The Conundrum.

Originally, a lot of the following was tacked on the end of this post detailing my GF’s fight with over US Data Roaming. Unfortunately, it got extraordinarily long, even by my standards, so I cut it down and split it up. So, first, the follow-up:

The issue with the fight over U.S. Data rates she was going through? That has been dealt with satisfactorily.

Satisfactorily is the word though.

We shouldn’t have had to fight our way through it, the way we did. And most people won’t. And I still think that’s part of the model. I do thank those who were reasonable (Jason @ the President’s Office, @Rogers_Chris, and @Rogers_Kate). The social media folks (Chris & Kate) especially obviously wanted to help. The problem is, it shouldn’t come to them doing that kind of public-facing damage control. We shouldn’t have to take the battle to the net in general, or escalate to a third tier, just to get fair treatment. And putting a public face of “what can we do to help” when costomer service either has it’s hands tied, or is deliberately obtuse? That seems hypocritical.

Keep in mind, this is not a one-time thing. As the title of the last post says, it was, in fact, the last straw.

And, this comes on the back of me having cancelled both our cable and internet from Rogers recently. Why? Ever-increasing costs with decreasing service.

I, personally, have spent an approximate average of $200 a month for SEVENTEEN YEARS. Do the math on that. In that time I’ve gone from (1995) cable TV in my first appartment (shared with two others) to (1998) Unlimited cable internet, and cable TV, to (2002) Unlimited cable internet, cable TV, and a cellphone, to (2006) 125gb limit cable internet, cable TV, and smartphone, to (2008) 95gb limit cable internet, HD cable TV, iphone and data package, to an (2010) 85gb cap , and throttling internet, HD TV, Android smartphone. Also in that time, the cost has gone up consistently every month. I totally expect price increases over fifteen years. But those increases shouldn’t come hand-in-hand with a castration of service. Same thing with cable. I cancelled my cable with Rogers when I realized I was paying nearly $120 a month for SIX channels. Oh, I had close to five hundred channels. But I only wanted, and watched, six. Only three of which came in HD, which I was paying for. But, because of the way bundles are built, that’s what I had to do. Not worth it. When they institute as a standard, the pilot that’s been happening in southern Ontario (pick your channnels, pay appropriately) I MIGHT consider going back on cable. Until then, streaming media it is. Which, I can do now that I don’t have a cap on my ‘net usage.

Nickel and Dime doesn’t get a company anywhere, long term.

As for my phone, again, in the last ten years, it’s been one thing after another. At one point, I was told (by a very contrite sales person in-store, who’d just got off the phone with customer service) that they couldn’t extend my current plan because “They weren’t making enough money from me”. Not “They weren’t making any money”, they weren’t making “enough”. (Ironically, I waited another six months, and on the next promotion that was offered, I got a lower rate than I had when they “weren’t making enough from me”.) I’ve had to fight, at every single renewal, to keep my 6gb data plan, which is, honestly, the minimum I’ll accept. I use 1.5gb to 3gb a month. 6gb means I don’t have to worry, ever, about overages. ANd that usage is only going to go up, as I do more and more mobile. But every time I renew, it’s a massive fight, that takes days, and sometimes months. Both myself, and my GF had huge issues with our last renewals: we both had “plans that don’t exist and can’t be upgraded”, and which, in her case, actually broke the system when someone instore tried to upgrade the plan. She still has a “windows” notification on her account which no one seems to know what it is, and breaks any upgrade or change in service she attempts. I was told that my iphone (2008-10) wasn’t eligible for VIP discount because “it wasn’t a regular phone”.

I was told I wasn’t eligible for VIP discounts anymore UNLESS I signed up for multi-year terms on all the services (cell, cable, internet). All the time, my rates sliding up, and my service sliding down.

And I’ve been effectively harassed up to (at one point) seven times a week to buy home phone service… by telemarketers to my cellphone. It was bad enough two years ago I had to threaten to cancel all my services, and calling the police about harassment. Fortunately, I never needed to follow through on the threat, they finally got the point.

These are consistent, ongoing problems. And that’s why I think I’m quitting after fifteen plus years.

Five years ago, I was recommending Rogers to people. They really, really used to get it right. It used to be an absolute joy to deal with their staff. Now, while the staff (in-store, and social media, at least) are still friendly, they’re obviously perplexed at their inability to actually effect any change other than “sell sell sell”. And the customer service lines are a joke, right up until they tell you “no, you’re wrong, pay your bill”. Rather than recommend Rogers to people, now I tell people to run as fast as they can to ANY other provider (except Bell: Don’t even get me started on them).

In the long term though, I’ll probably be cancelling my $100 a month cellphone plan, and going to Wind Mobile. Even with the early termination fees, it will be cheaper to move to Wind. It should be noted, that the GF adores her iPhone. Truly, truly adores it. Which means, now that Rogers has finally fixed this U.S. Data issue, she’ll be staying at least until the end of her contract.

How do those fees break down?

Well, basically, because a smartphone user is considered to be on ‘two plans’ (ie. voice & data) you have to pay two ECF’s (Early Cancellation Fee). Personally, I consider that to be “double dipping”.

