In recent years it’s become the norm to charge or fine the ‘great’ British public for just about everything that a human being can be charged or fined for – we get hammered by excessive taxes on fuel, shafted whenever we try to park anywhere and nailed if we creep a few miles above the speed limit or inadvertently drop litter thanks to – get this – being the third most surveillance

obsessed nation on Earth, after only China and Russia I believe. But much as I think every CCTV camera in Britain should be smashed into tiny pieces and returned to its owner, especially since there is no proof that they even reduce crime (but plenty of proof that they truly piss people off) that’s not what this rant is about.

Nope, this is all about the biggest rip off of them all – 0870 phone numbers. It amazes me that so little is done to prevent this total con by business and the phone companies – a system that allows you to be charged up to 50p per minute for what was once charged at local call rates is a feckin disgrace.

It’s not like you get a better service after all is it? The average 0870 number results in the poor sap on the paying end being first given an array of numbers to push depending on what their call is about (and if your call isn’t about anything on the list then you’re stuffed) and then, having pressed the appropriate number going through the same process again, and perhaps again – and maybe even again…

All the time, of course, you are paying 50p per minute to the company, a company that you may even be ringing to spend money with (what a peculiarly British form of capitalism – charge the dolts for doing business with us) as well as the phone company who are in cahoots with the bastards.

Once you’ve negotiated your way through this maze of numbers you will, without any shadow of a doubt, be put on hold – as of course you should be. Well, think about it – by putting you on hold the bastards make a bit more money out of you and even better they can employ fewer workers in their call centre somewhere east of Mumbai.

With luck though, you may eventually get through to someone who can help you with your query – assuming, that is, you can understand them. I used to get annoyed at these fruitless conversations with Asian call centre workers who I can’t understand but increasingly these days I feel sorry for them, for they too are being shafted in that they’ll be working long hours in a crappy environment on relatively low pay and no doubt receiving flack from people like me who struggle to decipher their accents, as no doubt they do in their turn with me.

But let’s just assume you do after some minutes get an understandable and acceptable answer to your query, which may well have been something as simple as trying to find the time of a train service.

This could quite easily have taken you ten minutes and have cost you up to £5! Five quid!!

It’s not just a blatant rip-off, it’s immoral and unethical and it even leaves the USA for dead in terms of avarice and unbridled capitalism. And it’s a sign of what a succession of Labour and Conservative governments have done to this country and I hope that in two days time when the votes for the 2010 election are counted they both get the kind of shafting they’ve been giving us for decades.

But I know they won’t because the ‘great’ British public haven’t got the wit or intelligence kick the buggers out, so I guess we get what we deserve.

But that’s another story. In the meantime you can fight back in a small way. Just log on to the estimable where you’ll find easy access to a whole host of alternative, standard rate numbers instead of the premium rate crap we’re fed these days.

Go on, it’s worth the few seconds it takes to get one over on the bastards…



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