Archive for the ‘Blacklisted Companies’ Category

Add me to the list of people who wasted time sitting in on one of GeoHoliday’s “90-minute” sessions on timeshares. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in timeshares. I think that, in the right situation, timeshares are a decent investment. And by the “right situation” I mean this:

1. You have a family. If you’re only a couple, then you can probably shop around for vacation packages and do just as well.
2. You have money. Don’t drop $5000 or $10,000, plus annual maintenance fees, if you don’t have it. And absolutely do not enter into a payment plan.
3. You are very flexible. As in – if you want to leave for a week’s vacation in 20 days, you can do that.
4. You want to travel for your vacation twice per year

If you meet all the criteria, then have at’er. I meet all the criteria, except for the money part. I’m comfortable, but I would rather wait a couple of years to get more comfortable.

Now, what about GeoHolidays?

From what I’ve read, buying a timeshare in the resale market will save you money. Buying a house, going in on it with a couple of families, is probably best though. GeoHolidays? Well, they seem to be flexible. But a lot of people are unhappy with them. Just Google “GeoHolidays scam” and you’ll have no shortage of reading material. But those complaints are mostly about their sales tactics. Do they follow the law? Yes. Will you get your money back from them if you cancel your investment within the allotted time? Yes. Do they give you what they say they will? Yes. Just go to the Better Business Bureau. So I don’t think there is anything to fear about investing with them, especially if you start out small.

That being said, their sales tactics are indeed garbage.
Here is what you should look out for, based on personal experience in Las Vegas, as well as digging around the Internet:

1. $100 dinner – “dinner’s on us” they say
The facts: This was $100 that could be applied to two areas of the menu of this particular overpriced restaurant. With an $10 beer and a $8 water, plus tip, we paid $40 for our meal. It was a pretty good meal, but I would have paid $80 for it. So really, I just got half off the meal. Still good, but why don’t they say that?

2. $100 of casino money
The facts: yeah right. This you can throw in the garbage. Not worth traveling to the casino it was good for. You can only use this voucher in one of four slot machines, the “promo” ones. Which have a sign saying “promotional machines” but may as well have said “you’ll-never-win machines”. And when we were up $20, I couldn’t even cash out the $20. They’ll only cash you out if you win the jackpot. Huh? So we’re sitting their pulling the lever over and over again for 10 minutes until we ran out of credits. So would you walk for 30 minutes, or cab for $12, to this casino so you can sit there for 10 minutes on a 1/20,000 shot of winning $2000? Not worth my time, maybe it’s worth yours.

3. Show tickets
The facts: from what I can dig up, these are good, although for just the show they say and that show may not be your cup of tea.

4. Free cruise
The facts: Yep. Except for the port fees, which run over $200 per person. And you have to fly there and back. And drinks and food aren’t included. Still a deal, but don’t tell us it’s free. It’s a ‘discounted cruise’.

5. Lowest offer is $8000 for three vacations every two years, plus $350/year maintenance fees
The facts: First of all, it’s only three trips if you go last minute. Otherwise it’s one trip. Second of all, that’s not their lowest offer. They were willing to freeze that offer for three years and give my wife and I one vacation per year for just sliding them $2000. That money would come off the $8000 if and when we decide to buy, or we could just walk.

What GeoHolidays should do:
1. Lay off 80% of their staff
Put that money into making the timeshares even better. Advertise on the Internet and try to cater to people who are actually looking for timeshares. Sure, you’ll sell 10% of the volume you do now, but with the reduction in staff, and stopping the gimmicks, the profits will increase.

2. Be honest
Get rid of the gimmicks, seriously. You turn people off with the “ifs” and “buts” – the “conditions” that seem to come with every “free” thing you hand out. Just stop it. Frankly, I would rather $10 in real casino credit than that $100 bullshit you pawned off on me. And give me 30% off anything on the menu, instead of forcing me into one area of the menu.

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So the phone rings while I’m working out and I drop everything to answer it before the second ring because my little girl is napping. Of course, there is no response to my “Hello” after 1…2…3…

We all know what the means. Telemarketer. (As an aside I am on the National Do Not Call List, but whatever).

Anyway, pissed off that a) my workout has been interrupted and b) my baby may wake up, I angrily say:
“F*** you.” and hang up.

