Recently  I have , been though a spate of people saying, ‘No problem’ when all the while what they actually mean is, ‘Hmm, that’s a problem but I’ll pretend it isn’t and hope for the best’.  In a way I suppose they are being kind, sheltering me from life’s potential snags and difficulties.  But I have now experienced a one hundred per cent correlation between people saying, ‘No problem’ and there being numerous time consuming, utterly frustrating difficulties.

I have always understood a problem to be the difference between you’ve got and what you want.  Some are small problems where the gap between got and want is small and some are big problems with a yawning gap between the two.  Sometimes a problem starts off being small but rapidly escalates into something big.  This is presumably a plot to lull you into a false sense of security or even to tempt you into not trying to fix the problem at all (often, as things turn out, the wisest course of action!).

We recently bought a new flat and I wanted my laptop to work there prior to making arrangements to have a permanent internet connection.  I was advised to get a dongle and obediently bought one (with the assistant saying ‘No problem’ to me at least three times).  As soon as I plugged the dongle into my laptop it let out a horrible groan and absolutely everything vanished.  I went back to the shop with both dongle and laptop and explained what had happened.  No problem.  They tried to get it to behave, looked puzzled, called in colleagues from a back room who all looked grave as they clicked on things to no avail. 

They advised me to take my laptop to the local computer shop where a cheerful man said, ‘No problem, leave it with us’.  I rang them occasionally wondering how no problem could possibly be taking them so long to solve.  They reassured me that things were well in hand; they were taking all my data off the laptop in order to give it a spring clean and then they’d put everything back on again.  I thanked them and they replied, ‘No problem’.

Another day passed and every time I phoned I was told, ‘No problem’.   I said, ‘I don’t believe you’ which he thought was very funny.  Eventually my laptop came back with everything looking unfamiliar and lots of things completely missing.  I paid someone else all over again to sort out the problem.  At least he admitted that it was a problem – easy for him because in doing so he was blaming someone else.

The new flat needed fitted wardrobes in both bedrooms and we arranged for John Lewis to do the installation. They telephoned to arrange payment and we gave them the details of our AmEx card.  After 30 minutes they phoned to say the card had been refused.  Puzzled, I gave them the card number again assuming they had made an error.  30 minutes later they rang to say the card had been refused for a second time.  I rang AmEX who confirmed that the payment had been authorised and that the money was waiting for JL to collect it in the normal way. No problem.  Except that it was! 

For the next few days JL tried to collect the money and each time the card was refused and each time I rang AmEx to remonstrate and got the same story; JL were at fault, the money was sitting there waiting for them to take it.  No problem.

After a whole week of me playing piggy-in-the-middle between AmEx and JL the problem was spotted by an AmEx person who was curious about why JL, despite numerous attempts (and it being ‘no problem’), was failing to collect the money which had been authorised.  She, Emma, noticed that AmEx had made a careless mistake with the post code; instead of typing SE1 someone had typed SEl.  JL had the correct postcode, AmEx had the wrong postcode.  Emma solved the problem but JL were so grateful that they insisted on sending me a box of wine!  (Emma, if you read this, the wine is yours.)

So,  now I refuse to be fobbed off with ‘No problem’.  I simply say, ‘Thank you for your reassurance but from my point of view it is a problem and I want it fixed’.   To which the reply is invariably, ‘No problem’.   


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