Bell Turbo Suck

And I mean – those guys sucks big deal. Many companies suck in a similar way, but Bell for me is now a most disgusting sample of a monstrous client-ignoring money-drainers, struggling to keep their monopoly as the only mean to stay in business.

Let me tell a story of a recent Bell Mobile Internet ex-customer.

To begin with, I was strongly discouraged by at least two of my friends to even consider Bell. They were not keen to provide details, but their disgust was absolutely obvious and genuine. Regrettably, I’ve ignored their advices and decided to try Bell for myself.

Bell’s shop in the busy Eaton Centre was empty – another sign of a crappy business, people were going elsewhere. But I’ve entered, with an exact intention – I needed a 3G modem for my travels across the country, and Bell was supposed to have a largest coverage in Canada. It was also a Boxing Day, so I was expecting a discount.

Sales rep was not able to explain why there were discounts on certain models of the GPRS modems, but not the others, nevertheless a discount was there – with an obvious gotcha of a 2-year contract. I have asked about the cancellation fee, and sales rep provided an estimation of 20 dollars per each month remaining after the cancellation date. That resulted to be a false statement on Bell’s behalf.

I considered a possibility of the risk, but calculated that I’d probably cancel the contract after about a year, maximum year and a half – and in the worst case would not pay more than a couple of hundred dollars. Which, incidentally, was a price of the new GPRS modem I was getting “for free” that day. Crappy deal, but I just wanted to try the whole mobile internet thing, and other companies were offering more or less the same, but without Bell’s promised coverage.

So I’ve got a nice, Mac-style designed box with a sexy-looking Bell Turbostick (Novatel Wireless U998) inside. Smooth-talking salesmen, as always, shaded some nasty hidden fees – such as a “one-time activation fee” (equal to an additional monthly payment), US data roaming surcharge and “optional paper billing fee”. I was told by the salesmen that U998 was sort of a top line, possessing the best antenna and extended range of supported protocols.

Mobile Internet Flex plan allowed automatic upgrade to more expensive level if I use more than predetermined bandwidth. Increment steps were 500M for the initial 35$ per month plan, 45$ for a 1G of data, 60$ for 3G and 70$+ for 3 to 5G, after which a fee of 5c per megabyte was applied. It supposed that the plan will automatically downgrade to a cheaper as soon as you’ll stop using that much bandwidth, but I never got a chance to verify that, as my bandwidth usage was just growing steadily.

To give you an idea, typical bunch of Skype calls, MSN or ICQ hanging in the tray, a couple of visits to yahoo or gmail, together with some occasional browsing (flash, and sometimes images disabled in the browser) for 2-3 days a week was easily bringing me to a minimum 500M monthly threshold. How’s that?

One nifty gotcha was Mobile Connect software by Bell. That ugly and uncomfortable piece of sloppy user experience had a life of its own, downloading and uploading hefty megabytes of “something” as soon as the Turbostick was plugged into the laptop. It used to tell me that I am online while the modem was shutting off all by itself, or saying me I am disconnected while I was still browsing. It was also writing a hundred megabytes heavy logs in my C drive root, without any possibility of disabling that “feature”.

And the modem itself was overheating, unexpectedly shutting down, and losing signal, unable to find a network – well all the signs of a crappy hardware. The only way to safely shut it down and prevent a download of garbage by Mobile Connect in the “disconnected” state, was to unplug the sucker. If that is how their top-line model performed, what sort of thrash is Bell selling as their “normal” products?

As for the famous Bell 3G network coverage… Guys, I am living on the 50-s floor, downtown core next to the CN Tower – do you think I may expect a decent reception? Well, that wasn’t the case. Even when the darned Turbostick was working, the signal was medium to low, and only when I was sitting next to the panoramic window. There was no signal in the bedroom. One more lie from Bell – if they are unable to provide coverage in this situation, the hell I will believe that there is any reception outside of the big cities… In fact, I’ve tried it in Calgary downtown – same poor reception and dropping the signal; a bit better in Toronto Pearson airport.

Overall feeling was that Bell’s 3G network is expensive, slow, weak and inefficient. Also, the modem was mostly hooking on the slowest GPRS protocol, only in rare occasions switching to a faster HSUPA. Together with frequent signal drops and useless extra traffic paid out of my pocket, usage of the Turbostick was a pathetic, annoying experience.

