An open letter to Bell Canada

Hey Bell, nice talking to you again.

Say, a funny thing happened when I opened my mail the other day. I found a letter from you, Bell, congratulating me on subscribing to WireCare service. What a pleasant surprise! A free subscription to WireCare service! Imagine!

No, wait, I thought, there’s nothing in here that says it’s free. Usually, when something is free, you see the word “FREE” in capital letters. WireCare service is, in fact, not free. Not only is it not free, but it’s $5 a month, and the price is about to go up to $6. Plus, there’s a $35 penalty if you unsubscribe from it before the minimum 12-month term is up.

Well that’s pretty expensive for a service I never signed up for, I thought.

Obviously there was some simple mistake, and so I thought I’d call you up and get it straightened out. You’re a big, helpful, friendly company, and I always end up happy and satisfied whenever I call you up to chat.

So up I call. Hey Bell, I says, there’s been some mistake. You’re nickel-and-diming me for some useless service I never asked for!

Oh but that’s where it got weird. Apparently I _had_ asked for WireCare service! The fellow I talked to couldn’t actually produce a signature or a recorded phone conversation during which I asked for this service, but he assured me that I had. And that was good enough for me.

Well actually, he assured me that my wife had. My wife, Mrs. Castellano.

Oh but that’s where it got _really_ weird. You see, my wife’s name isn’t Mrs. Castellano. The only Mrs. Castellano I know is my mom. And she doesn’t live in my house. She doesn’t really have much in common with my wife at all, aside from the fact that neither of them are authorized to add services to my Bell account.

I think I know how this all might have happened.

Way, way back in November of 2006 I woke up one morning to discover that my phone didn’t work. So I called you folks up (on my Telus mobile phone) to send someone over to try and figure out what the problem was. The fellow I talked to was very polite and helpful, said that because it was a Saturday service personell were in short supply and the earliest a technician could come out was Sunday morning. I knew I wouldn’t be awake Sunday morning since I had a gig Saturday night, but my wife, whose name we recall is not Mrs. Castellano, would be around to let their technician in.

And then your man asked me if I wanted to subscribe for WireCare service.

And I said no.

I said no because WireCare service covers wiring inside the house. Wiring inside the house is considered my property, and wiring outside of my house belongs to you, Bell. What goes wrong inside my house is my responsibility, and what goes wrong outside of it is yours. So for someone who is prone to sawing through phone lines with reciprocating saws during manic fits of home improvement, or for someone who is prone to smearing phone wires with peanut butter and then letting rabid squirrels loose inside his home, WireCare is probably a good investment. If, however, you’ve never had a single fault with an indoor telephone wire in the past two decades, as I have not, WireCare looks like as much of a bargain as an extended warranty from Future Shop. Remember the Simpsons episode where Homer is jamming the crayon up his nose? Smart like cartoon character.

So I said no, and the man on the other end of the line was dutifully surprised. But sir, he assured me, it makes no sense to decline WireCare service, when the minimum contract of $60 a year is less than what the service call will cost you if the problem turns out to be inside your house.

I, gauging the tension of what I assumed to be the Bell line against the side of the Manitoba maple in my backyard with a steely eye, replied, I don’t think the problem is inside my house.

And that, I thought, was the end of that.

It turns out I was wrong about the maple tree. My wife recounted to me the story of the repair as it was explained to her by the repairman. Moisture had collected in the junction box outside our house (I’m not Mike Holmes, but it doesn’t rain in here), and the wires had corroded over time. No charge.

I explained all this to the fellow I spoke to when I called you last, Bell. But his records told a different story. According to the service record, repairs were performed to wiring inside my house, and covered under WireCare services. When I asked for a copy of that service record to be sent to me, I was told that was not possible. I then asked if he could provide me with a service ticket number by which I could refer to our phone conversation in future. Again, I was told that was not possible.

If I had to guess, and I do, because now I’m just sitting here by myself guessing, I’d say that most of your service guys assume that the call centre guys manage to sell WireCare service to the customer, and that may be true, and from that point, rubberstamping a service report as indoor service covered by WireCare is just the easiest way to do things. The customer probably has WireCare anyway, and if they don’t, it’s not like the service report will ever see the light of day.

I won’t try to tell you I wasn’t a little mad at you that day, Bell, but I got over it. We’ve had a good relationship for what, 20 years now? Why would I throw that all away over a little misunderstanding, a mere $60? I decided to take the high road and let it slide. What the hell, maybe I’ll buy myself a reciprocating saw for my birthday this year and do some remodelling.

But I _will_ start keeping a closer eye on my Bell bill! Ha ha ha!

Ha ha hang on a second, I mean!

I was looking at my convenient 6-page all-in-one Bell OneBill this evening, and I noticed a $6 charge for something called Gamesmania on my Sympatico bill. Now, while I had some idea of what WireCare is, I had to look Gamesmania up. Apparently it is a service that provides up to 75 PC games. And it’s only $6 a month! That doesn’t seem like much, does it? Unless you don’t actually _own_ a PC, and do all your gaming on one of your two Xbox consoles, your two Macs, or your Telus mobile phone. Then it starts to look like another nickel-and-diming opt-out marketing scheme.

I’m not going to go into some longwinded tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory about how I might have ended up subscribed to Gamesmania. I will tell you what I’m going to do first thing tomorrow morning. I’m going to call you up again, Bell, because I like our little chats. I’m going to unsubscribe from Gamesmania. I’m going to downgrade from Sympatico High Speed Ultra to Sympatico High Speed, which I should have done a long time ago, because there’s no discernable difference between the two, and it was another 6-months-free-then-forget-to-opt-out incremental nickel-and-dime service that I only got roped into because I had to call you for service when my last router stopped working.

And if no one at your fine establishment offers out a friendly hand to try and assuage my wounded consumer feelings, I might just discontinue my Sympatico service altogether. Yeah, sure, I know it was the land-line phone guys who started it, but if you think I’m putting an essential service like my land line in the hands of those bozos at Rogers Home Phone, you must think I’m even stupider than someone who has read my story of rampant consumer ignorance has a right to think I am. But internet services? Who cares where those come from. I can just go downtown and get high speed internet for free. Heck, half the houses on my block have unprotected wi-fi networks.

angry beavers