Thursday, 28 May 2009

Can Anybody Out There Explain My Cell Plan?

I hope that you all can follow this story because honestly I am having a difficult time with all of the turns. The bottom line is that we Canadians have been held hostage to three major cell phone carriers for far too long (I won't use the word collusion, but I am tempted to!) and are in desperate need of a true influx of competition in order to bring prices down and service quality up. Here in a nutshell is our latest go-round with Bell.

We have been good and loyal customers of Bell Canada since forever. Several years ago, following many nasty conversations with the company that Ted built, we became a Rogers free household. At the time, I was tempted to put a neon sign on my front lawn shouting the occasion for all of the neighbours to see, but I was dissuaded by the level-headed Husband. By totally dissing Rogers, we bundled all of our television, telephone, computer and cell phone plans into one gigantic Bell ball. Over the ensuing years, we have had a few minor issues with Bell, (satellite television is more sensitive to weather patterns and doesn't always add many of the channels that I would prefer. For example, we get Fox News and not MSNBC, which for a left-leaning liberal is a little like the Supreme Court of the United States choosing Bush over Gore.) but for the most part we have been satisfied customers. Our cell plan has always served us well in theory, but as the kids have aged and new layers have been added to cell needs like call display, long distance, text messaging, web-surfing and the like, it became obvious to all of us that our cell plan required an upgrade. Text messaging alone has become an albatross on our bill. Younger Son uses it the way we use oxygen and it has become his primary source of communication with all he comes in contact with, including special friends in the States. 

Bell likes to tout its wonderfully interactive website in order to access all of your wireless needs, but the site is incredibly difficult to navigate. It seemed logical to The Husband that in order to figure out how to upgrade our plan, we first needed to fully understand what we already have. The only detail that we were able to definitively discover on the web is how much our current bill is. Nowhere on the bill does it outline the details of our plan. Also, new plans and bundles must be hidden under a menu that we couldn't find or access. Every time I thought I had it figured out, it kept bouncing me back to our billing. (Bell must really be worried about getting paid!!) With Younger Son leaving for his summer employment at camp in the heart of the Midwest this week, it became imperative that we resolve these issues immediately. An aside: Last summer our text messaging bill was in the hundreds of dollars as a result of his texting. The kids on camp would use texting the way we used to use a walkie talkie. A sample text conversation might go something like this.

1. "Where are you?"
2. "Up top!"
1. "You are supposed to be in a staff meeting"
2. "OH!"
1. "Get your butt to the Moadon now!!"
2. "Ok"
1. "Bye"
2. "Bye"

In Bell land, that counts as eight texts (we here in the Great White count incoming and outgoing) so we knew that we needed a better fit. On Tuesday afternoon, in anticipation of Younger Son's departure, The Husband braved the automated call centre of Bell Canada. After waiting in the queue for an hour and ready to yank out whatever was left of his hair, he announced that mission had been accomplished. "Great", I said. "What does the new deal look like?" He looked perplexed and stated categorically, that he had absolutely no idea what the details were. After an hour on the phone and attempting to navigate 4 separate changes to our plan (upgrading texting for Canada, upgrading texting for the US, long distance for the US and more minutes for the family plan) he became so totally confused and overwhelmed that he just said yes to everything. I was able to discern that we now have unlimited texting in Canada, but that doesn't help Younger Son's issues south of the border. We think he has 100 minutes of long distance talk time, but only 200 texts per month. He could eat through that in a week. If he goes over 200, it will cost (are you ready?) $.60 a text, incoming or outgoing!!! Stunning. We made it very clear to Younger Son that we want no part of Bell's usury and he must monitor his texting. He whined about the special friends, and while we are sympathetic, we cannot and will not be forced into bankruptcy by our cell phone bill.

He is smarter than all of us. Yesterday when he arrived in Indianapolis, he went to WalMart and bought a pre-paid phone. For $50.00 a month he has 400 minutes of talk time and for an extra 10 gets unlimited texting. Nothing on Bell even came close to this deal, so we gave him our blessing and gladly paid for the purchase. Anybody here in Canada who has ever attempted to navigate the mess that is Rogers, Bell or Telus knows what I am talking about. Our American cousins can access cheap affordable cell packages that include everything from unlimited data plans to unlimited texting and a smorgasbord of options, while we here continue to accept being raped by our telecommunications companies. I know you all have stories. I would love to hear them.


As the Husband has eloquently pointed out in the comments, his prepaid plan actually gives him unlimited talk time in the evenings, when he will be using it the most. Thanks, Husband. I knew there was a reason I keep you around. ; )


  1. His plan actually gives him UNLIMITED talk time in the evenings, when he will be using it.

    - The Husband

  2. The most frustrating part of talking to Bell is Emily, the automated attendant. She is designed to frustrate and anger you. She never understands what you are saying and keeps mis-directing your calls and keeping you from actually talking to a real person. I am sure the purpose is to make people so annoyed they will just hang up and, therefore, not need to speak to a real person thus saving Bell much money.

    But, I have figured out how to bypass the bitch! At the very beginning of the call, just yell "Give me a F***ING person NOW you BITCH!". Immediately you will be connected to a real live person (not necessarily residing on the same continent as you) who will try (but most likely fail) to help you. Still frustrating, but at least you can have a two-way dialog.

  3. Try using this web site to compare the myriad of plans in Canada:

    The cell phone companies obfuscate the system with a zillion plans. It is very hard to untangle. Hopefully your plan is listed using this comparison tool.