Bell Mobility Creates “Bell Hell” for this Customer…

So Kelly’s phone was on its last legs and it was time to replace it. Unfortunately, we were locked into the dreaded contract for one more year of our three year term. Well, you can’t finish a contract without a working phone so I called Bell to see what they were willing to do for us. Although we finally have a plan with Bell Mobility and a phone, I’m still trying to figure out if the journey was worth it. Here’s a recap of the “Bell Hell” I had to go through to get a deal that I was pleased with…

The First Call to Bell Mobility “Retention” Department…

So on the first call, I explain to the lady on the phone that the phone on the plan was busted and we were considering our options for getting a new phone. I had already considered paying out the account for the $20 per month minimum charge and going to another provider for a free phone and a better plan. However, I did give Bell Mobility a chance to offer me something that would keep me on their service and take care of the broken phone problem. Also, Kelly was wanting to upgrade to a plan that included email and data, which would obviously, increase our average monthly spending with them so there was incentive for them to help us out. We were also looking for a Windows Mobile Phone with a QWERTY keyboard that would allow her to take advantage of the email and data.

After explaining our situation and telling the rep about the options we were considering and what we wanted, I was pretty much asked if I just wanted to put the line on 30 day notice to cancel. Well, since she didn’t seem like she wanted to help us out, I said yes, and our account was put on notice to be cancelled in the next thirty days. Great retention job guys!

Shopping the Competition – FIDO and ROGERS

Since Bell Mobility doesn’t need customers, I went shopping around for the best cellphone deals from their competitors. Since I’m on FIDO (which is basically ROGERS), I checked out what both of them had to offer as Canada’s only GSM carriers…or rather…carrier. They both offered data and voice plans that were fairly comparable and were heavily advertising their all you can eat email service for $15 on their Windows Mobile Devices like the Motorola Q9h and Samsung Jack; both of them had QWERTY keyboards, reasonable size, and Windows Mobile.

Since I had some knowledge and access to some unadvertised internal corporate deals on base plans, I came up with some options that were much more competitive than what Bell Mobility was offering. The only downside was that despite signing another three year contract, we still had to pay a substantial chunk for the phone itself and we had to pay out the contract with Bell. However, after working out the plan pricing, we were still ahead of the game with the plans, and I knew that if we ever had a problem with the phone, I could always get a new one from overseas as both carriers were GSM and unlocked cheap GSM phones are plentiful.

Shopping the Competition – TELUS

TELUS is the only other carrier in Canada that uses a CDMA network besides Bell Mobility. Unfortunatlely, they don’t allow swapping of phones between carriers which is lame. Since we were out shopping anyway, we checked them out. They had a lot of phones that were free when signing on a new three year term and had a good selection of Windows Mobile phones that had QWERTY keyboards.

The HTC s720, which is similar to the Dopod C500 (GSM), that I got in Hong Kong last year, seemed to catch our eye. After investigating the plan situation, it seemed that we would be paying more than both FIDO and ROGERS for a similar plan. The reason for this was that the unadvertised base plan options that I quoted couldn’t be combined with any of their bundled email and data services. Had they found a way to do it, not only would we have had a better plan than with either ROGERS or FIDO, but we’d probably be done with our search and TELUS customers right now. Oh well…

So after shopping the deals, we had tentatively settled on a deal from ROGERS which included the Motorola Q9h, unlimited email, 200 minutes with evenings after 6 PM with weekends free, voicemail, call display, and 100 text messages. Although this plan was very similar to the FIDO plan, the FIDO plan did offer us free calls after 5 PM instead, but the ROGERS plan included the extended network option, giving us better coverage in more remote areas. The extended network option is a pay option on FIDO so we saved on the plan there, overall.

Second Call to Bell Mobility – Time To Cancel…or Not…

So I called back to the Bell “retention” department to figure out the final charges and put my service on it’s final cancellation. I get some guy named “Sylvester” that asked me why I was cancelling my service and this prompted me to go over my whole story ALL over again, how we needed a new phone, how we were going on email and data etc. This is when Sylvester started doing his job as a Retentions Rep by offering me this and that in an effort to keep me on Bell service. He kept pushing a Blackberry Pearl and told me that he put together a plan for me that was the best deal and how he knows his competition and that I couldn’t find a better deal. The problem was, I never mentioned that I wanted a BlackBerry.

