Nobody likes to complain, but when something goes wrong you can either do the easy thing and sit on your hands, or you can stand up and have your say.
The days of writing letters, waiting days or weeks for a reply, not being satisfied so replying again (and on and on) are gone; replaced by SHOUTY PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE 140 CHARACTER TWEETS TO THE COMPANY INVOLVED because you can’t be bothered to email.
Which leads to a problem. There isn’t enough space in a tweet to get your point across, be polite and have a little fun at the same time.
However, it is a little known fact that Twitter have lifted the 140 character cap for direct messages. Try it. You can send pretty lengthy rants now.
My energy supplier npower recently asked me for my meter readings. I obliged. There’s nothing worse that leaving it to estimate readings because they are always - ALWAYS - wrong.
Three days later their meter reader also read the meter. He(/she) read it wrong and added 12000 units on. I noticed when checking my account. I tweeted npower who asked for details via DM, so I obliged.
What happened next was a stream of dialogue that started off with me being slightly annoyed with the several days late reply as well as them asking for a ridiculous amount of that old ‘security information’ that you always get asked, then descended into playing about and having fun whilst making a lifelong friend. Well, I class us as friends now. I’m not sure Neil Npower feels the same…
Here’s the pictures, and the transcript of the absolutely genuine Twitter DM conversation I had with npower (any personally identifying or sensitive information has been redacted)…
ME: “In case you didn't get my last DM (not heard back & can't see my previous message so maybe it didn’t get through), acc no: ##########, app shows an incorrect meter reading over 12000 more than previous reading 3 days earlier (see pic)! We hardly use any gas at all in this apartment. I don't want to get charged for this incorrect amount! :)”
NPOWER: “Hello, that doesn't seem right at all, could you confirm your post code, DOB, email and if you are the a/c holder? ^Neil”
ME: “Neil. Neil, Neil, Neil... Yes Neil, I'm James. I was born on ### ####### 1979, the same day as ##HISTORICAL FACT##, ##HISTORICAL BIRTH FACT## was born and the ##HISTORICAL DEATH FACT## died. It was a Tuesday. I was birthed at around midday, my mother remembers because she was hungry and just wanted to get some dinner in the end. I think she had some soup eventually. But the soup you get in hospitals in the late 70s, so probably terrible quality without taste or flavour. I currently reside in Sheffield in the ### ### postcode. Well, I say currently; I've actually lived in this city most of my life, moving to London for a few months when I was younger before realising it was rubbish and coming back up north where it is nicer and the people are generally friendlier. I hold several email addresses and am the account holder for quite a few things, but I assume you would like to know the ones associated with my npower account and not my Netflix subscription or Dominos Pizza logins... You should be more specific in your requests. I know you asked me if I was 'the' account holder, but I took that to mean 'THE' account holder; the overseeing, all-powerful account holder of everything that is stuff. And yes, I am THE account holder. I HAVE THE POWER! It could have gotten embarrassing if I'd have sent you my Amazon shopping history (those purchases aren't 'toys', they are collectable items and therefore investments, and dolls aren't just for girls, ok!). My email address used to receive crappy bumph and nonsense from npower is ######@######.com. The last few emails I received today include an offer for 150 free cups of coffee if I buy a Nespresso machine, marketing spam from HMV Pure (which has to be the worst loyalty scheme of any retailer in the history of points cards, why does 37000 points get nothing but a few competition entries for crappy film premieres that A) you're never going to win and B) you've never heard of the film or the cast and have no interest in anyway) and a notification from Twitter that I have a DM reply (late, I might add; I sent the original tweets and DM days ago - what's the point of having Twitter support if you don't get timely replies, eh?!) from some keyboard jockey at my energy supplier asking me for a stupid amount of detail about my life like a terrible phishing scam. This isn't a phishing scam is it? Oh, no! I might end up having my bank account emptied by some Nigerian 'prince'. Are you a Nigerian 'prince', Neil?
