Where has my Egg VISA card gone?

Ages ago I signed up for an Egg.com VISA card for a trip to the US. Since then I’ve used it for various random things before signing up for a Natwest VISA and pretty much ignoring the Egg one. At one point I reduced its credit limit to £300 (the lowest it would go) and put it in a box for safe keeping.

I tried to cancel it yesterday, only to discover Barclaycard now appear to have bought Egg’s VISA card system and that I now need to do all my dealings with them. Fair enough, a letter or something might have been nice, but whatever.

Tried to visit Barclaycard’s website to see what’s going on and it seems I should have received a new Barclaycard because my Egg one is now invalid. Well no, I didn’t.

Do you know how impossible it is to get anywhere with Barclaycard’s customer service system if you don’t have one of their cards? The immensely patronising automated phone system explains three times to me about typing in my “long number from the front of the card” or pressing ‘1’ to open an account.

Eventually their system gave up and put me through to a moderately helpful human who was completely unable to find me on their system. Seems I have no account with Egg and no account with Barclaycard.

… then he put me on hold and the line went dead … Oh well, I was bored anyway (have you noticed how when this happens they never call you back? And you never get given any form of ID to contact the same human you had last time?).

If I suffer mind-crushing boredom next week I’ll root around amongst my stuff to see if I can find an Egg card and see if the “long number off the front that starts with 4263” (I know what a credit card number looks like, I’m not a moron!) is magic enough to work on them.

If not, I guess an admin cockup has worked in my favour! That’d majorly suck if this was my proper VISA card I actually used though.

Oh my Orange, you’re not doing too well

My phone’s working now. But to do this I had to

  1. Ring them back and tell them it wasn’t working
  2. Ring back again because their computers weren’t working
  3. Be transferred three times, eventually going back to the ever-helpful “concerns department” back in the UK
  4. And then be put on hold because the previous call centre had my account locked
  5. Then I had to ring the call centre again to link my debit card to my phone for topups
  6. And now the only thing not working is the website stuff – it thinks I still have a contract, and happily informs me that my account is disabled. I did try ringing up about this, but failed to get my point across at all

My phone now has £10.01 in credit, I am on the Dolphin calling plan and have 300 free messages to abuse.

Managing my money, confusing callcentres

Photo from Wikipedia

After looking at the amount of money I throw down the drain every month, and feeling slightly irritated that most of it I have to pay, I’ve been looking at things to chop out or pay slightly differently. After weeding out my council tax, insurance, rent and other things like that number 1 on my list of “whoa that looks a bit expensive” was my mobile phone.

I’m on a contract, it costs me £35 a month including typical call usage and other junk (insurance and an Internet bundle). My family and everyone else I know with a mobile has a pay-as-you-go and it seems to cost them at most £10 a month.

So off I go to ring a certain fruity telecoms company to ask a very straight forward question “How do I switch from contract to PAYG, and will it cost me anything?”. I found their number and encountered their automated system, from which none of the options sounded remotely useful. I opted for “I want to change my billing details, but not my contact details, or payment details, I have another query” and within a few rings got through to a nice human being.

Since this is the modern world with the magic of VOIP, the person I had on the end of my phone was not in the same country as me. I am fairly certain he wasn’t on the same continent as me. I asked my question and he answered it in a pleasing way, informing me it would be free to go from contract to PAYG, and would I like to do this?

Well yes I would, this is so easy and I am happy!

OK, so I have to go on hold and be transferred to the relevant department (probably the bloke in the cubicle next to him). And here’s where spanners start falling into the works. Due to a bit of good old Chinese Whispers and misunderstanding they assumed I had already cancelled my contract, and already had a replacement PAYG SIM, ready to be activated. No, I don’t… I want one, is it still free? Does any of what I’m asking make any sense to you, or have you run off your script and are rapidly ad-libbing into a nasty dark pit of confusion?

Hm? Yes, I can hold again I guess… this is turning into a game, I no longer care if my query gets sorted, I want to see how many people I can talk to. I’m bored with nothing else to do today.

The crappy hold music ends, the line goes silent… and after some confusion an very nice English lady comes on the line. Hurrah! Someone I can speak to in my normal tone of voice, using normal slang, at my normal speaking speed, through a line that doesn’t sound like damp string. I may just get somewhere yet… This callcentre woman was good, she’d obviously been given the freedom to listen to her callers, think a bit, and suggest ideas to help them. She wasn’t a robot reading from a script.

She told me that no, unlike what the other lot had said (she didn’t sound too impressed with them either) it wouldn’t be free, I would have to buy out the end of my contract. So I did, since I have to pay that money even if I choose to give up and remain a loyal, money pissing contract customer. Replacement SIM will arrive within a week and “all” I have to do is ring back and get it activated.

So yeah, I’ll have to go back to the giant chicken farm and hope they can understand my routine request to have a PAYG activated.

A small point to make

Please do not fall under the misunderstanding that I dislike the people in the foreign callcentres that I spoke to originally. I’ve got no problem with them. my problem is with the companies that decide to shunt our calls over to another continent, without deciding whether the idea works socially. I’m English, I speak a certain way, using certain phrases and with an accent. If I was asked to handle calls coming from the other side of the planet I’d probably get things equally confused, mixed up and wrong.

Just because something is technically possible, and will save money, doesn’t mean it’s always socially acceptable. Outsourced, foreign callcentres are just bad bad inventions. It’d be like me teaching my kids by slapping a pile of instructions on their desks and saying “get on with it”. It’d work, but it wouldn’t be very good.