CS and the City Sean Lynch

Ode to not the cell phone companies

I hate cell phones. It’s unfortunate, because I am a huge gadget fan. I don’t hate cell phones for the technology and shinyness. I hate the bullshit that comes with them.

I hate when people drive while talking on their cell phones. I hate when people talk on their cell phones on the street loud enough for everyone to hear that they’re being dumped. But most of all, I hate cell phone companies.

Disclaimer: I own a cell phone. I have no land line in Vancouver so this is the only way my parents can get a hold of me. It’s a Rogers pay as you go phone. I was given the phone for free and bought the SIM card on Craigslist.

The local Rogers cell phone shop comes by our company every few months to offer employee pricing on plans and phones. I went down and talked to one of the guys who came to the building to take a look at the deals. At first, the deal looked quite reasonable. $20 a month for a quite a few minutes, free evenings and weekends, etc etc. I told the guys I’d think on it and would stop by their shop after work.

A did a bit of digging back at my desk and came up with some concerns. I liked the Motorola L7 they had on discount, but I really wasn’t looking to replace my iPod and for the price I know I’d be happy with the L2. If I wanted to go all out, I’d be looking at the SE 810i because of the 2 Megapixel camera. I also wanted to know what my final monthly bill would be, considering all the various rebates and promotions. I just wanted a single number. I went back to the shop with the intention of buying a phone and a 2 year plan. I left with nothing.

I asked, pointing to they flyer they had given me, “What are these fees you mention here in the fine print?” The guy I was dealing with said flat out, “Don’t worry about those.” Now I wish I was quicker on my feet because I should have said “So you’ll cover them with the deal then.” But I just stood there, awestruck. I mentioned I’d be looking at the L2 and I actually had to fight with him to stop trying to sell me the L7. Instead he just wanted to sell me the POS phone they were almost giving away with the plan, one that I wasn’t really looking forward to hauling around. I was told shouldn’t worry about needing caller ID or long distance either, just go with this plan now and then figure out later what I might actually need. After 15 minutes of trying to get straight answers from numb nuts, I thanked him for his time and left.

I know used car salespeople that aren’t that pushy. In fact, I don’t know one that is.

What kind of industry needs to bind their customers in 3 year terms in order to make profit? Why are customers so desperate to leave that they have to be legally tied to stay? How come looking for a cell phone carrier is really just a competition to see who sucks less? All of this frustrates me to no end. I’m a gadget guy, I like the idea of cellphones, but I cannot bring myself to deal with the high pressure scare tactics that the carriers employ on a daily basis.

I think car salespeople used to be synonymous with this kind of consumer experience, but they’ve grown past this stage. It’s time for a new provider to adopt the Toyota model. Or the credit-union model. Someone please give me an alternative to the lesser of three evils situation I’ve got right now.