The ones we miss… The lost souls…

This week I was told I’d lost a friend.

Not a friend that I was in touch with every day, but a friend that I’ve shared a fair amount of experiences with over 10 years and through some of the most eventful years of my life…

One of those friends that you always think you can get back on the phone to, always knowing you’ve a similarity of mindset somewhere… A guy with enthusiasm, arrogance and tenacity.

This is a man I trained… He came to work at the same company as me back in 2006, an IT bod in a salesman’s world…

At the time I was at my peak, I was the Obi Wan (as we called it in the sales team) and he was to be my padawan apprentice, the first member of staff I was to train from scratch.

At this time I was working for a telemarketing company and I was averaging 1 face to face appointment with a FTSE100 Director every 5 dial outs… (Which will only excite sales directors most likely)

Now this chap had a very good technical knowledge, something I could never hope to achieve, he could even diagnose some problems IT Directors were facing, over the phone… No need for a meeting…

But over time I taught him how to approach a call, no scripting, just genuine thought and tact, empathy and adaptability. The beautiful point was when the stage came where we were always the top 1st and 2nd sales-guys on the phones. He beat me one month because I’d been on holiday for 2 weeks so my figures were down, but I came back that month and fought him until the final day, reaching 2nd place out of a good amount of guys in terms of revenue generation was really a high point for me, but seeing James at the top of the board was a better feeling.

He was balshy and brash and arrogant and quick witted and he was always blunt and honest… At least that’s how I’ll always see him, remember him…

I feel like I’ve lost a brother. When you’ve bonded with individuals under the same pressures, through breakups with girls, fights, through drinks and football and days out and Christmases and sales targets and loss, you may as well have been brought up in the same house. Because wherever we all are now, Liam, Nick, Neil, Anthony, James, Glenn, Colin, Sam and Stuart, those were the guys I’d always remember, I’ll always revere the time spent with those boys.

Running my own business is often basically sitting here wishing we were all running it together…

We must free our minds during loss, we must allow ourselves to breathe and to hold on to those past moments as we develop into new ones in our own present and future lives and I won’t forget him and he’ll always be there, reminding me that there are those we may not at first notice, but which may just need you…

Another loss that I found quite hard to read about this week, I was sent by a friend who thought the story would be worth sharing; it’s from the following article:

“GP found dead after being suspended over bipolar disorder blog”

Dr Wendy Potts was suspended after patient complained about blog in which she wrote about having condition

drwendy

A GP who kept a blog about living with bipolar disorder was found dead after being suspended from work when a patient read her online entries and complained, an inquest has heard. In the weeks leading up to her death, Dr Wendy Potts had written candidly about her condition and the effect it had on her life.

A patient at her surgery saw her online posts and contacted management, questioning whether she should be able to practise as a GP. The inquest heard that Potts later told her partner: “How can I have been so stupid?”

Potts, who had two children, was suspended after the October half-term break, which is said to have deepened her symptoms. By the time of her death, her suspension had been lifted, but she had not been allowed back to work. Her partner, Mark St John Jones, found her body at the family’s home in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, on 24 November last year.

Jones said Potts, 46, had kept a blog in which she stated that she had bipolar disorder. He told the court that a patient had read the blog and complained to the surgery, which was not named during the hearing.

The court heard Potts was under psychiatric care and her medication was increased after the suspension. Before she died, the suspension was lifted but other investigations were still being completed. Jones said Potts had experienced other work-related stress, including dealing with the death of a patient, and had previously tried to take her own life.

Dr David Walker, a consultant psychiatrist, said he was not aware of this attempt. “She chose not to tell me this had happened,” he added.

Potts’s mother, Joan, told the court about a manic episode her daughter had experienced in February 2014. She said: “She was shouting, jumping on the settee and talking in rhyme. It was very strange – I’ve never seen anything like it before. We didn’t see anything like it again.”

Afterwards, Potts did not work for three months. Joan Potts added that her daughter “felt she had got more than she could cope with” after she and her partner bought a smallholding in Cardigan, west Wales, in May.

However, Jones said: “Wendy wrote in her blog that this was what she wanted. She wanted to get away from work.”

Derbyshire’s assistant coroner, James Newman, adjourned the inquest to obtain a report relating to Potts’s suspension.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.

