In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

No more

A few weeks back I decided to switch Internet service providers. Rogers has abysmal customer service and the people they throw onto the phones really aren’t fit to take calls. I couldn’t log into their site. When I’d try, I was immediately told my session had timed out. So I called about it and they told me Firefox wasn’t supported and I’d have to use Internet Explorer. Lovely. Well, it turns out their site won’t let you in if you don’t have cookies enabled. It’s great that they could troubleshoot the problem so effectively and tell me the reason.

But it gets even better. The reason I wanted to log in to their site was to check my bandwidth usage. If you exceed a threshold, they can shut you down completely. Given the limit, it’s good to keep track of one’s consumption, right? So after I finally did log in, you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover the bandwidth usage page wasn’t working. Ah, what service.

I decided to leave after almost ten years as a customer. My experience in trying to sign up with Bell Sympatico had me write this letter, sending it to the Bell Canada Executive Office of Client Relations both via e‑mail and Canada Post, and to the president of Bell, if I can find his/her postal address.

Dear Bell Sympatico,

I was a customer of yours back in the dial-up days. Rogers cable was the first provider to offer high-speed Internet in my area so I signed with them and they’ve provided me with Internet service for almost ten years now. I’ve been increasingly unhappy with their customer service and decided to find another Internet provider. Their service is great, but their customer service is very poor. I firmly believe any company can do very well if they simply treat their customers with fairness and respect.

Let me take you through my experience in trying to switch to Bell, one incident at a time.

Wednesday January 24:

Call Rogers and cancel my account. My Internet service will be terminated on February 2.

Thursday January 25:

After researching my options, I decide to go with Sympatico. Strangely enough, when I enter my phone number on the Sympatico site, I’m told there is no high-speed service available to me. I know this is incorrect as I had a free trial a few years back. Would they actually remove service from an area? I can’t imagine why.

I call 710-SURF and talk to a support rep. He looks up my number and tells me I don’t have service. I explain my free trial, so he checks another system and discovers I do have service, up to 3 Mb. He doesn’t understand why one system says yes and the other says no. Unfortunately the system saying no is the one required to sign up.

I’m told I have to call the business office to get it straightened out. The business office is open from 8 – 5, and it’s very difficult for me to place a call of any length during that time. He suggests I instead try again the next evening and perhaps the problem will be straightened out.

Friday January 26:

I call 710-SURF and go through the whole sequence again. By the way, the first thing I’m asked to do is key in my phone number, then the first thing the rep asks for is my phone number. Perhaps this is a bit of redundancy you might consider removing?

The rep tells me there’s nothing he can do. I have to call the business office. I went back to to look up a customer service e‑mail address so I could relay to the Sympatico folks what a ridiculous and frustrating experience I was having. I discover this gem:

We regret that we are temporarily unable to answer e‑mail about Internet services unless your message is about abuse (such as spam, viruses or security issues). We apologize for the inconvenience.

What a warm squishy feeling my experience with Bell is giving me! I keep looking and discover a e‑mail and postal addresses (this time, the telephone option is missing) to use if we can’t get satisfaction from direct contact with the department in charge of the service. Sounds good to me! So I write and outline the basics:

  • I want Internet service.
  • Bell is in the market of providing Internet service.
  • Bell’s computer system is screwed up and prevents me from signing up and giving them money every month.
  • Is this really any way to run a railroad?

Monday January 29:

I arrive home from work to discover a telephone message from a Sympatico supervisor explaining they do have people working until 9pm on weekdays who can certainly arrange Internet service for me and would be happy to do so. All I have to do is let them know when they can reach me at home by calling them up at (866) 774‑0773, choosing option #6, and leaving a message.

So I call at about 6pm. The number is a mass voicemail system. I can press zero to leave a general message for the supervisors, or I can press one through eight to leave messages for one of eight individual supervisors. There’s no option to actually talk to anyone. Looking back, I should’ve realised something was up because the guy who left me the message was named Josh or Joel (he didn’t speak particularly clearly), and option six belonged to a guy named Marc.

