Hostage To My Cellphone Contract No More!

It’s a strange feeling when you feel as if a business doesn’t want your business – in this case I’m referring to Telus who also happens to be my cellphone carrier.

I been a loyal customer since July 9,2003, and with the same phone number for over nine years. I have paid my cell phone charges on time, and on average have spent $1,200 or more over the course of a year – which would equate to roughly $10,800 over nine years that I have been a loyal customer.

As my contract with Telus is winding down over the next four months, I’ve thought about upgrading my four year old Blackberry to something a little more fresh. I’ve been generally pleased with my carrier’s service so far, and had the best intentions to stay on board going forward.

Sadly, that’s not going to be the case, as my carrier (Telus) is not interested in keeping a loyal customer of nine years, and is instead focusing on the new guy.

How This Came About

A friend sent me an email about a 72 Hour Sale: $0 Cell Phones (1 Year Plan) Telus was having, and after checking it out, reading the fine print, I decided to get on the phone with a customer service rep, and ask her about the sale, and that I was interested. I just needed to know what next step I would take to get a new phone, and would happily sign the 1 year contract, and even pay my early termination fee of $50.

My customer service rep told me that the deal was only offered to “NEW” clients, and that I would need to pay full-pop for a new phone if I didn’t want to go with any contract or get into a three year contract in order to significantly reduce the cost of the phone upfront. However, I was not interested in paying full-pop for a new phone or getting into a 3-year cell phone contract. Seriously, who likes being tied down to a contract?

“But I don’t want a new 3-year contract” I said, in an slightly annoyed tone.  “I want to stay on with Telus, but it’s not fair that you’re offering a newbie off the street a better deal than you are for a loyal customer of 9 years”. Surely to keep a customer I thought the customer service rep would be able to offer me something more. “There’s nothing that I can do, this is only for new customers”, was the best answer she could give me.

I guess my argument fell on deaf ears. And that’s when I requested to be transferred to the retention department in hopes of speaking to someone who could do something. After a 5 minute wait, customer service agent “Joe” appeared on the line, and shit got real ugly really fast.

My protests continued, and I asked Joe, “What can you do for me”, which followed by the following replies:

“Sir, this is only a promotion for new clients that cell phone manufactures put on to get rid of their old stock, and refurbished models”

“If you are interested, we can waive the $50 early termination fee, and get you into a new phone and a new contract”

“Looking back in history, three years ago we gave you (which I negotiated by the way) a lot of freebies. Free voice-mail and caller ID, and surely you got one heck of a deal given to us almost three years ago”

This is where I got really annoyed, and replied with this:

“I didn’t call today to discuss what I negotiated three years ago. That’s the past, and kudos to me for being smart and was able to negotiate something. Secondly, that was the cost of doing business then and that’s what was necessary to keep me on board – I asked, and you guys committed”

“So, are you going to do something for me today, or am I going to start looking else where”

“I can’t do anything for you, this promotion is not for new clients only” my service rep replied, and the same line I heard at least five times in the 20 minute phone conversation.

“Alright, if you’re going to push away a loyal client that easily, then I’m not even interested in being with Telus. Obviously the new clients matters more, yet 80% of your business comes from existing clients like my self. So, please do me a favor after I hang up, and leave a note in your computer for others to see: Client is unhappy, and will be taking his business elsewhere in four months, because we Telus mobility are not interested in having loyal clients”.

Hung up the phone!

A Canadian Monopoly

Canadian wireless industry is ruled by three major providers: Telus, Rogers, and Bell. The big three also carry and own “discount cell phone providers”: Koodo (Telus), Fido (bought out by Rogers), and Virgin Mobile (bought out by Bell). Can you say monopoly? Oh yeah!

Furthermore, the Canadian government regulates and controls the wireless airwaves, and has made it virtually impossible for new players to enter the field. Some have tried few years ago with the government selling off limited amount of air wave signals – only to fail and go bankrupt years later.

