I really don’t like to talk negatively about any company or person but today I’m making an exception about Telus (I don’t think I’ve actually ever really done this before). I just finished a good 1-2 hour call with their customer service department about my last bill and I was very angry and frustrated. I know I should wait a day or two to publish this but I’m going to break my self imposed rule because of the insanity of it all.
It started about 3-4 months ago when I bought myself a new Palm Treo 700wx from Telus (one of the bigger telco’s in Canada). It’s a great looking phone that was going to serve all my needs (top of the line). What I need from my cell phone is the ability to talk on it and read my emails (very simple). I still enjoy getting email messages sent to my phone about my daily sales, etc. Nothing too crazy, no more than a few messages a day (summaries, etc.). That being said, this phone was going to be perfect. I got the data connection for 4mb/month for $20-25/month (I can’t remember the exact price). There’s no way checking my emails every 60 minutes would use up 4mb of bandwidth a day, assuming most of the time there’s no new emails and those that do come in are summaries of at most 10-100 characters.
As part of the package I got they also gave a discount of $400 on the PDA bringing it down to $200 (with a three year contract). As well they gave me free unlimited bandwidth for the first three months so I could test out the internet. I was excited to get my new phone.
Within a week or so later I noticed that about a third of the time the person on the other of the line couldn’t hear me when we initially connected. This is annoying to say the least!!! So I went back to the store and they were more than happy to exchange my phone with a new one. Great. The downside was that it was going to take at least a week since they had to order in a new one because they couldn’t just exchange it for what was on the shelve. I don’t understand but fine, I can go along with that since I get to keep the current one in the interim, with calls with no voice and all.
A week goes by and I get my new phone. At first everything seemed to work well but within a month again the same problem. Many times the other person can’t hear me. So I started to surf the net about this problem and it appears to be very common with this phone. No one is doing anything about it, no firmware/software upgrades, nothing. And you can’t really change phones without paying the full price of the PDA (ie. the $400 difference). Not only that but the phone crashes at least once every other day forcing a hard reboot. This is not uncommon. So in the meantime I’ve decided to wait a bit for a firmware update. Still nothing as of today (I just checked).
Now you’d think the story ends here, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, the really interesting part is just about to begin! My three months of unlimited bandwidth have ended and now I’m on the 4mb/month data plan. I haven’t really been monitoring my traffic because its not accurate. I did try to surf on the net when the bandwidth was free to see how it all worked, which was interersting, but because of this I knew that my current bandwidth usage wasn’t indicative of my email usage. So I didn’t even bother to check the numbers. Either way, once the unlimited bandwidth was over I only checked my email every 60 minutes for 1-5 messages a day with 10-100 words of content. Nothing that’s bandwidth intensive. Nothing that should use many megabytes of data month. So you think…
Last week I received a bill for a whopping $406.71!!! How come? Because I used 86Mb of bandwidth to check my 50-100 email messages a month. Yes, that’s right, its not a mistake. I immediately called Telus which led to the conversation I just finished with their customer service representative a few minutes ago. The first thing I questionned was the accuracy of this bandwidth usage. It made no sense at all, 86mb a month to check and read 50-100 emails… He confirmed it, I was using about 4mb of bandwidth a day to check my emails. I told him that was impossible, that it didn’t make any sense at all. At this point I was put on hold for about 10 minutes as he confirmed something with the technicians. When he returned he told me that each email check would cost me about 100kb of bandwidth, regardless if there’s any email or not. This is completely laughable. At those numbers, checking your email and finding there’s none is transffering more data than a complete 100 page MS Word document. How much data does it take to say you have no new emails. Not 100kb.
Not only that, but if that’s true, doing some quick math, it would cost me 50-100mb of bandwidth a month just check my emails once an hour! If you do the numbers, where we know people check about 5-10 minutes in a corporation, that would be about 500mb a month per user (not counting the email content). The math makes no sense, the bandwidth costs would bankrupt everyone. Later in our phone conversation after a few more technical support discussions, he did admit that these numbers made no sense and that 4mb per month should be ample for my usage. But it didn’t really help to solve the issue and took a lot of pushing for him to even admit that.
In any case, after I explained to him several times that this wasn’t possible, he said that the bandwidth was coming from my cell phone. They had the serial number of the cell phone registered. I told him specifically that I didn’t use the net to surf but only for those emails. After about 10-20 iterations of exactly this (how many times can you tell someone you’re not surfing the internet)I finally convinced him to call the technicians to see what kind of bandwidth was being used. He came back and told me that at least half of my bandwidth was directly from surfing the net on Internet Explorer on the cell phone. He called out several dates, including yesterday, the day before, etc. Basically he said every day I surfed for at least 2-3mb on my phone. I told thim this isn’t possible. He then insisted it happened or that someone else was using my phone to do this. The phone is attached to my hip. It’s not possible.
So what’s going on? What’s causing this? I’d like to know to. The technician just kept insisting I was using my phone to surf everyday. So right there on the phone, I removed the check every 60 minutes to see what would happen (and killed all running applications). Now before I proceed, please note that when you connect to check emails, the phone doesn’t disconnect right away, it sometimes stays connected. That’s ok as no data is being transmitted, hence no bandwidth costs. Going back, I just confirmed with him that I had nothing connecting to the internet. Within a minute the phone connects back to the internet. I check with him on the phone the list of active applications. Nothing is open. I manually disconnect. Within another minute or two it connects again. We both have no idea why. I repeat this several times and I can see he’s wondering why but won’t admit it for obvious reasons. I ask him if he can check with his technician if there’s any activity going on right now with the phone to which he strongly insists he can’t. So here we have a connection that’s being monitored, that I can’t close, and he can’t tell me if there’s any data moving back and forth. Great…
At this point I ask him if there’s a way I can force it not to automatically connect, or at least something to monitor what the phone is doing (some kind of utility that will give me something). He says no. The only thing I can do is to either delete the connection completely (and hence continue paying for a service I can’t use) or to turn off the whole phone which is even worse as I get nothing. I simply cannot set the phone to only manually connect, it’s all or nothing.
