I don’t usually use this site to air my personal problems, (aside from the mental ones,) but I thought this would be beneficial knowledge to the five or six people who frequent my blog and might be considering getting or switching to Sky since, if you’re anything like me, you get a fucking letter from them every other day of the week.
Four years ago, I signed up for Sky’s phone, television and internet package. Three and a half years ago, I received Sky’s phone, television and internet package. You see, the first problem arose when they sent engineers round to install the box and dish only to discover that –despite telling them I lived on the third floor– they didn’t bring a tall enough ladder to install the dish.
Better still, they wanted an extra sixty quid to install the dish now, because they were going into the attic and apparently their insurance doesn’t cover dusty boxes or potential poltergeist altercations. I’m intimidated by people with tool belts, though, so I paid the extra money and, a week later they returned to install the dish and BAM: We had a working Sky box.
Well, when I say ‘working,’ I mean that it turned on when you plugged it in at the wall. As for receiving the television channels we were now paying for, we were only receiving the basic Freeview channels through the box, (i.e. none of the Sky channels or any of the other reasons you wouldn’t just buy a Freeview box).
Maybe it was the cynic in me, but something told me that this wasn’t right. I phoned customer support and thus embarked upon a an odyssey of stupidity, beginning when I was told, in elated tones: ‘oh that’s a simple fix, you just need to validate your viewing card.’
Of course. I mean, I would have expected the installation crew whom I’ve just paid for a ‘free installation’ would have done that for me, but I guess one of them really did see a ghost up in the attic because as soon as the dish was stapled to the wall they were like dust in the wind.
This is where things started to get good though because, when I asked the tech support how I could validate my card, I got this response:
‘Well you’ll need a working phone line to get that done.’
‘Can you send someone out to activate the phone line then, like you said you would?’
‘We can’t book you an engineer until your viewing card has been activated.’
‘But you said I can’t do that without a phone line.’
‘That is correct.’
‘But I…You…Okay, well how about internet? Can I have the internet, please?’
‘Unfortunately, sir, we can’t set up your internet account until you have a phone line installed.’
‘Can I have a phoneline?’
‘You would need to activate your viewing card.’
I had that same conversation with at least three different people at Sky, over the course of an hour, and every time I pointed out the logical vortex they had dragged us into, they would blame it on another department and transfer me there where a new customer support technician would repeat the process until eventually someone offered to remotely validate my viewing card…for fifty quid.
Not keen to spend any more money on what was supposed to be a free installation, I said I’d call back and, after several weeks of the same conversation, I finally got hold of someone who was willing to activate the card for free. So, what, does Sky operate some sort of weird bonus scheme where, if you can trick customers into paying for shit that’s supposed to be free, that’s money straight in your pocket?
Whatever, we finally had telly, two months later than we were supposed to; now we just had to sort out the internet. After waiting on hold and being transferred several more times I finally got dumped at the internet department, who immediately put me on hold while I was transferred to their phone services department who told me they could book an engineer to activate the phoneline. In two weeks.
Fucking…I….Ughh, whatever, just do it. Two weeks later we had a phoneline and a month after that we had the internet.
Then, six months later, we decided to move flat and Sky were more than happy to transfer our services to the new flat, for the princely sum of £150. To be fair, we were going to need a new dish so I squared that one away with myself. Once again, though, we were told it would be at least a month before an engineer could be sent out to activate our phoneline but, since there was no other choice, we had to eat that shit sandwich and take it. When I pressed for a time of arrival on the agreed date, I was told: ‘sometime between early morning and late afternoon.’
Basically any point in a working day, then?
That kind of bullshit isn’t unique to Sky though, so I’m not really calling them out on that, the real fun was that, after sitting in the house all day waiting for an engineer to arrive, I eventually got through to the brain trust at customer service, explained my situation and was told, ‘oh your phoneline is already active.’ I don’t know if this meant that it had been active all along, or that the engineer was able to activate it without accessing the flat, but either way I’d been kept waiting in the flat literally all day for no fucking reason.
Luckily for Sky, I was so delirious from lack of internet by the time they re-connected the broadband that I didn’t care about all their bullshit anymore and, for two years we enjoyed a consistent, (albeit slow as fuck,) internet service. The TV wasn’t bad, either, at least up until the box bricked itself a few months ago and, upon researching the issue online, I discovered that Sky released a firmware update that has been frequently causing older boxes to become irreparably damaged.
Given that our box was now three years old, and well out of warranty, I decided that it was probably time for a change. Stephen Fry and David Tenant had both told me good things about Virgin and, honestly, I trust Richard Branson’s face, so we decided to make the switch, which coincided nicely with us moving flat.
Now that I was well aware of all the hidden line activation costs companies preferred not to mention when offering free installations, I decided that the best course of action would be to have Sky transfer our phoneline to the new flat (a service they astoundingly don’t charge for) and then cancel the service and let Virgin take care of the transition.
This was to be Sky’s final masterstroke of retarded genius, as yet another customer service rep explained to me that I could cancel the telly right away, but I could book the engineer to transfer our line then cancel the internet in two weeks because that needed less notice for some reason. To be honest, reading that back I have no idea how that course of action fitted in with my plan, but because it was free I agreed and was told the earliest they could get us an engineer was in five weeks time. Again, backed into a corner, I had no choice but to agree.
It was at this point that Dan actually decided to look up Virgin’s deals and discovered that all of their installations are absolutely free, and that I am a bit of a tit. As the cherry on the cake, too, Virgin were able to get us fully kitted out in a fortnight, leading me to wonder what exactly it is Sky’s engineers do that keeps them so fucking busy, all the time.
This left me in the unenviable position of phoning up to cancel the engineer, which resulted in the following conversation:
‘Hi I booked an engineer but now I don’t need one so just cancel that, thanks. Also, cancel my internet, please.’
‘That’s fine, since you cancelled the engineer well in advance there won’t be a charge, but…I can’t cancel your internet because your account has already been closed.’
Closed, already? Surely a member of Sky’s reputable customer service team hasn’t made an error. I pressed for details:
‘Are you sure the account is closed? Well, if that’s the case, then can you just cancel the engineer, please?’
‘I’m afraid not, since your account has been closed, I can’t get into it to cancel the engineer. You’ll have to call back in a week when your account is off the system to cancel the visit.’
So, in short, Sky had somehow allowed me to book an engineer to install a phoneline for an account that didn’t exist anymore, and now couldn’t cancel that booking because the account had been closed. Who the fuck is in charge of this department, M.C. Escher?
In the end, Dan phoned up a week later and, after twenty minutes, managed to cancel the engineer visit; we got Virgin installed on time and without any problems with ladders and everything was good.
Until today, when I got a call from a BT Engineer telling me he was here to activate a phoneline on behalf of Sky.
God dammit, Sky.