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For the last sixish months, my Audiovox mobile phone has been acting up, so it was with great coincidental satisfaction that Bell called me a few weeks ago to inform that I was eligible for a phone hardware upgrade, with rebate. The battery acid leaking out of the screen of this sucker [which I couldn't find the bill for, making a repair tricky], and other non-critical factors like a nonsense user interface and mediocre battery life, meant that a phone upgrade was imminent, so the offer of one free of charge was quite pleasing.

I perused the models Bell has on offer for its personal plans this morning [a disappointing slate, actually, very few cutting edge or at least new-standard technologies available on even the most expensive of their phones], and set off down the Eaton Centre to pick up a new model [for at most, they had told me, a $40-$50 difference]. Upon arrival, I was quickly assisted by a [contrastedly pleasant, and helpful] retail staff member, and was in the middle of the checkout process when the clerk decided to confirm my rebate eligibility. Welcome to Wonderland. There seemed to be a bit of a mess on the other end of the line, so the clerk asked me if I could speak to Bell HQ myself, for the purpose of being able to confirm personal records and identities. Although I've been using my phone for eighteen months, and my number for two or three times that long, the operator at HQ informed me that I had activated the phone no earlier than 10 months ago, and suggested that I was, perhaps, trying to pull a fast one on them.

"Check the history of the account" I said, hoping it would show that my sister acquired her phone, and activated it, on the same day as I had - in actuality, near the end of December in 2003. Martha's phone showed up properly, and after much diddling about [we're forty minutes in now, with Trevor on the checkout desk phone at the Bell World store in the mall] with no clear conclusion or paradigm shift in approach-of-understanding, my phone turned out to be eighteen months old, after all. Now, we move on to actually getting me a new one. After another half an hour of intermittent holding, I am informed that while my sister was eligible for rebated upgrade [and took advantage of said offer] from one month ago, my period of eligibility does not begin until September. Odd, considering that we each activated identical hardware models, and subscribed to identical payment plans on the same day. There are fifteen minutes of debate over the authenticity of this statement, before the real gem is finally revealed.

When Bell called me, to give the pleasant news that I was up for hardware replacement after eighteen months with the same unit, they neglected to state that their offer was good for a whopping two weeks. After those two weeks, and by the middle of July, Bell changed its policy to offer a hardware upgrade opportunity after twenty-four months, rather than eighteen. Those six months aren't much of a difference, but when a walk down the Eaton Centre is homologous to the Bataan Death March of urban consumer immersion and lunacy, a deep mark is left if you're turned away at the door. It's another of Bell's policies to change its mind whenever it pleases, selective retroactivity be damned. I got through three tiers of management in the humble struggle to find someone who understood the notion that teasing loyal customers for the sake of revoking a fifty dollar rebate probably isn't that smart of a plan. I found no-one, every person who I directly asked about this issue informed me that this strategy was actually a pretty good idea.

So now I've attained a fuller understanding of the Bell way: Call your customers, offer them a deal - no strings attached - march them down into your store, chastise them for database-error bullshit that clearly makes no sense, then get a little high-and-mighty while telling them that the promotion you'd offered actually wasn't a good idea, and that you've revoked its existence and said customers' conceptual eligibility without telling them. Perhaps there's something in there about snidely ignoring the basic principal of your business model, as well.

"Do you have any other questions, sir?"
"No, thank you, I've had quite enough of Bell for this lifetime."
"Okay, then have a great day!"

Such is the total fucking idiocy of Bell [and probably all telcos, though I'm not going to stretch my assumptions too thin before heading back into the marketplace]. Apparently my contract opens up at some point in the next few weeks, if it hasn't already. I think I'll go to Fido, unless anyone has a better suggestion [VOiP mobility would be ideal, but I recognize it's a total pipedream outside of Magical WiFi LaLaland]. In the meantime: STAY AWAY FROM BELL.

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