Competition is a consumer’s best friend – but not necessarily when those competing for your business will say practically anything. Communications companies like Bell, Rogers, Shaw in the West, and Videotron in Quebec, continue to fall over each other to get Canadians to sign up with them.
The result is a Wild West culture where there is no set price. Often, the cost quoted is whatever it takes to get you to sign on to bundle your phone, cable and Internet needs with another company.
When this fierce competition ignited a little more than 10 years ago, the companies set up groups in their organizations to talk to unhappy clients. They called it “client retention.” Client retention meant consumers would be given better deals if they resisted taking their business to a competitor.
In no time friends and family would regale in their getting a “great deal” from their cable provider. Conversations inevitably revolved around comparing prices and what became obvious was that those who screamed the loudest often got to pay the least for the same services. Clearly this fits in the category of “whoever said life was fair.”
Over the past decade, the forces of competition have led to aggressive marketing unlike anything Canada had ever seen. As huge, publicly-traded entities, numbers mean everything to communication companies. Every new household they get their claws into is another feather in their corporate hat. Every household they take away from a rival is competitive nirvana.
But there are also countless stories that detail the inevitable “bundles of frustration” when healthy competition gets twisted and warped.
My story goes like this. After many years with the same provider, there was a problem. The price wasn’t great while the technology in the house was old and tired. Over time, ads for Bell’s Fibe TV service became more appealing. But it was a slow process. It took more than a year to even call Bell. For much of that time changing providers just seemed like too big a hassle.
The call was finally made this past August on a lazy hot summer day when there was not much else to do. There was also a new promotional offer from Bell that caught my attention. Finally, after thinking about it for so long, I decided to see what else was out there.
One should always be in the right frame of mind to do business and I was. Not surprisingly, so was Bell. The promotional offer, as it turned out, was only a starting point. It was the appetizer to get me to call. Once engaged, I discovered there was no base price. It was a negotiation.
I negotiated the best two-year deal I could but although I was satisfied, I got a little worried when told the installation would be in 48 hours. A warning light went on because I never knew Bell Canada to move that quickly.
The next day I phoned and asked if I could get an email confirming my deal. I got several emails except the one I asked for. Another warning light went on which prompted me to phone again the morning of the installation. As the details of my deal were accurately repeated to me, I rationalized that, email or not, it was all in the file and I was ready to move forward.
The free installation was efficiently done and Fibe TV greatly exceeded expectations. It was all excellent until the first bill arrived. It was a shocker. In no way did it reflect what I had agreed to. Not even close.
Back on the phone with Bell, my contained anger was no match for the employee who answered my call, so I was transferred to a “case manager” who was sympathetic. He said and did the right things. He adjusted my bill and promised the agreed-to rate would apply going forward.
I have received three bills since then and none have reflected my agreement. Each time significant adjustments were made to satisfy me. But I am tired of bandages, tied of spending more than an hour on the phone every month. I want my agreement to be honoured without having to fight for it. Maybe Bell figures they will tire me into submission.