The cooker. A true story as I live and breath.
It's December 2007 and the saga has been underway since the beginning of September.
I had been in a very determined mood when I dialled, but the moment I heard the voice I knew I should have put the phone down and started over. 'Customer services,' it intoned with all the warmth of a cold icy November wind, 'how can I be of assistance.'
Instantly, I was tongue tied, spluttering to explain myself as the bad vibes of utter disinterest surged through the ether and threatened to engulf my ordinarly self composed little self. 'I, um, i've been waiting for the best part of three months now for my cooker to be mended. It's getting close to Christmas and we really need both ovens to be working properly as we're having quite a few of the family over for dinner.'
She didn't exactly say 'so what do I care,' but somehow in the seemingly innocuous words, 'do you have a reference number sir,' the attached Attilla managed to convey just that sentiment. And as I waited for what seemed an interminable length of time for her to finish doing her nails, (using the pretext that my case had to be unearthed from the bowels of the computer), I began to seriously ruminate as to whether or not Tescos sold Turkeys small enough to stuff into our microwave.
'We've already been out to you several times,' eventually came the acebric reply. It sounded like an accusation, almost as if I were at fault for having the temerity to be in when the luckless halfwit who purported to be an 'engineer' came, bearing yet again the wrong bloody part. 'Are you sure you've given us the correct serial and model number of your cooker?'
For a moment I paused, garnering strength, then launched into a tale I had told so many times over I had it off pat.
'I have given you the serial and model numbers several times,' I reproofed, hating the noticeably rising whine in my voice as I recounted my misfortunes. ''Unfortunately, the first chap that came said he'd been told it was a faulty boiler and that he didn't really do cookers. I was a bit annoyed because i'd especially taken the day off. Since then, three different engineers have made five different visits. I've got more spare parts for this cooker than you lot have. it really isn't good enough you know.'
It was at that point I realised I'd possibly over egged the pudding somewhat, because the chill wind that was blowing down the telephone became positively arctic at my accusation. 'There's no need to raise your voice sir,' my little call centre cookie snapped. 'I'm not here to take abuse and I am doing my best to assist you, please bear that in mind.'
'I am not raising my voice or abusing you,' I mumbled, cowering in the manner of a whipped cur as I held the phone in an increasingly white knuckled grip and saw my chance of a decent Christmas dinner disappearing like straw in the wind. 'I am simply trying to explain the problem to you. I apologise if I sound a little stressed'
Fortunately for me, this small victory seemed to mollify my young opponent and after several more minutes of idle chit chat during which she completely established her superiority over me, I was finally transferred to her manager. 'Hi there, my name is Chris,' a deeply appealing and wonderfully confident sounding male voice intoned. 'I understand there is a problem with your boiler sir?'
My heart sank when I heard those words, honestly I could hardly believe my ears. 'No, it's my cooker,' I croaked, catching sight of myself in the hall mirror and wondering who the hell the grey faced old man was who I could see staring back at me. 'The hinge on the lid is broken and only one oven functions. I've got a five star service contract with you guys and I want it fixing.'
'Ah, the cooker, yes, yes, I can see that now. Sorry about that sir. Mhh, it's dragged on for quite a time hasn't it.' Chris observed cheerily, his air of confidence literally oozing from the phone as he efficiently arranged yet another engineeers visit for the following Wednesday, (that being the 19th December and perilously close to the big day). 'And I will personally ensure that our engineeer has the correct part. Now, Is there anything else I can do for you today sir?
I admit I was tempted, but gritting my teeth I said my goodbyes and then spent five long torturous days waiting for what was the sixth and hopefully last intrusion into my precious Wednesday afternoons off.
The following Wednesday and sure enough there came a welcoming ring of the doorbell. Afternoon sir,' my night in shining armour intoned, holding aloft his identity card, (he needn't have bothered, because I recognised him instantly as the 'I don't really do cookers' chappie from several weeks past). 'I've come about your cooker.'
