Cell Phone Vampires

Posted: September 29, 2013 in Personal Whining

It’s been a while since I’ve had something to rant about.  I’ve been busy at PhoenixExplorers Blog for the past few months and you should check it out for some great pictures of our summer trek.

My recent action to terminate my business with Rogers and switch to a different cell provider has revealed some disturbing and annoying facts.  In fairness, I’m told that the unethical policies that I’m going to outline here are equally practiced by Bell, though not, apparently, by the smaller providers.

After almost a decade of suffering with Rogers service, at the termination of my latest cell phone contract with them, I made the decision to switch providers.  Both at my own home and at my mother’s home, the Rogers signal has always been substandard.  At my home, in order to use my cell phone I’ve had to practically hang out of a second story window, and even then have lost the signal half the time.  I’ve told Rogers that my area, also lacking in any high speed Internet service or even cable TV, is served more poorly than Northern Ontario cottage country and even less effectively than some people I know who live in Tanzania, Africa.  I seem to enjoy service that meets a standard somewhere below a Third World country.  Rogers has always politely told me that since I live in a bit of a valley, which is actually just a slight drop in the terrain, (and which is also the case at my mother’s house) they are not responsible for the poor reception and there is nothing that they can do about it.  When friends have come over to visit with their Bell phones, they’ve had no problem getting a signal (and again this has proven to be true at my mother’s house).

So, it should be a no brainer that I would switch my service provider to one that utilizes the Bell tower network.  After dutifully completing my phone contract with Rogers, so I wouldn’t have to pay a penalty for ending the contract early, I recently arranged for and got all the perks for a new Virgin serviced phone.  I chose to not port over my old number but rather get a new number because of circumstances.  When trying to terminate my Rogers cell phone, I was shocked at not just one but several of their policies.

First of all, it seems that both Rogers and Bell require 30 days notice when terminating an account.  Now, I understand notice being necessary when you’re moving out of an apartment or terminating somebody’s employment because time is necessary to deal fairly with the situation, but why would a cell provider need it?  The fact that a new company can port over your number and thereby immediately terminate your other account shows that it is an easy process, but you still end up having to pay for an extra month of service that you are not receiving.  If you try to get around it by giving the old carrier a month’s notice and then not arranging for the new carrier until that month’s notice has gone by, you forfeit any possibility of porting over your old number to your new phone.  So, essentially, the providers are charging you an extra month’s service to be allowed to terminate your account and retain your old number.

I thought that this was bad enough, but the second unethical police topped even that.  Having gotten a new phone with my new account, I now had an old iPhone that I thought I would either sell or give to my mother.  After all, it is made clear by providers that I am paying for this so called “free” phone by having the cost amortized over the duration of my contract.  So the phone is mine.  Apparently, though, if you wish to transfer the phone to another provider it has to be “unlocked”.  Rogers charges you $50 extra to unlock the phone.  (You could take it to  a computer store and have it unlocked, which the kids call “jailbreaking” your phone, but there is usually a fee for that as well.)  So, this phone which I have paid for over the duration of my contract, and which is my property, is still shackled to Rogers and cannot be used with another provider unless I pay their extortion fee.

In the end, after over a decade of crappy service from Rogers, I am thanked for my patronage by having them leech an extra $100 or more from me.  –Kind of a “f#*k you very much” parting handshake.

When I called Rogers to give them my 30 days notice, I also wanted to express my opinion of their extortion policies.  When I did, the response was a predictable “It’s company policy” so there’s nothing we can do.  This was stated as if saying “It’s company policy” really justified anything.  Many company policies are unfair.  Just because some greedy executive has deemed something as “company policy” doesn’t make it any less greedy or unethical.  No effort was made to explain the purpose or the justification of the policy.  In fact, after waiting an hour on hold to speak to a customer relations person (in order to complete the termination of my phone contract, since the first person I spoke to didn’t seem to be able to actually do that), and when finally being connected, after half a minute of conversation (which was not me complaining, but trying to arrange the termination) they hung up on me.  When I called back, I got a recording that the office closed at 5 p.m.   I realized that I had been hung up on at exactly 5 p.m., in the middle of a conversation.  I guess someone was looking forward to hitting the bar for a few drinks after work.

I’ve heard many stories about the callousness of Canadian cell providers, especially the big ones who have had the opportunity to dominate the Canadian cell landscape without meaningful competition for far too long.  Cell costs are excessively high and service pathetically low in many areas.  I’ve seen the service in the U.S. and remote areas there often get better service than I do, being on a major road just 10 minutes east of a major town.  It doesn’t pay for Rogers to service these areas because the only alternative services that they provide for things like Internet access costs me several times what people normally pay.  Bell is slightly better because they have a history and a mandate to have total coverage in their service.

These termination policies add insult to injury.  These companies just expect you to bend over and take their “company policy” as they pick your pocket.

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