Monday, August 30, 2010

Bell Canada: A study in bad business practices, or Kafka lives.

I had an account with Bell Canada for more than 10 years, both phone and internet. I endured some pretty steep prices, un-requested changes of service with price hikes, and endlessly irritating calls to their automated machines.

I'm currently on hold trying to unravel their latest, truly, incredibly, bad business practice.

It started earlier this year, when I tried to combine my bills that had been up until then separated. I didn't care too much except that I would get these irritating advertisements for cheap internet and when I phoned them up, they'd tell me I wasn't eligible since I was already a customer.

After combining my bills (that was the only way they could give me a cheaper service), it got worse and the last straw was when they charged me $.20/minute for a call to Spain. Apparently not covered with my normal long-distance plan to which I'd enrolled, they decided they could just charge any old extorsionist rate... But even aside from that, they had made several other errors, and after sorting them all out, I was transferred to collections who told me I had to pay up right away or get disconnected.

Anyway, I go tired of it all, so I switched both services to TekSavvy (who use Bell's infrastructure) and have been very happy since.

Unfortunately, even after paying off the existing bill (unhappily), the story wasn't over. A month after quitting, I got a bill saying they owed me some money. Then I got another one saying we were even. They another month later I got one saying I owned them $30. I ignored it like a bad dream, assuming I would get another random bill the next month.

Unfortunately, if you ignore your bill at Bell, it goes to collections. That means I started getting calls to pay my bill. When I explained the situation, they told me they couldn't help me, I had to call back and ask for billing. When I did that, I followed the various prompts and ended up again at collections. The friendly guy there explained that in order to get to billing, I had to ignore all the voice prompts and just keep pressing 0 (presumably special treatment because I had cancelled my service?). I explained that this was all a little too much like Kafka and gave up in rage for the day.

Since then I've had a number of further calls from collections, all to the same effect - they can only ask me for money and can't even tell me why I'm being billed.

Finally last week I got a collections notice and today I decided I'd better just deal with it.

So today I phone up and didn't follow the voice prompts. I did tell them it was for internet, since that's what the collections person I talked to had told me. I talked to one nice person for half an hour before she told me she couldn't do anything, so she put me through to Lavinia, who is a supervisor there. After explaining all over again, she decided that the charge was actually for the phone, not for the internet, and therefore couldn't help me either, and I'm now waiting on hold for a phone service billing supervisor.

Ah, now Lisa's got the ball. She's just taken another 15 minutes of time to get up to speed and has put me on hold again. Don't you hate when they put you on hold and blast music at you? This one's a quiet hold, but the first one I talked to today apologized because she couldn't mute the music when she put me on hold, and it was twice as loud as her voice. Poor Lisa's going to go through all the bills again and try and figure out if that $30 is valid (from her accounting perspective). I can only write my blog in the interim as a kind of therapy so I don't ruin my day completely.

A few minutes later ... a final update. Lisa is back on the line and tells me the charge was for an early termination fee and that she would waive it. Now I appreciate that, but that's a nice fiction between the two of us. The truth is that this story should never have happened, but unless someone at Bell is paying attention, it'll all happen over again, again again.

Thanks Lisa and Lavinia!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Thanks for all the blueberries

I'm back from vacation, excitedly but also reluctantly returning to my web development projects. But before I forget it all, I just wanted to share my thanks and awe at the beautiful piece of the world I was visiting.

So, big thanks to the Surmans who shared their cottage rental up north of Parry Sound with us and threw in the free photos as a bonus (left, and lots more on Flickr). And also the St. Louis Andersons and Chantal and Carter, who also came with their delightful children. Special mention goes to Estora for coming blueberry picking with me and the dogs before anyone else was up, and to Kelly for making the yummiest blueberry and peach pie that ever was.




And, having said that, as I go through my inbox and listen to the radio to reacquaint myself with the human part of this country that I live in, I also want to give thanks to a couple of people who I think are responsible in a kind of fundamental way for these gifts that we all enjoy:

David Suzuki

I just heard his newish show "the bottom line", and his interview with a BP oil executive on the radio this morning has me completely impressed with his combination of scientific understanding, political savvy, and above all his courage.

Ursula Franklin

Also still going strong in her 90s now, she talks about the erosion of democracy on The Current. If you prefer print, try this article by Lawrence Scanlan. I generally scoff at such stuff as partisan fear-mongering, but I think it's time I woke up out of my comfortable indifference. I'm still impressed with Stephen Harper's political skills, but no longer apathetic about what he's been up to with his minority. There's going to be an election sometime in the next couple of years, and the law of averages suggests sooner rather than later, and I think it might be time to call a spade a spade and see clearly just what kind of a leader we've got. It's not about your choices anymore, it's about whether you want a choice. We're not shopping for a suit, we're being asked if we think democracy matters between elections.

Stephen: the answer is yes.