The phone immediately rings again and when I answer it the voice on the other end says “F*** you.”

I hang up. Rings again, I answer because – the baby is sleeping. I can’t ignore this phone.

“F*** you.” says the gentleman’s voice. I hang up.

Phone rings again.

Now I have a pretty clear idea that this is not going to stop and I’m in for gawd knows how many rings that could wake up my daughter. So this time I answer:

“What would you like? What is so important to you that you have to wake up my baby with multiple phone calls, please tell me this amazing deal that you have because I’m dying to know.”

I spoke a lot more than that, not giving him a chance to speak, but that was the gist of it. Then I let him speak. He went into “telemarketer-speak”. You know how in many businesses they have their own words/phrases/descriptions? Well, he used one of theirs. “You abused first, you abused first!”

Yes yes, I don’t give a shit, get to the point. I’m thinking.

“Yep, I abused first. I’m sorry. Please tell me this great deal, I’ll hear you out now.” I always take the shortest route to less hassle.

So what does the dummy do? He goes into his sales pitch. He’s calling on behalf of Bell, Canada. He started talking about the offer. What. A. Clown. Telling me who his employer is? Had I chosen to make a big deal of it, I’m sure I could have accepted his offer, had him take down all my information, and then once the proof is there…file a complaint. Dumb.

Anyway, I told him about my issues with Bell and how I’m not going back.

Thought it was an interesting story. He had an Indian accent, so the call center was probably overseas – or perhaps I’m jumping the gun, but it makes sense to me. The big companies always outsource.

Here’s a newsflash to the dinosaur companies who only succeed today because they are too big to fail but they would never succeed doing what they are doing if they just start out: Cold Calling does not work. Spend your money on Internet advertising. That is how we do things in 2011. This is not 1987. Cold Calls are useless.

Rogers is Horrible

Posted: March 20, 2011 in Blacklisted Companies

The headline is a little bit hard on a company that was actually quite reliable for the 10-plus years after the Bell incident. But what they did was so far off base that in the end it actually made them a worse company. And looking back on things today, I realize that all customers – all – would be better off leaving both Bell and Rogers. It can be done, and I’ll tell you how – later.

First, what did Rogers do? My cell phone bill were getting extravagant so I phoned them and asked for a more expensive plan. Paying for more minutes – i.e. guaranteeing them more money – would save me in the end.

My wife and I usually pay a combined $230 a month for our cell phones. A little high, but we use them a lot. It was this way for about 18 months straight, but in August the bill I got was for about $350. So that sets off a flag – she is on maternity and is now more active with her daytime calling. So I call Rogers and expand my plan as much as possible. I’ll pay a higher set price and avoid these fluctuations.

Next bill was $600.

So I call back and it turns out that I had been charged for incoming calls, which were supposed to be free. The agent agreed and fixed my account accordingly – or so I thought (when he fixed my account for free incoming calls – I found out that he just gave me three months of that free. So in four months I would have received another surprise, had I not discovered this). He also sent the issue to Billing to knock off the rest of the overage. They would contact me on Friday to confirm. They didn’t call. So I followed up this evening.

Speaking to another agent – and later his supervisor – both nice, don’t get me wrong, but I find out the following:

1. Free unlimited incoming calls don’t exist anymore. To get free incoming calls the cost $15 a month but are subject to the normal daily call minute restraints (so not unlimited), but are free on weekends/evenings. I didn’t get that as part of my August plan.

2. I can’t go back to my “old” plan that had unlimited incoming calls. Had I left well enough alone, I would just be paying a “measly” $100 a month more until wifey goes back to work in January.

3. Apparently, when I changed my plan in August, it automatically puts me in a contract for 36 months. So instead of being free of their contract in January coming up (and trust me – I have been counting the days until that date), they say I’m locked in until August of 2012. So be very wary when you change your plan with Rogers or any money hungry wireless company.

Nothing against their customer service. It’s the suits in the head office that make the policy and devise ways of squeezing every drop of blood out of the stone that is their customer.

I’ll pay $1000 for a phone, before I sign any contract ever again. Did you know in China and India, Apple and Blackberry can’t break into that market because the culture over there is contracts=devil. The people won’t sign ’em. So as such, the iphone and blackberry can’t be discounted. As such…people won’t buy them for that much money.

