What’s bugging you?

July 9 2008 by Ellen Roseman

People are getting more annoyed, testy and disgruntled in their dealings with big companies — and sending me emails about it.

I heard from lots of people (both personally and at The Star’s website, which now takes comments) about my column last week on call centres and my sequel.

Not surprisingly, Bell Canada took much of the flak when it came to “broken telephone.” But Rogers also gets static about its heavyhanded attempts to switch former Sprint customers from one telephone technology to another.

I’m also getting complaints about the marketing of new Visa Infinite cards by “negative option.” If you say nothing, you get a new card with a new number. You have to speak up in time to get out. Readers are surprised that banks can use this discredited technique.

Some provinces have banned negative option marketing, but the federal government never did. Even in Ontario which has rules against it, companies like Direct Energy can get around the rules as long as they initially signed up customers before the implementation date (July 2005).

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that make people angriest. See the correspondence below between Direct Energy and a customer who refuseed to pay $75 to have his rented electric water heater picked up after 20 years.

So, keep this grudgefest flowing. Tell us what makes you really irritated.


  1. Unspending

    Jul 9 2008

    Nothing makes me more angry than waiting to talk to a customer service representative. I recently switched from Royal Bank to PC Financial. No only do I avoid having to pay bank fees, but I’ve been able to speak to someone in less time than I’ve had to wait for an RBC representative.

    On a positive note, I had a great customer service experience with Zip.ca’s live chat. Within minutes, “Kylee” was able to fix my problem.

    I’ll likely write about it soonon my blog, http://unspending.wordpress.com, but that positive experience has already led me to tell a few friends about it.

  2. Lior

    Jul 10 2008

    What makes me irritated? Well, for starters, companies that I’m a customer of selling my contact information to third party telemarketing firms to call me on their behalf and try to up-sell me.

    I had this experience with Rogers about two months ago. While Rogers may keep their in-bound call centres here in Canada, they hire offshore telemarketing firms to call Rogers customers and pitch them other Rogers services.

    The Indians who called me were trying to sell me Rogers Home Phone. Now I’m perfectly content with Bell in terms of reliability and pricing, but these pests were just persistent to the point where I hung up the phone on them.

    The first Indian calls me on my cell phone, despite the fact that I instructed Rogers to put me on their do-not-contact list when I signed up for their services. His name is “Simon” (probably Sateesh or something). Hmmm… ok.

    He tells me about this great offer Rogers Home Phone is having, yadda yadda yadda. I tell him no thanks, I’m busy. He tells me he’ll get his supervisor “Alex” to give me a call later on to discuss the plan. I tell him I’m not interested and never call me again. In the background, you can hear a whole bunch of Indians just screaming as they’re talking on the phones to other Rogers customers, trying to make the same pitch to them.

    The bottom line is there’s no accountability. Just because I’m a customer of Rogers doesn’t give them the right to waste my time in trying to sell me their other services. And even if they do want to make a sales pitch to me and earn my business, they may as well put on the line someone who can speak coherent English and understand that no means no and that I don’t want to speak to your friend “Alex” after I told you to get lost.

  3. Jaz

    Jul 10 2008

    Like Lior, Rogers called me constantly to try and sell me new products. Everytime I received a call, I asked to be put on their no-call list (I was already supposed to have a no solicitation note on my account, but that apparently means nothing). Each time, I was ignored. I finally wrote to head office, threatening to complain to CRTC and cancel all of my services. I haven’t had a call since.

    I don’t know if the people who called me were from India or Canada, but regardless of where they were calling from, they didn’t understand “no.” Sad that you have to go to head office to get anywhere…

  4. Jamie

    Jul 12 2008

    I just had the worst retaii experience in my entire life today.

    I attempted to use a coupon from popular website save.ca st Loblaws in Kingston ON for “save $10 when you buy any one Gillette Fusion razor”, an offer that was heavily advertised on sites like TSN for quite some time.

    There was a long issue with 3 Loblaws staff claiming “Save $10 when you buy one” meant “Buy one and save $10 when you buy a second one”. They kept reading the coupon, but using different words then were there.

