Two notable instances of excellent customer service today.
First, we decided it was time to get Oliver a laptop for use in school. He’s been successfully using the hand-me-down Windows laptops provided by the school since grade 4 (bless the hearts of the resourceful resource staff!), but he’s getting frustrated by having to use a Windows machine at school and a Mac at home, and we want him to have a computer he can take back and forth from home to school.
We settled on an 11 inch MacBook Air, and my first call was to Little Mac Shoppe. It’s a small, local business, that I walk by at least twice a day. I know the owners. I want to support them.
“Hi, I’m wondering if you have a MacBook Air in stock?”, I ask.
“Sorry, we don’t. If you need something today, then I know Future Shop has them in stock,” says the helpful person on the end of the phone (who turned out to be John Cox, the personable owner).
“Gee, thanks,” I said, and rung off.
After our regular visit to the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market Oliver and I headed off to Future Shop. We got as far as the parking lot.
I just couldn’t shop there again: I couldn’t face the disingenuous “extended warranty” money-grabbing upsell. I couldn’t handle the pumping back-beat of the in-house sound-system. I couldn’t handle the nervous energy. I couldn’t support a faceless big-box chain. So we kept on driving.
Back to Little Mac Shoppe.
Where we ordered an 11 inch MacBook Air, to be delivered in 5 to 7 business days. There was no extended warranty invoked. No attempt to even upsell us to AppleCare. John was friendly, engaging, and a human being.
Which, I have decided, is what we should optimize our shopping to support.
Laptop on the way, the next step was to switch our cell phone provider.
I was a loyal Island Tel Mobility customer for many years, until I needed a GSM phone to travel with and they hadn’t switched over from CDMA yet. So in recent years I’ve been a reluctant customer of Rogers Wireless, putting up with their moribund service, 1970s-style customer website, and spotty service unless you happen to be in certain parts of Charlottetown.
When we looked at cutting the cable TV cord last month I took the opportunity to review our entire telecommunications agenda, and realized that we were spending $120+ a month for Rogers service. Some quick comparisons showed me that we could cut our bill almost in half and get more service by switching to Virgin Mobile, which works on the Bell (née Island Tel) network, so has service across PEI. And a jaunty attitude to boot.
But I dragged my feet, reasoning that switching would be complex and time-consuming.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was a call to Rogers to have them unlock the Samsung Galaxy Rugby I’d acquired a few months ago for doing Android development with. I paid full price, and thus reasoned that the only reason it was locked to Rogers was administrative, and that they’d unlock it for free.
I was wrong.
They refused to unlock the phone unless I paid them $50.
So to Virgin it would be.
I bought a $14 unlock code for the Samsung phone from cellunlocker.net, and took that phone, along with my Nokia Lumia 800, to The Source (née Radio Shack) in the Confederation Court Mall where I made the arrangements to port our existing numbers over to Virgin Mobile. The staff there was very friendly, the process of switching was quick and painless, and after 30 minutes I walked out the door a switched man. Total out-of-pocket costs was $0.
I hold no illusions that Virgin Mobile will be a perfect replacement for Rogers — I’ve been burned by enough multinationals to know that it’s in their nature to be essentially evil — but I gotta say that, at least so far, I’m impressed: the customer website is simple, clear, and works every time, the plan pricing was simple and clear and inexpensive, and even the sassy British voicemail narrator is a breath of fresh air.
Stay tuned to see how it works out.
Here’s the side-by-side cost breakdown of the before-tax cost:
|Catherine’s Voice Plan||$25.00||$20.00|
|Peter’s Voice Plan||$25.00||$20.00|
|Peter’s Data Plan (based on usage)||$25.00||$10.00|
|Peter’s Call Display||$8.00||$0.00|
|Fake “Gov’t Regulatory Recovery Fees”||$4.26||$0.00|
|Real Government Fees (911)||$1.00||$1.00|
That’s a savings of $37.78 a month, or $453.36 a year. And Catherine gets Call Display included, which would have been $8.00 a month more with Rogers, and the option to use data if she wants to at non-exorbitant sliding-scale rates. Our “free” voice minutes decrease from 100 to 50, but as we really only call each other, and “within account” calls are free with Virgin, that’s not an issue for us. Oh, and those 50 “free” minutes are for calling anywhere in Canada, whereas Rogers’ 100 “free” minutes were local calls only.