In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Not your business!

Last week, I described the fat I’m trimming from my monthly budget. Putting the plan into action was an interesting experience. Certainly businesses accustomed to selling you a raft of services don’t want to see you trim those services, so it’s no surprise that they’re not as cheery and helpful when you want to cut back and pay them less.

Since Bell is only open during business hours, I had to call them during lunch. I couldn’t be home to do this so I was calling from a number other than the one appearing on my account. Consequently, I was subject to a more rigorous validation process. I had to give two pieces of information. No big deal, I thought. I gave my address and phone number but those were not part of the validation process. I didn’t bring the bill so I could not give my account number. Sure I should have had it, but I’ve never been asked for it before. I couldn’t tell them the exact amount of my last payment either.

To my great surprise, two other validation questions were to name my employer, and to name the person Bell should contact if they can’t reach me. Even more surprising is that the rep claimed I had provided this information in the past. “When?” I asked. Her quick response was, “I don’t have that information.” Since I have no memory of providing them with the name of my employer, I told her I could choose from a field of perhaps four, and the information is certainly not current.

The other question seemed completely bizarre to me. Who would they contact if they can’t reach me? It’s not like I’m in grade-school and they need my parents’ contact information. If they can’t reach me, leave a message. I guessed at two names and both were wrong. So I couldn’t change my services until I called again from home. Then all I had to do was give my name and address and off we went.

I’ve since written Bell for the information about me they have on file. I’m entitled to do this and they must respond within 30 days. So we’ll see who they think my employer is and who they need to phone if I skin my knee.

My experience in contacting Rogers to cut my level of cable service was even more disquieting. I explained that I wanted the Ultimate TV Pack removed from my service and they readily agreed. The rep I was talking to told me that my file was not complete and they’d need further information to bring it up to date. I immediately asked why it was not up to date because they seemed to have no difficulty in providing me service over the last nine years. She told me they simply didn’t ask all the questions they should have when they opened my file. She apologized for the inconvenience. “There’s been no inconvenience to me,” I thought.

“So to bring your file up to date, all we need is your date of birth,” she said. Surprised, I had further questions: “My date of birth? Why do you need that?” She happily explained it was for validation purposes. Apparently, no one else knows my birthday so when someone calls them and offers the correct date upon request, they know it’s actually me. I suggested that perhaps looking at their call display and matching the number I’m calling from and the account number I would read to them to the information in my file would be far easier and more effective. She explained that while they’d know the caller was using my phone, they wouldn’t know it was me using it. Also, my account number would be read off the bill by anyone. Can you imagine?

I suggested to her that many more people know my birth date than have free access to my phone and cable bills. I went further and told her I would not be providing my birth date. To my great amusement, she said that she wasn’t certain she could proceed with my request. Next, she put me on hold to go find out. She finally returned and told me she had entered my request into the system. Further, she said, “I need to set your expectation. You will be asked for your birth date every time you call us.” I told her I was fine with this, knowing I will simply refuse every time I call them. Problem solved.

What annoys me about my call to Rogers is their asking for my birth date is clearly not a matter of validation. If they truly believe one’s date of birth is a better confirmation of who they’re talking to than where the call is coming from, their security experts are not earning their pay. Certainly others, in addition to the owner, can use a phone to make calls, but these are usually the same people who have the best chance of knowing the birth date of the phone’s owner. Do they really not see this? Of course they do. The question is simply a matter of trying to collect as much information about their customers as they can. It’s a valuable commodity.

I’ve become a lot more aware of the amount of personal information we’re asked for and do not give whatever I’m asked for just because I’m asked. Given how brazen the Rogers rep was in asking for the information, I was not content in leaving the matter be. Their web site goes to great lengths to assure their customers about how seriously they take the security of their customers’ personal information, so much so that they have a Privacy Officer with a direct e‑mail address. I wrote a message describing my experience and why I was so annoyed. Any thought I had that they really gave a shit about my privacy evaporated when I received a response to my message. It came from the Rogers Customer Service department and explained that my message was important and they’d send it right along to the proper department and they’d take it just as seriously.

Bull shit, I say. I wrote back and suggested a mistake had occurred because I sent the message directly to the Privacy Officer, not Customer Service, and surely the Privacy Officer’s e‑mail address wasn’t just for show, with a simple redirection to Customer Service! I didn’t get a response, of course. I wrote again a week later asking how long the Privacy Officer takes to respond to queries like mine. I expect no answer, but if one comes, it will involve further empty assurances of how seriously they take privacy, but it will boil down to how they do not respond to each message of this nature.

I’ve also written Rogers with a request for the information they have on file about me. Companies must respond to such requests within 30 days. We’ll see if they do. I’m considering following up with registered letters restating my requests, because you can bet I’ll enter a formal complaint with the Federal Government’s Privacy Commission if they do not fulfil their obligation.

Don’t get me wrong however, I do understand companies need information about me to provide services I choose to purchase from them. What really pisses me off is that they ask for more than they need, with an absolute and obvious feeling of entitlement. Well, I draw the line. Of course they feel entitled. They’re rarely challenged when they ask. For me, this changes now.

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4 Comments

  1. Jennifer

    It always pisses me off when I have to sacrifice my firstborn to receive service from a company. I have stopped shopping at stores that require me to give them my phone number before they’ll check me out. Do you want my money or not?!?

  2. Kat

    When *IS* your birthday, Rick? :>P

  3. Vix

    Stores that require you give your phone number and address before purchasing an item (with cash, even!) is happening a lot more than I’d like to see. What business is it of theirs?!

    Did you know that when you apply for a credit card that you do NOT have to give your Social Insurance Number, yet a lot of them insist you give that information. I was surprised once by how I was refused a card when I refused to give out that information. Ever happen to you?

  4. BAC

    Radio Shack was notorious for address info since way back when so that they could send you there sales flyer direct to home. The ‘out’ was to say “I already get your flyer”. The clerk would then just enter the transaction as a cash sale. “Out of State” response often shuts-up most retailers, especially up here.…

    We all miss is the trackability of our actions by way of mileage and ‘member’ programs that retailers maintain. Contests are also brutal list makers.

    Good article , Rick. It’s important.

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