"So, there Neil, you should have all the info you need. To save you going through my bins later, I had a ham hock and cheddar cheese bake with Caesar salad and coleslaw for my dinner. It was nice. So Neil, do you think you can help out with the frankly stupid situation on my account where a so called meter reader reckons I used 12000 units of gas in three days, completely contradicting my own meter readings, your own previous data and any form of common sense? That would be nice. Whilst you're at it could you please confirm for me what colour socks you are wearing, how many pasties you have eaten in your life (Cornish ones, not those imposter ones like you get in Greggs and stuff. I bet you like Greggs, don't you, Neil? Especially Steak Bakes.. Or 'dog food fake pasties' as I like to call them), the name of the nearest female to you and on a scale of 1-10 how much you hate your job right now? I also require a picture of a banana with a face drawn on. Thanks, Neil. Anything else you'd like to chat about? ^JamesTHEAccountHolder”
(The banana with a face drawn on it became a recurring theme).
NPOWER: “James, James, ^JamesTHEAccountHolder, it is very nice to be acquainted with you. First of all, thank you, second, no I am not a Nigerian Prince. I am a 27 North East King with a taste for IPA and Morretti Lager. So those dodgy emails are not from me, however I do hold some detective skills so I should be able to help you in determining who these pesky kids are. I may not have a talking dog, but I do have a nifty Mystery Machine!
"I was also born on a Tuesday, ####### ### 1988 in Germany (I am English my old man was an Army man so I didn't really have much of an option), however my mother was given sandwiches after she was in labour for more than 20 hours with a 9lb baby, this maybe the reason why we do not talk anymore, WHO KNOWS?! Maybe I should ask one day? Any way I digress. Lets get back to the brass tacks eh?
"Thank you for providing me with such helpful information in terms of your energy account, however I have to inform you that I am actually the ALL POWERFUL (when it comes to fixing your account) all I would require is the magic digits from your box which controls the light, and the magic digits from the box which controls the heat with your abode. ^Neil"
ME: “Aha! Saying you're not a Nigerian prince is EXACTLY what a Nigerian prince WOULD say! AND a Nigerian prince would likely have a taste for IPA and/or Morretti (which are fine choices, sir. I applaud). What's your favourite IPA? I guessing in the North East you have a decent supply of Deuchars. We don't get that one much down here in Sheffield, but it is a decent (if mass produced now) one. We have a lot of decent local breweries so the Steel City is well worth a trip if you're into real ale - in fact the New York Times recently put us in the top 50 places to visit in the world due to our bloody good beer trail. Anyway...
"Tuesday ##### ### 1988, eh? I remember it well. It was cold and the nights were drawing in. I was sat in my bedroom listening to Simon Mayo's Radio 1 show playing ##HISTORICAL NUMBER ONE FACT##, the number one of that week. In the UK at least. In Germany ##HISTORICAL GERMAN NUMBER ONE FACT## would have likely been the first number one song your tiny little baby ears strained to hear, probably blaring out of the nurses break room down the corridor in the hospital whilst your mother gazed upon her new born (little did she know that her tiny bundle of joy would later be the heir to Nigeria's ill-gotten gains throne via Twitter DM scams). Disappointingly your German number one wasn't Nena's '99 Luftballoons'. Or even David Hasslehoff (the Germans can't get enough of that fella!). Have you seen the video for his song 'Jump in my Car'? It's hilarious, slightly surreal and quite sinister in equal measure. Did you know that Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson has been cast as the lead in an upcoming Baywatch movie, based on Hasslehoff's 90s excuse-to-watch-fit-people-running-semi-naked-in-slow-motion show? Bet you didn't know that Dwayne Johnson was Tim Burton's second choice to play Willy Wonka in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake if Johnny Depp had turned it down, did you? What is it with Tim Burton and casting his films? There's a 99% chance that Depp will be in whatever he makes and a 95% chance that Helena Bonham-Carter will too (although that has probably slipped to 50/50 now they have divorced). "Ooh, look! Another Tim Burton film is coming out! Wonder who will be in it..."
"By the way, your nostalgia trip into tiny babies being born in post-war Germany (just think... a year after you were born the Berlin Wall was torn down! I like to think you were responsible in some small part to that) doesn't excuse you from my absolute requirement of providing a picture of a banana with a face drawn on it. Bet you thought I didn't notice that you tried to get away with that, eh? WELL NO. I'll excuse the sock colour, girl's name and job ranking but must absolutely INSIST on the banana picture. Remember, I am THE account holder.
