Cell Phone Cameras, not just for Duck Faces

In the early days of Cell Phones, I ridiculed when I heard that they were including a Camera in Cell phones (who would use that, and what for, I believe was my arguments about the validity of melding these two technologies), however (as usual), I have been proven wrong and these two technologies are now permanently cemented together (much to the chagrin of Kodak and Polaroid, I would wager). The Cell Phone Camera has caused an explosion of media on the web with folks sharing and posting pictures of:

  • Food: what you are eating, where you are eating it, and who you are eating with, astoundingly interesting. Evidently that is the biggest use for Cell Phone cameras.
  • Billions of photos of our children taking pictures of themselves in bathroom mirrors, in various states of disrepair (and or dress), smiling in odd ways (or even the infamous duck face). This has forced the porn industry into rethinking itself yet again.
  • Very jerky videos of odd events as they occur.

A Bad Example, but you get the idea. This is a photo of my wife’s new iPhone!

And this really only scratches the surface of what the Cell Phone Camera has touched in our lives, however, it can actually do a useful thing as well (no, not supply blurry pictures for blogs) it can help us more easily catalog the valuables in our houses.

As I mentioned in Theft and Insurance having a valid home inventory which is up to date, with photos of your valuables is a very good thing to have, and with a Camera Phone you really have no excuse any more.

Some tips that could make this even better:

  • Create an account on one of the many picture archiving sites (preferably one that allows for PRIVATE Albums of photos), where you can upload your pictures to.
  • When you are taking your pictures, if your camera has a GPS capability, use it to tag the photo as well. Never hurts when your insurance company gets the photos, to say they were taken at your house.
  • Make sure you are using your camera in Highest Definition mode and download them in that format as well.
  • Add a detailed description of what the picture is of, and possibly the value of the object
  • Make sure the picture is clear as well (you can take many pictures, you only need 1 clear one).

With this, you now have an off site backed up archive of the valuables in your house, in case of a fire, or theft, and it didn’t really cost you too much either (upload your pictures using Wi-Fi as well, saves you high data charges by your cell phone company).

Give the insurance company as much information as you can, and you are more likely to get your claim dealt with in a quick and concise manner.



Have you Spoken to Our Customer Retention Agent?

Written a while ago. Remember to ask for what you want or you will end up with a mediocre deal (at best). Don’t lke this advice? Have you spoken to my Customer Retention Agent?

Written when my wife needed a new phone. She has been using a Telus pay per use plan, which has served her well, but Telus has realized that this plan doesn’t make them enough money, so they are changing it to make it less good.

I am constantly  disgusted by how existing customers for most service companies are treated like cockroaches, and I am even more annoyed by the fact that the “store” for the service company cannot do any “deals” for you either.

Yesterday we walked into the Telus store. The nice young lady gave the same deal that anybody who walked in off the street could get. If you want an iPhone 4S (yes the iPhone 5 is coming out soon, so there should be good deals on the 4S, at least that is what we thought). I was ticked off by this, since my wife has a “credit” with Telus of $180 (where credit does not mean real money, or even usable money) but there was no way to use this “credit” to make the deal any better. I tried a few ways to reflect my annoyance without being rude. Finally the young lady said those magic words:

“… maybe you should call our Customer Retention Agent section on the phone to see if they can give you a better deal…”

I thanked the young lady and we left.

In that one sentence I learned a few things:

  • Telus does not seem to empower their sales people in the store to do much for their customers. Bricks and mortar stores are mostly useless.
  • Deals are out there, but not in the store.
  • The best deal can be had only if you thread to leave Telus. This I got from having to talk to Customer Retention, not the regular on-line sales people. Thus, she must threaten to leave Telus before my wife can get a good deal.
iPhone 3G
No She Got an iPhone 4S at the end of it

My wife and I pieced together all the information needed to call Telus. We could then talk to their Customer Retention group, to get the best deal. My wife did most of the talking and managed to get a fantastic deal. She got her “credit” back and a $100 more on top of that. Off we went to the Telus Store to execute this “great deal”.

Executing the “great deal” that is where all things went a little pear-shaped, because as I said, the folks in the store have no power. My wife wandered into the store, gave all the details of the master plan. The salesperson at the store then attempted to execute the “great deal”. She had to call in to “head office” to make it all work, and at that point the wheels fell off.

Luckily my wife had all relevant information about the chap who gave her the “great deal”. Whomever was on the other end of the phone did not want to honour the “great deal”. An hour and a half later, it seems like Telus may have honoured the “great deal”, but we cannot be sure, until we see the first bill. I am less than impressed by all this flim-flammery that the Telus Customer retention group and the Telus Store have executed.

Is This The Best Deal Customer Retention Can Give ?