After a few minutes of this he then tells me he wants to check something and goes away for another 10-15 minutes. When he comes back he tells me that it shouldn’t matter anyways, that no data is going back and forth when the connection is idle. I then remind him again of the 4mb I’m suposedly using each day. He doesn’t really know how to respond, so he repeats himself again about the idle connection. Then he proceeds to suggest that I should upgrade my data plan to a higher more expensive plan to cover my usage where I’ll pay another larger amount per month each and every month. I quickly explain to him that he’s not only asking me to pay for something I’m not using each month, but to pay more for it! To pay another $60/month for something I’m not doing. Not only that it might cover my current usage, I have no guarantees that more bandwidth won’t be used since I’m not the one doing this. He confirms this and suggests an even higher plan where were getting to $100/month or more. Again I explain to him that he’s asking me to pay for something I’m not using!
He then suggests I reset my phone, to do a complete reset in case there’s a software issue (I’ve not installed any third party software). I can accept this, but what if the issue persists. I’ll be going over my plan each day. So I ask him the cost whereby he looks it up and confirms it will about $50/day extra should it persist with the same bandwidth usage. I ask him if theres something we can do so I don’t get charged $50/day should the problem persist. Remember this is my second phone because of defects and I’m experiencing problems again, my faith in a replacement phone is extremely low, especially when it’s going to be out of my pocket at $50/day. He goes back to suggesting a higher plan to cover the full bandwidth should it continue ($100-$150/month). I ask him about getting real time bandwidth usage data or a technical person to assist us. He informs me this is not possible and that the bandwidth usage information will be delayed by at least 48 hours. He guarantee by how much exactly.
At this point I’m thinking this is getting nowhere and I just want out of the whole thing. I can live without my email notifications if this is the cost so I ask him if I can just cancel the data connection ($25/month part of the plan) where he informs me that with the phone I purchased this is not possible for at least a full year. At this point, my options are extremely limited and I have no idea what to do.
My options are:
- Keep the current phone (where on a third of the calls people can’t hear me) and delete the internet connection completely. I continue to pay $25/month for 10 months ($250) for a service I can’t use because it’s broken.
- Keep the current phone (where on a third of the calls people can’t hear me) and reset it hoping it works. If all goes well no extra costs and I’m happy. If something goes wrong I pay $50/day for at least 2-3 days ($100-$150 minimum, probably more) before I can even tell if there’s a problem. And then I disconnect the internet completely and try again for another round of costs.
- Keep the current phone (where on a third of the calls people can’t hear me ) and get a much higher plan paying $100-$150 more a month to cover the additional bandwidth costs ($1500 for the remainder of this year alone) and figure out the issue. Minimum cost is $150 if I’m lucky and I can resolve it in a month.
- Return the phone and try one of the above (same prices).
- Return the phone and get a non-PDA phone where I have to pay the $400 difference and save $250 in data costs (paying $150).
In no case can I guarantee I won’t pay at least $150 more (probably more) for something I didn’t do!!! Think about that. That’s insane! No matter what I’ll be charged at least $150 to figure out what’s wrong. I explain this to him, that he’s given me no good options, only terrible ones. This is EXTREMELY poor customer service to say the least. I’m absolutely not impressed. He can’t find another solution and he’s at a lost for words. He quickly restates the options, says he put a note on my file, and quickly says a very polite goodbye (I will admit he was very polite and friendly throughout the whole discussion). And I can’t blame him for wanting to end the call quickly, I’m pretty much left with only horrible options.
I will also admit that he did go ahead and offer to credit me the $400 amount when I was listing these options. But he also let it slip that for this month I was already at about $200-$300 in additional bandwdith charges! I asked him if we could also credit this balance to which he answered no. He could not credit this additional amount. Same problem same issue but he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do it. So I’m going to be out another $200-$300 on top of my costs to figure out this issue (probably another $150-$250). They can’t help me with that. Talk about poor customer service. At the very least if you can’t credit me (knowing there is an issue) than at least help me solve it without charging me more money! Horrible horrible customer service
At this point I just don’t know what I’ll do. I’m going to sit on it for a day or so. I’ve already completely disconnected the internet so I’m now being charged for a service I can’t use.
I’m just completely amazed and apalled at the customer service of Telus. It’s beyond ridiculous. Will I ever go back to Telus once my contract is done? NO. Will I ever refer anyone? NO. But worse yet is that they got me upset enough to publish my story here because I want to help prevent others from getting caught in a similar mess. And if you look at the reach of this blog, the amount of money they were able to extract from me will cost many multiples more in negative PR than they’re getting!
*** UPDATE ***
To give you a better idea of the scale of this issue, up until I was credited the $400, this would have been a $950 issue at a minimum: $400 (current balance) + $300 (next balance) + $250 (cost to resolve the issue) minimum. It’s now a $550 issue.
*** UPDATE 2 ***
I’ve sent emails yesterday to two of Telus’ main PR contacts from their website and still haven’t received a response from either… If you have any suggestions who else I should contact please let me know.
*** FINAL UPDATE ***
You can find the conclusion of this story on my follow up article: “Telus Customer Service“