In this case, there is only one service: smartphone connectivity (voice, text, and data, ONE plan). That, however, is a discussion for another day.

Where were we? Oh, yes. Two ECF’s.

The ECF fees are: Twenty dollars for every month remaining on the voice portion of the contract, and five dollars for every month remaining on the data portion. For me, that’s in the region of fifteen to seventeen months.
$25 ($20 + $5) times 15 = $375

Now, that’s a lot of cash. But! But!

My current Rogers bill fluctuates between $87.50 and $100 a month. My folks don’t live in the same town as me, neither does my little brother, so, I generally incur some long-distance. For the $82/month base, and $100 with long-distance and tax, I get:

unlimited talk after 5pm, and on weekends
200 daytime minutes (6am to 5pm)
$0.20/minute long-distance and ‘overage’ on my daytime 200 minutes
2500 total text messages
6gb of data
voicemail, call display, call forwarding, conference calling, tethering, etc.

HOwever, if I pay the ECF’s and get out, my bill becomes $45.20/month (with tax) and includes:

Unlimited talk, all times, Canada-wide, from a “Wind zone” (I live in one, and 95% of my visits end up in one)
$0.20/minute roaming (calls from outside a “Wind zone”)
5gb w/no overage data in a “wind zone”
1$/meg roaming (data outside a “wind zone”)
Unlimited texting from inside a “wind zone”
$0.10 per text roaming (texting outside a “wind zone”)
Unlimited text messages
5gb of data with no overage (slowed under ‘fair use’ after 5gb)
voicemail, call display, call forwarding, conference calling, tethering, etc

Obviously, the advantage of WIND over Rogers, when I’m at home, is obvious: definitely a better plan. However, Rogers is still a better deal for travel in Ontario. That said, In the Greater Toronto Area, I’m free and clear on WIND as well. The only issue I’ll have is data and text at my folks place just outside Belleville, and honestly, I’m only there once every two months or so. The forty bucks a month I’ll be saving will buy me a LOT of overage on text and/or voice, until WIND expands along the 401 passage. ANd, of course, I can use WIFI at my folks place, which negates any issues with data when I’m actually at their house.

It will take me about eight months to ‘earn back’ my ECF charges, maybe ten, as I’ll surely incur some overage in that time. After that, my cell phone bill will really become half what it is with Rogers.

And, I’ll have taken just about $3200 a year (cable, internet, wireless, and closer to $5000 if the girlfriend quits her wireless, too) away from them by the time I’m done. I know, that sounds spiteful, but keep in mind, I’m a long, long term customer, who has, until the last few years, been ecstatic with their service and company. But increasing prices, decreasing service, caps, and generally lackluster customer service…

Acutally, lets talk about customer service for a moment. I used to go in in person to a Rogers store to get things added or removed from my account. Now, not only can you not do anything except buy new stuff from the stores, but you can’t even add all the features by talking to a rep on the phone! What, exactly, does all that ever-increasing income go to? It’s not going to paying salaries at the service level, that’s for sure, as more and more, the consumer is being pushed to do everything online (ie. self-service). Oh. Here’s where it goes to.

It’s all well and good to point the majority of your customers to the website, but a couple of things have to happen for that to work, as a business model. First the website has to actually work. I’ve not seen more time-outs, crashes, browser incompatabilities, and dead links anywhere else online, in ten years. The Rogers site is probably the slowest, most cumbersome customer interface on the web today. For a regular business, that’s bad news. For an ISP, and a major one at that, it’s completely and utterly inexcusable. When you combine that with the lack of in-person assistance that’s available (“I’m sorry, we can’t do that here, you’ll have to go home and use the website”), well, it feels more and more like Rogers model is one based around making it difficult for the consumer to do anything, in the hopes that they’ll just accept the status-quo.

Also, when you’re using that website to replace in-person and on-the-phone customer service, it really, really has to be perfect. Not to mention, the in-person and on-the-phone customer service has to remain outstanding for the people who, quite honestly, want advice, and an actual, knowledgeable, human being to talk to because they’re not comfortable with using the website.

Basically, Rogers appears to have forgotten that they are there providing a service to the customer, not the other way around.

Like I said, I’m not sure, now, Rogers can come back from this, at least for us. They appear to have forgotten that they gained a huge number of users from Bell about ten years ago, on the back of exactly this kind of behaviour on Bell’s part. It’s a shame to see them repeating the mistakes that benefited them, now that they’ve become big enough to not care.


One Response to The Conundrum.

  1. I’d recommend getting a VoIP account from VBuzzer for cheaps so that you can set your wind phone to ring to that VoIP number instead of to voicemail.

    Thus, if you’re in a WindAway zone but on wifi, you can answer the call with the VoIP client. If you don’t, then VBuzzer’s voicemail will drop an MP3 of the call to email for you, which is a kabillion times better than normal voicemail.

    Sadly, getting your SMSes over WiFi isn’t practically feasible yet. I’d love it if Wind sold a femtocell that you could plug in to a LAN for cottages, but they’re too busy trying to build real towers.

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