'Youve been on a course then have you,' I said, receiving a small frown of reproof for my flippancy as I led the way into the kitchen. 'Well, there it is. I'll leave you to it shall I.'
'Mm, that's fine,' replied my young hero, 'I just need the parts and i'll be done in no time at all.'
At first the words didn't really sink in. I though he meant that he had the parts in his little blue van and was going to nip out and fetch them. But as the seconds ticked by and he continued to stand and look expectantly in my direction, I knew beyond doubt that once again everything had gone tits up and that at best it was going to be a single oven Christmas after all. It was as if my whole life passed before me. I stared, I swallowed, I actually panicked and it took me a good half a minute or more before I could summon up a coherent reply. 'I haven't got the parts. Your supervisor promised me he would make sure you had them,' I finally squawked. 'Why would I have them anyway?'
'I don't know, it's just what they told me. I expect i'd better call in,' my unsavoury saviour mumbled resentfully, his tone reminiscent of call centre cookie's when she had virtually accused me of being the villain of the piece. 'I was told the parts had been delivered here.'
At that point I gave up the good fight and went for a skulk. Hiding in my study in an attempt to cool off, and trying hard not to listen to the low murmurings that were coming from the kitchen because I knew I would only become more depressed than I already was.
It's the manufacturers fault,' the lad triumphantly informed me once I finally plucked up the courage to return and face the inevitable. 'They were supposed to send the parts directly to you. I've ordered them with our own parts department, but the problem is, It's Christmas next week and we might be pushed to get them in time.'
I felt like saying, 'no shit Sherlock, is it Christmas, I hadn't realised,' but I knew it would only serve to make things worse, so with a resigned shrug I summoned up what little self control I had remaining and replied, 'Not to worry, we'll just have to manage with one oven and i'll make sure no-one leaves the gas on by mistake when the lid is down.'
For a long frozen moment there was silence and then I saw the sudden flare of interest in the lads eyes. 'Do you mean that because the hinge is broken, the gas doesn't turn off when the lid is down? I didn't realise that.'
'Yeah, but it's not a problem,' I replied. 'Everyone just has to make sure they turn the gas off. It's what one does anyway isn't it.'
'I'm afraid it's not that simple sir,' came the reply. 'This is a serious safety issue. I'm CORGI registered you know' (the Confederation Of Registered Gormless Idiots, for those of you unfamiliar with the initials). 'It's more than my job is worth to leave this cooker in such a dangerous condition.' he continued, 'I'm afraid i'll have to temporarily disconnect this appliance.'
The look in my eyes said it all I think, because he visibly quailed as I took a pace forward. 'Oh no you bloody won't,' I snarled, and I really was almost incandescent with rage by then. ''If it bothers you that much, just remove the lid. I had my last cooker for over ten years and that didn't even have a flaming lid.'
Believe me, I got absolutely nowhere from then on in. The guy invoked all sorts of dire threats, even to the point of saying he would have the whole house disconnected. Clearly the bit was between his teeth and I truly began to think that nothing short of my disconnecting his head from his shoulders would work. Eventually however and after playing verbal tennis with each other for a good ten minutes, the lad decided he was on something of a sticky wicket and called in his local manager as reinforcement.
I won't bother you with all the gory detail when said manager arrived some half an hour later, but sufficient unto the day to say that we did eventually reach a compromise in the form of a little warning sticker and that we cooked on gas at Christmas after all. Albiet with just a single tiny oven, and a reasonably good time was had by one and all.
As I write this, it is the 26th March 2008 and there have been three more visits since Christmas and only this morning I had a call from a very nice lady asking if I had received the parts as the engineer was due to visit sometime in the afternoon. I told the caller quite sweetly that I hadn't, and Poof! she went away just like that. Maybe it was just my imagination? Perhaps she was really a fairy? I can only say that if the writebuzz five star review system was run in the same unbelievably appalling manner as my so called five star service contract, we'd all be in the shite and probably wouldn't bother!
To be continued folks...............but hopefully not until Christmas 08.
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