"And now you want me to follow your puzzle too? WHO WORKS FOR WHO HERE? Ok, ok... The magic numbers from the control boxes. Well, there's your first mistake... If you're talking about the meters and the meter readings those boxes don't *CONTROL* anything (and the numbers aren't really magic, that's just a myth). They just meter what is being used, really. The clue is in the name. If you're going to set a challenge at least make it an accurate one. Imagine if Jigsaw from the Saw films had overlooked the details when setting up his death traps? Can't have someone in a giant mechanical spiky head vice and then give vague or inaccurate instructions on how it all works or someone might sue you for false representation of your murder device! Imagine that!
Anyway... I will get you your damn numbers. Soon. I have to go downstairs (several flights), outside, round the corner, in another door, out another door and across a courtyard to get to one of the meters and frankly I can't be arsed to do that right this minute. I'm gonna stay here a little while longer; in here is warm and it has chairs. In lieu of any IPA or Morretti I am going to have a cup of tea too. I assume your meter reader similarly couldn't be arsed and that is why he made up a bunch of numbers instead of actually reading the stupid thing. He'll either have been hungover from too much IPA or just fancied a flask of tea in his van and mistook his meter reading entry device for a National Lottery random number generator when it came to inputting my reading. Speaking of lotteries, have you seen the TV adverts for the Health Lottery with Anthea Turner on them? I HATE THOSE ADVERTS. She can take her stupid white jumpsuit and stick it where the sun doesn't shine that woman. If I hear her say 'FEEL *GOOD* FRIDAYS!' one more time I will throw the nearest object, living or inanimate, through the bloody telly. I hate the Health Lottery anyway; just the name makes you think that if you don't win then you're going to die. And don't get me started on npower adverts. I digress...
"So... Here's the deal. I'll grab you the magic numbers from the non-controlly boxes a little later and in the meantime you source me a picture of a banana with a face drawn on it.
"Speak soon, ^IPANeil.
NPOWER: “^GuinnessJames (I am also a fan, have you tried a Guinness from a can where they put it on a machine and press a button? WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?) My favoutite IPA would be Brew Dog Punk IPA."
"I have consulted with the npower branded Banana and he does not feel comfortable getting involved in matters such as this - he had a falling out with a meter once and he has never got over this, apologies.
"I did know the number one when I was born, I was sat in fron of an open fireplace, with my two children and fiance, IPA in hand, Moretti in the other, laughing and joking, when we thought "Oh my days, I do not know the number one on my day of birth, we must remedy this!" and the rest is history.
"The facts about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson are fascinating, he is one of my favorite people ever, have you seen his social media posts? They are fantastic, I have personally Tweeted him asking him to adopt me (this is actually true) - however at the grand old age of 26 I fear this maybe too late.
"Alas, I must get back to the day job (BOOOO) as much as I do like talking about beers and bananas, this is not what I get the pennies for.
"I do feel your pain in reading the meters as mine is 8 foot on the wall and I am a measly 5 foot 10. I will however double check with the information that the meter man sent back on his magical item in which his inputs the digits. If you can bear with me for a moment or two I will do this now. ^IPANeil”
NPOWER: “I have scrolled through the information that we have been sent. The meter man has sent us this read, his quill may not have been working as accurately as he would like on that fateful day.
"I will require you to read your magical boxes, be careful with the obstacles in your way fine sir. ^Neil”
ME: “Have I seen the Guinness machine with the cans? Have I *SEEN* it? Pah, I *OWN* one. What you are thinking of is called a 'surger' and it is the work of the gods. Not just one God, several of them came together to craft the most beautiful item the world did ever see, and lo; the Guinness Surger was born. Try buying the bloody cans for it though. Seriously, they are a pain in the ass to track down (and of course you can't use the standard type cans, can you? No... You have to buy special ones). If you see any anywhere then pick me some up. Brew Dog is a decent IPA. We have a Brew Dog bar in Sheffield now. It is full of big beardy types, inflated senses of self-importance and reclaimed wood. Don't get me wrong, I'm big, and have a beard (beards are cool, especially unkempt ones. Waxed and styled beards are not - I REPEAT NOT - cool), but the hipsters that frequent such establishments are another level of egotistical superiority than even I can attest to.
