"To better help you, please tell us what type of internet connection you have - high speed ADSL or dial up?" The computer speaks in an officious, perky female voice; I am surprised at my patience as I answer. I guess I've gotten used to it: there is no choice but to negotiate various filters before getting to talk to a human being, who will ask me some of the same questions, and then probably be unable to help me. It is not yet 6AM, but there is still a lengthy wait, once I get that far, to talk to an agent; the soft rock that plays in my earpiece - it sounds vaguely like Stevie Nicks, but is too quiet to actually discern - is punctuated by another computerized voice, saying crisply, "Looking for a career in the telecommunications industry? Telus currently has open positions for call center agents..." There is some irony to this message, since, to my ear, at least, it translates roughly into, "We're sorry that we are not answering your call, but fuck, man, would you want this job? You know how Telus treats their employees..."
Of course, when I do get a call center agent, English does not appear to be her first language. She speaks quickly, with an accent, slurring words together, so it comes out as a stream of babble. I have to ask her to speak more slowly and a little more loudly. At least she can understand me, which is not always the case - occasionally, calling Telus, I've had to repeatedly spell my name or give my phone number, since the person answering the phone (in Mexico? India? Who knows where call centers are located these days?) could not recognize English numbers or letters - taking "S" for "F," or such - which was jolly fun. Once we have her speaking so I can understand her, she explains that yes, I do have a problem, and gives me a reference number, telling me that if I still have this problem, I should call back tomorrow. "Telus agents are currently working on it... Is there anything else I can help you with?"
Well, you didn't technically help me, because I still have the same problem that I called about, but... uhh, thank you, no.
I can't get access to my email, you see - haven't been able to since last night. Apparently I am part of a systemic outage. (Those of you trying to reach me through my Telus account are advised to try my Gmail or Hotmail accounts, since that's the only way I'll be able to hear from you.) It's part of a series of annoyances with Telus. My parents, the other month, were conned by a Telus agent - when upgrading from 'hi-speed lite' to a high speed connection, the better to watch streamed horse races - into an expensive and useless package, paying $89.95 per month for cable (which my parents get free in their building anyhow, through Shaw) and a modemless, wireless connection that is not much better than 'hi-speed lite' to begin with, since it tends to cut out. The package is about $50 more expensive than it had any right to be, but my parents, being sweet and somewhat naive, easily fell for the spiel; they are not quite as naive now, having cancelled the offer and gotten the price cut dramatically.
The next frustration came in the form of a knock on my door - someone selling, no doubt, the same idiotic, overpriced package, who had worked out a deal with the superintendent of the building to be allowed in to "give a presentation" on their new system. Since no one came to this so-called presentation - advertised on our elevators and bulletin boards with chipper posters with Telus' signature aloe vera (or whatever the plant is) on them - the agent went door to door, knocking, catching me naked and midway through a piece of writing. So offended was I by the intrusion - these bastards have the gall to come knock on doors to advertise their shitty service? - that I resolved that, at the nearest convenient moment, I would explore switching. Maybe I'd be better off going through Shaw, anyhow?
Amusingly, a week later, I came home to discover a note left in my door: Shaw agents had come knocking, too, and left a number for me. So I guess I won't be calling them, either. Who knows: maybe the Telus guy tipped his friend the Shaw salesman off, that I'd been offended? (Or maybe he has two jobs, one for each company?).
Friends of mine with cellphones have reported the same problems - horrible or non-existent tech support, faulty connections, insulting and exorbitant billing schemes, pressure sales. Can no one in these industries figure out that offering quality product at a reasonable price is the way to go? Someone please sell me something that works...