I said I'd tell you the story. But it's long, which is why I've delayed. Here, for your pleasure, is the edited version of the documentation I kept from the whole process. I've entitled it - "Bell: A Love Story"
First week of May-ish
Spike has started a new job. Needs a phone. Right now. He's sleep-deprived, on a huge learning curve (he calls it a learning wall), and using someone else's car. He heads to a T-Booth in the local mall, where a kid bopping to the music in his ears signs him up for 250 minutes + 50 bonus minutes with Bell.
May 21 - Got the bill. No bonus 50 minutes. Called Bell, who first get Spike to authorize me on his account. They've never heard of 50 minutes. There are no bonus minutes. Ever. Why would boy at their T-Booth lie? They don't know. If only I had the contract in front of me, they say. But I don't. I will get the contract from Spike's truck and call back. But not until 24th, because Bell is closed on Sunday and holiday Monday.
May 24 - Contract in hand, Spike on the road, called Bell. No 50 minutes, they don't care about the contract, and I'm not authorized, so they won't speak to me. OK, I say. How about I just ask you hypothetically about upgrades that might be possible, so that when Spike comes home, I can give him this information? No. You won't just tell me about your plans? No. They ask if there's anything else they can help me with. A few circuits in my brain pop. I inform them that they haven't done anything to help me yet, and this is why I left Bell over 12 or 15 years ago. Leave a strong message for the invisible "this call will be monitored for quality control people".
Phoned Spike and asked him to phone Bell and authorize me. He did.
May 24 - I call again. Got a trucker's daughter, who was very helpful. She suggested Spike not use Bell plan in US, because - it's lousy. SIM card is better for US, if I buy a different phone, and then just switch SIM cards at the border. Easy as pie. (I should have suspected her there, because pie is not easy.) Sounded a little like Obama - YES I CAN change the plan! YES I CAN keep the same phone number in the US and Canada! And YES I CAN even ditch the new Bell phone number, and use Spike's original cell number. Really? YES.
She did repeat that there are no 50 bonus minutes. I said the guy under contract to Bell at the T-Booth lied then. She says that must be very frustrating. I ask, isn't there something they would like to do about that? Wouldn't Bell like to deal with this guy? Oh, she says. Sure. She takes down the information, very likely with an imaginary pen.
I leave another strong message for Big Brother listening for quality control. Brain circuits fray...
May 28 Spike spent the day with a friend, looking for the best phone for his purposes. Specifically an "unlocked" phone so that we can switch SIM cards, as recommended by Bell. Bought a shiny smart phone. Vendor took us to Wireless Wave booth which represents Bell - guy says Bell gave us a bad plan. Don't go with their recommendation. Starts speaking at high speed, using a highlighter to show us what we probably want, how simple the whole thing is, and don't call Customer Service, call Customer Loyalty. Both Spike and I start sweating. We have no idea what he's saying, except for the Customer Loyalty part.
May 29 Spike and another friend drive to Buffalo, NY to get a US SIM card. $15. Easy to hook up online or over the phone. Except when he gets home, it doesn't work. The number is invalid for porting. Bell, of course, is closed, because it's Sunday.
May 30 Bell says the number is not valid because the phone is not unlocked. It is, I say. It isn't, they say. It is, I say. It isn't, they say. Silence. It isn't, they say. It's impossible. No one sells unlocked phones. "They most certainly do," I say. "No they don't," they say. And furthermore, in order to unlock my phone, I have to pay them $75, and I can't do it until June 2. And no, I certainly cannot keep Spike's old phone number. They can't imagine why the last Bell person neglected to mention these last 3 points, as she was happily telling me to go out and buy another phone.
Many critically stressed brain circuits.
They suggest that I should call the vendor and ask why he lied to me about selling me an unlocked phone, when he couldn't have. Is there a Customer Loyalty department, I ask. Yes, they say. But they politely neglect to transfer me there. Pop.
May 30 Contacted vendor. Yes the phone IS unlocked, he did it himself, it IS ABSOLUTELY unlocked. But no, I can't keep the old phone number, nor can I have the same number in Canada and US. That's impossible.
May 30 Contacted friend who shopped for the phone with Spike. He graciously says vendor is right, phone IS unlocked, and no I can't have one number for two countries. Why, I ask, would Bell tell me that I can? He answers that question with a brief, impolite reference to their level of competence.
I quietly set all phone information on the table, and go outside to garden.
May 31 Called the US company and asked to sign up for new number. Certainly, they say, all cheery and friendly. They just need my ZIP code. But I'm in Canada. I don't have a ZIP code. I have a postal code. They try a number of things, never once losing their helpful demeanor. They are shocked to discover that their company will happily take my money and give me a plan, no matter where I live - but the ZIP code is indispensable to beginning the process. They are very sorry to tell me that I must return to Buffalo and get the dealer to help me. They wish me the happiest of days, despite it all. This call is the most pleasant part of the entire process thus far.
May 31 Called Bell for Round 2 of the "yes it is - no it isn't" unlocked phone debate. They assure me it is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE that the phone is unlocked. But "just in case" - maybe switch the SIM card in it with a friend who has a Telus plan. If the phone works, than it IS unlocked. I feel a deadly calm settle over me, and quietly point out that they just said it's IMPOSSIBLE that the phone is unlocked, because NO ONE SELLS unlocked phones, so how is it POSSIBLE that maybe it is? They say they're ALMOST certain it's not unlocked. But maybe I should check. And yes - I will have to pay $75 to Bell, no matter what. Pop. Pop. Pop.
June 5 Back to Buffalo, after morning church service. Vendor has a "back in 30 minutes" sign on the door. We wait for 90 minutes. That's a whole story in itself, but the end is that just as I was pulling away from the curb, he returned. Set us up with his own ZIP code. All is well. Except the wait, combined with border lines, makes me completely late for the evening church service. In 17 years, I don't think that has ever happened before.
June 6 I call Bell, sweetly using the line you all told me to use. "I'm thinking of switching to another carrier. Would you like to pass me to Customer Loyalty now, or should I speak to you first?" She says I have to speak to her first. I tell her the whole story. Tell her what it seems to me that my plan should be. She says she can do better. A few moments later, she has reduced the plan to less than half the cost of the original contract, with services far-better suited to Spike's purposes. No extra fees. No extra costs. I make her go through our entire file to ensure that there will be NO EXTRA CHARGES of any kind added for this change. She assures me there are none. My next bill will be exactly what she has quoted me, plus tax. That's it. What about the $75, I ask. She says - get this - "Well, you had it unlocked by a third party, right?" "Yes," I say, calmly, quietly, dangerously. "Then," she responds, "Why on earth would you pay $75 to us to unlock a phone that is already unlocked? That's ridiculous."
That's when the last few circuits in my brain blew up.
She finished setting me up, and never had to send me to Customer Loyalty at all. Gave me her name and employee number for documenting purposes, and wished me a very nice day. I babbled incoherently and hung up.
What have I learned from this process?
Um ... honestly? OK.
I have learned that Canada's major cell phone carriers will not give a customer what they want unless that customer is willing to spend countless hours and emotional energy fighting them and learning magic phrases that somehow open possibilities that were previously impossible. In my world, that's abusive and deplorable.
But it's apparently the only option.
*small voice* "yay bell"