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March 2009 - Get Yourself a Licence

There will be viewers just arriving at this page who've never had the exhilarating experience of an edition of Nick Harvey's Comment before.  There will also be my faithful devotees returning for even more of what they now realise they are addicted to.

To the viewers in both those categories, I wish a very warm welcome.  Indeed, I also wish a warm welcome to viewers from any other category, not included in either of the above.

I suppose my occasional visitors, with only between two and seven editions of Comment under their belts wouldn't quite fit into either category one or category two, so we'll call them members of category three, but I don't think I can think of any other options for viewing Nick Harvey's Comment, so a category four appears not to be required.

There, that should shut the grouchy lady in the fifth row up.  The lady, I use the term loosely, who keeps complaining that I never get round to the welcoming bit till about half way through the whole piece.

Now, having begun already, where should I begin this month?  It's all terrible planned you see.  I have this little list.  Mr Gilbert would be immensely proud of me, to the point where I might even feature in one of his operettas.

The only trouble with my list is that it seems to contain quite a number of completely random subjects, all of which need to be deposited below the lens of the Nick Harvey, Acme Microscope for in-depth analysis on this occasion.

The completely random subjects are, however, somewhat like a miscellaneous collection of bricks.  All the bricks are of completely different shapes and colours and the guy driving the lorry load of cement to connect them all together seems to have gone absent without leave.

It rather reminds me of the type of list you get given by your radio producer, of topics you must cover in your next programme.  None of the topics have any connection with one another, yet you're supposed to cement them together into a wall of sound that will keep your listener interested throughout a whole afternoon.

Which reminds me (warning, convoluted link number one approaching), I was listening to the radio the other day.  On our local station, they do these 'What's Ons' as they call them, where they publicise local events for no reward, just to fill up the little gap between the end of the travel news and beginning of the the next record.

They were advertising this event in some village hall somewhere when I tuned in.  I started to get just a tad interested at first, but then suddenly realised the total and utter pointlessness of the whole operation.  What they were advertising was a Psychic Fair!

I mean, what the heck's the point in advertising a Physic Fair on the radio and telling everybody where its being held, what time it's on and on which day?  They're soddin' psychics for goodness sake!  They already bloomin' well know where it's on, when it's on, and even whether it'll be good enough to bother going along to!

So, having spoken very briefly of radio (yes, number two approaches already), perhaps we should move smoothly on to television?  Well it's television licensing to be precise, but let's not allow minor technicalities to get in the way of a good link!

Harvey Towers received its annual renewal notice from these total incompetents in Bristol on the tenth of February.  On the same evening, I decided to do as they requested and save time and trouble by renewing my licence online and having the new one sent to me by e-mail.

'Save time and trouble' my rear end!  I should have done it the old fashioned way and sent them a cheque in the post.  The whole problem was made all the more annoying by the fact that the story I'm about to report to you is exactly the same as that which happened last year as well.

Something occurring the once I can just about tolerate, but when exactly the same problem is still occurring in exactly the  same way, exactly a year on, then it smells of totally inept management failing to put right errors that they can't possibly deny knowing about.  Stand by madam, there's a rant approaching!

I was quite happy that I'd renewed my television licence because I immediately received an e-mail to thank me for doing so and telling me that "once your transaction has been processed and accepted a new TV Licence will be emailed to you within 3 working days".

This, as I say, was on the tenth of the month.  On the twelfth, they extracted the 139.50 out of my bank account, so it's probably fair to assume that the card transaction had actually been processed by that time.

By the eighteenth of the month, no e-mail had been received at Harvey Towers containing a licence, so I waded through the incredible depths of their convoluted web site to try to find the enquiry form.  Though amazingly difficult to get to, I knew it was in there somewhere because I'd used it last year too.

I rattled off a very firm but very polite missive notifying them of the story so far, together with a note stating that this was the second year running that this had happened and I hoped it wouldn't take until late March again to resolve the matter.  I received an e-mail by return simply confirming receipt of my valued enquiry.

