Thursday, May 05, 2011

Rogers: Friendly Neighbourhood Cable Company or Diabolical Crooks?

My first experience with Rogers should have sent me running for the hills…or at least to the cancellation desk in an attempt to void the deal I just made with the devil. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, the gods sitting atop Mount Rogers know exactly how crooked they really are and gleefully revel in it. Their army of shady lawyers carefully hide clauses in the microscopic print on the bottom of all their contracts to figuratively hog tie and gag their customers so you are powerless to stop them from gouging every red cent they can out of you by means of hidden fees, extortionate pricing and so-called “bundled savings”. They also ensure as many people as possible sign up for the more expensive services by making the cheaper options so absurdly inadequate that customers are left with little choice.
They buy up blocks of time from television stations who, in exchange, air flashy commercials that highlight how Rogers is the master of the universe while blatantly demeaning the competition. After all, Rogers has the fastest, most reliable wireless network, cheapest home phone packages and unbeatable digital cable options in the country, right? Why not sign your life away and enjoy the benefits?
So you spend hours reviewing your options on their snazzy, highly efficient website and carefully build a Better Choice Bundle consisting of home phone, internet and cable. This saves me 10%, you think happily as you click away. Better than nothing!
You do some quick math. If a basic home phone costs $27.95 per month, basic cable is $29.99 and internet is $27.99, add tax and the 10% bundle discount and your bill should hover somewhere around the $88.93 ballpark, give or take a few bucks for system fees, etc. Not bad for three amazing Rogers services. You’re now anxious to speak to a helpful customer service representative to get the ball rolling so you can take full advantage of this great deal. And said customer service representative is only too happy to oblige you.
What they don’t tell you is getting your hands on one of these “great deals” is damn near impossible because they don’t exist. Your $28 telephone is great – if everyone you know and are likely to ever talk to for the rest of your life lives within a thirty-block radius of your house. If not, you have to add a long-distance package which will cost you another $19.95 each month or upgrade to a more expensive option.
That awesome $30 cable is great too – if you only watch CBC News and the fireplace channel in four different time zones. More than a quarter of the thirty or so channels you pay for are time shifted stations broadcasting the same programs you watched an hour before. It also does not include many of the more popular television stations. If you want more visual stimulation, you have to choose a more expensive package – Digital Plus at $47 or VIP at $57.49 are your only sensible options. If you want the Godfather of all cable packages, VIP Ultimate is available. It includes VIP channels plus movie packages, specialty channels and theme packs but at an extortionate price of $99.46 a month, who the hell can afford it? You also have the option to add specific channels to your package but that option is unavailable with your basic $30 cable so you’re shit out of luck.
The $28 internet is an amazing deal as well if the only thing you ever do is open and close Internet Explorer all day. At the absurdly slow download speed of 500 Kbps, you could deliver that letter to your pen-pal in Germany quicker by walking there than trying to e-mail it using this dinosaur. In fact, you could probably walk there and back before the hotmail page even loads. If you don’t like the idea of decaying at your desk with dead lice falling off you while you wait for a web page to appear, you are forced to upgrade again to a more expensive package. These range anywhere from $35.99 for something slightly quicker than cold molasses to $99.99 for internet so fast, that your e-mail to your pen pal in Germany is rocketed to her Inbox three days before you even thought about writing it.
So after you’ve tweaked your Better Choice Bundle to include services that are a little more acceptable to your busy lifestyle, you now have Express internet at $46.99, VIP cable at $57.49, basic home phone with no calling features for $27.95 and the long-distance package for $19.95. Add tax and 10% bundle discount and your bill should now be hovering around in the $157.71 ballpark….more than $60 more than you originally thought. Suddenly these “great deals” you see advertised on television don’t seem go great after all.
But your bank account doesn’t stop hemorrhaging there. You must also take into account the one-time installation charges, pro-rated billing, modem rental, terminal fees and one-month advance billing. Once these have been tacked on, the initial hundred-dollar bundle that you were so excited about is now costing you three times more than you were willing to pay in the first place and you suddenly feel like you’ve been raped with a machete. Not to mention that you are now stuck in an iron-clad 12-month contract that had been forged in the fires of Mount Doom and feels like a lead ball and chain around your ankle.
 I was one of those customers but little did I know that the trouble hadn’t even begun yet.