this.”

Adolf: “Sure thing, buddy. Before we begin, can I just check your mother’s maiden name for security?”

Me: “Well, I just gave my mother’s maiden name and it said that was incorrect, so apparently the account is in my wife’s name and her mother’s maiden name  is ‘ **** ‘.”

Adolf: “That’s not what I’ve got down here.”

Me: “But your system just let me through with that?”

Adolf: “Weird. So, what is your mother’s maiden name?”

Me: ” **** “

Adolf: “That’s the one.”

Me: “Fuck’s sake.”

Adolf: “Ok, then. I just need to check you fit into one of the categories of customer we can deal with at the moment. Are you over seventy?”

Me: “I feel like it, but no.”

Adolf: “Are you suffering with ill-health?”

Me: “I get knackered walking up the stairs. Does that count?”

Adolf: “Not really. Ok, last category, are you or anyone in your household a medical professional?”

Me: “Well, no, but your recorded message just now mentioned teachers, and my wife is a teacher.”

Adolf: “But neither of you are medical professionals?”

Me: “No. We tend to find being a lawyer and a teacher keeps us busy enough. Plus, I have a rather popular online quiz I do every Friday, and-”

Adolf: “Look, I’m afraid we have to prioritise our calls…”

Me: “Yes, but I’m telling you the recorded message just now specifically stated that teachers are key workers. Which they are. Go ahead and check after this call, if you like, but if you cut me off, I will find out where your office is, drive there, and cut you. Ok?”

Adolf: “Well, I guess you’re on the line now anyway. What’s the problem?”

Me: “Our broadband is slow. Like, properly shit, and I want it improving considering how much we pay each month.”

Adolf: “Ok, well, I’ve just checked, and you do qualify for superfast broadband in your area, which we could set up for you in around a week.”

Me: “Sounds expensive.”

Adolf: “It’s £32 a month, but for an extra £5 a month you can also get the broadband boost, which guarantees fast connection throughout the house.”

Me: “Wow, imagine if we could get a connection throughout the entire house.”

Adolf: “Are you being sarcastic?”

Me: “A little. The problem is, the other reason for my call was to complain about the fact our monthly cost has just shot up, so I don’t really want to be making things more expensive.”

Adolf: “Ok, I’ll transfer you to one of my colleagues and if you mention that you want the superfast broadband with the boost, they’ll set out your options for the TV package as well.”

Me: “Fine. Put me through.”

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Genghis: “Hi, you’ve been put through to Genghis. How can I help?”

Me: [sigh] “Right, I want to add the superfast broadband with the boost that I’ve just been told about, but I also want to know why our television package went up nearly £20 last month. When I phoned a couple of years ago, I agreed to remove the sports package to save some money, but now we’re paying more than we paid before only without the sports included.”

Genghis: “Do you want to add the sport back on?”

Me: “Fuck no. I’ve just complained about how high our bill is. I want to bring it down, not increase it.”

Genghis: “What do you want to keep?

Me: “Well, mainly Sky Movies and the Entertainment package for the kids.”

Genghis: “What about the F1 channel?”

Me: “We don’t have that.”

Genghis:  “Yes, you do.”

Me: “I beg your pardon? We’ve never requested that. Have we been paying for it?”

Genghis: “Not exactly. It came free with the entertainment package as an introductory offer, but then the package changed in December and it was then additional.”

Me: “So, I’ve been paying for an F1 channel I never asked for since December?!”

Genghis: “No, we only started charging you last month.”

Me: “Bless your generosity. Take it off, now. I don’t want it, and haven’t asked for it. You can’t just force it on me and then start charging me for it. Who do you think you are, fucking U2? Besides, there’s no F1 taking place right now anyway, so what are you even showing?”

Genghis: “Old clips and stuff.”

Me: “Well, as much as ‘old clips and stuff’ sounds awesome, get rid. How much is it, anyway?”

Genghis: “£18.”

Me: “For one fucking channel?! A channel dedicated to something that isn’t even happening right now? Have you got a channel dedicated to Euro 2020 and the fucking Olympics too?”

