Mobile Phone Companies…

2 03 2008

What is it about mobile phone service providers that they seem to shine with incompetence.  I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with two such companies.  When I lived in the UK I was a subscriber to Vodafone.  Here in Canada I signed up with Rogers Wireless.

Now I had my issues with Vodafone during my time overseas.  I initially signed up for a 1 year contract and renewed it each year for continued service.  Interestingly the rates generally went down as did my per/minute airtime.  The issue I had was every year I would phone them to renew my contract, select my options and every year (without fail, this is 4 or 5 years in a row) they managed to screw it up and get it wrong.  Every time.  Without exception.  This was always resolved with a few phone-calls and a slightly better deal than before but I was always amazed at how something so simple could be screwed up every time.

Now Rogers is an even more special case.  It’s to do with paying my bill.  You would think that a company that does a service for you and then sends you a bill would make it easy for you to pay it.  It would certainly be in their best interest (one would think). 

I like to pay my bill on their website with a credit card because then

  1. I get my Air Miles
  2. I control when I pay it rather than giving them the keys to my account to withdraw when they want (look at the small print for letting companies help themselves to payments; to cancel such a deal you need THEIR PERMISSION… hello it’s my bank account, I would like to think I’d have the final call on that, but I digress).

Now over the last 12 months or so I seem to have an issue regularly with paying my bill online.  The problems have included:

  1. Log-in doesn’t work
  2. Log-in works but my session is timed out after 10 seconds for no apparent reason (yes, I flushed my cache, temp Internet files, etc).
  3. Log-in works but systems are down for maintenance.
  4. Web site is so incredibly slow it is impossible to get anything done.
  5. Some other part of their on-line “services” is non-functioning for no apparent reason.

Combinations of the above seem to be what I encounter regularly.  Trying to pay my bill last night was especially annoying.  I was able to log in but as soon as I tried to get to the billing section my “session” was timed out and I was no longer logged in.  I went to the feedback session and filled out my usual note to them asking them why they continue to thwart my attempts to send them Canadian currency and await their response.  I just want to pay my bill!  Geez, you’d think I was asking for allot.  ROGERS I AM TRYING TO PAY MY BILL, WHY IS IT SO GO**AMN DIFFICULT!?!?

Another observation about the UK/Canada with respect to the mobile phone industry is how much more of a ripoff it is over here compared to Europe (bear in mind its’ been a few  years so perhaps this has changed).  For some reason in North America with our mobile phone conversations we get billed per minute.  It may only be a 10 second conversation to say you are on your way but if you are paying 30 cents a minute your on the hook for the whole 30 cents instead of the expected 5.  Over a month of phone calls that adds up to a substantial amount.  In Europe I was billed per second…  If Europe is the big rip off many people make it out to be (and it is in many ways; ‘rip off britain’ was one of the many mantras one hears living there and it has to be said there is some truth in it… check out for one point of view) then why is it with our technology today we can’t have billing per second and you pay for what you actually use rather than the mobile phone companies filling their pockets by charging you for services you aren’t using.  

Is that really fair and OK with you?  To me it’s a bit like going to fill your car before a long trip, only putting in half a tank and being told they only sell full tanks and being charged for a full tank.  Very dodgy dealings there.

Anyway, my 2 cents.



4 02 2008

After my fun and games with my flight back from Vegas I got an email today telling me they’ve given me a $250 flight credit for future travel due to the problems!

That was a pleasant surprise!

Hurrah for WestJet!  They have a clue!

Late nights and iPod vending machines…

29 01 2008

OK, well getting out of the airport took a bit longer than I thought.  I don’t think we left until about 3am and I did not get to my frozen car until after 6am.  When I finally got it going, paid up and left the car park I was just in time to hit the morning rush hour.  Joy.

I had Internet issues at the airport after the last posting and my battery died shortly after so the Internet entertainment did not last long.  I had plenty of time to get some healthy Burger King meat related products and have a wander through the Vegas airport departure area.  That took all of 10 minutes.  Vegas airport did, however, have one feature I’ve never seen before.  They had an iPod vending machine.  See picture below:

iPod vending machine.

