One of my other hats is Secretary to an Out of School Club. To save funds we decided to get rid of our BT land line and just use a cheap mobile phone on Pay as You Go. Our manager rang BT up to cancel our line, failed, and asked me if I'd have a go. "No problem", I confidently, and wrongly, answered.
First I rang the 0800 number on our bill. The automated answer system didn't have cancellations among its numerous options, so I aimed for the nearest one (getting new facilities on your line), and got straight through to an operator. He was not happy to speak to me about cancelling. We don't handle that here; you need to ring 0800 800 871. I did, and a polite voice thanked me for ringing BT but informed me that the number was no longer in use. I should ring 0800 800 152 instead.
Apart from the annoyance of being given a wrong number by someone whose job is to help BT customers (even outgoing ones?), would it have killed BT to automatically redirect me? I mean, they should have access to this advanced technology, what with them being a phone company.
By now realising why I had ended up with this job, I rang the new number. I had to negotiate with a voice recognition program, but we established that I wanted to cancel my line and I was put into a queue. Turned out they were 'exceptionally busy', but if I held on long enough, hell would eventually freeze over and someone would talk to me. I gave up after ten minutes.
The next day I tried again, this time having taken the precaution of emptying my bladder first in anticipation of a long wait. I was not to be disappointed. Twenty minutes this time, before the phone against my ear got so hot I gave up from the sheer discomfort. I really find it hard to imagine that there were so many people queuing that long in front of me; nobody at the other end sounded much more likely. I decided to ring again, but this time to request changing my direct debit details (from having one to not having one). The cursed automated system got the better of me: it wanted me to key in the new direct debit amount without reference to a human operator.
Back to the original sales number: two rings and I was through to a human being. Without giving him time to start his spiel, I told him my story of woe and begged for assistance. Now for the happy ending: although BT as a company seems to have little respect for its customers, its staff are made of better stuff. In a few minutes the cancellation was in progress, and I even had a ten digit reference number to take home.
Of course, it could all still go pair-shaped, sending me back to square one, and the overall experience has left a bad taste in my mouth. BT don't provide an address you can write to, their web site doesn't mention cancellations, and the phone number they provide for this doesn't seem to be staffed. You could almost imagine ...