Genghis: “There’s no need to be like that.”

Me: “Right, if we ditch the F1 we didn’t ask for, don’t want and have never once turned on, and we add in the superfast broadband with the boost thingy, how does that affect our monthly bill?

Genghis: “Erm…… it will bring it down by £31 a month.”

Me: “£31 less?! Why the hell hasn’t this been offered to us sooner?!”

Genghis: “You didn’t phone.”

Me: “So you wait for people to get pissed off and threaten to leave, then offer them a deal?”

Genghis: “Pretty much.”

Me:  “Do it.”

Genghis: “Ok…. sorted. And, since you’re now paying much less, would you like some sport back?”

Me: “Well, my son would love to watch Premier League matches, but there’s no games at the moment. How much is it, for future reference?”

Genghis: “That’s £18 a month, too.”

Me: “For how many channels?”

Genghis: “Just Sky Sports Premier League, so one.”

Me: “Jesus wept. At least Dick Turpin wore a mask when he robbed people. Besides, my son and I support a lower league side who you never feature, so it’s really not worth adding any football channels. It’d be cheaper for me to take him down the pub to watch matches. At least that way I can spend the £18 on beer.”

Genghis: “Fair enough. But, you mentioned lower league football, and we do feature some games. How low down the leagues are we talking?”

Me: “Stockport County.”

Genghis: “Ouch.”

Me: “Fuck off.”

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Thanks for reading x

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Blogtooth

Afternoon, everyone. How are we all?

(That was just me being friendly, by the way, so don’t bother responding to tell me how you actually are, as there’s a very strong chance I won’t give a shit – unless you are genuinely in a bad way, and feel you have no one else to talk to, in which case I am always here for you, buddy).

Anyway, enough pleasantries. This week’s entry is about car phones (don’t worry, it’s going to be funnier than you think… or your money back).

Despite my previous issues with Ford a few years ago (see: https://middlerageddad.com/2015/07/03/once-upon-a-blog/), last year I bought my second ever Ford Kuga.

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My current Kuga is a few years old (it’s a ‘15’ plate, like the one in the picture above), is by no means top-of-the-range, and it was not expensive. Well, it was expensive compared to my first ever car when I was 21 (coincidentally, another Ford), but that only lasted a few weeks before falling apart, and by modern standards I spent less than most people do on a car.

It isn’t very quick, it doesn’t have fancy gadgets, and it isn’t as economical as I was hoping it might be; but what it does have is lots of space, a massive boot, and a decent audio system. Best of all, the audio system allows me to connect my phone via Bluetooth so that I can make and receive calls, and whilst I know this is quite common in modern cars now, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the main reasons I returned to Ford after a two-year absence.

I hadn’t realised just how good the in-built phone system is in some Ford cars, until I switched to the Volkswagen Tiguan for my previous motor. That is not to say ‘Tiggy’ didn’t have a good in-built phone system, more that she didn’t have any phone system at all, because Volkswagen are notoriously stingy when it comes to adding technology to their cars (for example, my parents-in-law owned a VW Passat until a couple of years ago, and that still had a fucking cassette player in it).

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As a result, when Tiggy joined our family in 2016, and I realised how handy being able to make and receive calls in the car had been (usually to determine who out of my wife and I was meant to be collecting the kids from school), I purchased a ‘Parrot’ system from Halfords, assuming it would more-or-less the same.

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Well, you know what assume does.

To say the Parrot system was utterly shit, would be an insult to shit. It was worse than terrible, and for anyone inclined to see my review (which was banned from Trust Pilot for over-use of the word ‘wanky’), I wrote a blog entry about that, too: https://middlerageddad.com/2016/05/20/the-old-blog-and-bone/).

As a result, having a decent phone system was pretty crucial to me when changing cars early last year (it featured at the top end of my priorities list, somewhere near ‘good mileage’ and ‘fancy cup holders’); and because nothing else on the market tickled my pickle, and I had enjoyed my previous Kuga – despite the issues I encountered with Ford as a company – off I trundled to get myself another one. And, for the most part, this car has thankfully been faultless (if a little thirsty on the weekday commute).

