This is why you suck

An open letter to “The Big 3”

Dear Big 3 (Bell, Rogers, Telus), I’d like to take just a little of your valuable time to talk to you all about why you suck. I do this not out of spite but instead with the faintest of hopes that you might listen and change.

By now we’ve all borne witness to this confused and misguided “Fair for Canada” campaign. Like most Canadians I’m baffled as to how you all can be so clueless as to the reason for the negative sentiment Canadians have towards you but I want to help not hurt so let me see if I can’t illuminate a little. I’ll begin with a story…

A few months ago my wife and I switched to Bell to setup a small business account. When we did this we were offered, as usual, subsidized prices on new phones. We turned these down for the time being and asked if we could wait until new versions of the phones we wanted came out. We were explicitly told that this would not be a problem (I’m serious I have this in writing if you’d like to see it). I myself was eagerly awaiting the next iPhone release.

Shortly before the big announcement day I made sure to call ahead, just to confirm there would be no problems getting my phone but as anticipated (because I know you so well) there were. My account was not in fact eligible for an upgrade, as it should have been, but fortunately, after some explanation, this was fixed and I continued to await the iPhone release.

Finally, on Sept 20th, I waltzed down to the Apple store, waited only a few short minutes in the line until a typically helpful Apple store clerk began to get my phone ready. (Oh the excitement!) However, this is where you (Bell in this case, but pay attention Rogers and Telus) reminded me once again exactly why you suck.

You see, before I could get the phone I had already been promised with my contract I had to change my plan, again. My plan, the one I had bothered to call each carrier to compare against. I spent a good amount of time just ensuring this was the right plan, the best plan available to me. For my efforts I expected I would have this plan for at least 3 years. But alas, I was now being told this was not to be. You see, apparently your new plans are based on a 2 years term instead of 3 (by the way, thank you CRTC for finally curtailing this ridiculous practice) so all the plans had been shuffled and prices had gone up a bit. To be honest I’m not sure I really understand why this matters, but regardless my old (read: 6 months) plan didn’t qualify.

At this point I feel the need to point out that this wasn’t really an upgrade in the first place. This was simply the phone I was promised when I signed up, being received 6 months later. Regardless, despite my protests here is what happened:

  1. Over an hour of my time, the Apple store clerk’s time and your Bell rep’s time were wasted in that store all over something as trivial as the fact that I now needed a $70 plan and my outdated (read: 6 month old) $65 plan didn’t qualify (or exist). This is in addition to the numerous people the Bell rep had to talk to on the phone during this time to see if he could fix the problem.

  2. Despite the very dubious reasoning given for this whole episode–the fact that every plan is now based on 2 year terms and not 3–I still have 30 months left on my contract since I originally signed a 3yr contract.

  3. We ended up settling on a plan change that amounted to an extra $5/yr in total. I lost 3GB of shared data on our plans but your rep managed to get me from 500mins of long distance to unlimited (not really much a bonus since we don’t use much long distance).

  4. You pissed me off. Not because it cost me $5/mo. but on the principle of the matter, the lame excuses given and the time wasted. This leads me to question why I should have any loyalty to your company (or any carrier for that matter) when you clearly have none towards me.

  5. Over the remaining life of my contract (30 months) I will pay you a paltry additional $150. An amount of money you have easily wasted in employee efforts alone just dealing with this. An amount that is also likely far less than it costs to replace a customer.

In the end, as far as I can tell, it appears you’ve gained nothing. It also appears that this situation occurred pretty much by design, your “plan shuffling” basically a corporate policy. As is the total lack of power of your customer service reps to do anything about it even when promises have been made. I find it hard to understand how this policy of frustration and poor customer service is effective but perhaps this explains why Canadians pay so much for our wireless service.

Which brings us finally to my thesis. This is why you suck. And this is just one example of many. I (and just about every Canadian) can tell countless stories like this for every carrier (I’ve been with them all). Like the time Rogers switched me to a more expensive plan when I moved from Ontario to BC without even mentioning it. Or when I upgraded to LTE and was forced to change my data plan to one that was both smaller and more expensive. Etc., etc., etc. And still the badness of these experiences pale in comparison to anyone who’s been burned by your extortionate roaming charges.

Even Rogers’ new “cheaper” roaming plans are laughable. When we went to the US last time we used Roam Mobility. For $4 a day we enjoyed completely unlimited North America wide calling, texting and 100MB/day of data. What does Rogers offer up as “sane” roaming pricing? $8/day for 50MB of data and nothing else, no calling, no texting, nothing. Bell is still far worse though, charging $20 for a measly 100MB or 100 minutes or 1000 texts (yes each separately are $20). However, Telus wins the prize with their wind sucking roaming at a whopping $100 for 100MB of data and 150 minutes of calling (unlimited texts though, yippie).


It’s time to shape the #$%@ up, because no one is buying this crap, no one has ever bought it and while it may take years, I guarantee you are slowly but surely sinking your own ships if you don’t significantly work to improve customer relations. What I’d suggest is that you take your “Fair for Canada” campaign funding and spend it on getting a clue, however since I can assume that money is as good as spent, this round’s on me. Here are some freebies:

  1. Work on further reducing (or eliminating) the use of term contracts and phone subsidies and put the savings into your rate plans. This stuff reeks of lazy and expensive loss-leader style marketing. Switch to a tab system if you still want to subsidize phone upgrades but today there are many low-cost phone options, so large phone subsidies should no longer be necessary. Let those of who don’t need to buy a new phone every 2 years keep the savings. Lets face it, if you don’t it’s looking like CRTC will do it for you.

  2. Offer competitive roaming. I mean actually competitive. Make them work automatically (Rogers’ now does this for data). I shouldn’t have to sign up for a roaming plan to get the best rate, just charge me the best rate in the first place.

  3. Unlimited nationwide calling and texting should be the standard for monthly plans. Pay-as-you go should be the alternative but with reasonable per-minute rates (check out Europe if you aren’t sure what the word “reasonable” actually means).

  4. Most importantly, let your customer reps actually help us and solve our problems. The guy who was forcing me to change my plan and make me pay more money didn’t want to do this. He understood I was promised something and now was being required to break that promise. But, hard as he tried, there wasn’t anything he could do to let me leave the store with my phone as promised. So like a cog in a machine he reluctantly (and after doing his best to get me a good plan) took my $5. It was actually sad to watch. Remember, there is no substitute in marketing (not even a free phone) for a happy customer.

Let’s call this the “Big 3 30 month challenge”. The first one of you to do more of these things than the others before the 30 months on my contract are up gets (or gets to keep) my business. Otherwise, well, Wind’s coverage map is looking better all the time.

Sincerely, Chris Nicola

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