I had reason to get in touch with a neighbouring local authority today to pay a £25 parking fine that our son had thoughtlessly picked up on Mrs P’s behalf.
I started with the online payment service, but it refused to accept my ‘crime’ reference number and though I found and placed my mouse pointer over the red cross for further details, as instructed, this didn’t work because their website doesn’t like Firefox.
So I rang the aforementioned helpline and after various recorded messages and button pressing, an operator put me through to automatic payments by phone. Again the system refused to believe my reference number.
After going back through the same ‘your call may be recorded for training purposes’ rigmarole, I finally got through to someone who was able to explain the reason for the problem which was me entering TMO2056835 instead of TM02056835.
You can just about tell where my error lay, but who on earth failed to realise putting a zero after two capital letters just might lead people to confuse it with the letter O?
Embarrassing though this was, the real cause of my bureaucratic alopecia was the recorded message at the start of each call inviting me to take part in a customer satisfaction survey. It would only take two minutes of my time and all I had to do was press one and they would call me back.
I was about to agree when the voice told me that the call back would be ‘at no cost to yourself’. This had me muttering into the mouthpiece: ‘I’m the subject of that sentence, not the bloody object!’
This misuse of the reflexive pronoun drives me nuts and I blame the call centres. Someone who uses our recordings for training purposes has decided that using ‘yourself’ instead of ‘you’ makes their salesfolk sound softer and more empathetic when in truth they come across as sycophantic, untrustworthy and just plain wrong.
And itself is spreading like some linguistic virus. Ourselves need to find a vaccine and fast before it’s too late. Oh no! Me, myself, I can feel my grey matter turning to mush!