Thursday, 24 September 2009

I phone therefore I am??

I’ve spent the last week buying an Iphone. Why on earth would that take a week? First I went to Carphone Warehouse, mostly because the local one has its own carpark. They have none in stock – buy it on the web they said.

I would have gone to the Apple store in Birmingham but they only sell the pay as you go version. So I get on the web and try to buy it from O2. I wade through all the menus and get to the final button and it refuses to sell it to me, saying that there is a problem with my credit.

Panic. Has someone hacked my account? What can possibly have happened? I have this bank thing that sends you a text message if someone makes a credit check on the account – no message comes. The mystery deepens. I phone the bank, ordinary phoning, not Iphoning. The bank say there is nothing wrong with my credit.

I get back on the O2 web site and try to phone them. The number on the site gets me a number unobtainable message, so I Phone, I won’t repeat the joke, you’ve got it by now, and BT tell me it’s not one of their numbers and anyway seeing as I moved my phone account to Tesco I should phone Tesco. They don’t actually say Piss off, but it’s as near as a tape recorder can get.

Tesco at least give me another number for O2 and they tell me that the problem lies with Equifax, who they use to get credit reports. So I phone Equifax, who tell me I don’t exist, Nice of them to say so. Has it crossed their mind that someone must be talking to them? Perhaps they do special personality tests in order to make sure that the operator is not spooked when they find themselves talking to a person who does not exist.

I try explaining that I do exist, I have a CBE; the Queen doesn’t usually give those out to people who don’t exist, it’s so hard for her to hang the thing around your neck when you don’t exist, hand to shake hands too. Actually in the same batch of emails that include the one from Equifax saying that I don’t exist, I have one from Who’s Who congratulating me on being in the latest edition, in fact I think I’ve been in it for the last decade. Obviously Equifax don’t consult Who’s Who when they decide who isn’t who.

It takes two more days to narrow the problem down to the postcode address files; our house is in twice, once as Stonebow Farm and the other as Stonebow Farmhouse. That appears to be the problem, when their clever software puts profiles together from many different sources some of them have one version and some have the other, so the computer can’t decide what to do and goes for the simple solution of deciding that I don’t exist.

I did eventually persuade O2 to phone the bank that issued the card I was using and now I have the Iphone.

Back to Equifax, I figured I had better sort out the mess with them in case any other misguided retailer uses them. Their web site allows you to verify who you are by sending them copies of things like utility bills and passports. Their web site is the slowest I’ve had to contend with for a long time. It timed out or crashed on me six times before I did eventually get the documents loaded. It probably only does that to people who don’t exist, they’re hardly likely to complain are they.

They have another cunning trick, part way through the routine they give you a code number and tell you to phone them. Just as well I have an ordinary phone, it must be tough on any non-persons trying to get their first phone.

The first thing that happens when you phone is you get a friendly message telling you that the easiest way to contact them is to go to their web site, you know, the one that just told me to phone the number that’s telling me to use the web site.

I remained calm and decided that this was just a standard promotional message, not some twisted irony. The phone gives you a bunch of menus, you know the sort of stuff, ‘If you are fed up with the idiocy of this company press one.’ ‘If you really object to being charged by the minute to listen to this rubbish, press two.’

None of the menus appear to relate to the instruction from the web site. You would have thought there would be something saying, ‘If our web site has told you to phone, press three.’ No such luck. It took several goes around their menus and a few dead ends and one spell when it waited so long that I gave up. The blasted message about using the web site is repeated between most of the menus. It is obviously a nice little earner, to charge by the minute and include plenty of messages that will render the client apoplectic, so they collapse in a heap leaving the phone connected and running up bills.

Fortunately we non-persons are made of sterner stuff. I did eventually get it all done and now I exist. Next problem is to correct the rubbish on their site. The local council manages to send me an email telling me that I am on the electoral register, but Equifax thinks I’m not. My bank collects a mortgage payment each month and sends me annual accounts, but Equifax says I don’t have a mortgage.

I wonder if I could get Equifax to tell the bank to stop sending me bills?

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