So one day when we were shopping at Eaton Canter again, I’ve just took the Turbostick with me and approached a so-called “SPA” or customer service at the Bell store. Two tables, one guy attending the customers; two customers – we and other couple.  Manager who finally emerged from the staff room after about 5-minutes wait was not particularly happy to see us and listen to my problems.

He told me that default software shipped with the modem is faulty and I am supposed to replace it with a new version. He also told that my SIM card was from a “bad” series, with lots of known problems. And he also commented that the modem is probably faulty, too, and should be replaced. Instead of just giving me another modem from the shelf, manager filled in a form to request it from the warehouse, and told me that if I am lucky and there are modems in stock, I will get a replacement hopefully by the end of next week.

[Yah, yah I know – first thing that you should do when you have troubles with your Internet connection is somehow still connect and download an update, ain’t that funny? And also, updates are hefty – this Mobile Connect crap weighs enough to cost me the whole day of browsing. So I am supposed to pay out of my own pocket for going beyond the bandwidth minimum just to replace a crappy piece of Bell’s software. Coincidentally, Bell owns the network I have to use for download, so they will get paid that extra money – such a smart business model! Keep on shipping that crappy software, guys… By the way, can anyone tell me why the hell should I install it in my machine when wireless modem itself has a flash memory, where original version of the crappy connection soft is stored – why not to update directly that flash storage, so to keep a device completely mobile?]

I didn’t like how all that sounded and asked if it would be possible to replace my miserable Mobile Internet with a cable connection from Bell. Manager told me that it is dealt with by another department, and he cannot communicate with them. No attempt to cross-sell, up-sell or any of the basic stuff. No compensation or excuses for selling fake fraud instead of a service were given, even after my wife explicitly requested them.

So I went home and installed the new version of the Novacore software. Magic happened – Mobile Connect stopped downloading shit on my computer! What a waste of money without a word or email from Bell guys who could have just tell me that their standard soft is crappier than it was obvious.  Regrettably, the new version of the software was prone to crash without warning, and after reinstallation begin crashing immediately during the start – there was no way to use the Turbostick unless I downgrade back to the initial version.

So I called Bell customer service and requested to cancel my contract. Finally someone at Bell tried to do their job and offered me a “backup cell phone for only 60$ per month”. I have mentioned the possibility to switch to the land cable, which was refused by previous customer service rep, but got silence in response. Cancellation fee after less than a year of usage was 260$; less than expected and nothing to do with promised 20 per month.

Obviously, I had to somehow know that Bell only cancels the contracts with month-ahead notice. So they will have to charge me for this month, but being so nice, they will only charge me for 1/3 of a monthly fee, and I should not use the Turbostick for more than this time. I was so happy to get rid of Bell’s “service” that two-eighty was not even feeling that bad, and I assured the support guy that I would not even touch the Turbostick again for all the rest of the time.

Than – surprise! – after just a couple of weeks I’ve got a box from Purolator, with replacement Turbostick. I haven’t even open it, but packed back and tried to return it right away. It was weekend, we went to Eaton Center and I dropped in the SPA again. This time there were no one at the service desks, and I had to ask the sales people to call someone, otherwise we were just sitting there with my wife, completely ignored. Sales rep was obviously pissed when I’ve asked her to please call someone from support desk. Pathetic bitch snapped something like: “What is your problem?” and got some cold notion in her face, after which she finally called someone.

An important (I guess) dude with “manager” on his badge emerged from the staff room. He was not happy to see us, and even more annoyed by the fact that I was not a Bell’ customer starting next month. He told me that I cannot return their fucking modem to them directly, and should send it back via Purolator, not later than 5 days after receiving a package. On my way out of the Bell store I was not able to contain myself and cheerfully suggested to a couple of potential buyers trying to enter that place: “Don’t by anything from those fuckers, they are pure fraud!” I hope they didn’t.

Purolator package went out yesterday and I am looking forward to pay the last bill next month. What a journey, eh? Now I know what my friends were talking about when trying to make me avoid Bell by any cost. This company is a shameful sample of the customer-ignoring money-draining monopolist, only good to cause a global crisis with their unprofessional and ugly business practices.

[Oh yes I understand that customer acquisition is way more important than customer retention, and brand awareness is pretty much nothing nowadays. I am sort of generalizing on that final conclusion, but still, honestly, Bell – sucks!]

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