The big tree carriers in Canada only believe in one word: SQUEEZE.

  1. Squeeze independent providers out of the cell phone market.
  2. Squeeze more money out of your wallet every month through new fees on your bill.
  3. Squeeze Canadians into tighter, longer-term contracts with disrespectful customer service.

Most Canadians will tell you that there are major holes in the Canadian wireless market. Both in terms of technology and pricing, Canada has been lagging behind both Europe and the United States for years. The technology is sub-par to what you can get in United States or Europe, and the prices Canadians pay for wireless service is outright highway robbery to what our neighbors south of the border pay.

If you don’t believe me, here’s how my current wireless plan breaks down:

Telus Talk 30 – $30

150 Daytime Minutes

Call Waiting

FREE Local Birthday Calls

Outbound Call Display

Free Evenings & Weekends After 6pm

Voice Mail (FREE as negotiated)

2000 Text Messages – $10

Blackberry Data Plan – $15

Caller ID (Free as negotiated)

0 Minutes Long Distance (35 cents per minute)

TOTAL – $55.00 / Month

FEES – $7.99 / System Access Fee

TAXES – $8.19

GRAND TOTAL – $71.18

Somehow my monthly bill always hovers around $85-90 per month. Must be the 35 cent per minute long distance charges when I’m out of the city.

Lessons Learned

Money Drives Action

Large corporations like Telus and most publicly traded companies have shareholders to report to. It’s in their blood to cut corners to make more money. Even though large corporations like these should care about their clients, most don’t, because clients are just numbers. The more numbers, the better it is for the shareholders, and the lower quality of service is offered to clients in return.

Big 3 wireless CEOs made a lot of money in 2010, combined $22,788,361. Darren Entwistle, CEO of Telus earned a base salary of $1,225,000, then adding in pension, shares, bonus, etc… took him to $9,940,445.  (Source: Mobile Syrup)

Look Out For Your Self,  Because Nobody Else Will

You are your best friend, and your own worst enemy. You need to look out for your self first, and be #1. Never sacrifice what you believe in to appease others, or stay in a scenario that doesn’t work for you. All relationships are built on two simple basis – respect and give-and-take. If your wireless provider is not providing the type of service you expect, want and deserve – move on. That’s what I’m doing, because there are many others who’ll be glad to take my dollars, and treat me the way I want to be treated.

I’m not sure who’ll read this outside of my regular readership, but I just wanted to make it clear that this post is not an indictment on the everyday people who work at Telus.  This post is aimed at the higher-ups, the key decision makers, and management in training the front-line employees. Step up to the plate, and offer value to your customers, rather than throw in their face what was negotiated in the past.

Always Compare

Better always exists out there, but sometimes the hassle is not worth a few bucks. In this instance with Telus, it’s not about the bucks, but rather about the principle. Why should a newbie get a better deal than a loyal paying customer of 9 years? It doesn’t make sense, even basic economics dictates that with the 80/20 rule. We should never allow our selves to be stomped on due our wireless providers wanting to save a few bucks. I say, “If you want to save a few bucks, cut the salary of the CEO”.

Final Thoughts

One of the main characteristics of capitalism is competition. Once companies become too powerful they dominate the market, which leads to monopoly – Canadian wireless market is a prime example of a capitalist monopoly. Regardless to what happened, and the conversation that took place, they lost me as a customer. Although I’ve yet to try seek out a new wireless provider, I still have essentially until the end of the year when my contract officially runs out. I’ll  wait out my contract and just go elsewhere. Frankly, I don’t need a new phone right now, and this is quite the incentive to just be happy with my dependable old Blackberry. One thing for sure that I know is that I’m not the contract type, don’t like to be tied down or limited, and that my next wireless provider will offer me service without a contract.

Readers, are you happy with your wireless provider?  How do you feel about “newbies” getting better deals than existing customers? What are your thoughts on the Canadian wireless monopoly?