Once I had made my purchase, I was relieved to learn that the phone system was actually better than in my previous Kuga, since not only does the microphone allow those I am calling to clearly hear what I am saying (take note, Parrot, as this is pretty crucial), but the voice recognition software, whilst a little judgemental*, is usually spot on.

*I think it might be the same woman who voices my sat nav, as she can be a sarcastic little bitch at times, too.

Best of all, unlike in my previous Kuga, the phone system in this one allows me to read, listen to, and reply to text messages as well.

By that, I mean that when an incoming text message arrives on my phone, the car informs me with a pleasant alert ‘ding’, then offers me the option of reading what the text says on the dashboard; or – for safety reasons – I can choose to have it read out by the same judgemental woman instead. I usually opt for this latter method of receiving the text – not for safety, but for the comedy value of her mispronouncing words and names, so I can once again feel superior.

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Anyway, I then have the option of responding to the text message via a series of pre-set replies, which the boffins at Ford have determined to be some of the most widely used communications by British drivers.

Unfortunately, this is where the system lets itself down, because Ford are – as you may be aware – an American company, and what they think are the most common responses to text messages, is not necessarily true of us Brits. Furthermore, they seem to think that no driver over the age of 25 would want to use such a system, so everything is geared towards the [gulp] Millennials, even though I doubt a Ford Kuga would be the car of choice for your average skinny-jean-wearing, crushed avocado scoffing, craft beer enthusiast.

Let me give you a few examples, to illustrate my point. Here are some of the responses Ford have determined to be the most useful when responding to a text via your car’s phone system:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Ok
  4. Thanks!

(pausing there for one second, I do accept that these first four responses are, whilst a little abrupt for us Brits, relatively common and practical, but bear with me…)

  1. See u in 10 min
  2. See u in 20 min

(pausing again here, I would never abbreviate ‘you’ to ‘u’ – nor would most other Kuga drivers, I suspect – so this really annoys me. Even worse, those are the only time-based options offered by Ford, so they evidently assume very few British journeys take longer than about an hour to complete, what with us being on an adorable little island ‘n’ all).

  1. Stuck in traffic

(the only one I might actually need/use).

  1. Too funny 🙂 

(don’t get me started on this one. It makes me so fucking angry to think this is considered a common text response in Britain, especially among the Kuga driving community. Who the hell uses this kind of response when texting from their car?)

  1. Yee-haw
  2. OMG! There’s been another shooting

(ok, I made the last two up)

However, the one which really surprised me, was ‘I love you’.

Now, not only would I argue this an odd thing to tell someone via the power of automotive text messaging, but they have placed it directly below ‘Thanks!’ on the list – which is the only other response, aside from ‘Stuck in traffic’, that I tend to use.

As a result, when my (female) colleague texted me during the morning commute a few weeks ago, and I tried to thank her in response, I inadvertently declared my love for her. That took some explaining when I arrived at the office, let me tell you.

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Consequently, I have decided to contact Ford in order to suggest a series of more suitable alternatives for the British market, and ideally I would like my own personalised list (having checked online and in the car’s manual, I don’t think it is possible to change the replies manually myself, but I’m sure Ford could re-programme the car for me).

In truth, my list of ‘common’ text responses is quite extensive, but having whittled it down to just the top ten, and in particular those I am most likely to need whilst driving, I’ll be asking Ford to replace my own list with the following:

  1. Knobhead
  2. Who’s picking the boys up?
  3. Stuck behind a fucking tractor.
  4. Why are BMW drivers such arseholes?
  5. There in about an hour
  6. There in about two hours
  7. May not get to you before midnight at this rate
  8. Fucking roadworks again. I’m going to take a shit in a box, and post it to Cheshire East Council
  9. Old people should be banned from driving during rush hour
  10. Nearly killed another cyclist. Oops 🙂 

There. That should cover it.

Thanks for reading x

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