Yesterday I rang Sainsburys. I have been an on line customer for years and the owner of a delivery pass for about 10. Recently though I have been charged for deliveries and although I don’t really mind and thought it was probably because of the current unusual circumstances I had it on my mental list to ‘get to the bottom of’….

I went on line and was surprised to note that my account showed that I did not have a delivery pass…weird.

So I called up. I got through to a lovely lady with a thick accent (probably Scottish but may well have been something else). I asked her if she could find out why I had no delivery pass. She said it had expired on 30th March. I asked why it had it not been automatically renewed as stated on their website (still). At this point she got very defensive…

At the beginning of lock down, she said, when they were under the kosh of panic buying and on line slot mayhem they took a decision not to renew delivery passes. They simply couldn’t cope with it.

I was not in any way cross with her. We talked a bit more. She was sitting in the bedroom in her flat using a laptop and a mobile phone that had been hastily issued by her employer when she started working from home. Her broadband was not always up to the job. She lived alone.

She said I should be able to get a new pass. I advised her that the website still said I could not. She said she thought she ‘had read it in the chat’ from her employer sometime this week that delivery passes were coming back. Clearly not yet. She thanked me for the intel.

I said not to worry I would keep looking myself. She offered to book me my slot for next week which was a major bonus as usually I log on 3 times a day searching! She did that and reserved the slot for me.

I thanked her and hung up. Later I got the confirmation email and had a chuckle at the bottle of Moët she had used to reserve the slot. I may forget to untick it when I do the actual order!

The conversation got me thinking about all those call centre and social media peeps desperately trying to help their customers in what can only be described as very unusual circumstances.

The banks are under a lot of this pressure at the moment (and indeed have been for the last 2 weeks) in the wake of the launch of the bounce back loan scheme. The volumes seen have been unbelievable. The scheme was rushed in with IT platforms not tested or in some cases ready. It was right to rush it in. Small businesses need the cash. But it needs to be remembered that the time frames are ridiculous and the volumes astronomic.

And the people at the sharp end managing issues and complaints and understandable frustration are often sat alone in bedrooms on hastily arranged IT with a lack of up to date info. In fact the info changes so quickly that it is hard to disseminate it effectively to staff from the centre especially when those staff are dispersed. They are low earners and are answering call after call in an unrelenting fashion day after day. I cannot imagine how soul destroying that must be.

As is the case in these situations those that are happy don’t say it often enough and those that are not yell loudest.

We need to remember that supermarkets and banks and others are actually a whole lot of people most of whom, in very difficult circumstances, are trying to do their best to help people.

When we finished our talk yesterday my lovely accented call centre lady thanked me for our chat. She said it was nice to speak to someone who was interested in her.

Be kind folks.