"I'm afraid that your refusal to supply a picture of a banana with a face drawn into it thus far is extremely disappointing and is souring our blossoming friendship. I insist on the banana pic, Neil. I *NEED* the banana pic. Don't let me down on this. I'm relying on you. We have a deal, Neil: magic Numbers for banana pic. That's how this is gonna work.
"I'm a little older than you so my birthday number one was ##HISTORICAL NUMBER ONE SONG FACT## (a decent song to be born to, I'm sure you will agree). I'm grateful I wasn't born in 1981 because if I'd have been born with Joe Dolce Orchestra's 'Shaddap You Face' blaring out after it beat Ultravox's 'Vienna' (one of the all time great songs) to number one, then I would have been as disappointed as I am when someone doesn't provide me with the prerequisite picture of a banana with a face drawn on it. I imagine it's the kind of disappointment that leads to atrocities. Hitler? Didn't receive his banana pic. Peter Sutcliffe the Yorkshire Ripper? Didn't receive his banana pic. Justin Beiber? Didn't receive his banana pic. The fate of the world possibly rests in your hands right now, Neil. Grasp the moment. One day there could be a film made about you and this great achievement of yours. We'll get Tim Burton to direct it, which will inevitably lead to you being played by Johnny Depp. Your fiancé will probably be Helena Bonham-Carter. Neil, Johnny Depp could be you - if only you would find a banana, draw a face on it, take a picture and send it to me. I'M NOT ASKING FOR MUCH, NEIL. Who do you think would play me in our film, Neil?
"Dwayne Johnson would make a good foster father, I bet. You should constantly rewatch The Tooth Fairy to get acquainted with his possible fatherly skills. When you get home from work, he'll be making your dinner and when you walk into the kitchen he will say "can you smell what The Rock is cooking?" and you'll laugh. That joke would never get old. He will tell you stories of being Fast and Furious, or how he became the record holder for highest paid star in their debut lead role when he got $5.5million for The Scorpion King. You could help him spend those millions and have all the Guinness Surgers (good luck finding the actual cans though) and Brew Dog Punk you want. And get you meter lowered to a reasonable height.
"So, yeah... Swap you a picture of a banana with a face drawn on it for those magic numbers, Neil? Find a banana. Be creative. It's what daddy Rock would want you to do (I'll even tweet him and put in a word for you if you get me that pic!).
Time to get the big guns out...
ME: “Reggie the Pug Puppy will let you have the magic numbers he has placed in the envelope once we receive a picture of a banana with a face drawn onto it. YOUR MOVE, NEIL.”
NPOWER: “A contract between npower and the banana is not one that can be broken, however with out the magic numbers, broken is how the account will remain (unless we estimate)
ME: “No banana, or Twitter messenger, is indispensable, Neil. I suggest you sack the current banana and find a banana that is willing to be exploited for the purposes of obtaining the magic numbers.
I think we're getting somewhere...
NPOWER: “I have consulted with a colleague and we are working on your request. We never normally negotiate in situations like this, however we are in dire need of the magic numbers. ^Neil”
Could it be? Could I be receiving the holy grail of banana pictures?
ME: “Sensible choice, Neil. I look forward to the picture. :)
NPOWER: “We hope this meets your demands Mr Reggie The East End Gangster Pug Puppy. ^Neil”
Did the fun stop there? Of course not... A deal is a deal, right? Time for me to spill the beans and spit out the numbers. Kind of…
ME: “That is one funky looking Banana, Neil! I like it! It looks like the banana from the Peanut Butter Jelly video (Google it if you don't know). Don’t you feel guilty eating bananas now? Look at its face, Neil. Think of that face when biting into your next banana. Anyway, Reggie has let me open the envelope and has provided me with the meter readings for you...
