Thursday, 6 March 2008

How to stick one on your customers

... greatly insult them and make them hate you even more. Unelco, the monopoly that purveys occasional electricity in the Canary Islands, today sent me a credit note, a list of six "incidences" during 2007 and a letter explaining that it has been decreed that customers who had suffered a certain level of interruptions during last year are to receive compensation.

Hurray, you say? Well, not so friggin' fast ... You don't get real money, of course. The credit note says that the amount is to be discounted from the next bill, (so they can go on earning interest on it, presumably.) And the dumbshits could have earned interest on a whole lot more money if they hadn't wasted it on sending customers three whole A4 printed pages of chopped down trees, not to mention the cost of the unnecessary postage, because they could have just put this in with that next bill that they're deducting it from.

The frequent power cuts - almost always, could not happen if the cables had been below ground, but they won't spend money on that - are less trouble than when electricity shorts, going off and then on again, repeatedly, or when it returns with a surge, both of which always cause damage to appliances.

The last time this happened, it fried a phone, but I've lost count of the TV's, stereos, videos, coffee machines, phones, computers ... that have "mysteriously" given up the ghost after power cuts.

Who's going to pay for these? Not them, of course, because going to their offices (repeatedly) to make reclamations they are sure to disallow, always cost more than the appliance is worth.

The cables coming up this valley and over my house, until 18 months ago were unprotected, bare wires. There is a potential major health issue here, which is unresolved, but also every time it rained and the wind blew, these cables would spark like a firework display, while the house would vibrate with the shorts.

Last time our local pylon was hit by lightening, it took 7 hours for them to come out and tell me what I'd told them: that the pylon had been hit by lightening. And at the time they must have done a temporary fix. Because, a week or so later, I wake up to no electricity yet again.

No less than FIVE vehicles, one of which was a crane lorry and one of which was a 4x4 with something to the effect of "Prevention of risks of accidents at work" written on the side in Spanish (and yes, there was a supernumerary, useless looking bloke doing nothing at all with a clipboard in his hands) were in attendance to do the work, which indicates that they were hardly passing casually. They replaced all the twirly bits (fittings) at the top of the pylon and also exchanged the transformer. There is no way that you have one of those big boxes in stock, just to casually drop by and do a repair (did I mention these are precisely the type of transformers my dad used to design?), so Unelco's other problem - actually Spain's - is that it is unacceptable (it's inhumane) in the civilized world in the 21st Century to cut people off for most of the day, without warning, when they must have known they were going to do this work.

We should have been warned, by phone, text, leaflet or whatever.

The technicians are all subcontractors, of course, so when you ask them questions, they have a scripted response that it's not their problem / responsibility, you have to go to the Unelco office at Los Realejos. My response to that is, when I pay to have electricity supplied, I pay to have it supplied to the house, not so that I have to go and get it!

Meanwhile, if you phone Unelco, whose problem / responsibility it must be, the phone automatically cuts off while you're waiting to get through.

Of course, the pylon would not have been hit by lightening and none of these money wasting repairs would be needed, if the cables were under ground.

Not that I want to press the point here, but this is the truth.

When I came here 16 years ago, I was prepared to accept some inconveniences, but this is a whole new century and, it's not about expecting British standards abroad. Spain joined the EU 22 years ago and, like it or not, progress has happened and these islands are now part of the "civilized" world. Local people suffer equally: they too rely on electricity, having been encouraged to do so by local authorities for internet connections, etc. They can manage to build far too many roads and buildings, yet wonder why they attract trashy tourists or that tourist numbers drop ...

Well, maybe this lack of dignified, basic considerations is one of the reasons?

So, you wanna know what is the vast sum of "compensation" I'm going to receive for the five "computable incidents" (No sorry, one was a Fuerza mayor / Major Force / Act of God and therefore not payable. Although, as an atheist, I wish to claim exemption / entitlement), i.e. power cuts of between 2 hours and 4.5 hours in 2007 was? Bear in mind that I've been on the island since 1992 and this compensation was as a result of something established in 2002, however, this is the very first time we've been compensated at all (yet I've never had an electricity bill under 100 euros) and, compared to prior years, 2007 really wasn't that bad. They're allowing me a whole 4.34 euros - about £3.30. In Total.

They're having a fucking laugh, aren't they?

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