Best,

Eddie

Photo Credit (abennett96)

Comments

  1. Good for you, Eddie! Fire the no customer service – customer service company. Since I am in U.S., what are other choices do you have for wireless carriers in Canada?
    John @ Calling the Puts recently posted..Why Are So Many Personal Finance Bloggers Broke?My Profile

  2. I’ve had similar encounters with telus. I’ve also been a customer since 2003 and found it ridiculous that they wouldn’t honor my current deal when I renewed my contract. I had free voicemail and ended up paying $5 after ‘negotiating’ it back down. Just terrible business…
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  3. Great post! Looks like we’re in the same boat. My contract with Rogers is over in November and I am definitely shopping around. Right now I’m planning on switching over to Wind – I know people have cited reception issues but I know a few people that are under their $40 plan and love it. Maybe look into that too.

    I agree its incredible that these telecom companies don’t value loyalty. I have some services with Bell and one time I tried to bundle them into a promo they had and I was told it was only for new customers as well. Of course that wasn’t stated anywhere, but they wouldn’t budge.
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  4. I am with Rogers and I do not think I have ever detested a company to the degree that I detest them. I don’t think I have even once had a good customer service experience with them; when I call, I am on hold for at least 10-15 minutes but usually way more. The one time that hte person was nice to me, they ended up binding me to a three year contract that I did not consent to. Ridiculous!
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  5. The monopoly is slowly eroding in Canada thanks to the entrance of Wind Mobile and Mobilicity into the market. Unfortunately, they are currently only available in most of the major cities and some smaller areas, but if you are lucky enough to be where they are, then its a wonderful feeling to be able to stick it to Robellus. I dumped all my Rogers services about 2 years ago and switched to Wind Mobile, and I now pay about half as much for twice as much. I pay $40+tax a month for unlimited North American calling, unlimited global texting, unlimited data, voicemail and call display. Unfortunately, that price point isn’t available anymore, but the current plans aren’t that much worse. And service-wise, I have no complaints. Eddie, I’m not sure specifically where you are, but if you have access to one of the new entrants, take a serious look at their services before you go back to Robellus.
    Earth and Money recently posted..Investing to Save the WorldMy Profile

  6. Yes cell phone companies are horrible with taking care of longstanding customers. The primary reason behind the bad customer service is that the reps get comissions for opening new contracts /accounts. They do not want to waste precious time with you because your not a new customer, I was treated the same way with verizon. Now I have T-mobile and it is the same problem, the bill starts nice and low and creeps up about 10 – 15 dollars every month. I am also tired of being tied down to a 2 year contract. In january I will be making moves to switch but have to find a miracle because I have dealt with almost all the carriers except for sprint. Wish me luck.
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  7. Love the consumer protection power of a blog. I’m in a similar boat. I’m out of contract but need a new phone. Not sure if I want to stay with the same provider I’ve had for 8 years or seek out a “new” deal elsewhere. I often wonder why they are so transparent in their testing of the relationship with existing customers.
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  8. I don’t think it’s fair that they give the newbies a better offer but I do understand it from a business perspective. I’m sure they fully know that they’re going to get more NEW customers than they will have loyal people leave because they’re unhappy they won’t get the same deal. Most people are too lazy to change and stay with their provider…they know that and that’s why they don’t care. It’s unfortunate and annoying though.
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  9. While I understand the deals to newbie, I agree that it sucks. They should have been a little bit more willing to work with you though.
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  10. AT&T sucks here in the US.

    It helps that my mobile expense is a business expense.
    Financial Samurai recently posted..“I Want To Have Fun” – One Of The Worst Excuses For Not SavingMy Profile

  11. Whoa! You weren’t joking on the excessive price. I haven’t paid for voice mail since the 90′s. For 80 bucks I’d get triple the minutes, a texting plan and a data plan.

    It seems that if the industry doesn’t reward loyalty, it makes sense to shop for the lowest bidder whenever your plan ends.
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  12. I’ve had the same experience with Telus a year ago when my contract was about to end. I too decided to due away with Telus and look for other options.

