Monday, April 14, 2008

Adverts Are Good For Your Health.

I need to vent. Actually I need to explode but venting might help a bit as my doctor doesn't recommend that I explode on a Monday. Bad for his image or something. Fridays are better exploding days it seems.

So what do I need to vent about this time ?

TV Licences. Gotta love them. Gotta have one.

Let me quickly explain this for non UK readers. Every household in the UK that has a tv set needs a tv licence to be able to watch it legally. The money raised from this digital highway robbery allows the BBC to broadcast its top notch, quality shows free of adverts and so the blame for them giving us "Eastenders" and "The Kids Are All Right" is down to licence payers like me. I accept my part in all this and hang my head in shame.

Ok. At the end of September last year, I was following my list of things to do before going to Florida for 6 months and got to the tv licence entry. I rang them and said I was leaving the country and to please cancel my monthly Direct Debit for my licence as no one would be watching tv at this address......honest. Fine they said. They'd cancel it at their end and they advised me to do the same at mine. Have a lovely winter in Florida, you lucky lucky bastard.

They didn't actually say that exactly. They didn't say Florida.


Ah if only.

I came back 2 weeks ago to find, amongst 6 months of mail, no less than 5 'threatening' letters from them saying that according to their records, this address had no tv licence and woe betide me. The first 3 letters went up on a scale of threats about what they'd do to me if I didn't do something about this treasonous situation - including sending some heavies around to sort me out. With a pair of false legs I'd imagine.

The 4th letter was more worrying to me as it HAD been delivered by someone who HAD come to my door to find out why I didn't have a licence. No envelope, just a document with the date and time and these words across the top "And You Thought We Wouldn't Call." Honest.

Nice sentiments.

The 5th letter was back to the normal threats of a fine and possible lockup in The Bloody Tower if I didn't get a licence asap.

I had arrived back on a Friday so had to wait over that first weekend before ringing them on the Monday......somewhat irate. To cut a long post short, I was told by happy laughing tv licence man that there wasn't a problem in the world and I could ignore these letters.

IGNORE THEM !!! I had 5 of them. Dammit I had someone come to my house with one !! Ignore them indeed. I asked if my call was being recorded for training purposes ? Yes it will be he said. Good I said, as you are the most useless people this side of an Indian Call Centre and you certainly NEED some training.

It seems that their policy, which they'll defend to the death, is that they regularly send out these letters to every household in the UK that doesn't have a tv licence. Some houses might be empty. Some houses might be occupied but there is no tv. Some houses might have been demolished 15 years ago to build the M25 but they don't care. No tv licence ? Send them a letter.

How much is this blanket overkill costing us tv licence payers in postage alone ?

Of course why should I care as according to them, I'm not a licence payer anyway !!

Get this : I was told that the clue to knowing when to ignore these letters is if they start "Dear Occupier" as that means they don't really mean what they say in them and you can ignore them. No name equates to no problem in tv licensing speak.

So after finding out that my phone call wouldn't change their policy on this matter (so much for the power of the licence payer) I gave the customer service fella a very loud 'tut' and meekly said I'd like to start up my Direct Debit again. Pretty please. If it's ok with the BBC ?


Ahhh if only.

That was 2 weeks ago and last Saturday I received another mail from them. I really thought it was my new licence so I didn't open the envelope till just before going to bed. Big mistake. I shouldn't have opened it at all.

It wasn't my licence but another letter and this time it was personal ! Well it had my name at the top so yes, it was personal. And by their own rules, I couldn't ignore it. Remember ?

It stated that "we recently wrote to inform you that we were unable to take further payments for your tv licence because your direct debit plan had been cancelled. As we have not heard from you, your tv licence has been cancelled from the date of this letter. Therefore, this address is now unlicensed" And so on. There followed more threats of action to be taken if I didn't sort this out.

As this was their first letter to me since my return, I'm not sure where the 'recently wrote to inform you' bit came from !

So I had all day Sunday to fume about this and was on the phone to them this morning. Well this afternoon actually as I thought I'd let the level of calls from other Monday morning irate callers go down. I got cheery customer services lady this time and once I'd established that the call was being recorded (which for some reason stopped her being quite so cheery and changed her into much more defensive customer services lady) I laid in full guns blazing. She took it for a while and then calmly asked me for my licence number.

The lava almost blew a hole in my living room ceiling. My licence number ? You people keep telling me I haven't got a %^&*$£ licence, never mind a $%^&* licence number. (I'm sure they've heard worse language but it should make for an excellent training call. I'm thoughtful that way).

I gave her the number mentioned on the letter and after a few key strokes she said "oh you can ignore the letter as everything is fine and you are licensed and it'll be in the post to you shortly."

More lava was bubbling out by now but I tried to remain calm.

"Ignore the letter, you say. Even though it has my name on it this time and is very specific about what's going on and tells me to NOT ignore the letter in the body of the text" ?

"Yes, ignore the letter. It's just a cross over letter and you ARE licensed and so everything is lovely in the world of La-La".

The mountain erupted big time. She got the full force face on. Everytime I paused for breath, which wasn't often, I could hear her going into Indian Call Centre mode and repeating that I WAS licensed and to ignore the letter. I think she'd gone for a fag break and left a tape recorder on continuous loop mode.

I paused. Nothing. Not a sound.

"Are you there ?" "Yes."

"So.....I've got a licence then ?" "Yes."

"Thank you."

I'd like to say I at least slammed down the phone but modern phone design doesn't allow for that pleasure anymore. But I can report that I pressed the 'end call' button really quite firmly indeed. It would've impressed the hell out of call centre lady if she'd seen it and reinforced the idea, now firmly planted in her mind, that I wasn't someone to be trifled with. Oh no.

So I'll let you know when the next letter arrives, because as sure as baked beans makes you fart, one will arrive any day now.

I'm really not sure it's all worth it just to watch Eastenders without adverts. In it's case, they'd really add to the viewing enjoyment.

But I've worked out how to get my revenge. When my licence does arrive and I'm sure I'm legal, I'm just going to stop watching BBC programs. Brilliant. And there is nothing they can do.


I love beating the system.


Daphne said...

I think I would probably vote for any politician who banned the letter headlined "And You Thought We Wouldn't Call". I think I'm not easily offended - and I'm not by many things that other people find offensive,- but oh boy! That was offensive!

Jennyta said...

Your post made me laugh, Ian although I'm sure the events didn't have the same effect on you, but imagine someone old and vulnerable being subjected to all these pompous threats and I notice you didn't get an apology from 'happy lady' - that's another thing they seem to be told in their training. Never, under any circumstances apologise or admit that you've made a mistake. Hmm, I'm just as irate myself now. Going to have a coffee to calm down.;)

Debby said...

I'm taking a break from packing up said home in Florida and thanks to you, had a great laugh. Hello? I am still on the line!

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