My advice is whatever deal you might get over the phone, you will need to get the name of your rep and some kind of identifying number for them. That seemed to be the only thing that might have salvaged my wife’s “great deal”.

Anybody else with a similar Cell Phone tom-foolery story out there ?


The Illusion of Good Service

Customer Service?

These days finding customer service of any kind is next to impossible, in the financial industry, but in the retail world as well. Unless you are willing to pay a great deal of money, you are likely to get somewhat mediocre service most times at best, and if you are dealing with a very large retailer, you are lucky to get any interest at all (I am speaking in large generalizations, I know that on a rare occasion you run into a genuinely good customer service person, but they are hard to find, because most customer service folks are not paid on the basis of good customer service, they are paid by sales (which many times are at opposite purposes)).

The Apple Store

I went to the Apple Store the other day under someones advice, that they might be able to help me with my unlocking phones issue. I went on line and saw that I could make an appointment at the Genius Bar (sic) and even leave a comment about what I might want done, so I did so, and outlined my issues with unlocking the iPhone 3G I was purchasing. I was impressed and thought I would surely end up with an excellent customer service experience (given what I keep hearing about the Apple Store).

iPhone 3G

The day of my appointment arrived, and I showed up at the store a little early, and noticed a plethora of folks wearing Apple shirts and an atmosphere in the store, which was encouraging. A young lady (in a gentil beret I note) came up and asked what I was there for and I said that I had made an appointment at the Genius Bar and she told me they would call my name if I waited a little while.

I waited five minutes after my appointment, and then heard someone call the shortened version of my regular name (a huge pet peeve of mine), but I decided to let it slide. I went over and a young man presented himself and asked how he could help me.

I explained my situation, and asked what could they do for me. A moment passed, the young man took the serial number of my phone and then pronounced, Nothing.

My look must have said loudly that I was displeased, and then the young man went on to explain that Apple has an agreement with all the Canadian Wireless providers to not unlock their phones, as they are Apple’s business partners.

I said nothing, and then the young man went on to explain, in very hushed tones, that in fact I was doing the right thing, but that they were not allowed to do anything to help out with the unlocking of a phone that is already on a Canadian Wireless Providers network (e.g. move a Fido phone to the Bell Network).

The Leopard Shows It’s Spots

So, this means Apple, the darling of Latte Sucking, Hipster Techo-Doofices, who claim they are so avant guard is in fact no better than Research In Motion (makers of the Crackberry) in that Apple is in bed with the Canadian Wireless Compendium? I’m not surprised, and I really did not expect any more than that from Apple, but I had a slight glimmer after being told by Brainwashed Apple-lovers that they would most assuredly help me.

The Apple Store is just another retail outlet at the end of it all (in fact I told my wife it seemed a lot like a Best Buy but everyone was wearing Apple shirts). Another Customer Service bubble burst, and rightly so.

Happy Ending

Eventually the Internet came through and the Hackers of the world published software for me to unlock my iPhone and it is now happily running on the Bell network. Moral of the story, rely on hackers to get what you want, don’t talk to folks in Golf Shirts with corporate logos on them.


Billing Costs Money too, ya know!

They are at it Again!

Yes another rant about Cell Phone costs, my apologies to those who think these are getting repetitive, but I do have a good twist on the story at the end.

I was unhappy to see that Bell Mobility has found yet another way to get under my financial skin, and it will most likely make all the tree-huggers happy, but not me.

I checked on line about my Bell Mobility balance would be (after the previous month’s shenanigans with extra charges, I am now sufficiently concerned that I check my on line bill balance quite often), for this month, and was again greeted, by yet another mystery charge for $2.00, which was not explained on line. The only way to be sure was going to wait until the paper copy of my Bell Mobility bill arrived, delivered by Canada Post.

Was this like the $2.80 “Touch Tone Phone” fee that I pay for my home phone (this fee is just a cash grab, as you can’t have a rotary dial phone any more, and you can’t dodge this fee (and the phone switch I connect to, won’t work with a rotary dial phone, it only works with a touch tone phone) but I digress)? Nope, and the irony of me finding out about it by Canada Post, was not lost on me.

$2 Paper Bill Fee

Two Dollar Coin
A Toonie For Your Thoughts

Now, since I receive my Cell Phone Bill from Bell Mobility via Canada Post, I must now pay $2.00 for this privilege. I found out about this by reading my paper bill, as  I couldn’t figure that out from the On Line bill that Bell puts up on their web site (I feel the irony of that is exquisite, but then again, I enjoy cold sores as well).

For you tree-huggers out there that think that Bell is being a Good Green Corporate Citizen, think again. A paperless bill saves them postage fees, and better still administrative overhead (i.e. employees), because the whole system is automated (in other words you get an e-mail (hopefully) informing you your bill is there) and thus there is no paperwork to be followed.