    I first tried Mobilicity; they were giving away $200 dollars in credit if I ported my number from one of the big three thus giving me about 4 months of free service. I was unsatisfied with the service (calls dropped all the time even when in the “zone” plus paid too much for roaming) and left after those 4 months.

    I then tried Petro Canada mobile. It provides pre-paid, no contract service including on monthly plans. I currently pay $29.5 (inc. tax) a month which includes 200 local min, unlimited text, as well as call id and voicemail. For an extra $8 you can receive unlimited data. So far it has been the best service I have ever received from any cell provider in Canada. It operates on the rogers network which I find has better coverage than Telus (bell) network. Some months I use the unlimited data and I get higher speeds than my friends who have Bell data plans, all for 8 bucks. The only catch is that there is no phone selection which is fine if you have an unlocked phone that you can switch over. I just used my old smart phone from telus, unlocked it via ebay ($2), inserted PC’s sim card, et voila. Also, I was able to port my original number for free.

    I would definitely recommend using one of the virtual network operators like Petro-Canada mobility, President choice mobile, or Seven-Eleven’s Speak out wireless. All operate under either Roger or Bell networks and do not use “zones” like wind or mobilicity.

    • Hi Case!
      Thanks for the wireless education.
      You sure made me rethink Mobilicty, as that’s who I was planning to go with.
      What kind of phone do you use with Petro?
      I’m a Blackberry guy, and would like to stick with it.
      How did you get your phone unlocked via eBay?

      • Hi Eddie,

        Unlocking your cell phone I would definitely recommend. Besides allowing you to change cell operators in Canada it also allows you use cell services in other countries when on vacation in order to avoid roaming charges (I have sim cards for Europe and use T-mobile prepaid when in the US).

        Unlocking a phone from a carrier is fairly easy you’ll need an unlock code which you can buy online. I use Ebay because I can see whether the seller is reliable or not. You’ll be prompted to provide you cell model, carrier it’s locked to, and the phone’s IMEI. Upon payment they’ll send an unlock code, enter this into your phone. It’s now unlocked. I would recommend first reading how to unlock your particular phone model on various forums (howards forum is particularly useful)

        Regarding Mobilicity, it might be good in other zones but here in Ottawa I found coverage to be very minimal (never got signal while in classrooms or in my basement bedroom). I know Wind has better coverage here in Ottawa, service might also differ in larger zones such as the GTA.

        I currently use an Android with PC mobile. Blackberry should not be a problem; my friend used my PC mobile sim card in his BB Torch and it worked fine.

        There might be one drawback: on different forums it’s noted that the unlimited browsing only allows, like the name says, unlimited browsing. Apps will not work because apps use a different port than browsing. However, for some reason I’m always able to use all the apps (email, banking, music apps) on my android when using PC mobile unlimited browsing.

        Hope this helps. Cheers,

        Case

        • Hi Case,
          Great piece of information.
          I didn’t know you can unlock your phone via eBay. Learned something new.
          Check your email, I shot you an email regarding something of interest.
          Cheers.

  13. Freakin’ hate the monopoly. Came super close to changing Telus to Bell about a year ago, bought the Telus one, where at the store they said they’d activate then I could call and have the “deals” I’d negotiated applied. Total BS. Plus to return the phone it would cost me money.
    I am SO happy that I now have a phone that a friend gave me (a Torch, too :-)) and no contract. The next step is probably to try to get them to retain me or see who else I can go to. Thank goodness for the new ability to transfer phone numbers!
    I have many friends who have had the same problem, “the new client is way more important to us than the loyal one.”
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  14. RO BEL US GUYS ARE RULING THE AIR WAVES BECAUSE WE LET THEM. SO GET SMART AND GO OVER TO WIND EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO PAY A HEFTY PENALTY. DO THE MATH AND YOU WILL BE AHEAD. ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

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