Madness. Madness, I tell you.

These mobile phone things - they can be expensive. Mine has certainly become so. I used to scorn people who informed me that the greater part of their expenditure was on text messages, yet lately I have become one of them. To the tune of twenty squid a month. No, I don’t know how, but my measly allowance of 25 inclusive texts per month disappears very rapidly. I’ve looked at the O2 bolt-on thing, and shopped around, and come to the depressing realisation that it will be cheaper for me to get one of their web-only tariffs (500 of the little things, you see) and pay out my old contract alongside it than it would be to stick it out over my minimum term. There’s something essentially unjust about that. There is madness enough in that, you may think.

But wait! I attempt to order up a nice shiny new phone (an Ericsson T610, no less) with a nice cheap tariff, and stall at the order page. Credit check, blah blah, addresses, blah blah, postcodes, etc. Bung in my postcode and house number, machine goes and looks up the fact that I live in a flat - “Please select your address from the available options.” Yup, used this before, how the credit reference people deal with the fact that everyone expresses their flat number differently. Fine.

I live in a building with six flats. There’s only three on that list. None of them are mine. Oh dear.

Previous address: building with twelve flats, only one (!) listed. Wrong one. Pants.

Phone them up. “Sorry, sir, we use the same system as the website. Email [some address] and ask them to add your addresses to the database.” Email the address. Auto-responder: (words to the effect of) “This address does not accept direct emails. Please go to the website and put in your mobile number and a form will direct your query to the right department.” Don’t have a mobile number, since that is the problem. Can’t get to a contact form without one.

Phone back: “Oh, then call them - this is their number: [insert bazillion-squid-per-minute premium rate number here].”

Fifteen minutes on the bazillion-squid-per-minute premium rate number and I’m told they’ll get back to me. They get back to me: “Sorry, sir, that department’s closed for the evening. I’ll get on it tomorrow, although I don’t start work until two. They should be able to sort it for you.”

I await with trepidation. In the meantime, major kudos to Julian on the O2 online sales line who tried his best but was defeated by the evil that is the dumb terminal, and Liz on the O2 online customer care line, who was exceedingly helpful and diligent while presenting a friendly Northern-Irisher accent in the midst of it all. I just hope she gets it sorted for me, or I will cry. Like a baby. Who wants to spend less on his mobile bill, but may be prevented by a *!@@)} computer!

As an aside: a few months back I had to spend an extended evening on to the Carphone Warehouse O2 people, trying to sort out a number port for my wife’s phone. I talked to a couple of real dough-bags on there, but there was one operator (whose name I unfortunately cannot recall) who was very helpful despite being new to the job. There are some cracking good customer service types out there, in a job typically known for sullen unhelpfulness. It’s nice to know.