The inevitable battle with energy suppliers, often accompanied by non-justified debt collector letters, comes to many of us at some point in life. It appears that an apparently large percentage of staff at these companies have a faltered mindset: 1) that what a computer churns out is right and never needs to be questioned, and 2) that people who pay electricity bills are not actually people, they are a form of irritation there for the purpose of treating in a careless ‘poke-them-until-they-cry’ manner. They are the ego-ridden cats, we are the damsel mice.
I can imagine the job application form for these companies might start with something like: ‘bullied at school? Now’s your chance to get your own back – and get paid for it!’ It’s the same mindset as cyber bullying – with no face-to-face contact, people are brave enough to be heartless to customers. It’s a sweeping statement, but backed by the fact that I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been in that position of banging their head against the wall in utter despair at the lack of evident incentive to help or listen.
I have become aware of a possible secret career opportunity to those who are particularly ruthless, perhaps to those who reach targets of reducing 1000 customers to tears and send 50 debt collector threats a month: these people are offered a job at HMRC’s Tax Credit office. I know, how can it be possible for enough material to be writing a fourth blog on the UK’s tax credit system? But this week they have surpassed themselves.
In order to secure your new position at HMRC, you must answer one golden question: ‘what does the term single mother mean?’ If you use any of the words listed below then you are welcomed into the magical circle:
Thick as dog shite
A poor man’s Kerry Katona
Those deserving to be shot
Grey tracksuit wearing filth
A group of people who are there for us to piss on.
I’ve dealt with numpty energy service correspondence, it’s most frustrating, but this is something else. It’s disrespect at its finest.
To summarise my path of Tax Credit hell: I am dicked about for months, my MP helps to get my appeal won – an unnecessary appeal that was triggered by an unwillingness or inability to add up, on the part of HMRC. It was as if they didn’t accept my figures because they don’t believe single mothers can do sums (presumably because we clearly don’t know that sex – condom = baby). They then enter the wrong figures from the courts into my records – there goes complaint number two – thank you again MP for resolving. Now we have progress, an apology from an HMRC top dog, along with 70 quid compensation to cover the embarrassing number of recorded delivery packages I have sent, along with printing costs. This comes with a letter stating the correct figures and that I owe nothing. Surely this is now as finalised as Kris and Bruce Jenner’s marriage? No. The annual statement is released with a total misinterpretation of the figures. Back to the MP, three times, several calls to ground-level people who do indeed believe I am calling from a fully-funded rental property, whilst eating Monster Munch and smoking a fag, tracksuit-clad and slumped on my Bright House sofa. I couldn’t possibly be correct in pointing out that their figures have been copied incorrectly. I am a single mother scumbag, and no end of pleading, reasoning or tears will change that view point – we are single mothers because we are stupid, irresponsible and a toxic addition to society.
It’s easy to take the treatment personally, assuming it’s a result of my social status, but the truth is that I’ve never experienced attitude like it, and it is a service that exists for the majority of single parents. It’s unarguably presumptuous, judgemental, narrow-minded and prejudiced. I back this up with the knowledge of how mothers who became single mothers after their husbands died have been treated without the natural empathy you would show – the single mother label is there, the judgement is made – end of.
I’ve done well in recent years to stop taking things personally – I strive to live in a bubble of zen at all times, but this has burst my bubble. The pressure equates to having a vice on my head, whilst being sat on by a rhino and having a duvet pressed into my face. I thought panic attacks were dead and buried but reincarnation is knocking at the door.
This isn’t helped by deciding that this week it is safe to decorate: relocating all furniture and going at the ceilings with a roller, like an enthusiastic fluffer getting through a gang bang line-up. I’m up to my eyeballs in paint, dust sheets and shower caps; letters claiming I owe money that I don’t owe, and have proved time and time over, are triggering the worst drowning feeling to date.
It’s none of my business what anyone thinks of me, but when it unfairly takes away our money, in my already tight position, then it’s not something I can easily let go over my head – despite trying to do so.
Attempting to see the positive in everything, I believe that life keeps testing you to see if you’ve learnt – like when it keeps putting rogue men in front of you to see if you bite. In my case, I think it’s testing a mind I boast will remain tranquil. And perhaps to see if I give up – the one thing that keeps popping into my head with regard to my book. I don’t know. But I intend to regain a tranquil mindset over this. And I will not give up.
Right, time for another bag of Monster Munch and a can of Special Brew…