I was looking after household business and called British Gas to ensure that I was getting the best deal possible for my fuel supplies. The woman on the other end of the line, Sarah, sounded as pleasant as anyone can when they are reading from a script that does not allow for individual personalities to shine through.
But then I got all pedantic with her, this Sarah person, in her guise as a customer service representative. She started trying to gain information by stealth: she was misusing – as far as I was concerned – the word ‘confirm’.
Sarah: Can I confirm your date of birth?
Me: (automatically responding) It’s 25th ... hold on a minute, I don’t think you have it anyway, so how can you get me to confirm it.
Sarah: (Flustered sounds are heard – I’m suspect she was flipping the pages of her script for the next option.) OK. Can I conform your telephone number and email address?
Me: I haven’t shared either of those things with you before so how can I confirm them with you?
Sarah: We just need extra information to verify your identity.
Me: Why didn’t you just ask me for it then, instead of asking for confirmation of something that has never been stated? You can’t confirm something that is not known. You are misusing the word confirm in an attempt to get information without being clear about precisely what you are doing. I think that’s wrong.
Sarah: OK. Ms Morgan. I just need some additional information from you before I can help you with whatever you have called up about this morning. It’s a system requirement.
At this point I already know she’s not going to be very helpful to me in the rest of the call, but I decide to carry on regardless.
Me: I will give you my email address and phone number, however, I will not give you my date of birth. That’s something I don’t think you really need to know.
Sarah: (icily) Thank you, Ms Morgan.
Strangely, after this interaction, the deal I called up about had just finished because of ‘limited availability’ so Sarah was unable to guarantee me a lower fixed price deal for the next few years.
I am left with wondering if my pedantic response to her script conversation will cost me dearly this winter?
Shall I call her back to confirm this is the case?