Once I finally got him to listen to ME, I told him exactly what I wanted, and of course, it wasn’t anything he was offering. I told him what I found at FIDO and ROGERS and TELUS and this totally stole his thunder. It was kind of funny really, but I appreciated his energy and effort. Eventually, he got me into a package that was reasonable. It wasn’t awesome, but it was in check with what we wanted and what we wanted to spend per month. He was also able to give us a choice of either the Palm TREO 700wx and the HTC 6800, both Windows Mobile devices.

When I asked about the HTC 5800 (which is similar to the Telus HTC s720), and is currently on their website, he told me that it was discontinued and an old phone and that it was the reason why Telus was dumping their unit for zero dollars. He then further reiterated how the other two phones were far superior choices. I told him to note that into the system and that I would go out to a Bell store and check them both out and give him an answer.

Trouble at the Bell Store…

So I go to my closest Bell store and check out the HTC 6800 and the TREO 700wx. I wasn’t too impressed with the TREO 700wx, and I thought that the HTC 6800 was too fat. I asked one of the reps there about the HTC 5800 on display as I found it hard to believe that it was already discontinued. Well, here’s where the trouble began: It was NOT discontinued, not even close. Here’s the kicker though…the plan that Sylvester promised me was not even compatible with this phone. Someone going to get hurt real bad!

Apparently, what Sylvester put together for me was some BlackBerry plan that wasn’t any sort of special deal. In fact, the only phone that had a somewhat similar offer was the HTC Touch, which was not an option because it had no keyboard. I guess he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did.

Third and FINAL Call to Bell Mobility…So I Thought…

So the next day, I call again and talk to another rep, explaining how Sylvester offered me a plan that was incompatible with the handsets I was offered. For some reason, she decided that she couldn’t do anything for me and transferred me to someone else. I had to explain what happened all over again to the new rep and then after a few minutes on hold, this person told me that I was transferred to the wrong person and decided to transfer me again to someone named Rock…yeah, like those things on the ground.

So Rock came off as somewhat of a hard ass. He looked at the notes on my account and seemed to have this “so what’s the problem” disposition. I thought this was a bad sign, but I attempted to explain the situation to him and how neither of the phones offered worked with the plan. Although he had no option but to agree that I was right, it seemed like he still needed to be right the whole time. I reverse customer serviced him and got him to soften up.

After a bit of back and forth, we finalized a deal that I was happy to take. He put me into the HTC 5800 for a net cost of $50 and a plan that was somewhat of a compromise on the email and data side. Since everyone else was offering an all you can eat email and data plan, he could only put together an 8 MB data option with a $6 per MB overage.

Compared to the regular data options on Bell’s service menu though, we got double the data with an overage charge that was half, so I still feel somewhat special. I even got him to give us an option of either 500 free text messges or the enhanced message center, which we would decide on when we accept the offer. Since Kelly would be using the phone for only email, I was certain we could make this work as she would only download important emails, and I could set her phone to download headers only to guard against overages.

So just to make sure that we got things right, and learning from my call with Sylvester, we went through the plan line by line and finally ending with the data options and a reassurance that the plan works 100% with the handset we had chosen. I was satisfied and told Rock that we would be picking up the phone today at the store.

Back To The Bell Store – Part One

So after getting a deal that I was satisfied with, we returned to the store to pickup the equipment. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until a computer error on our account halted the whole process. Since Rock had said that everything was good to go, we were just a little bit surprised. So I called the retention department to figure out what was going on. I asked for Rock, but he was nowhere to be found. In fact, he wasn’t from that department apparently, which was a little odd.

At any rate, we ended up with another rep who needed to be brought up to speed yet again. After screwing around on the phone for two hours, no one could figure out how to fix the problem, and we were told to come back tomorrow. On a side note, the two wasted hours of my life and a few firm words got me unlimited text messaging on my other Bell Mobility line that is used by Brice. I’m a patient guy, but I’m pretty annoyed by now and have been given a lot of reason to just say no and leave. So we go home empty handed and I’m seriously comtemplating not going back to the store at all.

