Private individuals are becoming involuntary administrators

August 16, 2017 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , UK

Miguel Carraça photo

 

By

Hazel Speed

 

In recent years, many have become aware how, when enquiring about various unavoidable issues with public organisations over the phone, that they are now expected to be their own administrator and/or secretary, a type of involuntary intern acting as a third party interest to the company/public service set-up (but without portfolio).

One often has to hang up the phone, then redial another internal department, if so advised during any given call, as gone is the willingness very often to be transferred, it is easier for you to call back.  Besides, many don’t know how to transfer calls from one department to the other anyway.  Not even ‘desk to desk’ quite often, even when they are being talked through the steps.

This type of thing can result in some unbelievable scenarios, in that an hour may go by whilst one repeats the same story to person A, B, C, D, etc, if or before, person D or E actually ends up being the correct person.

Added to this mix, apart from the cost of calls themselves (dependant on the type of number being dialled – premium rate/local, mobile, and the phone plan of the caller), there are issues relating to the person taking the call.

Are they professional, helpful, pleasant, or obnoxious and blocking the way to the help you require?

 

I knew of an encouraging story recently from someone who had been given incorrect information by person C, thereby causing the need to ring them back and seek correct detail, but also helping them by sharing new knowledge they should have.

Person C’s colleague happened to pick up the phone and was pleasant.  They said of course they could put the caller through to person C and would just hand them over (thereby inferring they could actually see the person near them).  After a long delay, the colleague told the caller ‘they are away from their desk at the moment.’

The caller knew only too well that was a euphemism for ‘go away’ so guess what they did next… They said to the colleague ‘can you go back and ask person C if they just don’t want to speak to me, in which case I will contact someone else.’

Remarkably, within seconds, Person C answered the phone, ‘Hello, Person C speaking, can I help you!’

 

Some of us who have to deal with so many representatives of mainstream offices, hospitals, income tax departments, councils, service providers of various kinds et al are expected, more and more, to do the leg work, obtain and provide documents between them all when once over they would do that with our permission.

How do old people living on their own cope with all this?

In America, no doubt the average citizen could charge for administration services ‘forced’ upon them, and for handling letters which tell them to comply immediately or run the risk of fines if one did not.  A corporate form of bullying and threatening.

I am aware of stories in the States whereby persistent senders of unsolicited mail are charged so much per letter for trespassing.  Even in the UK I read of someone who successfully sued for being bombarded by unwanted mail, but that said, he had to jump through arduous hoops (including legal ones) to win.

The Council has, since the days of Thatcher’s Community Charge – (Poll Tax by another name), changed its remits and rarely involves itself in some nuisance, breaches of certain laws, etc, where it once would.  Everything is a civil matter now and is up to individuals to pay for their own legal fees but keep ‘City Hall’ out of it; do your own admin, etc.

Then again, other departments in Councils are kind and put a roof over the heads of individuals and/or families who would otherwise be homeless.

Huge concerns like hospitals have no central ‘one stop’ for certain enquiries if a patient seeks this or that record.

I myself have experienced quite a mixed bag at times doing my own general unwanted administration and a lot depends on the kindness and understanding of who is on the other end of the phone.

 

With public services or servants we are, as users, protected by official governing bodies whom we can consult, but if a complaint is the only recourse, that too invokes more administration.

It is often better to mention that option to a Person C, as it can be a useful commodity to change attitude of mind for the better, thus negating the need of a complaint.

I came across a letter from one outlet I had a communication from, and the content bore no resemblance to a discussion in person.  In my case, I was fortunate as I found a person D who was most helpful and passed on a message to the writer who kindly rang me.

They concurred with my comments, and admitted they had relied on detail from an earlier letter of a colleague, so they were unaware it was inaccurate and relevant to progress, which facts had been superseded.  This was because they were only a temporary representative.  That still really did not explain why they had not outlined the actual discussion we had in our meeting.  They did, however, ask me how to rectify the error and facilitated a second letter stating it superseded the first one, which should be discarded. They were so pleasant and appreciative of my input, how the matter could be rectified, especially as a copy was going to a third party in the chain of events.

One organisation whom I had to consult recently, had initials which stood for their role.  I came across an offensive person once over, so remarked that it was my view one of the alphabetical letters really stood for (and I chose an alternative description).  They admitted, what I had already heard from others, that they were owned by the organisation so their loyalties were with them!  In other words they were partisan, not impartial nor any type of public liaison at all.  They should be reprimanded officially for operating a function in a way contrary to a legal remit.  Consequently, I never trust them.  I am not alone in that regard.

Thankfully, I subsequently circumvented them and something they had ‘forbidden’ was rightfully made available to me or I would have reported them to a Government overseer of such things.

 

The benefit of telephone calls over letters is that (1) it is quicker and a situation can be outlined more fully and often successfully achieved and finalised ‘there and then’;  (2) in the absence of letter sending it proves one is not wishing to bog them down with paperwork (which may or not achieve any helpful reply months later, with undetermined or inaccurate results).

Apparently, there is a phone system which claims it can predict if a person is being untruthful or not. Wouldn’t that be fun to inject into conversation with Person C.

We live in an era where official calls should begin declaring they are recorded as it protects all parties.

Private agencies provide services of this nature but it is not cheap.  Far better for each person to set up one’s own system, as it is legal to record conversations as long as both parties (caller and other party) are made aware of same at the beginning.

I know one pensioner who has more official files in their blanket boxes within their home, than actual blankets.

Administration is forced upon us if we wish this, or that, otherwise we may lose out on an important service or benefits.

I think the Government should look into these issues as there is stress involved with the sheer volume of correspondence some people have to deal with, and could well cause strokes, especially some letters which have inbuilt threatening phraseology ‘do this immediately or, etc.’

Often, such phrases are in certain communications if a run of standard letters amount to thousands, as not each recipient is honest.  The retort being, surely an algorithm could facilitate a polite and non-threatening letter to the honest people.

We are all asked to quote dates, times, names and reference numbers on the top of their last letters to us. I generally find it useful to write on the back of a letter whom I subsequently spoke to, the date and time and a brief account of discussion.  Also if they were nice or nasty!

Years ago, someone gave me their professional tip when enclosing something with a hard copy letter, i.e. to always staple it thereto. There is an excellent reason for this, though I cannot disclose it herewith.

 

Administration should not be the responsibility of any third person once they have provided legally required documentation to an authorised public service outlet.

Retired and disabled people of any age just cannot cope with it, nor should they have to, as they are not employed by companies or public service outlets.  They have paid their dues, now it is someone else’s turn to do their own job in the same way, i.e. properly, and with pride.

In recent years, a story made national headlines whereby an elderly lady made money contributions to various charities until she was receiving hundreds of begging letters each week.  This sweet old lady spent so much of her own money trying to help others that she had little left to live on herself.

It swamped and worried her so much that she took her own life.

 

 

 

 

Hazel Speed

Photo (c) Hazel Speed – used by kind permision to Tuck Magazine

Hazel Speed is a Philosopher, Writer, and Artist with various creative projects at differing stages of development. Her flaship project is an animation which has produced a film short: www.thepinkprofessor.com. She has also written an E-novel, ‘Just Suppose…!‘ which is available via the attached link.

Art sites: www.candystoreart.comwww.terrificart.comwww.artbadges.co.uk

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