How My ISP Kept Me As a Customer

February 8, 2009

Okay, as you may know, I was offline for about 18 hours this weekend. I was not happy. This is a record of my conversations with my ISP, a major, major Canadian company.

Some basics: I use a service called Portable Internet. My account is in my modem, not my computer; whichever computer I attach the modem to becomes my Internet access point.

The modem runs off a satellite-based cellular network, and offers very fast, very reliable service … 99 per cent of the time. Sometimes it cakes out, at which point I unplug it for 10 seconds, reboot and all is well.

The modem is about the size of a hardcover book and stands upright on a windowsill. I like it; no matter where I go, I plug this puppy into my laptop and I’m online on my own secure account, not some coffee-shop Wi-Fi.

When it doesn’t work, I’m ticked. Especially with a podcast to record with people in three different U.S. states, a blog to maintain, and Star Trek trivia to look up. A man has needs.

So here’s how things went today.

  • Call 1: Report my Internet access is out. The Tech Support dingleberry asks me to tell him which of the five lights on my modem are on. I tell him the middle one is out. He tells me, in a snippy, dismissive tone, that that’s the code for a defective modem, and as my modem is just more than a year old, I am not covered by warranty, and a new one has to be purchased. Modem: $100 Canadian.
  • Call 2: An immediate callback. My experiences with this company in the past have taught me that what one person tells you may not be the same as what the next one tells you. When we moved last year, they got our new and old addresses backwards and we went without phone and net for almost a month; they told us we would be credited for it, but we never were, and we got a different story from every person we spoke to. So I called back just to confirm. The second guy told me he didn’t know what was wrong, and couldn’t suggest any solutions. I told him what the previous guy had said; his response was along the lines of “that must be it.” So I told him I wasn’t going to buy a new modem, and could I please be transferred to the business office to cancel our account. He said that wasn’t possible. I asked if there was anything he could do to help me further. “No.” I asked to be transferred to anyone who could help me. “No.”
  • Call 3: Call the business office. I am told there are no options for any other kind of Internet service for us, so I say I want to cancel, as I am not going to pay for a service I can’t access. Unfortunately, this account is based on Mrs. Weathereye’s original phone number from before we met, so despite my being a co-signer on the account I can’t cancel it, because she’s out of town.
  • Call 4: Call other ISPs to buy new access. I learn, sadly, that it will actually cost me more than $100 to set up a new account with someone else, and the monthly rates are much higher than what I’m paying. So I bite the bullet, decide to stick with my ISP despite the knobheads who answer their phones, and head out to buy the new modem at this company’s store.
  • Call 5: My phone rings. Apparently, the warranty on my vehicle is about to expire. Or so a robot told me.
  • Call 6: The new modem is set up but the same problem is occurring: middle light out. Tech support talks me through several things, then comes up with something I should have thought of: “Did you use the new power cord, or the one that you were using before?” Of course, I just plugged the new modem into the old cord. I switched and my computer shows me as connected to the Internet; it was the adapter. Problem solved, and I can return the new modem and get my money back.
  • Call 7: After hanging up, I discover that I can’t actually get online, only to my ISP’s signup page. The last guy activated the new modem and switched off the old one, then switched off the new one when I told him I would return it … so neither of them works. So I call back. This next guy tells me this is a problem for Billing, not Tech Support, and transfers me. I wait a long time, and the Hold feature plays 80s power ballads.
  • Call 7.2 Billing says “no, that’s Tech Support,” and sends me back. On hold again. I hate it when these places do this, and am at this point considering switching back to my ISP’s biggest rival, another national company I swore years ago to never use again.
  • Call 7.3 A new Tech Support guy comes on and, within minutes, gets the which-modem-is-which problem sorted out, gets me back online, and credits our account with $30 so I can go out and buy a new power adapter from an outside store after I return the new modem and new adapter to their store for a full refund. And he was really cool about it.

End result: I am online, and I am happy. Whoever that last guy was, he should be running the place, or at least holding seminars for the first few morons on how to not be a dick to people who are trying to spend money on their services.


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