So, the New Year came, and with it an Orange mobile bill for £317.54.
As a matter of fact, horrendous though this bill is, it was not unexpected. When I was in America for two weeks, I rang the Communist for a short chat every day for the first week and a half, until he got ill and was taken into hospital. Then Olli got ill with the same thing - and I thought Olli might end up in hospital too, so bad was the coughing - and then my mother got it and was more ill than she's been for thirty years or so - but, because she's very fit for an eighty-four-year-old, she recovered in a couple of weeks. Her illness got rather neglected, I'm afraid, because of the Communist's death.
So, because of all this, I had made - and received - a lot of phone calls from America and I knew that the bill would be huge. I don't regret making any of the calls, particularly the ones to the Communist - and my last proper conversation with him was at the Kennedy Space Centre, which he would have loved, so I'm really glad that I rang him then.
But what concerned me that there was no breakdown of charges at all on the bill - just "Total charges for this invoice" and the amount: and it's paid by direct debit.
So I thought I'd query it.
No phone number to ring on the bill itself, oh no, far too easy!
So I looked on their website which is www.orange.co.uk and I looked at Help and Support and finally I found a phone number and, from my mobile, it is 150.
I tried to ring them. They made me press lots of buttons and then asked me to type in my password.
Since I have no idea what the password is, I tried DIE YOU BASTARDS. It didn't work.
The thing is, because you can't have a mobile phone account in joint names - or couldn't when we set it up - it's in Stephen's name. But that's just because they happened to say MR AND MRS and MR comes first so that's the name it's in.
Of course, part of the bill above is Stephen's calls: it wasn't just me, oh no. Since I know you're anxious to find out, the call charges for the same period on his phone are 27p. Clearly there's more than a little truth in Olli's introductory line to friends "This is my dad. He never speaks. Don't worry about it."
Anyway, if there ever WAS a password, Stephen will have set it and I don't know it and I wasn't going to ring him at work because I know he's really busy today.
So I thought I'd email Orange with my query.
All went well until I got to this:To keep your account details secure, we aren't able to answer account-specific questions by email.
I sent them an email anyway, along the lines of "if, by any chance, I happened to have an account with Orange, though I'm not saying that I have, obviously, in case that's too account-specific for you, why might you have sent me a non-itemised bill after several years of itemised bills?"
I have as yet only received a standard reply saying we'll deal with it but only if it's non-specific.
Then I tried to ring them again.
This time I rang them from a landline - the Customer Services number, in case it interests you, is 07973100150 - and when it asked for the password, I didn't even try to enter one - I just pressed the hash key a few times and it got me a ringing phone! Wooohooo! And then I just had to listen to Noddy Holder singing Merry Christmas Everybody
for about twenty minutes and finally someone answered.
I asked her why they had suddenly sent a non-itemised bill. She asked whose name the phone is in and I said it was in my husband's name. She said she couldn't really discuss it with me in that case, because of security: and I said that since I'd just bypassed Orange's top-secret password security by the simple means of pressing the hash key a few times, I didn't think it would do any harm, and I had the bill in front of me, and could she please have a look to see what was going on?
She pressed a few buttons and then said,
"Well, it looks as though the system has done a sweep and decided to send you non-itemised bills from now on."
Aha! I knew where I was now - - in Customer Services Roleplay Territory, like the kind they use for training purposes: and Mark, who is an actor who used to be in the agency I work for, once told me that you can do any customer services roleplay by just saying "Like how d'you mean?" in response to everything.
"Like how d'you mean?"
"Well, it's because it's an old contract."
"Like how d'you mean?"
"Because you've had it longer than a couple of years the system has done a sweep and decided to send you non-itemised bills from now on."
Time for the other Customer Services Roleplay Question. "Why?"
"Well, that's just what it does. I don't know why. But I'll send you an itemised bill for December and ask it to put you back on itemised billing. And it'll show a charge of £3 but I'll take that charge off as well so it will show MINUS £3 at the bottom."
I couldn't be bothered to ask WHY to that one.
Un-non-itemise my bill.
Unbreak my heart, Orange.