Prank lands call centre agent in hot water

Sometimes a sense of humour can defuse a tense situation. However, Ailsa Smith of Rondebosch didn’t appreciate Marius August’s attempts to placate her when there was an electricity failure in her street.

The call centre agent at the City of Cape Town’s electricity department also tried to convince Ms Smith that she needed a new meter. Ms Smith said she is not particularly gullible but Mr August “had enough information for me to pay attention”.

“One Friday I received a call to say that the power had gone out at our house. Looking at the street WhatsApp (group) it seemed it happened to some but not all of the houses.

“When I got home I called the electricity department and was connected to Mr August. He was very pleasant to deal with. Because the four switch line up on my prepaid meter would not go up and stay in position, he said my meter had died. I did tell him this always happened when there was a power outage. But Marius was clear. The meter had died and a new one would be necessary,” Ms Smith said.

“He had ‘data’ to support this; saying that we installed the meter in 2001 (this is likely), that it had a 15-year life span.

“While all of this made sense, he was very jovial and made many jokes, for example about me 
wanting to pay for a meter instead of accepting it as free from 
the council and launched into a confusing description of what would happen to the units on the current meter. Marius was insistent that the new meter would be installed that day despite it being Friday and 2.50pm.
“Needless to say, no one appeared and my power came on when the rest of the street was reconnected at 8.02pm.

“A neighbour got clear and honest information from Russell at the City about the source of the outage and when it would be repaired and was not subjected to Mr August’s trick-playing.

“I am not that gullible but had no choice but to listen to him and see what would happen; others might be very much more 
vulnerable. While I appreciate 
that a sense of humour enlivens 
the process of dealing with customer complaints, there is a point where deliberately misleading people is not funny,” Ms Smith said.

“Even with all that I didn’t really believe that a new meter would be delivered but I still had to sit and wait for the power outage to be resolved to establish whether my home was just one of the many affected by the outage or if I did indeed have a faulty meter.

“I don’t consider myself particularly vulnerable because I am not old, frail, ill or uncertain about managing domestic problems. However, many people are vulnerable and having jokes played 
on them by council members is wrong.

“No doubt Mr August regaled his family that night about how he had really hoodwinked a (female) customer into believing that she needed a new meter and was waiting for delivery all night but, like so many jokes, it went too far.”

Well, the recording was lost so it was not possible to find out what happened.

Mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg, said: “Unfortunately, the recording of the call on the City’s Mitel system was lost due to a technical error and, despite best efforts, we could not retrieve it. As such, we are not able to clarify what went awry.

“Call centre agents do receive requisite training. However, a meeting is being arranged with this agent to ensure he is capacitated to handle similar calls in future in a suitably professional manner.”

And what did Ms Smith say: “My prepaid meter has been working perfectly ever since the power came on that Friday. I have had no further communication from the municipality and certainly no one has come to put in a new meter. Thank you for the good work that you do.”

Dawn Wing pay up

Almost a year after Helene Fenn of Stellenridge complained to me that Dawn Wing failed to deliver her passport overnight from Pretoria to Cape Town in time for her trip to Canada, they finally compensated her for the costs she incurred (“Courier incurs costs for customer”, Off My Trolley, November 29 2017).

Briefly, Dawn Wing told her that by signing the Ts and Cs (terms and conditions), she accepted the risk. However, they paid her for the costs she incurred using Dawn Wing’s service.

The insurance company offered her R600, the amount she paid to cancel the air ticket, instead of the R18 000 she was claiming and for the distress the episode caused her.

Specialist consumer lawyer Trudie Broekmann of Broekmann Attorneys in Cape Town told me that Dawn Wing’s Ts and Cs were not aligned with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and as I did, advised Ms Fenn to go to the Small Claims Court, which she did.

Then on October 22 (2018), Colin Burns, commercial executive, Dawn Wing, apologised for the poor service she received and said they would deposit R15 000 “in full and final settlement of her claim”, which Ms Fenn accepted.

When I asked Dawn Wing
why they changed their mind and
if their contracts were in line with the CPA, Gemma McLoughlin, marketing and communications, Dawn Wing, said: “This was
an unfortunate incident which has been settled between the two
parties.”