Monday, March 11, 2013

The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowing in the Wind (Mobile, that is)

I've had a cellphone with Wind for a couple of years. I've been generally happy with their service, even though coverage has been spotty at best. However, I loved the price - $40 a month. That covered unlimited calling in North America as well as a whole bunch of bells and whistles, but the important thing from my perspective was the unlimited data plan. Because I am a data whore, and I'm an all-you-can-eat kind of data whore.

I hate the in ridiculous price gouging that most major cell phone providers engage in when charging for internet access. When I got my Wind phone, I checked around, and the cheapest comparable plan with unlimited data was $95/month with Bell. Wind was a great deal.

Times change. Now pretty much everyplace I go has free wi-fi. I didn't really need the data plan anymore. I decided to change my monthly Wind plan to the $20/month plan. Like a virgin on her wedding night, I asked myself, "How hard could it be"?

I went to Wind's website. I read webpages, I looked in faqs, I used the site's help and search features. Nowhere could I figure out how to change my plan online. There was a LOT of useful information about how I could sign up if I wasn't already a customer, but I couldn't find out how to change plans if you were already signed up. Which I was. So the website couldn't help me, but if I wasn't already a customer, it could have helped me. I guess Wind prefers to stress "potential customer service" over actual customer service.

So I sent them an email. Wind responded promptly the next day, telling me I had to call the customer service number and they could change my plan for me. So I called customer service number. A nice recorded message came on telling me that, instead of bothering a nice Wind agent, I could go to their website and do whatever it was I had to do online. This annoyed me a tad, because (a) the website had already failed me, and (b) I just want to talk to person, dammit.

After being gently scolded for not doing my business online, I was allowed to access the automated menu. I listened patiently to the options. Then I listened to the options again. Then I listened to the options a third time. Nothing about changing plans. The closest I could come was "If you are a new customer and would like to sign up for Wind mobile, Press 5". I pressed 5, and got a person right away, whom I will call Steven. Even though I wasn't a new customer, Steven was happy to help me.

Here's a bit of background: my old plan was $40 a month, billed monthly, on a pay as you go basis. The great thing with Wind is there's no contract, so if you don't pay the bill one month, the only thing that happens is your phone doesn't work for that month. If you top up half way through, you're charged a pro-rated rate for the remaining time in the month, which is quite fair.

I hadn't paid for the month of Feb 13-Mar13 (my billing period) until today, so the automated system  charged me $13.00 for service (that's prorated for 3 days of service). I tried to change my plan before I paid, but I was told that I had to have an active account in order to close it and change to another account. Don't ask me why.

So I paid $13 to get my phone working, and called Wind and finally reached Steven. I asked Steven to change my plan from the $40/month to the $20/month. He said sure, no problem. Very polite fellow. He clicks a few buttons then tells me "We'll have to add an account activation surcharge (or some such gobbledygook), so with your next month's payment, surcharge and taxes, that will be $31.00".

I was confused. I explained to Steven that I just paid $13 not twenty minutes ago. I told him I was changing to a plan that costs $20, so it seemed to me like you take my 13, subtract it from 20, and I owe you seven bucks.

I can't exactly replicate what Steven said next, because frankly it wasn't making much sense. What it did boil down to was Wind was going to just keep my $13 bucks I had paid not 20 minutes earlier. That was gone. Then they were going to close my old plan, open a new plan charged at $20 a month, then charge me a further $11.00 penalty.

"No sir, it's not a penalty, it's an activation fee," says Steven, one presumes with a straight face.

"Well Steven, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and costs me $24 bucks like a duck, it's a penalty. You're really starting to make Koodoo sound like a good idea."


"Well sir, I will tell you, what I can do for you today sir is I will close your old plan and apply your $13.00 to a new $20/month plan. You will be charged $7.00 for the difference."

"Thank you Steven. Let's do that."

It saddens me that I had to threaten to change to another company to get reasonable help. Wind, why must you make "customer service" a house of lies?