Welcome Britain’s prosperity vice consul
ANNA HEALY FENTON
I for one assumed that Cool Britannia was gently slipping down the tubes as Europe’s westerly outlying islands gradually succumb to the economic diseases blowing across from the mainland. But I was wrong.
Things are so good and so much fun in Blighty that the British consulate-general out here has appointed a brand new Vice Consul. A Prosperity Vice Consul, that has to mean things are good. Expecting exciting promises of splashy shows of wealth, exotic parties and indulgent fat cat antics, I immediately asked for precise details of what this prosperity chap actually does.
Prepare for a let down. “My role on the prosperity agenda involves economic and commercial diplomacy, climate change, running the Chevening scholarships programme and science and innovation work. I will be engaging with a wide range of stakeholders including government, academics, business people, journalists, artists and designers,” wrote Paul Jancar, Vice Consul.
Oh dear, none of that sounds much fun, without so much as a whiff of vice or prosperity anywhere. And that ghastly word “stakeholder” has crept in – one mention of that and up pops a picture of everything that’s grim, cliché-ed and grating about Great Britain.
Most of you are too young to remember what it was like to deal with Hong Kong Telecom. They were the forerunner of PCCW. Back in 1990, if you heard a normally polite person reduced to a gibbering wreck, finally reaching screaming pitch and ending a conversation by slamming down the phone, you knew. They were grappling with Hong Kong Telecom. It was a rare talent possessed by a remarkable number of their operatives and no one was spared – the experience unified anyone who ever tried to get a phone installed: Hong Kong Telecom phone rage.
Fast forward to 2012. Substitute 3 for Hong Kong Telecom and history repeats. Trying to head off trouble at the pass and eager to register for an iphone 5, I trotted into the 3 Hutchison House phone shop, clutching my knackered iphone 4 and showed the nice man the sms from 3, inviting me to register to queue for the blessed iphone 5.
He input everything; they sent an email with a reference number so I could check stock availability to estimate my purchase time. They would notify me by email or SMS shortly. “Please stay tuned,” the email said. “Tuned” was the word. I could also call the 3 iPhone Registration Status Enquiry Hotline 31668777 or access "Registration Enquiry" “to enquire the order status anytime at your convenience! Thank you for your support to 3!” they boomed.
So I input the required information and it looped me straight back to this opening page. And again. I rang the hotline. After a few minutes of Bob Marley singing let’s get together and feel alright, someone said “Our Cynthia” would ring me back to explain my iphone 5 status, at her convenience. “Within 48 hours.” This was not convenient. Please could l have the supervisor? Back to Wailing Bob. Several minutes pass. “Supervisor is on off hours at the moment,” I’m told. More Bob Marley. Back comes another lady. “Hello woman,” she says, but no joy. Could I explain why I had registered a different phone number to my own? No, because I had not, and what’s more, they had been sending sms to my right number. “Oh,” she replied, “Maybe it’s the system’s problem.” More Bob Marley. Finally, she told me she could confirm I was in the queue to get an iphone 5 but that was all. Seventeen minutes on the phone to discover what I knew already...