Kind of a neat idea to sell iPods and related products at the airport.  I can imagine the disappointment, however, when some poor sod buys one to pass away the time at the airport and forgets that it won’t be charged.  I tried to find a live plug to connect my laptop to but the only ones to be found were in a crowded area of the airport that was on the opposite end from our gate.  All the other ones we could find were DEAD.  That’s useful.

There was one additional element of excitement.  After we had first got the airport and got through the security check (bags XRayed, etc) a blue light and alert went off.  A bunch of us had just got through and us (amongst others) were kept from going anywhere else in the airport whilst they sorted out this security issue.  It only took about 20 minutes.  A sniffer dog came and went and various important and serious looking people in rent-a-cop outfits came and went.  From what I could gather it looked like that an older couple had made their way through the security check and forgot one of their bags.  I guess the security guys realised they had an extra bag that nobody seemed to want and wanted to get it cleared (hence the dog).  I saw a sheepish looking older guy and his wife brought back and he collected his bag.

When we did finally get on the plane the flight was further delayed as the front landing gear needed some immediate maintenance so we had to wait 40 minutes on the plane before it even took off.  When we got to Edmonton and it’s -35 wind chilled temperature we had a further delay as the ramp that connects up with the plane wasn’t working in the extreme cold.  Cue another 10 minute wait before we could get off.  Then there was the huge queue in customs but, to be fair, that went as quick as they could make it.  Bags were there and straight outside into the cold to wait for the Park & Fly shuttle to take me to my car. 

My car, reluctantly, started on the 1st try.  There was this 5 seconds of a burning smell then it seemed to be ok (probably a belt of some sort not being able to turn something in the engine for a short bit due to the cold).  Lots of snow drifts in the car park but fortunately luck was on my side and my car needed minimal snow clearing and I had a clear path to the booth to pay.

Got into the Park & Fly booth to pay my fees.  Lots of people there.  Waited my turn and played the people watching game.  This poor woman came in looking for a boost as her car would not start.  Amazingly the car park folks were not able to help her.  First it was a case of having to wait for the shuttle bus to be free to help then she was told that they did not have any functioning vehicle at all with jumper cables (or, more likely, no jumper cables).  I really felt for that poor woman and I have to admit I was a bit annoyed at the Park & Ride.  They are managing a car park service near the airport.  Think about it:

  1. People will be leaving their cars for days at a time.
  2. We live in CANADA.
  3. CANADA can get COLD from time to time.
  4. Peoples cars probably won’t start from time to time.
  5. Having to give an occasional boost is part of the job.

Looks like another clue for sale is needed.  I did not have any jumper cables in my car or I would have helped her. 

I should probably look into getting some.

On that note… it’s supposed to be -38 tomorrow (no wind chill included).  Food for thought.

Waiting in the airport…

27 01 2008

Thank god for free internet wireless access.  That’s currently the entertainment of choice sitting here in the aiport in Las Vegas.  Our flight has been delayed by about half an hour so it’s not a big deal but it sounds like there is quite the storm in Edmonton so the driving conditions will more than likely suck and starting my ice cube car will be a lottery when I get there. 

You can tell I work for a technology company.  I’ve got about 9 co-workers with me in the aiport and half of us are typing away on our laptops and a few others are messing about with their blackberrys.  Blackberry addiction is a real problem I can tell you.  I don’t have one but the folks around me who do seem to have them permanently glued to their hand throughout the day doing god knows what on them.  Another co-worker is playing with her swearing parrot and now it looks like they’re huddling up to play cards now…  We’re pretty much the only people in the depatures lounge now.  It was full when I started typing this but has emptied out nicely.

Visited the the discount designer fashion mall in Vegas today looking for bargains.  I did not really find any but it killed a couple of hours.  Picked up a couple of belts for myself and my girlfriend (as I’ve lost weight and need a smaller belt now!  Woo hoo!).

There was a (unintentionally) humerous road billboard that was from a legal firm that specializes in suing lawyers.  I guess it’s come around full circle now.  You can’t make this stuff up.  I really wish I was able to take a picture of that but I was in a cab at the time.

We hung out in Ceasar’s Palace for awhile but head back to our hotel to take a taxi to the aiport.  We even got to watch a guest throw up all over the entryway to the hotel whist we were waiting.  Entertainment is ever-present in Vegas.  It’s a very bizzare place indeed.  At least the company is good and we’ve had some fun.