On the following day, the nineteenth, I received a full reply to my enquiry.  You should be aware that my message included the sentences "I waited the 3 working days for my e-mail licence but nothing arrived.  Yes, I have checked my spam folders, etc".  Their reply managed to include the sentence "To view your licence, click on the link in the email you have received".

Talk about the point going straight over their heads at thirty thousand feet!  Exactly which bit of "but nothing arrived" was too difficult for them to understand I wonder?  How the heck can I click on a link in an e-mail that I've never received?  That's the bit that's too difficult for me!

So I rang them on their 0800 328 2020 number.  Yes, that's 0800 328 2020, the free number they don't want you to know about.  They want you to ring them on their 0844, premium rate number, so they can relieve you of even more money while they keep you hanging on for ages.  No thank you, I'll use 0800 328 2020 and let it cost THEM even more money when they deliberately keep me hanging on.

I get through to "L" and explain this year's situation.  I also make mention that the same happened last year.  "L" says she can send me a copy licence in the old fashioned post, but isn't really interested in the fact that I'm reporting a bug in the system and would like that bug fixed before next year.

After much insistence on my part and six or seven whole movements of Beethoven from their music-on-hold player (at great expense to them because I was on the 0800 328 2020 number), I get through to "C", who describes himself as a supervisor, but who can ever know for certain?

"C" is far more determined to give me a lecture on the workings of e-mail than anything else.  Every time I send an e-mail to television licensing, I get a reply, direct into my Inbox, by return.  It is, therefore, a pretty safe bet that my spam filter is NOT discarding everything sent to my address by television licensing!

Although he gets me pretty wound up, I eventually decide against bothering to tell him that, having had my first computer programming course in the middle of the nineteen sixties,  I could probably re-write Microsoft Outlook in machine code, on a Thursday afternoon, while standing on my head.

I ask that he passes my comments, and details of the problem on to his superiors and ask them to respond to my e-mail address (which DOES work) with progress on the bug fix.  This appears to be far too difficult a request for even a 'supervisor', so I suppose I'll just have to settle for a television licence.

I wonder if and when it will arrive?  I'm putting fingers to keyboard pretty darned late in the month again and it hasn't popped through the letterbox as yet, despite it being well over a week since I spoke with "L" and "C".  I have a funny feeling that this saga might continue; I'll report back in a future edition.

Talking of sagas which (yes, link number three approaching) might continue for a while, has anyone else yet had the pleasure of a TescoText?  'Er Indoors got one last week.  Then she got another one a bit later on.

If you have your groceries delivered to your door by those nice people from Tesco, then the plan appears to be, instead of them just agreeing a two hour window during which they might turn up, they'll send you a text indicating just a half hour window during which to expect them.

Last week's text was a bit of a disaster, however.  It arrived on the Wednesday, but the delivery window they were suggesting was on the PREVIOUS Wednesday to the text's arrival.  I'd have thought that just about anyone could precisely predict the time of arrival of a few boxes of groceries a week after the event.  Hardly an exact science, is it?

A little later in the day, however, a further text arrived, apologising for the first one, stating that the system was still being tested and that the first text ought not to have 'escaped' from the system at all.  My my, how sad, what a pity!

I don't think it's going to be much of a success round our neck of the woods in any case.  I understand the details in the text will be based on the route the computer's given to the driver when he leaves his base.

Very few of the drivers in our rural area seem to take any notice of the route they've been told to take.  They re-organise it to avoid lots of the doubling back on themselves that the computer has designed in; and in the process they save huge amounts of diesel for Tesco and the planet.  With their system they often end up ringing to ask us if we'd mind the delivery being earlier than we ordered, rather than it ever getting late.

We'll have to see how this TescoText lark pans out when, and if, it finally goes live.  Not being much into texts anyway, I'm not sure if I really care.  I will keep you all posted on it though.

Well, having been a tad less than confident up there at the top of the page, I seem to have managed to link everything together fairly well in the end, don't I?  Added to which, I was expecting this month's edition to be a somewhat shorter one, but I seem to have rambled on and on and on pretty well.

There'll be more rambling, no doubt, promptly on April the first, if you'd care to join me again then.  Make sure you're not late, or I'll have to call you a fool.  Right, I'm off, where's me little licence?

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