Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rogers Mobility: A Study in Terrible Customer Service.

My family and recently moved, prompted by my acceptance of employment, to an area that was outside Roger's service area.

My wife needs her cell phone to be reliable as she is with the kids so she began to look at alternatives. It turns out our area is serviced by both Telus and Bell. The problem is both my wife and I are in a three year contract. Hefty cancellation fees and all of that.

"Don't worry about that", says Chris our cable guy. "People get let out of their contracts all the time when they move here."

I did some research and it turns out to be true. Frustration of contract it is called. No service, no need to keep to the terms of the contract as it has been breached. Rogers cannot stipulate that you cannot move out of the service area (otherwise who would sign such a thing and it would no doubt get struck down in court).

So we were set, my wife was going to get the ball rolling so she could port her number and her phone over to Telus.

After spending over 2 hours on the phone with 3 different individuals, including an "iPhone Specialist" they finally conceded that we didn't have service at our address and grudgingly agreed to waive the cancellation fee (which they didn't have a choice in the matter). And in their magnanimous magnificence gave my wife leave to port her number to Telus and closed her account. Of course we didn't realize at the time that the poison dagger had already been stuck in our backs.

My wife took her phone to our local Telus dealer and he ported her number over into a Telus Sim card. The phone didn't work. He swapped it with another Sim but by that time my wife had to leave with two squirrelly kids and a non-functioning phone. He managed to tell her before she was out the door that it probably needed to be unlocked.

It turns out that it is impossible to unlock the latest iOS. I tried, I jailbroke it, but could not unlock it, the most talented hackers in the world still have not cracked it. Jane called Rogers and asked them if they could unlock it. They told her that they couldn’t do anything for her without an account. She asked them why didn’t they tell her before they terminated her account (after all she was on the phone with them for 2 hours), one guy says that they are not obligated to say anything about it, another guy said that maybe it was not clear to the initial three individuals what she intended to do with the phone. It was made clear to them from the beginning, she was going to port her number to the telus network and not sign another contract. Even if she didn’t make it clear that she was going to use the iphone, why would Rogers assume that she was going to junk it? A perfectly usable phone? In the end, they said that they could unlock her phone for a fee if she got a pay as you go account AND waited 30 days. So my wife is going to be without an emergency phone for 30 days while looking after two small children. Not on my watch, buster!

So I decided to take a crack at them. Corporations invariably bend to my will. Well, most of the time.

I spent about an hour and at the end, I had to walk away. I first talked to technical and as soon as it became apparent that I was calling on my wife’s behalf they stuffed me with customer relations. William, in broken English, said that there was nothing he could do unless we opened a pay as you go account and wait 30 days for activation (unlocking). I asked him if my wife had the wherewithal to ask for the unlocking on March 6th if she would have had to wait 30 days. He said no. I asked him how he expected someone to port a number to TELUS when no one outside of Rogers can unlock the phone. He said she should’ve asked and that they are not obliged to say anything that would help somebody switch to a competitor. I asked to speak to his supervisor, he refused, repeatedly. I explained that if I can’t get it resolved then I at least need to speak to a manager to let them know that Rogers has a serious operational problem, he still refused. I hung up. I called a local Apple dealer, who gave me a bunch of good info (like always ask for an interaction ID at the beginning of a conversation, that way if they stonewall you and refuse to help, you can call back, get someone else and tell them the interaction ID). I did phone back and managed to speak to a manager. She was equally unhelpful, but at least I was able to illustrate the problem Roger’s has with customer service. She did mention she was surprised that Rogers waived the cancellation fee. I said that was as it should be because it is a frustration of contract.

I got a lot of “well we don’t know what was said.” First, I call bullshit because they record all conversations (thus the interaction ID) and second, I don’t care, it is obvious to anyone that Roger’s screwed up and I am a customer and I need some resolution. It appears to an outside observer that as soon as you stop paying money, all regard for that customer goes out the window.

I said to my wife “I am angry still. Someone is going to pay.”

