Monday, January 9

Hanging up on the Telecoms Cos.

I don't know if you happened to notice it, but it seemed to me that as 2011 was wrapping up, companies worldwide were doing their best to defraud customers  errr...I mean make their budgets before the New Year.  I wanted to pen a blog about one company and how I was being taken for a ride when three more would come onto my radar (and into my wallet) just for good measure.  Not knowing where to begin, I thought I'd start my first entry with our nefarious telecoms companies, who, like taxis worldwide find all kinds of ways to separate you from your money.
But first let's start off with the good news:  My brother in Switzerland and my sister in the USA are joining the millions of people who are getting rid of their landlines, primarily due to exorbitant monthly charges and harassment by telephone sales vendors.  In my anti-telecoms crusade, I truly believe that this is just another way for companies to shake us down -- After all, I can call landlines for next to nothing (16 cents a CALL) while we're all being charged gazillions per minute to reach cellphones. Nonetheless, I see their point and am wholly fed up with the sales calls as well.  
Incredibly, my telephone company Wind/Infostrada let me know with each call to their offices that I could register to get my number taken off those sales call lists.  Well, today, after my fifth uninvited sales call, I decided to finally register to be taken off the lists and eccolo! I found in my inbox a groovy email telling me how to go about doing just that.
Click here to register via email - tel - fax - web
And in under a minute I was good to go (or so I think).  In fact, anyone in Italy can register here so click away (you don't have to be an Infostrada client). In Switzerland, you can't even take your name off the list and in the USA, where companies are people too, I think it's pretty much a free-for-all.
I had (stupidly) switched from Wind/Infostrada to Vodafone Station this past summer.  That was the summer in which I no longer needed to worry about pestering from telephone sales people, because from the moment I changed carriers, I could no longer make or receive calls.  Desperate pleas to "customer disservice" (which by all accounts is usually fairly good, excepting for the heavy metal music they blast in your ear while on hold) got me nowhere. I switched back to the tune of some €80 or more for changing carriers (note: a charge that was outlawed so now shows up as something else - applying a bit of corporate savvy just like those U.S. credit card cos.).
And although problems with navigation due to being a Mac user tripped me up for awhile, who cared? I was getting 16 cents a call!  [again, the "customer disservice" dept told me it was my fault for owning a Mac but I resolved the issue by contacting the modem producer for assistance -- in Australia].
Shortly thereafter, I was presented with two humongous phone bills from Vodafone. Extra charges aside, my bills had tripled in the two months I could barely make or receive calls.  What happened?
Carriers cannot distinguish between most U.S. cellphone numbers and landlines.  That's because Americans use the same area codes for both.  So unless you call someone who is roaming, it is as if you are calling a landline.  Nonetheless, I am always careful to call landlines only.  Regardless, Vodafone took it upon themselves to treat all calls as if I were making an international cellphone call for each and every one of them.
Back to the "customer disservice" dept, I was told there was nothing they could do.  Following my first rule of advice for Life in Italy (it's in my book, believe me), Never take 'No' for an answer, I managed to speak with someone in the accounts dept. They told me that the praxis was that they would credit the amount only when a customer called in to complain.  I told them it was for these types of disservices that I was no longer a client of theirs.
Rather than take it on my honor and charge me for landline rates, here we were...back to the cat&mouse game of Telecoms operators and their phone charges.

I don't know about you, but my New Years Resolution?  Always check the utilities bills.  And double check them again.  You cannot believe how a little off the top times millions of customers makes for a Happy New Year to the Telecoms Operators.

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