Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Ma Bell Needs to Retire

For as long as I can remember, I have always dealt with the main players in the communications business.

I would always use Bell Canada for all phones – landlines and mobile – and Rogers Cable for television and Internet services. The reasoning being, they put the networks in place for all the other telecom companies, so they are the best in the business.

Or so I thought – at least when it came to telephones.

Then one day, I got one of those slick promotional letters in the mail, offering me exceptionally high-broadband for an amazingly low price from Bell Canada.

They were offering me 16mbps (16 Megabytes/Second) high-speed Internet for a mere $69.95/month! That looked like an amazing deal, seeing my then – and now – current Internet Service Provider (ISP) offered their top-of-the-line Internet for a substantially higher price. Rogers Cable has a 19mbps service for $99.95/month.

I thought it over, and started looking at the fine print. There must be a catch, if a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. Right?

The fine print was that I had to bundle all my services with Bell Canada – not a problem, as I was considering consolidating all my services anyways to cut costs. With my Rogers and Bell bills put together, I was paying over $300/month in television, Internet, home phone and mobile.

If I went exclusively with Bell Canada, I could cut that down and have an even better home Internet – Bell’s deal included the 16mbps fibre optic high-speed, plus a wireless router, and a 100GB data usage per month. At the time, I had a 7mbps cable high-speed with Rogers Cable, and a 66GB data usage per month.

So, I called Bell Canada, and after talking with their sales centre, I bundled all my services together, and signed up for their wickedly fast fibre optics. They told me I made a great deal, and that someone would call within the next couple of days to schedule the free installation of everything, which was also part of the package.

A couple of days came and went and still no call from the big phone company. So, I followed-up and called them. The person – the second person I talked with – told me that for some reason the order hadn’t been processed, “but don’t worry Sir, I’ll ensure it is promptly processed today.” Or so they said – they even gave me the same line about someone calling me in a couple of days to schedule the install.

Now, I’m not a rocket scientist, but all I believe you need to book an appointment is a calendar, and a decent pen or pencil. Still, I know big companies have their own ways of working the world, so I waited it out.

Days came and went, and still no call.

So, again I followed-up with the big and starting to piss me off phone company. Again the third person I talked to, apologizes for the error, and tells me it has been corrected, and someone will call . . .

. . . I cut off the poor kid and told him I didn’t want to wait any longer, please book the appointment now. Stunned, shocked and aghast that a customer actually take charge of a situation, their was a lot of dead air.

Then, after much background chatter – I’m guessing the customer service representative had been discussing the situation with someone who knows how to handle it – says he can’t book the appointment, because they use a different computer system then “that office” but he can give me the number of the office that does.

I thanked him for his time, and began dialling the number. I had to go through several annoying automated menus, but eventually stumbled upon a live person, calmly explained the situation, and asked to book an appointment.

The person on the other end asked me everything under the sun, from my account number, to my order number, to my address, hey – here’s my phone number – you are a phone company right? But to no avail, he couldn’t pull up my order.

He told me it probably hadn’t been sent down from the sales centre yet. I was starting to wonder how much longer this would take? He could take a new order, but wouldn’t be able to give me the same prices, because only the sales centre has the ability to make offers like the one I got. And I’d lose out on my free installation, because they charge $60 for it.

His recommendation, was to call back to the sales centre and ask them to cancel the order and recreate it – maybe it got “stuck” in the system, he suggested.

I called back and after going through more people, someone tells me they can’t open my account. Probably because it is open by someone else – quite possibly by the high-speed centre, which makes the appointments!

So, I wait another day or two for a call, thinking someone must be dialling my numbers. I checked my phones, they all worked – I called myself from outside of all things!

Still, no call, so I call back, determined to get an appointment or to cancel the whole thing. This time, the person at the high-speed centre sees my account and books an appointment!

It only took a lifetime of calling to get an appointment for some guy to come by, and do what I probably could do – but hey – it’s included in your package, so why?

The big day comes, I have one of those “windows” when the tech is supposed to show up. My window is from 1pm to 6pm. So, I wait, I even take up reading a bland book in my living room, closer to the front door, so that in the odd event this tech person has trouble knocking, I’ll hear something outside and open the door. . .

It comes up to thirty-minutes before my window is to end, and no tech has shown up. I’ve been reading this bland book which has been collecting dust on my bookshelf since I made the mistake of purchasing it years ago all day, and no one shows up!!!

I call Bell Canada, and after wading through more people in their call centre, I finally get someone on the line who tells me their was a problem with the phone box on the street.

So, does this mean the tech isn’t coming, I ask, all bewildered.

She doesn’t know, but assumes not. I tell them if the tech doesn’t show up in the next 15-minutes, I’ll call back tomorrow to cancel everything, and I hang up.

I get a call almost immediately from the tech, asking if I’m still home. Amazing how a hang-up can get action. I tell him I am, and he says he’s on his way.

He comes over, installs the stuff inside my home – just a wireless router, I could have done that. He can’t get connectivity from the box on the street. He calls in on his magical-direct-line to the telephone Gods, and gets confirmation that someone will fix the box problem tomorrow between 8am and 12noon. He assures me I will have Internet by noon.

I thank him for his prompt work, and he leaves.

High noon comes and goes, I wait a couple more hours just to be safe. Nothing. Nadda. No Internet. Just a flickering green light telling me no contact with the outside world.

I call the big bad Bell Canada. After going through more people, someone finally says they will get to the bottom of things. They place me on hold – for over 30-minutes! But I’m calm, I want to know what is going on.

The person on the other end comes back all apologetic and tells me that the telephone box on the street is full, there isn’t anymore room for cards. I ask her what that means.

“Well, it means in order for you to get your Internet, someone else has to either cancel their Internet, or move out of the area.”


I ask how long that could take.

She snickers, and tells me she doesn’t know – it really depends on when someone moves out of the area, it could be tomorrow, next week, next month, or longer.


How come no one at Bell Canada told me this when they sold me the damn Internet in the first place?

Now, I’m a bit of a techy geek, so I know that sometimes you don’t really know what the problem is until after you look at the hardware. But someone should have told me right away what the problem was once it was known – not waiting for me to call back.

I cancel my high-speed Internet with Bell Canada, and call back my cable company.

Because of the massive headaches Bell Canada caused, and their lack of communications – despite being a communications company – they lost a long-time customer that day. I have since transferred all but my mobile phone to Rogers Cable. Though I plan to transfer my mobile too – just as I write this, I haven’t had the time to figure out what package to go with.

Whenever I call Rogers Cable for technical support, I get someone right away that solves my problem right away. I never have to go through several people, in different departments, to get parts of an answer.

Bell Canada was broken up by the federal government years ago, because they were getting too big, and the government thought they had too much of a monopoly over the industry.

Thanks to deregulation, they are no longer the only game in town when it comes to telecommunications, but they still are too big for their own good. Bigger isn’t always better.

Oh, and I am saving money by consolidating my telecom services – though it isn’t with Bell Canada.

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