I leave my message anyway. I explain the situation and tell Josh/Joel/Marc that I can be reached after 6 pm any day of the week but Wednesday. They don’t return my call that evening.

Tuesday January 30:

No call.

Wednesday January 31:

I’m off sick. Since I’m home, I call the business office. It’s a complete replay of my other two calls, except the person I talk to is not nearly as knowledgeable. She tells me that although my area does show as having service on one system, the system used to actually sign people up allows only the option of dial up. She has no idea why and appears to have no idea how to find out or what to do.

I call Josh/Joel/Marc back and leave another message explaining the ‘crash and burn’ course of events. It appears the only way I can get high-speed service from Bell is if one of their keen people working until 9pm calls me and arranges things. They don’t return my call that evening.

Thursday February 1:

Still no call. With ten minutes remaining before Rogers’ customer service closes, I phone and ask if they can reverse the cancellation of my Internet service. They happily oblige. I’m not happy about staying with them, but at least I have service.

Friday February 2:

No call.

Monday February 5:

No call.

Tuesday February 6:

No call.

Wednesday February 7:

No call.

Thursday February 8:

I tell a number of people this story over the previous few days. I tell a co-worker of mine, and she is surprised because she has Sympatico high-speed Internet service. Imagine my surprise at this news … because she lives in the same building as me!

So I call the business office. I go through the whole thing again. The person I talk to sees all the same information. The difference is he notices a code in the entry. He asks me to hold so he can look up the meaning of the code. A moment later he tells me the code indicates my area is fully subscribed and before they add more capacity (scheduled for June/July), no one new can sign up.

I tell him it would’ve been nice to have been told this on my very first call. He tells me the code was there and plainly visible to anyone checking the system. I thank him very kindly and tell him he’s the first person who’s actually helped me.

So tell me, supervisors of the, do you really consider this acceptable? You’ve got people representing you who have no idea what they’re doing!

I do understand things will go wrong and certainly do not expect perfection from any person or organization. My gauge of how well a business operates involves how they handle problems. Considering my experience, your performance is among the worst I’ve ever experienced. No representative of an organization should make a promise they do not keep. For a supervisor to do this is absolutely inexcusable. It’s been ten business days since I was promised a call. If you consider this acceptable, you need retraining, or should consider a career change as soon as possible.

Don’t worry though, there are many other options. You’re clearly demonstrated your inability to keep your word, and I certainly wouldn’t want to interrupt whatever’s keeping you busy.


The iPod levy


Skill is sexy


  1. Lori

    Bell is so terrible. I had a 3 month free trial and then cancelled it because I could never get ANYONE on the phone to solve ANYTHING. It was ALWAYS call this office, call that office. A week after they shut down our service some louse from Bell called us up at dinner time offering us a free trial for 3 months! As if!

    (whoa, feeling ranty today!)

  2. Shawn

    I have had similar awful experience with Bell. Rogers isn’t perfect, but so far it still works. Better the devil you know then the one you don’t

  3. Dee

    Ya scared me there, Rick! With the subject of your notify e‑mail, “No more”, I was afraid this was the final entry. Then I started reading and it didn’t seem to be heading in that direction except toward the end when you got to your internet situation — I was afraid the whole time I was reading that this was going to end with you giving up on the whole web domain and possibly even high speed internet altogether!

    What a relief that you will still be around!

    That Bell experience is unfathomable!!! Good grief. I can’t believe you had the patience and diligence to keep calling back.

    I’ve recently become a Rogers customer and — knock on wood — so far, it’s been really good (though you’re not the first person I’ve heard of whose had poor customer service). I think so much of it is simply the luck of the draw regarding who answers your call (besides Emily or Anna or whoever automated voice with a common woman’s name everyone gets).

  4. Baseliner

    My experience with Sympatico’s tech support shows it is now outsourced to India. I don’t pay for THAT.

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