And the crux of this situation, is that when a doctor can’t get the help she needs, to save her own life, how can people not comprehend, that it’s harder than you think out there today, to find the right support through the darkness that visits us…

If there’s wasn’t such an established stigma & pretence behind what mental health means, or how it might acutely effect an individual, or how it should be defined, then we wouldn’t be losing these people… They’d be with us today and they’d find us, we’d find each other and in time, unified, we’d strive and eventually find the peace that we’ve been searching for…

CEO’s, Managing Directors, Board Room Exec’s, Doctors, Blue Light Sector Staff please speak up, it’s now more than ever that we need your voice. This must become mandatory in every avenue of business and industry across the UK, there must be a legal obligation to support those with and without mental health with their day to day climb… The struggles that we face must be recognised, not pandered to, but understood. Respect will remedy whats previously been broken. Things become brighter when we accept we’re all equal…

 

Vodafone & how the big boys take advantage…

Firstly, finding a corporate complaints number in our day and age may as well be like trying to find a unicorn…

After 12 years as a specialist in business development/commercial & sales strategy and all that entails, it’s likely I can find your direct contact details, regardless of your role or where you work, in a matter of minutes, through various connections, sales channels or web searches etc. this is down to working in sales environments and B2B telemarketing centres across the UK and Europe all my working life…

That said, my intention here is not to seem arrogant, it’s to stress the point that if I personally struggle to get hold of the relevant people to complain to, with 12 years’ experience, how can we expect as a society for the every-man (or woman) to find the details they need, let alone succeed in any kind of resolution, if a big business tries to take advantage of them…

 

Following a recent 11 month disaster of a time with Vodafone, I thought I’d highlight this point and ask, how can we as an economy change the way these commercial and convoluted operations work, to better support their end user, namely the person on the street who simply wants to call a colleague, or text their mum at the weekend…

 

Around September 2015 I casually wondered into my local Vodafone shop and asked whether I was due a phone upgrade any time soon, I was told it would be next year, but I was entitled to an iPad upgrade and could get my hands on the new iPad mini for no extra cost.

 

Happy days! However, that was the beginning of a slippery slope I’m still struggling to clamber up today…

 

At the time I was asked to sign into another maddening 24 month contract, which I did, as we all do to get our hands on the latest technology.

 

Unfortunately, little did I know that instead of transferring my details over, the Vodafone rep, for whatever reason, signed me up to a new contract without my knowledge… So at this point unbeknown to me, I walked away from the store with my phone contract intact, my new iPad mini contract and with my old iPad contract still running…

 

So as a consumer I’m thinking great, I’m happy in the knowledge that I will only be paying for 1 phone and 1 iPad as usual…

 

Oh no… Life’s just not that simple.

 

A friend asks if he can buy the redundant old iPad for his daughter, which I didn’t have a problem with and I carry on with my life.

 

As a few months pass my fiancé, who’s also my Financial Controller for my businesses, asks me why I’m getting debited such high amounts for my bill every month… Am I calling overseas more, downloading things etc.

 

So at this point, around 4 months into the increased bills I think maybe it’s just an oversight on my part and I start to look into it. I then go back to my Vodafone store and ask what the issue is, only to be told that I have 3 contracts instead of 2. Then they say that I have to call their hotline and they will sort it over the phone as they have been overcharging me via direct debit for this duration…

 

I go home and that evening I call the Vodafone customer services, who tell me they can’t do anything. They say that the only way to resolve the issue is to go back to the store again, find the girl who set up the new account and get her to write on her notes in their system that she made an oversight and was incorrect in doing so, I then need to call them back and they will firstly credit the money onto my account and then they will eventually pay that back into my bank…

 

So, 6-8 weeks of trying to get into the shop on numerous occasions, while the girl in question is on shift and I still don’t catch her. At this point I complain to the store manager and he has one of his team sit down a work out 6 months’ worth of overpayments that amounts to around £600.

 

I’m then told that they have cancelled the iPad, credited the account, but they have to take another £32 for that month as they can only cancel with 30 days’ notice, but they’ll pay me that back later and that once the full amount is credited to my Vodafone bill they will refund me into my bank.

 

Well, a bit of red tape and unnecessary additional billing & crediting… Happy days again! Finally resolved! Or is it……..?

 

A few days later and we see another overcharged bill… I call the customer service line again and talk to a legendary salesman who tells me how useless the shop guys are and convinces me he’s finally actually cut off the old iPad and it’s definitely happened this time… A new era begins, or so I believe…

 

A month later I’m overseas in Europe and my phone says ‘No Service’ where there should be a signal bar… Bit of a bugger I think, because I have around 14-15 business voicemails on there that I was waiting to access…

 

At the time there was a bit of internal government/military dispute in Turkey, so the locals where I’m staying tell me that the signal may be due to Turkey having a range of signal pylons there and that’s potentially why I lost service…

 

I decide to wait until I’m back in the UK, making the assumption that in 48 hours when I fly home my service will likely just pop back into play if I ‘turn it off and on again’ – However, when I get back to the UK that’s not the case…

 

In a taxi on the way back from Luton airport I decide to use my hour travel wisely and resolve this by using my partners mobile to call Vodafone. At this point I’m told that they didn’t cut off the old iPad when I was in the shop that day, despite me confirming and reconfirming that they’d got the right device at the time… They’d cut off my sodding mobile… The mobile that I’ve had on contract with them since 2009… You can image the happy fluffy feeling I get at this point before my tirade begins!