Back To The Bell Store – Part Two

So after wasting hours on the phone with various reps over two days and two hours in the store the day before, annoyed is one of the nicer words that you can use to describe my disposition. I had pondered just asking them to shove their offer, but I figured that since the phone was pretty much free and the plan was acceptable, I would just go back and pick up the phone today as promised by customer service.

So I head back in to the Bell store where the rep that tried to help me the other day was there to greet me. She was actually very apologetic about what happened the day before. Totally not her fault though and I made sure she knew that. So she grabs a new phone for me and starts logging in to access my account and change the phone over. After a few seconds we get the EXACT same error that stranded me there for 2 hours the day before. Crap! Here we go again!

This time, the rep there is totally annoyed with this and calls up her help desk to impart some of her frustration on someone there. After having no luck with her help desk, she makes a call to customer service, explains the situation with the account not being accessible, at which point customer service wants to talk to me where I am forced to go over the whole thing all over again with yet another brand new rep.

So after about an hour and a half of back and forth with this new rep, we find out that the plan that was promised to me was not available. WTF? So I had to go through the plan again, line by line, telling this new guy (Ludwig I think) what I was promised and what was screwed up about what he was trying to offer me. This prompts more “going back to the supervisor” bullshit and eventually I just say flat out that this is unacceptable. They offered me something to stay on their service, then they pretend it didn’t exist. Is this the way they wear customers down to accept something that isn’t the best possible deal? Sure seems like it.

I’m totally fed up. We’ve been on the phone for over three hours. My rep needed to go to the bathroom, and I was sore from slouching over the counter on hold with them. I go on a tirade about how I had called in a position to just leave them as a service provider, how I didn’t appreciate being lied to about what I was promised, and how I certainly didn’t appreciate having two days of my life wasted. I also told him how stupid it was to make a customer that had already agreed to stay on the service want to quit because of this bullshit treatment. I challenged him to give me a reason not to just hang up and leave. He apologizes and transfers me to the retentions department. Wait a sec… Didn’t I call that department when this whole thing started?

Here We Go Again? Or a Happy Ending?

In every company, there are a few superstars, and it’s a shame that I didn’t run into this one earlier. I get connected to Sherree who was not only apologetic, but seemed very determined to make sure that I didn’t waste any more time. She asked me to briefly go through what plan I was promised, what I would pay, and what phone I would be getting that hooked up to. She brought up my account and saw all this bullshit scribble all over my account so she cleared it out and started over with what I was promised. From there, she rebuilt my plan quickly and was even able to score me double the text message (100 to 200) and shaved another $8 bucks per month off the plan.

After she got all this stuff put together, we went through the data options and she made sure that I got the data allotment and the overage charge that I was promised. She also made a quick side call to her tech department to make sure that the phone I chose would work with my chosen plan. After getting that squared away, we went through the plan line by line to make sure that everything that was promised was there including the additions she made to make up for the horrible experience. She even added an extra 50 minutes during the daytime to the plan for the term of the contract, bringing us up to 250 daytime minutes.

So after confirming everything with Sherree, I passed the phone back to the in store rep, and they proceeded to activate the phone. The rep, seeing that I was looking pretty ragged, offered me the couch and that she would only need a few minutes to program the phone and put together the bill. When she was done, I got another bonus which was a free phone. Initially, I had to pay $50 for the upgrade, but now I would have to pay nothing. She also gave me a $50 discount in store on the 3 year service plan so that if the phone died again, they’d just be able to fix it or swap it and provide a working loaner. That was $59 plus tax, but I thought that after this ordeal, it was worth it.

The Conclusion!

So after spending four hours in the store on the final day of this ordeal, I now have the following:

  • HTC 5800 Windows Mobile Smartphone ($0)
  • 250 day time minutes with unlimited evenings and weekends after 6 PM
  • Call Display and Enhanced Voicemail Option
  • 200 text messages
  • 8 MB Email and Data Package with a $6 per MB overage

The grand total for the plan was $49.70 per month plus taxes. System access and 911 fee included. The equipment netted out to $67.15, which is the cost for the warranty only. At the end of the day, I saved about $5 – 10 a month over everything else that was being offered out there on the plan, and paid nothing for the phone. However, I’m still wondering if all the hassle was really worth it. The plan isn’t awesome, but we did make out with an upgraded phone for free.

