Thursday, 20 October 2011

A (tv) licence to kill your patience

It has often been said that I’m not the easiest person to get a hold of.

As I am often flitting in and out of my office or attending meetings and events (and I’m certainly not one of those people who has their mobile phone surgically attached to his body) I have been told that getting hold of me can be difficult at times. But, compared to one leading agency I’ve encountered this week, I’m as easy to contact as if I stood in Milsom Street with a sandwich board reading ‘Here I am, come and talk to me.’

I’m in the process of helping with a house move which has involved contacting all kinds of different people to change direct debits, addresses etc. etc. By and large it has been a successful, comfortable venture – until that is I came up against the seemingly humble TV Licensing people.

The first thing I did to try and make changes was to look up the TV Licensing agency on the internet to find a telephone number to call them. However, this was my first mistake.

If you want to find a number may I suggest that you don’t go on their website because no matter how hard I looked I could not find one. And no, none of the questions I wanted could be answered by their “sample questions” (i.e. the-save-us-having-to-talk-to-you-section) and I didn’t want to be engaged in an email exchange. All I wanted was to speak to a normal, functioning human being.

With the website alone you had no chance.

So, I Googled ‘TV Licensing phone number’ and was directed to three different companies that all wanted to charge me quite a lot of money to talk to them. Eventually, I did track down a free (?) number because someone who was obviously equally frustrated had asked one of those online questions sites how to do it and so I rang this number and hoped this would be the end of the problem.

As if.

I had committed the cardinal sin of not having my TV licence number to hand and so therefore every time I tried to get through the Berlin Wall of recorded messages before I got within touching distance of an actual homosapien I was met by a very nice voice informing me that they “didn’t understand what I wanted to do”. I stood my ground for seemingly ages before eventually being redirected to another set of options, which in turn led to another set of options and then a final set of options before I finally got to speak to, yes, a human being.

Sorted? Well, no.

This gentleman, although very helpful, couldn’t do what I needed over the phone and suggested I went to the website instead (no!!!) or wrote a letter.

So later in the day having finally unearthed my TV license I caved in and went back on the oh-so-helpful website again and despite all my hopes that this would be the end of the story, the site kept informing me that amidst all the information I had correctly keyed in there had been a mistake. I then  retried loads of times before eventually being informed I could do no more as my application was now in process. So no mistake then at my end after all - but as I wrote this I still don't know if the simple changes I needed to make have gone through.  Result? Utter frustration.

What all this told me (apart from the fact that the TV Licensing’s cuddly ads about how easy it is to sign up to enjoy the Beeb is funnier than most of their comedy output) is that you really cannot beat the simple system of ringing someone up and talking to them directly. Virtually all the other agencies/utilities I’ve dealt with do it – why can’t they all realise it is the only way?

Oh well, I suppose I could just try living without a TV and radio. But how on earth could I ring to tell the licensing people I wanted out?

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