Radiohead’s bizarre piece ‘Fitter, Happier’ from their classic album ‘OK Computer’ speaks to me of disconnection and disaffection in (post) modern living. As something of a customer service and common decency nut, I get very cross when I stumble over bad service. I’d like to ‘out’ HM Customs and Excise for appalling behaviour, since I understand that my experience is just the tip of a very big iceberg. Makes me wanna write a rock song …
The other day, I got a letter from the VAT people, asking me to register my business online. After doing so and getting rejected after entering my details 5 times I rang the VAT helpline and queued for 10 minutes. After being told that I had made no mistakes but still the computer would not accept my registration, I politely explained that I would continue to send my money to HMCE by post until such time as their computer system worked, so that they got paid on time.
I was outraged to then be told that this would mean that I would be fined. Imagine if Amazon fined their customers if their computer systems did not work. They would be out of business. HMCE’s behaviour, if reversed into the world of business and customer service, would be properly titled a scam or even fraud. Put simply by The Beatles:
“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet”
I may be naïve, but I believe that I run a business to generate income and then expect to pay taxes. I don’t expect to pay those taxes and then be told I will be fined because Government computer systems do not work. I don’t complain about people who don’t pay tax, but don’t expect to be treated like this just because I am a soft target.
Has anyone else experienced similar appalling treatment from officials? Slavish adherence to systems is at the root of many dysfunctional things that go on at work. Witness the satirical brilliance of Little Britain on the problem we face when we trust computers more than our own intelligence.