Hell Canada

by Joey deVilla on May 13, 2003

Graphic: Bell Canada logo with the word 'Bell' changed to 'Hell'.

My cellphone, a Kyocera 2255, hasn’t been working well lately. The screen will blank at the slightest touch, and it’s taken to declaring that there’s no batterly power left and shutting itself off — often in the middle of a conversation — despite having a full charge. I’d bought it in October, so the one-year warranty was still in effect. I went to the Bell Canada store from which I purchased the phone and presented them with my problem, the phone and the receipt.

“Here’s the problem with the phone,” I said. I pressed on its front faceplate very lightly. The contents of the screen winked out of existence. “The other problem is that the phone often flashes a low-power warning and then shuts itself off, even though it’s fully charged. When you turn it back on again, the charge indicator reads ‘full’.”

The guy at the counter took my phone and press on the front faceplate gingerly, causing the screen to blank.

“Do you have a receipt?” he asked. I produced the receipt and he took it. “When did you buy this phone?”

“October, when my old phone’s antenna broke off.”

“This receipt says that you bought it January 10, 2002.”

“But I bought it in October.” I looked at the receipt. There was the problem: it read 01/10/2002.

There’s no excuse for this kind of silliness. The receipt wasn’t cranked out by an old cash register, but laser-printed by some “point of sale” software running on a PC. You’d think that after the whole “Y2K Bug” hoopla, programmers would be a little more careful about how they represent dates. I know for a fact that it wouldn’t have killed them to write some code to print out the date using the names of months rather than numbers.

The guy at the counter turned to a co-worker and showed her my receipt.

“Oh yeah,” she said, “when we changed our software, we went from day-month-year to month-day-year. But I forget when the changeover happened.”

Counter Guy turned to me and told me to use one of the courtesy phones. “Call this number,” he said, giving me the number of call, “and ask when your phone was activated. That way we’ll know if it was January or October when you bought your phone.”

“When I get them,” I asked, “do you want to talk to them?”

“No, this is so you know when you bought your phone.”

“But I know when I bought the phone. It’s you who doesn’t know.”

Counter Guy stood silently for a moment. I was reminded of a line from the TV series Twin Peaks: “Look, it’s trying to think.”

I decided to take advantage of my Computer Science degree and eight years of professional programming and database work: “Is it in your records, perhaps? Could you look it up?”

“Hmm…” he said, and then typed into the computer terminal, which was in front of him the whole time. “Oh. October. Well, that’s different.”

He pulled out a sheet of paper and started to fill it out. “We’ll send it back to the factory, and you should get it back in four to six weeks.”

“During which time I’ll be without a phone.”

“Did you need it?”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be taking it in.”

“Oh yeah.”

What is it with retail people?

“I was wondering if I could just get a replacement phone.”

“Call this number,” he said, writing down a new phone number, “and explain the situation to them. You should be able to get a rebate, which you can use to get a new phone.”

I was going to point out the obvious irony of coming to the store in person only to end up using a phone, but I decided to go along. I went to a courtesy phone and called the number. All the courtesy phones were hooked up to a line with a loud hum. I could barely hear the service rep when she answered.

“HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMCanMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMhundred dollar rebateMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMfax your receiptMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM”

After a few “I beg your pardons” and “could you repeat that pleases”, I got what I came for: Bell Canada would give me a $100 rebate on my next bill if I purchased my phone there.

I mentioned the line noise to the guy at the counter.

“It’s not that bad, is it?” asked Counter Guy.

“I could barely hear the rep on the other end of the line. And hey, you guys are the phone company.”

Counter Guy shrugged his shoulders with a little “Yeah, but what are you gonna do?” sheepish grin.

There were a number of decent phones selling for less than the value of my rebate, so I checked the selection at the front of the store. I found a decent-looking phone and even went on one of their “surf the Web with Bell Sympatico High Speed” terminals to check the reviews. I then went to the sales desk.

“Excuse me, I — ”

“Just a moment please, sir. I’ll be right with you,” the guy said. He grabbed the phone on the desk and took it off hold.

“So, where was I?” he said into the phone. “Oh yeah. So I’m like, ‘Why did you listen to me? I was drunk, wasn’t I?’ and she’s like ‘Yeah’. So then I say, ‘Well, duh.'”

Well, duh indeed.

I left the store and started checking out what kind of phones Rogers and Telus were offering.

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