Sky’s The Limit

Our recent move has brought me directly and painfully into contact with some of the less (and least) desireable aspects of living in the UK – despite my background in working with large companies on matters of organisation and intelligence (ie, trying to encourage them to develop some) I do try to retain – in the face of all evidence to the contrary – a cheerful and entirely naive optimism about stuff getting done when people say they’re going to do it. Silly me. This time the culprit is Sky. The Glen doesn’t have any form of terrestrial TV coverage, so satellite is in fact our only option.

So, in mid-November I called Sky to arrange an installation at our new pad. They gave me a date of 29 November, about a week after we moved in, which was mildly irritating, but vaguely acceptable. I made it clear to them that the installation is on the chimney breast of our house, so they’ll need a “heights team” – I’ve played this game before. This is noted.

On the 29th, no engineer appears and no attempt is made to contact us. The following day I rebook the visit for 2nd (or thereabouts) of December. Guess what? Another no-show and no contact made. When I call to complain, I’m told that the installation team “couldn’t find” us. The simple fact that our house is shown and named on most maps published in the last 200 years and that following the postcode leads pretty much straight to our door seemed to carry no weight. I rebook a visit for the 6th-ish of December.

This time I’m phoned on the morning by the engineer (as they should) and he duly turns up. Only to look a touch crestfallen – he’s not equipped for heights: no-one has informed him that it’s a high job. He goes away. I rebook for 11 December, emphasising once again that the installation is on a chimney breast.

On the appointed day, Terence the Taciturn and his spotty assistant, Wilf the Weasel, turn up. They have ladders, equipment and an attitude. The attitude is one of deeply ingrained and uncaringly surly incompetence – they really don’t give a flying f**k about the job they do: they leave rubbish everywhere, the packaging is scattered all over our courtyard and the cables from the dish are left hanging like overcooked spaghetti, apart from where it’s been pulled as tight as a bowstring around our guttering. They are about to leave when I spot this and ask them if they’d please redo the cabling? They simply ignore me and start their vehicle. I’ve been slightly expecting some such response, so at this point I reverse my car across the exit from the courtyard and refuse to move it until they actually redo the job. Once they’ve departed, muttering darkly in Orcish, I find that one of the two feeds simply isn’t working. Some time later, I notice that they’ve crushed one side of the dish during installation.

I phone up to book a fix. I tell them that it’s a “heights” job. This is noted. On the 21st December, the engineer who turns up is, entirely not surprisingly by now, not equipped for heights. Showing great restraint, I call Sky without bringing their ancestry into question and ask for a new job with a heights team. This is now not available until the 6th January. Composure is slightly mislaid at this point.

On 6th January, the installers turn up and get both feeds working. Hurrah. They leave. From that point on the quality of our signal progressively degrades. By the 19th January we’ve lost lock on one feed entirely; by the 21st, there is no signal whatsoever on either feed. And season 6 of 24 has just started. I phone up again: I’m promised (and not for the first time) a refund of installation charges and my subscription. I’m also promised a call back that evening. No call is received. A note en passant: I’ve lost track of the number of unreturned phone calls and failures to escalate or action promises made by Sky staff.

On the evening of the 22nd January I call again: the person I speak to can only find records of two bookings against our account: so much for record keeping at Sky. He tells me that they can’t get installers out to us until the 8th February – more composure is lost. Words are said. So I’m now waiting for some sort of escalation. But I’m not holding my breath.

We’ve now serious run-ins with the corporate incompetence and lack of care by all the major utilities save Scottish Water (who, funnily enough, are public owned). I now KNOW that I have more direct experience of Dumbocracy than may actually be necessary for a single lifetime and am feeling a little like that poor ant that gets stomped on in practically every Buddhist parable. Even above the cost of doing anything in this little island, it’s the overwhelming and institutionalised incompetence and lack of care in British service organisations that really gets to me. Goodness knows what we’ve got to come when we start the renovation.

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