Paying my mobile phone bill online recently, I noticed it's possible to change package plans onsite. Given that I don't use the phone much, it made sense to save HK$160, so I applied to downgrade my plan.

A few days later I received a call. "Are you Mark Footer?" the woman on the other end asked, "and is your number ..?" She told me I could not downgrade because I was locked into a package. So be it.

"When will the package period end?" I inquired. There was a pause, then she asked for the ID card number of the account holder. As I didn't have time to explain the account was in my wife's name, having been a gift, I asked if she could call back. There followed a sigh. "When?" she asked, wearily.

Afterwards, two things occurred to me. One, that the company was happy to divulge account information without double-checking my identity, but needed further proof before giving any information that might help me save money.

And two: that sigh. When I call the provider, I must press three for English; listen to a few adverts for other services; then press three, four and five only to discover the option I'm looking for doesn't exist. If I lie and indicate I want to buy a service, I might just get to speak to a real person. Compared with all that, asking for a direct call back doesn't seem so unreasonable.

The customer used to be "always right", but the attitude increasingly adopted by companies - banks are among the worst - suggests times have changed. Now, consumers (formerly "people") are truly subordinate to the bottom line.

The woman never did call back.