    I gave up and said I didn’t want to buy anything, just wanted the coupon back. They then accused me of fraud!!! and told me they could not give me the coupon back because it was fraudulent.

    After a huge delay for people behind me in line and quite a scene I eventually got them to reluctantly summon the manager on duty who said he had never heard of save.ca, nor ever seen a coupon for $10 or a coupon that would yield a free product. Eventually he did hand me back my coupon (not sure what would have happened if he refused, I’d probably still be there).

    He said he would be checking into the coupon and if it was legit (and it was obvious he was pretty darn sure it isn’t), he would let me use it there…as if I would go back after being accused of fraud!

    There has been a lot of discussion on this coupon online, and I know for a fact piles of them have been used at loblawys nationwide for weeks.

  5. Jackie

    Jul 13 2008

    I am extremely annoyed at having my calls redirected offshore each time I make an inquiry on my TD Visa. These individuals provided me with account information regarding account transactions, available balance etc without verifying my identity by asking security questions. Furthermore, I cannot say that I am comfortable with my personal information being available to workers at a call centre in an offshore country. Canada has privacy legislation to protect its citizens and the arm of this legislation does not extend offshore to protect individuals from potential identity theft etc…

    A recent article published in the Hindu Times discussed how call centre employees in offshore offices were selling personal identity information for rupees (local currency).

  6. Bill

    Jul 16 2008

    Hey Ellen,

    I have added the reCAPTCHA and I am testing the comments to make sure it works.


  7. bylo

    Jul 16 2008

    > I have added the reCAPTCHA and I am testing the comments to make sure it works.

    Dumb move. That CAPTCHA is barely comprehensible to humans. It took several refreshes to get one that I could actually read. This will only discourage any but the most dedicated readers to respond. And as a cursory reading of Slashdot news will show, all CAPTCHA distortions have been compromised by software.

    So what’s the point?

  8. Paul O’Toole

    Jul 26 2008

    A while back I went online to get approved for a CIBC credit card. I filled out all of the info and within a few weeks I had a card. Only problem — there was a card for my wife also. I never requested a card for her.

    It appears that when you truthfully answer all the questions — one being is there a spouse in the same home — and you enter the generic info about them, they got you. They send two cards out.

    I called the same day and had both cancelled without problems, but it’s something for people to be aware of. Note: I’m not sure if this has changed, so this is my bug.

  9. Jamie

    Aug 14 2008

    Here’s an update to my post of July 12, concerning Loblaws’s staff who falsely accused me of fraud while I was trying to use a common coupon, and then wouldn’t allow me to leave with my property for quite some time.

    I was very surprised at the poor treatment I received in the store, particularly when the manager on duty did not seem to care at all. I am shocked, SHOCKED, at the lack of interest from Loblaws to my complaint over this.

    I phoned the manager of the store the first day he was in. He said he knew why I was calling (I had emailed save.ca a few sentences, suggesting they inform Loblaws their coupons weren’t fraudulent and they called the store immediately). He gave the impression he did not want to hear from me. His answers were short, and very, very strange.

    I asked if staff were supposed to accuse the customers of fraud: “not especially.” I asked if it was their policy, as staff had claimed, to say they had to keep a coupon they believed was fraudulent: “not especially”.

    I could only name the manager who had been there, so he said he couldn’t tell what staff were involved as that manager was on vacation, despite the fact there was only one customer service person and I knew the exact time. He blamed the incident on this: “something must have been missed in training”.

    I got an email response from Loblaws indicating I had had a “conversation” (if you can call it that) with the manager. It made out like he had gotten in touch with the coupon issuer (who actually called him after I contacted them) and said the manager would ensure I was satisfied if I visited him at my convenience (an offer he did not make to me when I called him). There was no indication of what hours that could be (the problem happened on a Saturday, as I cannot shop during business hours).

    I had also snail mailed a detailed letter to Loblaw’s president’s office, even including the $10 coupon in question – NO RESPONSE AT ALL.

    On a happier note, I did use the same coupon that caused Loblaws’ staff to treat me as a criminal at the local Wal-mart, with no problem at all. Wal-mart’s regular price for the product is the same as Loblaws’ occasional sale, 30% cheaper then their regular price.

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