"Hey, FMO! Why can't you update your blog a bit more often, eh?" They often cry.
Well, the fact is, it's quite hard work being inspired at times. Even if you've been on an adventure, it doesn't necessarily translate into something you can make a blog out of. For example, I went to Africa last month. To Uganda and to Zanzibar. "Oooh, how exotic!" you might think - "tell us all about it!".
But despite it being a trip and a half packed full of incidence, it's not that which has inspired me to write again. What has inspired me was an argument I had yesterday with a lady from a call centre about the roaming charges I'd just received on my mobile phone bill from said trip. Strange that, isn't it?
I guess anything that allows me a passive-aggressive rant and moan at the inadequacies of the service industry (a la Larry David) is as good a starting point as any, so here is what happened...
Upon receipt yesterday of my bill from - let's call them YodaFoam, to hide their identity - I noticed that alongside the expected charges for using my phone in Uganda and Tanzania, there were also £15 of charges for using my phone in Sri Lanka.
Now, I hadn't been to Sri Lanka. I flew to Uganda and to Tanzania, with short transits in Ethiopia and Kenya only, then flew home. I didn't go near Sri Lanka. I didn't even visit the same continent as Sri Lanka. As you will see from the below map (click on it for full view), Sri Lanka is not anywhere near Uganda. It is in fact around 3,300 miles away across the Indian Ocean. Clearly there was a mistake here.
I phoned the call centre.
Here is an approximated transcript of what occurred. There may have been a bit more swearing, in reality.
FMO: Hello there, you have made a mistake on my bill. You have put on roaming charges in Sri Lanka, when I didn't go to Sri Lanka.
Call Centre: Let me have a look at the bill here sir. Yes, that's correct, you have £15 of charges from when you were in Sri Lanka.
FMO: No, as stated, I didn't go to Sri Lanka.
Call Centre: Hmm. But that doesn't make sense sir, as your phone picked up the Sri Lanka Signal. Are you sure you might not have gone there at some point?
FMO: Oh good point. I might have slipped across the border by mistake. I'll just check my passport. No, no stamp. So it appears I didn't go to Sri Lanka and forget all about it.
Call Centre: There is no need to be sarcastic sir. I was merely pointing out that sometimes you can pick up the signal of a neighbouring country if you are close to the border.
FMO: Well I wasn't close to the border.
Call Centre: You were in Uganda and Kenya - is it not possible you were near the Sri Lanka border? The signal can be stronger from one country you see, so even if you are in another country the neighbouring signal is picked up.
FMO: Kenya and Uganda are not near Sri Lanka. I'm pretty sure of this from basic geography knowledge, but I've just checked and yes - there are indeed 3,000 miles of ocean in between them.
Call Centre: Ahh, I see what the problem could be - You could have sailed out into the range of the Sri Lankan signal. It often happens to people on cruises that they pick up a signal in between ports.
FMO: I haven't been on a ruddy cruise!!! I was in Uganda the whole time that your bill says I was in Sri Lanka!
Call Centre: Even if you were in port in Uganda, as I said the signal from the other country across the sea could be stronger and you might pick that up.
FMO: I wasn't in a Ugandan port. Uganda is in fact, landlocked. I've also double-checked this residual knowledge and can confirm, the nearest bit of ocean is 600 miles from Uganda. And Sri Lanka is 3,000 miles across that.
Call Centre: Right OK. Obviously though although I believe you there is always the chance you did fly over Sri Lanka and weren't aware? You can pick up the signal from the air sometimes.
FMO: NO THERE ISN'T! I was flying from London to Africa. You don't go via South-East Asia to do this journey. Again, I've double-checked this for you just in case my whole concept of world geography is as mind-numbingly shit as yours is.
Call Centre: Very funny sir. That doesn't explain away why you have been in Sri Lanka though according to the bill...
FMO: Have you even looked at the bill?!! It has me in Uganda on July 2nd-3rd, Sri Lanka on July 4th, in BOTH countries on July 6th and 7th, in Sri Lanka again on July 8th and then back in Uganda on Jul 10th. So unless I was doing some drug-running between continents that week, I suggest your invoice is bollocks!!!
Call Centre: There is no need to swear, sir. I have to agree though that this does seem unlikely. Just checking one last thing though - did you perhaps lend your phone to someone else?
FMO: Had I lent my phone to someone else (someone who apparently takes daily flights between Uganda and Sri Lanka), FIRSTLY - it might have already occurred to me that this would be the reason Sri Lankan charges appear on my bill. So I probably would have already mentioned that, don't you think? SECONDLY - it wouldn't alter the fact that the phone still appears to be in different countries on the same day according to your fucking bill!
Call Centre: OK, OK, please try and be patient. I'm sorry sir we just have to explore all avenues as you wouldn't believe some of the scams people have going.
FMO: Do any of these scams actually involve people hopping about between two countries on a daily basis and then denying they did so for the purposes of avoiding mobile charges?
Call Centre: Well, not in my experience, but they could do.
FMO: If they did, I would imagine the soaring cost of aviation every day would be more of a worry to them than £15 of text messaging charges. Now, can you please take these charges off my bill?
Call Centre: Yes sir, as a gesture of goodwill we will do this.
FMO: Thank you.
Call Centre: *click*
FMO: How rude.