I think I should probably go in search of food now….

2:30 AM in Vegas… (and it’s raining!)

27 01 2008

It’s 2:30 am in Las Vegas.  I just got back to my hotel room.  It’s raining.

It’s been an interesting few days here in Las Vegas.  Work has sent me here since Wednesday to attend an internal development program of sorts to help prepare us for future senior roles in the company.  It’s pretty cool that the company is willing to invest the money to send us here to do this and great that the senior management can take the time out of their schedules to spend the time here for some 1 on 1 interaction with them. 

We had various exercises to work on that were real problems that the company would face (sales models, HR issues, products issues and financial decisions).  Pretty humbling experience in all as in many ways I think these are things most employees take for granted from day to day as you don’t really deal with them in any intimate fashion given your role.

Good eating, a night out to see the magicians Penn and Teller and interesting social company from our offices from all around the world was a welcome bonus.

This is my second time to Las Vegas.  It’s a pretty weird and surreal place.  Sort of a Disneyland for adults.  Even though this is my second time here I am still trying to work out what to make of it all.  We had a good night out tonight (hence the late hour of this posting) and this time we went to “Old Vegas” and hung out in a dodgy casino and drank and gambled (what else would one do?).

Vegas is a microcosim all into itself.  It has it’s own pulse and energy that is unique.  You can easily spend time just walking around the shops and the strip people watching and you’ll see all walks of life and people of every socio-economic statuses.  There is some serious money in this town…. too bad none of it is mine (except what I’ve donated at the poker tables).  $100 gone in 20 minutes playing poker… and I think I’m a reasonably competent player!  Ouch!  I won $140 on a slot machine later that evening so I don’t feel too bad 🙂

The shopping is a world unto itself.  They have all sorts of higher end shops that have all sorts of interesing good for sale at astronomical prices (I looked at a Versace belt and it had a price tag of $530 USD…. ouch!!). 

We found this fantastic bar around the corner from the Flamingos casino that has CHEAP drinks.  A round for 8 people (that I purchased after peer pressure from my $140 slot machine win…. tip… if you win at something never tell anyone!) cost only $16.  A gin & tonic in a bar at Ceasar’s Palace cost $11.50.  You do the math…

All in all a good couple of days.  It will be good to get back home to see my girlfriend, pets and get on with some work.  The get together here has certainly given me some motivation and the chance to hang out with the CEO and divisional leaders has certainly given me some ideas on how to proceed in my job (I generated a few leads worth chasing from talking with people from other offices).

Bleh, it’s 2:43 now.  I should probably check facebook for pointless apps I’ve been invited to add, check my mail and and go to bed.  I’ll probably do some shopping tomorrow for gifts and the like and I’ll be flying back in the evening and won’t be getting home until Monday at around 2 in the morning.

Now for bed…

80s Cultural Education…

7 01 2008

At the ripe old age of 37 I have finally seen the film “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”. 

Apparently I am culturally deprived for not having seen this as it is (so I’ve been told) one of the definitive films of my generation.  I also suspect it would have been better if I was still 16.   My girlfriend has taken it upon herself to educate me with all of the 80s culture I missed out on.

I did find Ferris’s easily malleable mate (Cameron was it?) quite entertaining…

Any other ‘classic’ films I’m missing out on here people can suggest?

End of year update…

4 01 2008

I guess this is a good opportunity to recap the holidays and point out the years highlights such as they were.  This is probably more geared towards the friends who I have not kept in touch with for a variety of reasons and as a new years resolution perhaps vowing to be better with the email for my overseas friends is a good place to start 🙂 

2007 certainly had many ups and downs.  The end of the year was pretty good for the most part as downtime from work and time with family and friends is always something to value and look forward to.  Christmas dinner (#2!) at my parents place was excellent as always.  Nothing beats home cooking and the seemingly limitless supply of booze to go with it.  Unfortunately my other half could not join us in Calgary this time as our poorly sugar glider needed her medicine and we felt it best if one of us stayed home to make sure she got it properly.  Fortunately she seems to have recovered somewhat and, while not at 100%, seems to be more active and makes those happy clicking sounds when we spend time with her which is excellent.

