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Communication breakdown

Satellite dishSo we’ve been customers of a certain satellite TV company for almost 13 years, and just lately we’ve got rather fed up with them. The broadband, whilst cheap, is not great. Our favourite sports have all moved to a rival broadcaster, who is offering a competitive alternative service* and a far better broadband (up to 32mb, thanks to the local network’s upgrade to fibre) at a price which will save us around £20 a month all told.

No brainer, isn’t it?

So I phone up and cancel the broadband, but I can’t cancel the TV account because that has to be done by the account holder. Merely talking to the bill-payer is not enough, apparently. So my husband Rob signs into his account and issues the instruction to cancel, and we start the process to move to BT.

Then the phone calls start.

Sky: “Can I speak to the account holder, please?”Old cream rotary phone

Me: “I’m sorry, he’s at work. Can I help? I’ve got the account password.”

Sky: “Sorry, it has to be the account holder. We’ll try again later.”

Next day.

Sky: “Can I speak to the account holder, please?”

Me: “I’m afraid he’s at work and won’t be back until later. Are you sure I can’t help?”

Sky: “No, I’m sorry, it has to be the account holder. ”

Me: “Can you ring back after 5pm? He’ll be in then.”

Sky: “It won’t be me, unfortunately. The calls just go back into the queue and whoever’s free takes the next one. I’ll leave a note on the account and someone should call tomorrow, Thursday, at about 6pm.”

Me: “That’s fine.” And I think it’s sorted.

Thursday at 6pm comes and goes without a phone call. Friday 9:30am, however . . .

Antique wooden telephoneSky: “Can I speak to the account holder, please?”

Me: “I’m sorry, he’s at work. You were supposed to ring last night at 6pm.”

Sky: “Oh no, you shouldn’t have been told that. We can only make appointments with the account holder.”

Me: “Well, the account holder’s at work. This is the third time I’ve told you this week. Why can’t you just deal with me? I’ve got the account password.”

Sky: “The password’s just for adding or downgrading services. For cancellations it has to be the account holder we speak to.”

Me: “What if the account holder was working overseas, on the far side of the world? What if he was dead? Would you talk to me then?”

Sky (getting flustered now, because he’s off-script): “Er . . . well, those are special circumstances . . . there are procedures . . . [struggles manfully to regain initiative] . . . it’s for data protection!”

Me: “Really? I’m afraid I don’t believe you. The bank account that pays the bill is in my name**. What data exactly are you protecting?”

Sky: “. . . um . . .”

Me (taking pity on the poor lad): “My husband won’t be back until after 5pm. I’ll tell him to expect a call.”

It gets better. That same day, 4pm. “Hello, can I speak to the Sky account holder, please?”

Me (rolling my eyes): “He’s at work. I’ve told you this three times since Tuesday.” All the while thinking ‘Don’t you people write things down?’

The lady was very nice and apologetic, and I’m sure if the call wasn’t being monitored for training and quality purposes she would have agreed with me that the situation was ludicrous, viz. I could have put a random bloke on the phone to say he was Rob (my dad happened to be visiting for the second call – he would have done), or I could have added the full suite of HD, movies, sports and all the premium porn channels I could find***, but I couldn’t cancel the bloody thing.

Old wooden telephoneYes, I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t Rob just ring them? Well, he would have done if he didn’t hate talking to strangers on the phone – plus, the last time he had to ring Sky was in their offshore call centre days. He couldn’t understand the droid’s too-fast, thickly accented English, and the droid couldn’t understand Rob’s Geordie twang. This is why we put me on the account in the first place.

But anyway. Rob got through to their cancellation team in the end, and set the wheels in motion to terminate our account.

Fast forward to today. The phone rings, and . . .

Sky: “Can I speak to the account holder, please?”

Me: “I’m sorry, he’s at work. Can I help?” Expecting to be told no, it has to be Rob.

Sky: “I understand you’re cancelling your account, and I’m ringing to see if there’s anything we can do to retain your custom. Are you dissatisfied with the service?”

Me: “No, not at all, it’s just we can get a broadly equivalent service plus superior broadband for less, about £35 a month.”

Sky: “If you have a moment to chat, we can talk about a few ways we might be able to match this . . .”

Waitaminit. You won’t talk to me about closing the account, but you’re happy to talk to me about staying? When I could be agreeing to anything, signing up to any number of services? I’d like to see a copy of your Data Protection policy, please, because it’s got so many holes I think the moths have been at it.


* We’ll lose Sky Atlantic, but we gain unlimited box sets on demand. Plus we get the rugby back, and MotoGP from next year.

** Long story. The account that pays the household bills used to be a joint account. I transferred it to a single account, and now the bank won’t let us make it joint again. The alternative is shift a whole load of standing orders and direct debits to a new account and frankly, life’s too short.

*** Assume for a minute that the bank account the Sky is charged to was in Rob’s name, and I was a bitter ex-wife. Exactly.



All images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net



  1. Dave

    Was with Sky for many years for TV had broadband and phone from what is now Virgin. Sky box broke and they expected £80 to come and fix it as this one was over 1 year old so ended up telling them where to put their box and moved all to Virgin. Like you dont have Atlantic which is a little annoying but have all the other channels and vastly superior broadband. Wouldnt touch them now with a barge pole.

    • Ellie

      We aren’t in a cabled area, so Virgin was never an option for us. BT did fibre-to-cabinet for our exchange earlier this year, so when MotoGP announced that they were moving to BT Sport next year, along with the premiership rugby, it made the decision easy.

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