 

So, after 45 minutes ranting, while bent double over the back seat, having to use the taxi driver’s phone charger from the front seat so the battery doesn’t die after a 4 hour flight and I’m finally told that the matter is resolved… They apologise for my phone being cut off, which is their oversight, they will cut off the old iPad now but need to bill me another £32 for the 30 days’ notice again, but not to worry as they’ll credit that to my Vodafone bill then pay it back into my account at some point…

 

An argument ensues, they then agree to give me the £32 early as a credit, because then at no stage am I out of pocket when they bill me the £32 later… They tell me they will pay me the full £600 odd into my account and that they’ve cut off the old iPad and that my phone will be reconnected in 2-24 hours but probably earlier than 24 hours…

 

I’m also offered 2 months free billing for my troubles… That equates to £100 for 3 days or so without any phone access and an hour on the phone in the back of a taxi, might I add… Rubbish freebie there!

 

But….. Happy Days! Lots of hassle and un-necessary anxiety and stress, but we finally have a resolution and I’m feeling like the lady has reconnected me and done me proud! Or has she…

 

27+ hours later… I’m confused as to why my phone is still not active and to all who are unaware it looks like my business has gone down the pan, as I’m receiving emails as to why clients (some at Global Board Director level) can’t get in touch telling me that my phone has been disconnected… I call Vodafone again…

 

They’re quite confused, apparently in the fine print it says reconnection (of the phone that should never have been disconnected) will take a maximum of 48 hours; but usually the worst case is 24 hours and they need to look into it with no idea of when it will be definitively reconnected… I have to hang up and leave them be until they resolve it…

 

A further 24+ hours later, beyond their 48 hour maximum window I am chasing them and they promise it will happen, however they can’t deal with the final compensation until after it’s reconnected… It eventually is connected the following day…

 

I decide at this point that rather than jump on the compensation immediately I’ll get on with running my businesses and give them a call when I have some free time.

 

Today, my colleagues notify me that a figure of around £500 has come out of our business account from Vodafone, while I was actually waiting to put some money in… I call them, shout, swear, rant etc. and I’m told that I was charged for the cancellation of my phone contract, they billed me around £1100 for the remainder of the phone contract… A phone contract that they were never supposed to terminate in the first place and have since re-connected, due to my swearing the manager of the team won’t take my call so I hang up after around 30 minutes on the phone and dial in again… An hour later still on the line for the 2nd time after explaining the majority of the above to 3 different staff in 3 different divisions of Vodafone and I’m told they will have to look into it and call me back…

 

I mean… Frankly I’m bored writing about it and you must be bored reading it, so what are we supposed to do as a society about this type of red tape…

 

If you’re within the mental health spectrum is irrelevant at this point to a degree because anyone would get frustrated at 11 months of incompetence when a company this big is just sitting on your money and generating revenue & interest off the back of it.

 

If you take my issue and consider that they have effectively taken an average monthly wage from my bank account, then multiply that by the thousands and thousands of people who have the same sorts of issues daily and further consider those who don’t have the energy, mental stability, time or patience to contest this year upon year; then just how much money are these companies draining from our economy and frankly from the common man/woman on the street, only to line their own corporate pockets prior to evading any relevant tax most likely… And what sort of interest are they making on OUR money, while we struggle to make ends meet day to day in an effort to fight for it back…

 

I mean… I just don’t know how to affect a change here… And Vodafone won’t be the only ones who do this… That’s just one major company, of a range of major companies in one specific sector of business… There are thousands of sectors and thousands of businesses at the top of the ‘corporate food chain’ who are rinsing money off joe public on a daily basis.

 

Where do we go from here? And should these businesses be held accountable and made to provide those individuals compensation relative to the grief and the anxiety that they cause on a daily basis…

 

Luckily for me they took money from my business bank account, so I am fortunate enough to be able to afford a bit of time to rant and get it back, but there must be so many people on a fixed monthly wage, without spare savings, who would be getting bank charges and having other payments bounce while they try to fight their corner and I can guarantee that Vodafone and those like them won’t be levelling the playing field for those inconveniences, meaning that the little guy has an even harder slog to contend with when trying to affect a change in their lives for the better…

 

What a corporate will never understand is that they are jeopardising peoples monthly food bill, their rent, their chance of a mortgage, their kids school fee’s, their engagement ring, their annual holiday, their car maintenance and every other aspect of their lives that may also create stress in its own individual way…

 

How do we, as a unit, make these companies operate in a more humane way? We are people for god sake… Or will it always be a case of…. Computer says NO?!