"In the form of maths puzzles;
"You are driving a big gas-powered train from Newcastle to London (probably a giant Virgin East Coast Mainline one). At Newcastle, 1461 people get on. At the next stop in Durham, 34 people get off and 367 people get on. In York, 76 people get off whilst 744 people get on. At Doncaster 1623 people get off and 1479 people get on. The train skips Peterborough because who wants to go to Peterborough? At London only 150 people get off (the rest realised how rubbish London is and decide not to bother getting off, they just enjoyed the journey). So, answer the question: What is the name of the train driver?
"Oh, and how many passengers are left on the train? Thats our gas meter reading. I'll give you a clue: Its not 14127 as your meter reader somehow came up with.
"Now, heading back the train switches to electric power because Richard Branson hates all that gas fuel stuff and is looking to save the world from carbon emissions (unlike Volkswagen, who just lie about it), starting with his fleet of Virgin Trains… A further 6472 people get on (it really is a big train). Again we skip Peterborough, because Peterborough. In Donny, 369 people get off and 7692 people get on. At York 5495 people get off, 164 get on. In Durham, no-one gets off (they’ve all seen the Cathedral before) but 4089 people get on. Question: Where did I leave my keys?
"The number of passengers that arrive in Newcastle happen to be equal to our electric meter reading. Don’t forget there were already some passengers left on in London before it set off back to Newcastle!
"Let me know when you work out the numbers. Enjoy.”
NPOWER: “I am actually allergic to bananas so I will not be eating any one of those pesky yellow fellas anytime soon!
"You are making me work hard for these readings!
- The Driver was obviously called Bob.
- You probably left them in a pub after a Guinness or 10.
ME: “My missus is also allergic to bananas, so I feel your pain. Well, I don't; she does. But I can slightly empathise in a way.
"You are close with your answers.
- the driver was called Neil, Neil. It was you. Read it again, I started the puzzle by saying 'you are driving...'
- possibly maybe, although I suspect they have fallen down the back of the sofa cushion again.
NPOWER: “You have tricked me for the last time James! I will get these reads into our system pronto, your online account will be updated in the next day or two.
"Is there any other riddles you would like me to resolve for you? ^Neil”
ME: “You may live to regret asking me that, Neil. Seeing as you did ask, I shall continue... An easy one:
"A man is pushing his car when he stops at an hotel and he suddenly realises he is now bankrupt. Why?
NPOWER: “Is he playing Monopoly? ^Neil”
ME: “WELL DONE. I have trained you in the ways of lateral thinking well, young padowan.
"Do you dare ask for more?
NPOWER: “I darn't ask for more. I do not think my poor head could take it. Are you happy with what I have done for you today? ^Neil”
ME: “^Neil, at first I was slightly annoyed but you brought me round with your love of IPA and Italian lager. I'm not going to lie, your reticence to supply me with the mandatory photo of a banana with a face drawn on was a stumbling block to our getting along, but you came round (with the help of a nameless, but heroic colleague - thanks goes to them). I feel we have had our ups and downs, but in the fledgling stages of getting to know each other, who doesn't? I can't condone your Nigerian prince Twitter DM scams, but your parental issues leading to the yearning for love from former wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson can somewhat account for these little personality defects. I feel I know you well now, from your Germanic birth to your banana allergy and hope you feel you know me well too. One day we will look back on this day, clinking pint glasses of Guinness Surger (if we can find the cans), and smile at a lifetime of friendship and happiness. Thank you for your assistance, and your spirit in entering into the humour and spirit of the conversation.
"I guess what I'm saying is; I'm lonely. Can we be friends?
NPOWER: “JimBob, at first I was afraid, I was petrified.Kept thinking how am I gonna get this banana picture to you. Then the guys here and the Social Media Team came together, bought a banana and that was about it.
"I am glad that I was of service today James, your account will be fully noted with what we have had a long, and eventful discussion about today.
"Course we can be friends, or as we call them, marras. ^Neil (your new marra)”
So, there is the full ending to this story. I now have a new best friend and a picture of a banana with a face drawn on it, and npower got their meter readings (in a roundabout way) in the end. Plus, we all had fun and a good laugh.
Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I (and I suspect Neil at npower) enjoyed our day of messaging, negotiating and budding friendship.