We went to another Turkey dinner on the Saturday with a couple of friends of ours (one of which has his birthday around that time) which was also enjoyable and tasty as per usual.  You go out and have a good time with your friends during the holidays and it makes you wonder why you don’t make the effort to do it more regularly the rest of the year!

Anyway, on with what I’ve been up to the rest of the year.


  • We picked up two baby sugar gliders to add to our household.  They’ve been alot of fun and have bonded with us in a big way.  Awesome pets.
  • Work has got more interesting.  I’ve been tasked with looking after a company that the company I currently work at aquired towards the beginning of 2007.  I am looking forward to the challenge of trying to get it into a profitable state so we can take it forward.  I’m getting increasingly annoyed with C# however… bring back the days of C where I could do whatever I like and the compiler lets you get away with it!  This Nazi-Fascist-Like management of everything you do is really doing my head in.
  • Girlfriend is awesome as usual and we celebrated our 3rd anniversary this year.  She even did some of my Xmas shopping for me at West Edmonton Mall whilst I was at work.  Now *THAT’S* taking one for the team!
  • I’ve had a chance to get to know some of my friends a bit better.  Some of them are like family and always there to help when times get tough (like flooding for example… thanks Don!)
  • I’ve started to get into this blogging thing a bit more.  I enjoy reading some of my friend’s blogs too; it’s a good way to keep up with what they are getting up to.  Hopefully I can stay disciplined enough to keep posting!
  • The darts team I was on won the championship!  I closed out the winning game!  Yay!
  • I’ve started playing football again which is good.  Too bad my skills aren’t.
  • We had a good summer camping vacation for a week down in Brooks and managed to avoid the tornadoes… outings included golf, Tyrell Museum and general badland sightseeing.  My brother came out and camped with us for a night as did one of my co-workers (who is no longer at the company I’m at which is a bad point).
  • Got in touch with a friend I have not seen since my PhD days at the University of Leeds AND it turns out she was at the end of her employment contract AND she was looking for work AND happend to have a PhD in EXACTLY the area that we were looking to hire in.  She starts in a few weeks (coming over from the Netherlands).  Is that a coincidence or what?  If I’m really lucky she will bring me a nice bottle of single malt when she arrives.


  • One of our two original sugar gliders died (Jazzberry).  This was pretty hard to take as I am quite fond of all my gliders and wish they were immortal!!!  My girlfriend’s Guinea Pig also had to be put down which was quite sad (although she did live to a very ripe old age for a GP!).
  • 2nd Flood in our basement in 11 months did a pretty good job of trashing the lot.  I’m a bit worried about what my insurance coverage will be like come renewal time as insurance companies don’t like unlucky people.  Fortunately I had good friends to help bail me out (literally) of this emergency before the restoration folks arrived (see high-points above).  This really sucks as it will be months before the basement is in any sort of usable state again.  We had pretty much just finished re-decorating it after the last flood when this one hit.
  • I don’t seem to be playing my guitar as often as I’d like.  With my workload increasing that hasn’t helped but I do miss it sometimes and would like to get my ass in gear enough to start picking it up again!  I’ll always suck at it if I don’t practice.
  • I’m not keeping in touch with friends overseas enough.  Alot of the crises over the last few months haven’t helped.
  • I’ll be getting rid of the hot tub in my basement which I’m pretty choked about.  It was one of the selling points of the house for me in the first place.  With it’s age and the fact it needs more patching up I feel like I am really pushing my luck keeping it in my basement given the events over the last year.  On the plus side I can always get another one in the yard and I’d prefer it outside anyway to be honest…
  • Still a smoker.  I am always beating myself up over this one and continually vow to myself to quit but never seem to manage to do it.  Dumbest thing I ever started doing in my life no question but I do enjoy it (the smoking).  Is that messed up or what?
  • Garage door chain went today but I guess technically that’s a 2008 issue…

Well that’s a pretty exhaustive list!  The good looks like it outweighs the bad overall.

As an added humour point I’ve just noticed that the wordpress spell checker does not seem to like the words “blog” or “blogging” (or wordpress!).  Ironic isn’t it?