Thursday 23 February 2012


It should have been a fairly simple process - after all, I had done it countless times before. Giving an estimated reading for the gas and paying. When I picked up the post I noticed a letter from ACME Gas entitled "It’s time for your next bill", informing me I hadn't given them a reading and so they were going to take a sum they whipped off the top of their head "based on the value of the energy we think you'll use in a year divided by four".

Bearing in mind that meter readings have become a nightmare since they changed my account number, I have not been able to make them understand. I have left automated readings which have been ignored and have tried to give readings that have only half happened (being both electric and gas with ACME). It’s enough to make you steam.

So what was this about, I thought? Still, may as well give them a call and leave yet another reading.

"Tell us your account number using your telephone keypad,” intoned a bored recorded voice.


"I'm sorry, we didn't get that."


Try again.

"Now give us your meter reading from left to right ignoring any numbers in red and to the right of a decimal point"


"I'm sorry, I didn't get that."


"I'm sorry, I didn't get that."


"I heard 4567, is that correct?"


"I'm sorry, I didn't get that".

"YESSSSS!" I bellowed.

I think that with this voice automated system, it is merely on speaker phone in a crowded office providing amusement for the workers who are busy doing other jobs like trying to sell people services they don't want.

"Listen to that guy going ballistic on the phone hur hur hur hur, can't wait to play it to my co-workers at coffee time".

"Would you like tickets to the football?" No, I want lower prices.

"Vouchers?" No, I want better service - why not hire some extra staff you cheapskates?

"Discount weekend breaks in hundreds of hotels?" You are just not getting this. Do the job for crying out loud! I want to give you a gas reading and pay a bill. I don't want to go to Benbecula to stay in a Yurt!

By now I was beginning to fume.

I tried again typing in the meter reading.


"I'm sorry, we can't process your reading at this time."


So I tried remaining silent, hoping I would get a human.

"If you haven't got your account number to hand, say ‘I don't have it.’"

"I don't have it."

“I'm sorry?”

"I DON'T HAVE IT!" I raged.

Bet they were howling and clutching each other for support in the office by now, overhearing this gradual meltdown by the umpteenth customer of the day.

"Please hold and we'll connect you to one of our advisers"

Cue endlessly wiffly music of some sort. I don't know about you, but every time the tune ends I expect someone to answer. When they don't it’s another slap in the face and I die a little more.

Having tried to give them a reading four or five times using their automated system, surely there must be someone at the other end of this phone?

"We are experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic at this time. Please hold or try again later."

Cue several more wiffly tunes.

"We are experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic at this time. Please hold or try again later."

Every so often there would be an exhortation to try using their website. I was beginning to think that they were doing this on purpose so that eventually all transactions would be via the web so they could sack the twenty remaining staff they have whose job it is to service the needs of eleven million customers.

Cue more wiffly music.

Suddenly the music stopped... at last... I could get this sorted out once and for all.


"Click Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"!


Spiderbadger said...

#1 to look like an idiot.
#2 to talk to a Spiritual Advisor
#3 to waste 13 minutes of your time
#4 to Order Bengali take-away

Or alternatively, Hold, (Your Breath) to turn Blue an lapse into Unconciousness....

Slyppery Syd said...

The automated system is obviously programmed by teenagers who have lost their ability to speak! Next time, try grunting or mumbling!
Alex, all you have to do is take a photograph of the offending meter and post it to them along with relevant details! Simple hey?
That will spoil their fun, he he.

Ron said...

Even easier - they must have a facility for submitting readings online - do it that way. (I feel a sense of deja vue: have we not had this problem/discussion before?)