I made some changes around here. I added the very cool Audioscrobbler music listing on the right. It’s a plugin for WordPress called Scrobbler. You can get it here if you run WordPress. 🙂

I also changed my cell phone plan yesterday. I’ve been using the same plan since I signed on with Clearnet eight years ago. I really liked dealing with Clearnet, and always got good service and fair billing from them. Since then, they got taken over by Telus.

My original Clearnet plan gave me 150 minutes per month for $30, and that allowed me to call about 75 different countries around the world at no extra cost. I used most of my minutes calling within the U.S. and Canada, but it was nice to have the option to call overseas if I wanted. I also got voice mail and Caller ID. When Telus took over, they changed my plan (without asking me) to only include long distance within North America. No big deal. Recently, they changed it again to only allow long distance within Canada. Calls to the U.S. cost an additional 25 cents per minute or something like that, which is pretty steep considering most phone companies charge 5 to 9 cents per minute for long distance. I just decided to avoid using long distance outside of Canada if it wasn’t necessary.
Anyway, yesterday I decided to see if I could switch to a better rate plan. They recommended a plan for $30 that included free incoming calls, 1000 minutes in the evening and on weekends, 100 minutes during the week, 100 minutes of long distance within Canada, and basic voicemail. It seemed like a pretty good deal. I was told I’d lose my per-second billing (which didn’t matter to me much if I was getting free incoming calls) and I wouldn’t be mailed a detailed statement. I could check my detailed billing for free on the Internet. That was fine for me too. But, today I found out that my deal no longer includes Caller ID. They want another $5 for that. I called again and switched back to my old plan. I doubt I’d use all those extra minutes, and I would really miss being able to see who is calling, or what calls I’ve missed. I also miss the per-second billing. The lesson: I don’t want to trade something I like for something I don’t use.
The Telus rep yesterday told me that I could get 4 months of unlimited calling and three months of unlimited text messages if I signed up for a three-year contract. She said that was better than what was being offered to new customers. I discovered today that that is not exactly true. From the Telus website:

* Offer available to new activations only until February 14, 2006. Offer valid on selected rate plans only. Clients who sign a 1, 2, or 3 year contract will receive unlimited local calling for 2, 4, or 6 months, respectively.

** Offer available to new activations only until February 28, 2006. Clients who activate on select rate plans will receive, text messaging, picture messaging and video messaging for 2 months. Unlimited incoming text messaging does not include Premium Text Messaging or My Updates. Text messages sent to people outside of Canada and the U.S. are not included in the offer.

Looks like new customers get 6 months of unlimited local calling, and 2 months of unlimited text messaging, picture messaging and video messaging. Oh yeah. New customers don’t get the deal offered to loyal long-term customers. They would never sign up for that.

I did feel some loyalty to Clearnet, but that loyalty has gradually disappeared since Telus bought them. I think in North America we’re used to companies making their products look better and more exciting than they really are. It’s marketing and it’s just a way of life here. We get accustomed to the bullshit so well that we can barely smell it anymore. I think the line should stop at flat-out lying though.

What also surprises me is that in eight years, the mobility market in Canada hasn’t improved for the consumer. Telus can’t offer me a plan better than the one I got when I first signed up with Clearnet. In fact, what I’m paying for now is significantly worse than my original Clearnet plan, because I’ve lost international long distance, and I was shoved into it by Telus without my permission. Of course, I didn’t have a contract, so it’s considered fair, I guess. That road goes both ways though. Now I’m looking for recommendations for other cell phone services.

It used to be that businesses became successful by offering a good experience to their customers. Now some businesses seems interested in offering a good experience to their shareholders. The two groups have very different interests at heart, and what is good for one group seldom matches what is good for the other. After experiences like this latest one with Telus, it leads me to believe that companies like Telus must really think we’re stupid, waving pictures of cute animals against bright white backgrounds in one hand to distract us, while they fish our pockets for spare change with the other.