From the frying pan...

Before we returned to Calgary last December, we did a fair amount of investigation into what services we would get at home. In particular consideration were television, internet, and phone service. (In my ideal world, it would have also included cellphones, but no-one does the full bundle in Calgary ... yet.) After an extensive amount of investigation, cost comparison, and service review, the only real option (at the time) was Shaw Communications.

Some nine months later, I’m ready to heave Shaw out the door like a long-overstayed houseguest, and welcome in a new tenant: Telus. Since our last major investigation, Telus has rolled out a new television service (which, at least from reports, is quite good) and is taking on Shaw toe-to-toe to steal and cajole whatever marketshare they can. In theory, it’s a buyer’s market.

There’s only one problem: both of them have serious service issues.

For those of you following me on Twitter, you know I made this decision to change back at the beginning of the month. This was a result of the last service fiasco with Shaw, after our internet and phone (Shaw implements a VoIP system that goes over the same cable as the TV and internet) up and died without warning at the end of August. We went on vacation, unable to call Shaw (we were literally leaving the next day, and no-one would have been here to resolve the questions), with a faint hope it might be resolved while we were gone. Hey, it could have been a line issue.

Yeah, and my grandmother was a Chinese fighter pilot...

Not unexpectedly, the phone was still out when we got back. This precipitated some of the most infuriating conversations I’d yet had with Shaw. Okay, in their defence, I was calling during a long weekend. That’s fair, and I’ll grant them the lower staff/higher call volume than usual. But Shaw has no message telling you how long you’re going to wait, and their "scheduled callback" service was never presented as an option.

First call, I waited about 30 minutes to talk to someone. The tech calls this a "recurrent issue", and says we get to jump the queue a bit. I think: Fantastic! We’ll get this resolved quickly! Only problem: They have to check for when someone can come, but will call me back.

There’s no call the remainder of the day, or the following morning. At 11:20, I call Shaw again to find out when/if we’re going to see someone. The tech says that "a message was left", and that we’d see someone between 8 and 12. That morning. Oh, did I mention that we were not at home at the time? The tech says that they guy hadn’t come yet, and would be arriving closer to noon. We flew home, only to find the lovely green ticket that says: "Sorry we missed you."

It should have said: "Sorry, we’re idiots". I called Shaw again, just short of spitting fire. Wait time? Nearly 45 minutes.

Shaw Tech: We left you a message!

Me: How? We have no phone!

Shaw Tech: (Silence, while checking) Confirmed, sir, we left you message at 403-XXX-XXXX.

Me: (Stunned silence. The phone number they gave me was my old cell number, disconnected in 2008, before moving to Costa Rica. This is a new Shaw account. I have no idea how the hell they got that old number.) That number hasn’t existed in over two years.

Shaw Tech: (Silence) I’ll put in an urgent request. Someone will call you with a time.

Me: At what number?

Shaw Tech: 403-YYY-YYYY. Oh, that’s your home number. It doesn’t work, right?

Me: (Gumbling.) Correct.

Shaw Tech: Do you have another number we can call you at?

At this point, I’m continually reminding myself that I once had this guy’s job years ago, when I did computer tech support, and had to deal with people as irate as I was acting. But, still, there’s a certain amount of logic that’s just not being followed. Of course I have another number — how the hell do you think I’m calling you?!

The next day, still without any update on time, we’re in Garrison Woods running errands. I’ve taken the Monkey and Choo Choo down to the playground, a good 10-minute walk from the car and Alex. Which, of course, is exactly when Shaw calls me to tell me that the technician will arrive at our house sometime between 12 and 5 ... which is in just over 15 minutes.

A 15 minute warning. Thanks, Shaw, for recognising that people never leave their houses, and are always available for when you decide to get around to showing up.

I abort all activities, resulting in the Monkey crying all the way back to the car, embarrass the hell out of Alex (who’d arranged and pre-paid for Monkey’s haircut, and now had to get a refund), and break a few laws trying to get back home before the Shaw technician arrived. (Which, incidentally, wasn’t for a couple of hours.) Thanks for that, Shaw. I love torturing my family to support your asinine business practices.

The technician gets to work, and after a while pronounces things fixed. The first thing he says: "The last technician didn’t know what he was doing." Funny statement, that — it was the same thing the previous three technicians told me, almost word-for-word. Which says to me to believe that a) Shaw hires people who don’t know what they’re doing, and b) are missing massive opportunities to win confidence with their customer base.

Example: (Shaw, you paying attention?) Every time I called Shaw to ask what was wrong with my internet, they’d tell me how they could see that the modem had been "flapping". Well, here’s a thought, Shaw — if you have the ability to see the flapping, maybe you should write a few programs to check for flapping modems and preemptively schedule service calls so people think you’re paying attention, preventative, and not constantly trying to clean up after yourselves.

Oh, and I really hate the underlying message of all that, too: "It’s not my fault. Don’t blame me."

After that, I was done. Past done. The very next thing I did was call Telus. (It also helped that we had a card from Telus with a really-hard-to-argue introductory offer, which would save us a lot of money over the first year.)

And this, folks, is where I thought things would get better. I really should learn not to be an optimist — it just sets you up for disappointment.

Today, we were to have a new Telus installation. But by noon, there had been no installer, and Telus had promised a window between 8 and 10. I called Telus, and was left with a poor woman who bore the brunt of my rapidly-rising frustration.

Telus: There was a problem with the order, sir.

Me: A "problem"? What does that mean?

Telus: We couldn’t put the order through. We have to cancel it.

Me: Cancel? What? Why didn’t someone call me?

Telus: I don’t know, sir. We have to cancel it.

Me: (Feeling very forlorn, and thinking I’ll have to stay with Shaw.) So I don’t get the pricing deal?

Telus: You still can have the pricing, sir. We just have to re-enter the order.

Me: (Forlorn gone. Frustrated again. I go on a rant about my little experience.)

Telus: I’ll escalate this to a manager, sir. They’ll be able to help you much more easily. You can expect a call in about four hours.

So I wait. Four hours. I’ve already waited nearly two weeks, because Shaw requires seven business days to release the phone number (we’re porting it over). Four more hours, and a bit of hope that before this weekend is out, I’ll have a hard-line I can trust again. I tweeted my experience, since I know a few people have been following this little escapade. I get a response from @TelusSupport. I like these guys — they helped me with my cellphone problem a couple of months ago. End result: have to wait for the manager to call.

When the manager calls, I receive an apology for the trouble that actually sounds sincere. She explains what happened — a breakdown in their internal systems that caused part of the order to fail, but didn’t raise any alarm — and immediately offers to correct the situation, along with sizeable credit on the account. There’s two more calls, the net result of which has a new install date, on 29 September.

Why the wait? Well, there’s still that 7 day wait period with Shaw, and because of the internal kafuffle, the entire order has to be restarted. It’s going to be nearly a month from start to finish. "Frustrated" doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. I made sure the manager also knew that using the word "cancel" with a customer was a poor choice of word, regardless of Telus’s internal terminology, and even offered a replacement.

And then I went on a rant with the poor woman.

Okay, so here’s the deal, Telus: you’re on a short leash. You’ve screwed up pretty badly, and are catching the brunt of my troubles with Shaw, to boot. Don’t make me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry. (And yes, there are places to go beyond you.)

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