“Hello, can I speak to Mr. Fact please?” The South African voice on the telephone asked.
It was half five in the afternoon – the start of telemarketeering time (it usually lasts until just after supper) – so I was just about to “go and fetch him,” put the phone to one side without hanging up and carry on working, when the voice added: “I’m calling on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and we’re carrying out a customer satisfaction survey.”
Now, this could well have been a not particularly convincing scam to get me to give my personal details to a bunch of thieves, or it might have been someone other than HMRC. However, I did speak to them on the phone about a month ago and the survey was, apparently, about that call.
“Did you have any problems understanding the lady you spoke to?” How did they know it was a lady I spoke to? I thought momentarily – ah, yes, ‘calls may be recorded for security and training purposes.’ “What do you mean, problems understanding?”
“Did you notice if the operative had a distinctive regional accent?” Well, she wasn’t South African, I thought, but had a really strong Geordie accent – worse than my father’s, who most people find unintelligible. “No.” I answered.
“Did the operative use any colloquial words or phrases you didn’t understand?” Hmm. “Well she had to explain antidisestablishmentarianism, but otherwise she were reet grand, pet.”
“And were you satisfied with the operative’s attitude?”
“More than satisfied,” I replied, “although she expressed a disturbing amount of praise for what Roy Keane was doing, even if she admitted they are still Mackems and any praise is fundamentally wrong.”
“Very satisfied.” I clarified.
“And finally, can I ask what your overall impression of HMRC is?”
Now, how, does one answer that question, and why were they asking now? The best I could manage was “Well, I just love the fact that I have to pay taxes, and at least I don’t have any children.” But that wasn’t one of the options, so I had to go with “unsatisfactory.”
I’m halfway convinced that the National Audit Office, or whoever, is going to try and wangle their way out this month’s particular crisis by claiming that they couldn’t understand what the people in Newcastle say, so it was best just to send the data of half the population down south. On CD ROMs. In the post. Why else would HMRC choose this particular time to do a customer satisfaction survey? Or is it so that next week they can announce to newspapers that in an independent survey, 89% of respondents thought they were doing a great job and enjoyed paying taxes, whereas the 11% who were foolish enough to say otherwise will be getting special scrutiny on their tax returns next year? They wouldn’t, would they? Oh dear.
American Translation For The Day: H.M.R.C. : I.R.S.