A Day in the Life of Shit Britain™

If pothole frequency and size is the unofficial measure of societal collapse in Britain, then I offer we are in the last days of Rome. On my commute, they appear like bitumen whack-a-moles; as soon as one is repaired (each seemingly requiring the road to be closed in either direction for 17 months), another one pops up in place. My partner’s exhaust fell off on the A30 last year, the AA man was surprised as it was fairly new. ‘Potholes?’ he ventured. Probably, confirmed my partner, as her commute to work was akin to The Mint 400.

And it is no surprise that the AA published it’s regular pothole attack piece in November with the news that October ‘23 had broken all previous records in the amount of call-outs for pothole damage – somewhere in the upper 52 thousand’s.

But ignoring AA’s call-to-arms to have made 2023 the year of the pothole, I put forward another measure of just how shit Britain has become in the last decade: bad customer service. Yes, our reputation has preceded us globally for years but I’ve really noticed such a decline that I now encounter any disruption with a meek indifference. There is fuck all you can do so why not save energy for shouting at the TV whilst England are on instead.

Getting the right coffee from a myriad bland coffee chains around my place of work seems to have the same odds as a roulette spin. ‘Cup of tea’ sounds like ‘Cappuccino’ at a push, but lemon and blueberry are not homophones by the most vivid of imaginations when it comes to muffins or not. Of course, the employee demographic suggests English is not the first language but this does not detract having to taste-test every beverage in the morning.

Laughably a very first-world problem I agree. But keep adding a grain of sand and the eventually a pile becomes a mountain. I took advantage of Black Friday recently and headed down to the supermarket collection point with that glow of low-key excitement. My package came in two parts, only Part One had been sent back by mistake. Again, meek indifference.

So I took Part Two home, contacted the company to get Part One sent out again. After imploring to the chat bot I needed to speak to a real human and entering my order number, name, postcode and email 33 times, I eventually got on to a real live human, which felt like a victory in itself, especially as it had only taken about 17 minutes to get this far. Alas, I may have been talking to a budget Chat GPT clone as the customer service rep had as much command of the English language as an African Grey Parrot:

Hello, for order A457-B27, I would like to receive Part One as it was accidentally sent back to the main hub when I went to collect it. Thank you.

Ok, sir, so you wanting a refund sir?

You know those conversations, we’ve all had them. After trying to explain the situation again, and again, my customer service agent abruptly ended the chat. And so we start again. To alleviate you from boredom essentially another two reps later, I capitulated and reordered the item and arranged a refund. On returning to the collection point a few days later, I was informed that this time, the company had only sent Part Two.

Of course! This is Shit Britain. How could I expect anything to go right the second time?! Again with meek indifference I returned home and cheered myself up by ordering a takeaway. Only the delivery guy gave me the wrong order and by the time I realised there was just a plume of scooter dust in the distance, and of course, no way to contact the driver directly.

Kieran J, if you’re reading this, I hope my chicken chilli bites were as delicious as your 4 piece and chips was.

So as I type this I’m waiting for three refunds from three fuck-ups. What worries me is my reaction to it, a shrug and acceptance that this is now the norm. When you think of the technological advancements since we landed on the Moon over half a century ago – half a century! – and we still cannot get things right – or even better, resolve them in an efficient and timely manner, it’s embarrassing.

Companies curtain themselves off behind bots, broken English and formulaic scripts read by ‘Customer Experience Agents’ with any and every inquiry always ending up at the same place, like a computer game where no matter which quest you pick, you always end up fighting the same boss at the end, the Refundsaurus.

If we consistently can’t get these basic building blocks of society correct, then what hope is there for the bigger things. Surely if we hope to solve something as complex as the housing crisis we need to get the correct Deliveroo order first? I wouldn’t count on it.

Whether potholes or customer service hellholes, Britain is clearly not as good as it used to be. That’s societal decline in my book and as maddeningly frustrating as it is, it’s also really sad to see.

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