I’m just totally amazed that after going through hours of customer service hassle, it took this latest rep, Sherree, only an hour to fix the problem, fix my plan, activate my phone and get me out the door. I mean, seriously, this rep deserves something for not being utterly useless like all the others that I’ve talked to that I wasted my time with. They need more reps like her.

My other Bell line is coming up for renewal next March, and as a glutton for punishment, I’m curious to see what happens. With T-Mobile moving into Canada next year, and with my affinity for GSM, Bell better be ready to deal and I give them an hour this time to impress me. I know that I’m probably more patient than the average customer, so I’m wondering, where you would have just lost it in this sequence of events?

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    • Cassandra

      Thank you for this very detailed and eye opening experience. I too am looking to do the same thing at this very moment. In my research Telus came up the big winner in providing the most at the best cost (I want a blackberry). Having now read this I am concerned that they are not what they say they are. Telus can’t bundle? I wonder if that too has to be negotiated?

      Some money is better than no money, you would think in this day and age, businesses would be throwing themselves what they can to service you and keep or obtain your business. I am saddened by the prospect of what I will have to go through.

      • http://www.futurelooks.com Stephen

        Your mileage may vary on the Blackberry. Rumour has it that when T-Mobile enters the CDN market next year (hopefully), Blackberry fans will have access to a $65 all you an eat plan, similar to what US customers are enjoying.

        As for Telus, in our case, Blackberry wasn’t an option and the plan that I wanted to bundle with their data bundle was not possible, making the Telus plan more money for us, in our situation. We were looking for windows mobile devices specifically.

        I wish this on no one, so I hope it goes smoother for you. Thanks for the comment.

    • http://dereksemmler.com/ Derek

      Think about how many people give up long before they ever get to speak to Sherree and you will see why they probably pull crap like this. It seems there are far too many companies that focus too much on customer acquisition and not customer retention.

    • Geoff

      3,200 word rant – nice!

    • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca iPhone in Canada
      • http://www.futurelooks.com Stephen

        LOL! Nice!

    • http://www.leochiang.com Leo

      Hey Stephen, wanna negotiate a new contract for me? ;)

      • http://www.futurelooks.com Stephen

        Uh…hmm…NO! :lol:

    • http://www.k-rad.hk Carl

      The lesson should be, NEVER sign a contract with a phone company that is longer than a year.

      • http://www.futurelooks.com Stephen

        Believe me, if I was in HK, I’d be all over that. But unfortunately, the number of GSM carriers is a little slim around here.

        • http://www.k-rad.hk Carl

          Still, it’s probably better so spend a bit of money on your phone, and go with a non-exclusive plan. That way if you should want to switch companies for any reason, you can do so easily. I did that for years in Canada even.

          You know I’m always here to send a phone over whenever you need one!

          • http://www.futurelooks.com Stephen

            Well, I’ll have to take you up on that offer when this contract expires again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a “BIT” of money. If it was, it would be a no brainer to go free and clear with any provider.

            It would have been just under $300 to get out of BELL, then to get a phone with either of the other GSM carriers, it would have been $500 outside a contract (IMEI tracking with their data plans. Can`t just use any phone). And then if you DON`T sign a contract with either carrier you DON`T get their better unadvertised plans, so loose another $15 – 20 per month for going non exclusive.

            The cost of ducking back into a contract probably saved us about $1000 this time. That was the price of complete freedom. I`d rather stick that in the bank and make some interest over the next three years, using the proceeds to give me other options when the contract comes due.

            I`m personally free and clear, but my plan is so good, FIDO won`t sign me to a contract. The half price CITY FIDO is like the Babe Ruth of Baseball Cards.

    • http://btr.michaelkwan.com Michael Kwan

      Glad to hear that things worked out (sort of) in the end. As you know, I too am looking for a mobile email + data solution, but thankfully, I’m Fido and out of contract. My (reasonable) ideal would be something like 200 daytime, fido-to-rogers, caller ID, voicemail, 100 Canadian LD, unlimited email, and a little data for WAP browsing.