The added plus is, that if your e-mail gets eaten by the Spam Folder or worse your computer crashes (or it gets lost in an e-mail Tsunami), you can then be charged late fees for a bill you never really received (but then again you can’t prove you didn’t because the sender can simply say, “I sent it, it’s in my Outbox”). This can happen with paper bills as well, but a lot less likely.

Bravo Bell Mobility for creating more Shareholder value by adding more fees to your customers, you are starting to rival the banks in your ability to create new income streams.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a BCE stockholder, a Bank Stockholder and unfortunately a Bell customer, so I am very torn about this whole thing (i.e. part of me is delighted, and part of me is irate).

Welcome to the Paperless Society (a phrase I heard coined in 1979, so it has taken a while!).


Cell Phones (the saga continues)

Yesterday we learned of my quandary with Bell Mobility who seemed to have overcharged me for a phone that was no longer on their network. Today we learn just how obfuscated this can all become.

Billing a Number Not On Network

Billing for a service that was not delivered was the first point I brought up with the young lady from Bell which I spoke to. I attempted to remain well behaved and was not rude, since that is the first rule of negotiating with a customer service agent (if you want to succeed, keep your cool, stick to your guns but don’t swear, or you automatically lose).

I pointed out that my wife’s cellular phone was no longer on the Bell network, however it took about 10 minutes for the service agent to confirm that yes the phone had been “suspended” from the network. That term “suspended” worried me, so I probed about what that meant, and she pointed out that the phone goes to “suspended” when it is ported out of their network and then a month later it is in “Removed” state (remember that part it is important).

I then pressed the point about why was I being billed the entire month for a number no longer on the network. My service agent wasn’t very clear on that so she went away to get the exact details (this took about 15 minutes on hold) and when she finally returned the answer left me with a very sour taste in my mouth.

Evidently in the Bell system, if you have your number transferred to a different carrier the number “stays on the books” with bell for a month, and thus the consumer is obligated to pay for that number for that entire billing period. That was kind of what I expected, so I then made an assumption and asked, “So it will not show up on my bill next month, correct?”, silence again. More consultations on hold were held, and when my agent returned I was told, No, I would be billed for the next period as well, since the 30 days “on the system” was linear time and thus it overlapped into the next billing period so I have to pay for it for two months. I asked for that to be repeated, and it sounded just as much like a rip off the second time. I asked if there was anything that could be done (for a long time customer) to waive that fee, but was told brusquely, No!

This is your warning that if you plan on moving away from a Bell Contract figure out when your billing period is and transfer your phone out as close to the end of that period as you can, to try to mitigate the penalty fees you will incur.

Changing My Service Package

After failing miserably on my first point I continued on my discussions about how MY phone had been transferred into a strange billing package, which ended up charging me $22 extra for text messaging. The service agent was not sure, so she disappeared on hold again to go find out, and when she returned she implied (but did not say directly) that I must have changed service packages and that was why.

At this point I could have flown into a rage and pointed out how screwed up that was and how that was just WRONG, but I managed to keep my cool and I pointed out that the change in service package happened on the exact same day that my wife’s phone moved over to the Telus network. Silence for a few seconds was my answer, and then another prolonged wait on hold, for more consultations about what I had just said.

My agent returned again, to say, yes in fact the service package had been changed on that day, but I must have done it when I called in the phone number transfer for my wife’s phone. My response to that statement was that I did not actually call that in, the nice people at Telus did all that for us, so I did not agree or ask to have my service package changed then. Silence for a few seconds, another pause on hold to consult.

Upon return I was told that yes, that must have been what happened however, Bell had tried to call me to tell me I HAD to change my service package and what did I want to change it to? I pointed out that I didn’t receive any calls like that, and no messages were left on my phone (or text messages on my remaining form), but my agent was determined to tell me that someone had tried to call me.

I continued my statement of the fact that Bell had put me in a service package without my ok and now was attempting to gouge $22 in services from me that I was not going to pay for. My agent said she needed to consult a bit more, and disappeared on hold again.

Upon her return her tone seemed to change and she said that Bell would be willing to “forgive” the charges for this past month and she would now help me to put me into a Service Package to my liking. Quick thinking on my part caused me to point out, “I am not prepared to make this a NEW contract, my contract has expired and I am happy to not renew at this time”, causing more silence and a return to the land of “On Hold”.

Finally a return, and a confirmation that yes this was not going to be a new contract and I was put into a package that should fit my usage needs (I suspect it is going to be a lot more expensive than I want to pay, but I still have the option to “Vote with My Feet” next year). After about 66 minutes, I finally hung up with $22 back in my pocket and a very sour taste in my mouth.

Will I stay with Bell? For the next few months I guess, but as soon as the new Wireless Carriers in Canada come on line, I will be looking into what they offer and more likely than not will be leaving Bell for a cheaper Wireless service.


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