Monday, October 17, 2011


Sometimes my mobile phone service provider really pisses me off. No really - they do. I try to keep my monthly costs as low as I can and since I'm a low volume user, I don't see any reason why this is an unreasonable goal. But the odds and the plans are stacked against me. Worse, when I do try to eek out the best deal I can muster, those bastards never tell you the catch. In this case I refer to 'the catch' as any detail omitted from the negotiation that might have swayed you to one decision or another had you been in possession of all of the facts.

Almost 3 years ago, I managed to negotiate myself a voice plan as low as $17.50 per month. I managed this because I asked for the lowest possible price they could muster for a voice plan. I don't need a lot of minutes, so why should I pay for a lot of minutes? By the way - that $17.50 gets me 200 any time minutes plus free calls during evenings and weekends. I was so proud of myself.

What they didn't tell me was that because I was paying a rock bottom price for my voice plan, it didn't include any extras at all. Like what, you ask? Well, for example when I went to pay for my new iPhone 3G, they said that I had to pay an extra $50 on top of the subsidized price because of the low cost of my voice plan. Did they mention that in the negotiations? No, they did not. What else didn't I get? Free text messages. Did they mention that in the negotiations? No, they did not. So, upon using text messages in the next few months, I noticed that I was getting charged per message. Needless to say, I had to call my provider up and tell them how unimpressed I was. But I had to add a $5 text message plan to my account to get some free messages. I also noticed that I was not able to use the feature 'visual voice mail', a feature specific to the iPhone. Thinking I was doing something wrong, I called and was told that this feature is not included in my rock bottom voice plan. Did they mention that in the negotiations? No, they did not. $10 to add the iPhone value pack onto my plan. See where I'm going with this? Wait. It gets better.

Now that the new iPhone 4S is out and I still have a 3G, I figured that now is a good time to upgrade. So I went online and reserved myself a new phone. I called my service provider to find out how all of this is going to work and was politely informed that I do not qualify for an upgrade to my phone. There was a long, uncomfortable silence on the line and then I asked why that is. It's because I don't spend enough money on my plan. My plan minimum had to be $50 or greater. I had a great comeback. "But my bill is $62.50 before taxes." Ahhh, that may be so, but that $50 has to include a minimum $25 voice plan (mine is only $17.50). "So my $5 text add-on and $10 iPhone value pack don't count?" No. They do not. So let's recap. Someone with a $25 voice plan and a $25 data plan qualifies, but my $17.50 voice plan plus $15 in extra options plus a $30 data plan doesn't qualify. Does this make any sense? No, it does not.

So in order to qualify for an upgrade, I have to switch to a $25 voice plan with only 150 minutes, which effectively adds $2.50 to my monthly bill, before taxes. I told them, "This sucks. I have to pay more money for less service than I get now." They were curious how I concluded this. "Because for more money, I get fewer minutes." But you also get unlimited text messages! "I don't care about that. I don't use a lot of text messages!"

Now here's the thing. When I negotiated my original contract terms 3 years ago, if I had been told that the rock bottom priced voice plan price does not include messages, does not include the neat iPhone features and would not qualify me in 3 years time for a phone upgrade, I'm pretty sure I would have reconsidered and chosen a plan that would have put more money in their coffers. Like seriously, WTF?

One more thing. I reserved a new iPhone online on 7 October. On 14 October, thousands of people lined up at stores to get a new iPhone. Since then, thousands of people have their new iPhone. I'm still waiting for my new iPhone. What exactly was the benefit of reserving a phone? I'm confused.

P.S.: This is what happens when there's an oligopoly in Canada.

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