Barfy Trump’s Deckchairs and Phone Books (entirely unrelated)

Simon Woodhead

Simon Woodhead

17th January 2017

Picture the scene: Barfy Trump has always rented deckchairs, on a big ship. In fact many years ago he used to own everything on that ship but the somewhat overweight civil service type at the bar (who ponders occupying one of those deck chairs when he retires) mandated that common folk should be allowed in on the game. They even came up with an ironic humorous title for the making of new rules to control these oiks: deregulation. But Barfy is a canny old devil and, whilst of course protesting, has since gone on to make more money than ever. When the civil service type does act he only seems to make things worse – more rules and trouble for the unruly oiks who commit the indecency of being efficient and servicing customers, or committing the heinous crime of investing in lifeboats. Meanwhile, at every turn, these oiks battle daily to overcome Barfy’s latest wheez. To them, Barfy really puts the tit in ‘Titanic’.

In the distant past Barfy used to have to give every guest a deck chair as an expected part of the service. He quickly cottoned on that he could charge extra for putting their name on the chair, or sell them a bigger chair, and all was good. But now these oiks were on board Barfy was losing revenue all over the ship, however, he had a plan. Rather than having to get money out of the general public, when he lost a customer to an oik, Barfy could just bill the oik for the premium deckchair and let them deal with the ensuing wrath. This was brilliant as they had to pay to keep in good relations with Barfy and if they dared question or protest all Barfy had to do was point at the fat civil service type and explain how he’d said they had to have a deckchair. They know from past experience that if he gets involved he’ll make things worse, so they pay Barfy and shut up. Worse still though, the poor passengers on the ship that think they’ve left Barfy now get a surprise bill from their chosen oik and don’t like her much as a result. Maybe leaving Barfy wasn’t such a good idea after all they ponder.

So it matters not that the ship bounces from one iceberg to another, or that it is raining, if someone dares to leave Barfy’s purvey (and actually succeeds but that is a whole other story), possibly running for one of the oiks’ lifeboats, the oiks must charge them a hideous amount for Barfy’s deckchair as they get on. This is a deckchair that is of little use to anyone, most people don’t want, and younger passengers growing up since Barfy lost his monopoly have never even seen. And so it is; fingers crossed the passengers get to safety and Barfy and chums drown before they convince the now rat-arsed civil servant type that historically Barfy owned the sea.

This fairy tale is of course entirely fictitious with any similarity to actual characters being entirely co-incidental. Whilst I can entirely relate to the oiks, I wish in telecoms it was nearly so simple. Sadly it isn’t and we deal with issues caused by the incumbent’s latest wheez far too frequently. I had 6 in one day last week and just as one is won, another pops up. Some might say it is like nailing jelly to a wall, but jelly is nice and it might be pretty when nailed to a wall – this is neither.

One recurrent issue relates to phone books. Apparently they do still exist and when a customer ports their number from the incumbent to us (or indeed any ex-incumbent number from anyone else to us) we pick up any liability for any ‘Special Phone Book Entry’ (SPBE). This can range from a few hundred Pounds through to £32,343.56 (wholesale before VAT) if they have a number nationally listed. Naturally, there is no API to pre-check this before a number ports and even though we can check after we have control of the number it might be too late to cancel it. We get reports from them too but, naturally, they don’t have the phone numbers in them!

These SPBEs seem to have been much more of a problem lately than previously and our customers (and their end users) who mostly occupy the real-world, usually respond with something ending in ‘off’, often proceed to ask what a phone book is and generally don’t like us much as a result. Go free market, wooh!

This seems to not only be an issue in the wholesale space but also directly amongst the incumbent’s retail customers looking at the press.

The good news is that we have agreed with the incumbent that they will no longer pass these charges on to us to possibly recover from our and your end-users. Instead, when a customer ports their number in to us and they have one of these SPBEs, the incumbent’s Phone Book Team will contact them directly to ascertain whether they know what a phone book is and still wish to pay several hundred Pounds to be in bold. We’re sorry they will be ringing your customers after they have left and it offends us to the core that this monopoly remains but until we get deregulation (i.e. getting rid of the current regulator!) we think the lesser of two evils is your customer telling them where to shove its bold phone book entry rather than you and in turn us.

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