It is insidious. You want to trust Ma Bell. Ma has done much for Canada over many years. She ran copper wire through our wilderness to create a nation. She brought forth trustworthy technology to connect our peoples. She took over Northern Electric to create the wonder of Nortel. She gave thousands and thousands of people purpose and careers jacking us into the rest of the world. She was the widows’ and orphans’ shares that brought stability to retirement and leisure living. “I work for Bell,” was a strong social statement. Ma Bell was known. Ma Bell was trusted.
But no more! Ma has fallen on bad times. She has been raped and abused by business predators. Without the stabilizing hand of Bell, Nortel withered and died. Ma’s managers have divested reliable earners such as the yellow pages, off-loaded the installers, contracted out knowledgeable sales people to low-bid call centres and continues to out-source facilities, technologies and people at an alarming rate. Ma Bell is a poor shadow of the once robust company that was the succour of widows and orphans.
Ma has become desperate in hard times. Like an aged crone pitifully working the streets, she entices with promises, blandishments, free samples and simple deceit for the unwary. Those of us who knew her in her glory days still want to trust her.
But you cannot. Until recently, in this household, there was peace. Despite repeated calls from people with strange accents, Ma Bell’s many promises were ignored. The household was generally satisfied with the reliable billings of Yak Communications and much dissatisfied with the rapacious attitude of Rogers Cable.
It was when Ma Bell introduced satellite television service that the house of cards was shaken. As much as Ma Bell was no longer trusted, Mr. Rogers’ people were less loved. Have you ever tried to talk to someone at Rogers? Call centres are the only acceptable form of communication to them. Ask them something they do not understand and you lose. They never call back. Do not take them from the prepared route of their script. It confuses them. And do not forget, they can lose the tenuous connection with you in an instant (too bad).
You can flip a coin. Does Ma Bell or Rogers annoy you the most? It’s a toss-up.
But when Ma Bell offered the panacea of satellite service in this condominium, the owners beat a path to her door. To no longer have to deal with those autocratic no-names at Rogers was the appeal. The word ‘free,’ so freely used, certainly helped you along.
The deal was too good to be true. And, of course, it was not true.
Being of sound mind though, this householder held out for a written offer. There was some waffling at the written stipulation but your intrepid, knowledgeable householder held out. A deal was struck for the first year: Ma Bell would supply home telephone, six megabit DSL Internet service and high definition television with personal video recorder for a grand total of $71.90 plus tax each month. The key to this was that all miscellaneous fees such as the 24 cents for 911-service were included. No modems, touch tone fees, network charges or other extraneous charges were to be added.
Would it surprise you to learn that after a month of trying to get everything working, the first bill arrived from Ma Bell. While no person outside Bell employ could ever explain the details of that bill, it is also most likely that no two Bell employees could explain it the same way. It is a creative task. Suffice to say, the bill was for approximately three times the quoted figure. You can hardly blame Premier McGinty’s harmonized taxes for that kind of screw-up.
Next week, this contrite householder is returning to the nice people at Yak Communications and to the arms of the greedy cable guys at Rogers. As for Ma Bell, one can only hope that her minions will sic the small claims court on us. That is one place where written contracts are still likely to be honoured.
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