God be with the days of card indexes and single black telephones on desks.
Given things as they are, the church oil tank being one-quarter full seemed time to phone the suppliers.
Once a simple matter: a nice girl would answer the phone in a local office and check how much we wanted and would apologize if there was not next day delivery. There was never a need for an account number, or a delivery reference, or anything other than the church name: Matthiases are not very common. Then the local firm was absorbed into a big firm and now there is a ‘1850’ telephone number giving no indication of where the firm might be.
‘Murgatroyd Oil, how can I help you?’
There is the temptation to be facetious and ask what an oil company might offer, other than oil, maybe a No 47 with fried rice? “I would like to order oil for our church, please’.
‘That should be no problem, sir. I’ll put you through to our commercial department”.
There is a click and then silence and then a voice from the bottom of a well. “Helloooo!”
“Hello, can you hear me?”
“Helloooo,” says the voice in the well, “Hold on, I’ll phone you back”.
The phone rings again. “Apologies, our stupid system. What can I do for you?”
“I wanted to order some oil’.
“What is the account name?”
Every possible permutation is gone through. We try the church name, the address, the parish name, the Rector’s name, the treasurer’s name, various telephone numbers, possible misspellings of any of the names: each time the computer produces no result.
“When you ordered last time, what name did you use?”
“Saint Matthias’ Church – the same name that is always used”.
There is frantic tapping of the keyboard and muttering.
After fifteen minutes he apologizes profusely. “I’m sorry, I can find no record of you here. Can I phone you back?”
Five minutes later, he calls back. “I found your account sir. You are down as ST M and I found the person who put you down as ST M”.
“Saint M? I think it might have taken a while to suggest that you tried Saint M”.
“It will be next Thursday before a delivery is possible, but it will be the regular driver, so he knows where to go”.
He apologizes again and rings off.
Who persuaded the oil company they needed a centralised telephone system when for years it was a simple matter to phone the local office? Who decided to computerise everything when the local office could turn up all the information in a few seconds?
Why is more and more money spent on everything becoming less and less efficient?