I want that culture here. Contracts suck.

What I did

I canceled Rogers wireless, Internet, TV and home phone. To cancel the wireless – because they put me on a new plan they charged me the full cancellation fee (my last plan was close to expiring and the fee would have been tiny by comparison). Internet also charged me a cancellation fee. In fact, I paid $500 in cancellation fees. I paid that to Rogers to go away.

I then went to Wind Mobile for wireless. Teksavvy for Internet and home phone. Star Choice (now Shaw) for Satellite. Now while the latter is the same thing – just another bigwig – the other two have saved me huge. In the 16 months since I made the move, I have saved about $2000. Now THAT is worth paying $500 in fees for, no? Teksavvy service is excellent. Wind, not so good – but damn is it cheap, and they’re building cell towers and thus improving over time.

Back in 1999, I didn’t have a whole lot of money and my debts were increasing faster than my income. It was close, though. The difference was small. But bit by bit, the debts were increasing.

I had a cell phone with Bell and when I moved from London to the Toronto area, I spoke to Bell about the cell phone charges. I was speaking with a woman who did not have strong English. However, I was very clear with my question – if I received an incoming call from London while I was in Toronto, it would be deemed a local call, since my phone was based in London. The notion seems silly today, but keep in mind that mobile phones were not as prevalent in 1999. Pay plans were still quite new.

So with that information, I encouraged all of my friends and family (mostly based in London) to phone me on my cell. I would not phone them, because of the high costs. So day after day I took calls from London.

Then I got the bill. $350.

I phoned Bell and read them the riot act. The person on the other end didn’t help me. I spoke with the manager and ended up getting about $100 off. Not good enough, I canceled my service. Next bill comes – there was a $100 cancellation fee. Wow – and again remember, these cancellation fees were just as new as the mobile plans.

Another phone call, another riot act. They ended up knocking my bill down the equivalent of that fee. Didn’t matter. I canceled my Internet and switched to Rogers. Changed my long distance to Sprint (Rogers didn’t have home phone yet).

That was the end of Bell, Canada. I’m now 11.5 years ‘clean’. Think about that – roughly 144 bills at an average of over $200/bill – $29,000 give or take. That’s money Bell does not have.

And as for Rogers, well, they’re the subject of the next Blacklisted Companies Blog.

These ripoff artists charge an arm and a leg for use of their highway, as Ontarians know. And try being late with a payment – they release the hounds. So anyway, it was back in 1999 or 2000 when I paid them for a bill that I had paid them for already – my prior payment went through after they sent the next bill out. And it was about that time that I had decided that the rape job they were giving me was just too much to take. So I was done with using the highway.

I asked them for my credit back. Oh man, talk about screwing up their system. Their way of doing things. Wow, you’d think that complying with such a request would shut down the company.

Naturally they refused, because doing something nice for the customer is not how many businesses operate. Well, I get bothered by companies who do as they please because they are so huge. And when I get in the mood, I tend to be like a dog on a bone. So I started treating them the way they would treat me if I owed them $38. It was only $38, so it wasn’t the money – well, it kind of was, since at that time I didn’t exactly have a ton of it and still had student loans, but I digress. It wasn’t really about the money, it was about standing up to Goliath.

So I faxed them collection letters, indicating that I would require payment within 30 days or I would charge interest. I specified the interest, I can’t remember now what it was exactly, probably something like 3%. I faxed a follow-up at 15 days and three days. (I did all this from work, so you can tell how dedicated I was to working for someone else)

Then they were late sending me my money. The letters I faxed, all very professional, started to have a change in tone. The money will need to be paid immediately or collection procedures would begin. The second notice, I described what the collection process would be, up to and including their submission into the credit bureau (I had some experience with collections in a prior job).

Several days later, I got my check. Win.

A month later, I got my bill – with my credit still on it. Double win. Wow, this change of their policy/process really screwed things up on their end. So over the next five years or so, I used up my credit, taking four trips on the ETR.

I’m just happy to have given them a taste of their own medicine. Even though I’m sure I was forgotten thirty seconds after they mailed the check, and the extra $38 didn’t make a dent in their blocks upon blocks of gold bars and vaults full of money.