Category Archives: Frustration

Replacement plate for Daewoo microwave

Wo own a cheap Daewoo-brand microwave oven, which I picked up at Lidl one time for (probably) £19.99. A few days ago, the glass plate that revolves in the middle of it broke. So Fiona phoned them up to see if we could order a replacement.


“Sure”, they said, “It’ll be with you on 17th October”.

Which is four months away.




Dear charities: stop spamming me

And while I’m complaining


Last night, I opened my big backlog of snail-mail. When I say “big” I mean that if I could have got it all to stand up in a single stack, it would have been between two and three feet high, and that I was up until 3:30am ploughing through it.

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TalkTalk want £10 for a 13-month-old bill

I’m putting together my expenses for running the small home office where I do my work. One expense is my phone line. I went to the web-site of TalkTalk, my phone provider, only to find that they won’t show me the older bills unless I pay them £10:

Screenshot from 2013-10-29 12:00:52

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Turn up the volume!

Back in 2005, I won a first-generation iPod Shuffle at a conference for being the most engaged participant or something (i.e. for being a loud-mouth).


The Shuffle is a horrible piece of kit, of course. It has no display, no way to navigate between albums (only track-at-a-time), no EQ, only the crudest battery-state indicator (OK vs. not-OK), and Apple’s appallingly clunky proprietary disk format which means you have to wrestle it to the ground before you can add songs.

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On Stewart Lee and the art of stand-up comedy

In the last week or two, I’ve become obsessed by the comedy of Stewart Lee. He’s an English stand-up comedian, originally famous as half of the Lee and Herring duo in the 1990s, making Fist of Fun and This Morning With Richard Not Judy for television. His career has taken a lot of twists and turns since then, but in the last few years he’s emerged as a unique voice with a series of shows that don’t really resemble anything else I’ve seen.


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Pulled back into PlusNet after all

Well, what do you know? I left the phone ringing as I wrote the last post, and it did get picked up. I got through to a helpful man who was going to send a new MAC key, but managed to get me to explain why I wanted to move.

Beyond simple frustration, PlusNet simply don’t offer the package I need, which is unlimited bandwidth with a static IP address. Well, I was right: that package doesn’t exist. But they do have a package which gives me 120 GB per month rather than the current deal which starts throttling me to death around 30 GB. So for now at least, that’s good enough — it’s past the I Don’t Want To Even Have To Think About How Much Bandwidth I’m Using threshhold. (Because that’s the real issue. It’s 2012: I should not have to think “better not watch that on iPlayer this month, it might push me past the threshhold”.)

Not only that, I can have a static IP address with the 120 GB package for £5 a month, which is fine. It’s actually going to come to significantly less than I am paying now.

So I am staying with them after all.

But here’s the frustrating bit: I only found this out because I phoned. x There is nothing on that admits the existence of a 120 GB deal: it’s a closely guarded secret. Their site only shows 10GB and 60GB deals. And there’s nothing that says you can get a static IP address with either of these deals. In fact the whole site seems coy on the very existence of static IPs: for example, nothing in my account page admits that I have one under my current package.

You only find out that the 120GB deal exists, and that it can have a static IP address, if you phone up and are prepared to wait twenty minutes.

What’s that about?

Trying to escape from PlusNet

I’m trying to change ISP, because my current sorry excuse for an ISP (PlusNet) throttles my connection down to sub-modem speeds towards the end of each month as punishment for using too much bandwidth.

To move away, I need to know my MAC key. This, they will not tell me.

A sequence of four of five times around with the online support system resulted in their flatly refusing to tell me. In the end I had to write them a paper letter.

I did this, and they finally sent me a MAC address. Then other things intervened, and I only now return to that issue, ready to progress it. Now I find that the address they sent me expired after one month.

So I have to go through the whole wretched process again.

This time, rather than writing, I tried phoning the number they gave me. It took nearly two minutes to make my way through the auto-answering system. When I finally did, the automated voice told me that there would be a twenty-minute wait before I could speak to a human.

A twenty-minute wait. To obtain information that they could easily send me online. But won’t.

DEAR PLUSNET. THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO DO CUSTOMER RETENTION. What you need to do is make me want to stay with you, not make it hard for me to leave you. Because I will leave you, but I will do it kicking and screaming.

First Direct: excellent bank but iniquitous cashpoint charge

I’ve been banking with First Direct for something approaching 20 years, and let me say up front that I am very, very happy with them. They don’t charge for current-account activity, they let me link my savings and mortgage, and most amazing of all, their customer service is friendly and efficient. Any time, day or night, I can call them (08456 100 100), they’ll pick up within three or four rings, and I’ll be instantly speaking to a cheerful, knowledgeable human.

Against that very positive backdrop, I have one complaint.

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Dear Vodafone, are you lying thieving cheats, or just incompetent?

My eldest son has a mobile phone, which he uses only for contacting us in emergencies. Happily, he hasn’t needed to use it for for more than six months. Then yesterday he was delayed getting home from school and tried to call us. His phone didn’t work.

At the same time, we were trying to call him. The call didn’t go through, and we were told that the number was invalid.

(He got home safely not long after this, so that’s all right. That’s not the point of the story.)

My wife called Vodafone, the service provider, to ask what had happened. The rep explained that when a Vodafone mobile phone is unused for six months they shut down the account, effectively bricking it, and reassign the number to someone else. (That last bit is evidently untrue, since the number is now invalid rather than going to a different phone.) Shortly before the six months expired, they apparently warned us that this was going to happen: by a text sent to the very phone that wasn’t being used, rather then for example an email or a call to our land line or a letter or frankly any method of communication that didn’t involve the very phone whose lack of use was the reason for the message.

This was a pay-as-you-go phone. I am sure no-one will be too surprised when I tell you that when they closed down the phone they kept the balance in the account.

So what can we do from here? Apparently if our son wants to start using the phone again, he has to get a new SIM card, which of course means that he loses his address book (and anyone who had his number will no longer be able to use it).

So my feeling is that Vodafone should have (A) not bricked the phone at all; or failing that, (B) informed us by some sane method that they were going to do that; or both (C1) not stolen our money, and (C2) not junked the old SIM. In short, is it really too much to ask that they not behave like turds?

You know, the market for service companies that simply aren’t horrible is wide open. It’s not going to hard to win customers’ loyalty when this sort of craptacular behaviour is routine among their competitors.


Dear Network Solutions, are you lying thieving cheats, or just incompetent?

Let’s go through this slowly and carefully, shall we?

After a long, tedious process in which you did not allow me to cancel my domains online, I finally received your email requesting me to confirm what I had told you by phone:

And here is the reply that I sent, 22 minutes later, confirming that yes, I do wish to delete both of the named domains:

This you then confirmed to me, three hours later:

Let me just quote that back to you, in case you didn’t actually read what you said: The domain names PROPERTYTRIANGLE.CO.UK and PROPERTYTRIANGLE.COM have been deleted.

Imagine my surprise, then at finding this notification in my inbox this morning, six weeks later:

So you have stolen $35.98 from me to renew a domain that I cancelled, and whose cancellation you acknowledged six weeks ago.

So I have three questions for you:

  1. Is this the grotesque dishonesty that it appears to be, or is it merely grotesque incompetence?
  2. Will you credit the stolen amount back to my card immediately?
  3. Will you please now actually delete the deleted domains?

Needless to say, I will not be “continuing to give you the opportunity to help me meet my online needs.