Turkey’s Off / The Perils of Staff Error

Having frequented public houses for a vast portion of my adult life (and a fair amount of my pre-adult life – shhh, don’t tell my parents), I’ve learned that customer service in such establishments can be somewhat hit or miss. Either they treat you like a member of royalty and refuse to let you lift a finger or put a single hair on your precious head out of place, or they mistreat you so badly you end up thinking a day trip to Hades might have been a more pleasant experience. Staff rudeness is my primary bugbear, closely followed by lackadaisical service. But today I experienced a third category of crap service before I’d even set foot into the pub in question: The perils of staff error.

Several weeks ago I thought it might be nice to organise Christmas dinner in a pub for a big group of friends – a group of forty, to be exact (I don’t like to make things easy for myself). Having scoped the idea out it seemed to be a winner, so I went ahead with choosing a suitably traditional north London boozer and signing people up. Once the numbers were confirmed I sent the festive menu around with instructions for everyone to place their food orders and pay fifty per cent of the cost into my bank account a week in advance by way of a deposit.

So far so (Christmas) gravy, right? Wrong – because this afternoon I picked up a frantic sounding email from the pub asking me to contact them right away. Fearing the worst I did as asked, and once they’d reassured me the dining room itself (which we’d exclusively reserved for the occasion) was still reserved and I’d breathed a sigh of relief they dropped the bombshell – that the festive menu didn’t actually start until three days after our ‘festive’ lunch. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be decorating the pub for Christmas until the evening of the day we were due to dine there (although they did make the noble concession of promising us crackers – hmm). So here we are with an exclusively reserved dining room entirely devoid of decorations bar a handful of Christmas crackers, and a menu about as Christmassy as a Cadbury’s Crème Egg (although as I write this it’s now looking as if Christmas pudding may be back on the menu – hallelujah).

Still, I appreciate these are first world problems and we shouldn’t complain. The Spirit of Christmas is about far more than tinsel and turkey and, unlike many thousands of people across the world who are battling deadly storms, erupting volcanoes and open warfare, we will be safe and warm with good food and great company – and no amount of turkey could compensate for that.

Customer service? You must be joking

Having recently become aware of the existence of 0% balance transfer credit cards (yes, I know, I have apparently been living in a cave for most of my adult life) I decided (obviously) to apply for one. After doing my research (thanks Money Saving Expert) it seemed the Royal Bank of Scotland’s 24 month 0% transfer card was the one for me. I duly went online to apply. Halfway through the balance transfer process, however, my computer crashed, and so I thought I’d wait for the card to arrive before trying again. Two weeks later the card still hadn’t arrived, and when I called to find out why it transpired there had been a problem with Royal Mail (naturally) and it had been returned to sender. They dispatched another card, which did arrive. All well and good.

Fast forward to this morning, when I called the Bank of Scotland to arrange the balance transfer. The woman in the activation team was very friendly and took all of my details before transferring me to a man in the balance transfer team. He was very friendly too, until he got to the final screen and saw an error message on my account. I explained the issues I’d had with the computer crashing when I initially applied and then the first card being sent back. He informed me he would have to transfer me to another team who would be able to unblock the card and complete the transfer. The next lady was very friendly too. She talked me through all of the same details and security questions, reassuring me she would absolutely be able to help – until she too came up against a block on the final screen. Cue five minutes on hold as she talked to yet another specialist team to try to remove the block. THIRTY FIVE MINUTES after I called the premium rate number, about two seconds before my brain exploded from the ear-bleed-instigating hold music, she informed me they couldn’t remove the block and, essentially, were unable to help me.

Clearly after wasting over half an hour on the phone to these cretins I was not going to take this lying down, and nor did I. When this fact became obvious to the woman on the end of the line she duly transferred me to another team (what a wonderful chance to further improve my social skills, thought I!), who tried to appease me by offering to refund the cost of the call. Eventually, after further perseverance, I was transferred to the fraud department, who asked me all the same questions I’d already been asked plus another set to make sure I was who I was claiming to be. Finally (finally!) I was told the block had been removed, and I was free to arrange the transfer – except it couldn’t be done on this call because it would take a further fifteen minutes to action the request to remove the block so COULD I CALL BACK?????

In truth I’ve been so traumatised by the experience that yet another day has passed transfer-less. Now I know how footballers feel…