You think BT's customer service is the pits?...

Okay - here's a real-life experience with Virgin Media over a cable phone line we had installed last Saturday.

The saga started a few weeks ago when I ordered the phone line online - after hearing nuffink for a week, I phoned up and was told the order hadn't been processed. So I ordered again over the phone.

Two days later the online order was processed, so we had to cancel the second order (if you see what I mean).

Last Saturday the phone line was installed. It worked fine for outgoing calls, but the number given - and presenting on the Caller ID service to other people - was someone else's.

Could I make Virgin Media's customer service people in India understand what was wrong? Could I...

In the end, after talking to at least four operators, I emailed the head of PR (who, thank goodness, I know) at Virgin Media. He put one of his colleagues on the case and an engineer came out hotfoot yesterday afternoon.

"Can't fix it guv - you need to change your number," was the reply after half an hour of tinkering.

So how do you change a Virgin Media phone number? Simple - call customer service on 0845-454-111; and then 0845-454-000; and then 0845-142-000...

The first number - answered after 20 minutes - asked me to call the second number. The second number - answered after 10 minutes - asked me to call the third number. The third number - answered after three minutes (! -Ed) - asked me to call the first number.

John Yossarian eat your heart out...

Okay, like Captain Yossarian in the original Catch 22 novel and film, I told myself to think laterally.

And I did - I called up Virgin Media/Telewest HQ and spoke to a helpful switchboard operator there.

She advised me to call `moves and disconnections' on 0800-073-0591 where I spoke to a helpful guy in Glenrothes, who was able to change the phone number on the line concerned.

Phew! I calculate I've wasted three hours on the phone in total, trying to get this problem sorted. So, if you want the security of a phone line that works in both directions, don't call Virgin Media.

Perhaps this explains why they're about to be taken over by a private equity firm? God help the new owners is what I say...