I wrote a letter to the Office of the president and surprisingly I got a call back from Tim. We chatted and I explained the situation and he basically said that Roger’s SOP was not unusual compared with industry standard. I asked him what was required technically speaking to unlock the phone and he said that the tech would provide a code and you would punch it in the phone. So unlocking the phone didn’t require a 30 day wait, this was purely an operational issue. He made it sound like he did us such a great favour to waive the 500$ and I said to point to the clause that says we are responsible if we move out of the service area. Of course there is none, hence waiving our fee, but they torpedo your phone in exchange.

Tim wasn’t going to budge so I said that I felt that my wife was treated unfairly and this definitely impacts our choice of provider in the future (I was still a customer at that point). Tim said he was sorry to hear that, I said so am I.

My wife gets her next bill and lo and behold they had slapped a 30$ cancellation fee on top of her regular charges. She calls and Rogers tells her that it is for not giving 30 days notice before she exited her contract. She pays it before I get a chance to let Roger’s have it.

The last insult to injury was the next billing cycle, they charge her another 25$ admin fee for a returned payment, our credit card had expired and been re-issued in the interim that all this was happening and they were trying to charge her card multiple times to clear the bill. Rather than get in contact with her, they just kept running the defunct number through in the month of March. When she called to clear her last bill (beginning of April,the one with the 30$ cancellation fee on it) 2 days later they billed her for 25$. She ended up paying it as she did not want to argue with Rogers anymore. I, on the other hand, was up for it as our joint card also paid for my account and they ran the defunct number an equal number of times against my account, but they did NOT charge me an admin fee. Is Rogers being a total dick to former customers? You bet.

I opened a Roger’s pay as you go account, set it up myself and saved the set-up fee’s, put a minimum of 10$ down and waited 30 days. After the time was up I paid my unlocking fee and unlocked my wife’s phone.

The unlocking process was alittle bit different than was described by Tim, I talked to technical and they took the IMEI number and released it, which means it was sent to Apple’s own servers and when I hooked it up to iTunes next a message popped up saying that the phone had been successfully unlocked.

I promptly turned around and called Rogers back and told them that service was non-existent and I wanted out of my contract. After waiting a few days, (they sent out a survey team you see), I called them back and asked them what was up. I talked to technical who agreed that my area was a low service area, so I asked them what they were going to do about it and she told me that they were planning a new tower in 2012.

“When in 2012?” I asked

She didn’t know the exact date.

“What am I going to do in the meantime?” I asked.

She didn’t know, she couldn’t exactly force a signal through.

“Well I can’t exactly wait for a tower to be put up either, I want out of my contract.”

She put me through to Customer service.

Note: with each person you talk to, you have to retell your story.

Customer Service put me back to technical because she needed some information from the survey. I had initially thought she would just call technical herself and get the information, but no she transferred me. So I told technical that Customer Service needed the survey details, so this time the lady in Technical actually put me on hold and called Customer Service and explained to them what was going on. Then she brought me into the call, where Customer service transferred me to Customer Retention where I articulated that there is no service and I want my contract terminated where upon they transferred me to yet another person in god knows what department (perhaps it was the Sandpaper-on-Genitals Dept, I had lost track at that point) where the gentleman kindly instructed me to transfer my phone to another provider in the area and that they will waive the cancellation fee. I got the reference number for the cancellation and asked them about the 30$ cancellation fee for not giving 30 days notice, he assured me that such a fee does not exist.

So now I wait for my 30 days and I’ll reuse my pay as you go account to unlock my phone as well.

Cost to me over and above services rendered: $125

Cost to Rogers for being a total Penis: $500 and any future contracts/service

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Want to Understand? Read Books!

The following is an incomplete list of books I've read in the last couple of years that have coloured my thinking and in my estimation, lent a certain understanding of the world in which we live. I feel it should give people a certain sense of where I am coming from when I talk/write, although I'll add that I have sometimes read books from this list just to get a sense of where someone else is coming from.

As I read more, I'll update the list.

As always you can make suggestions for books I should read in the comments.

The Great Transformation – Karl Polanyi
The Cancer Stage of Capitalism – John McMurtry
Limits to Growth: 30 Year Update – Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows
Fleeing Vesuvius – Edited by Richard Douthwaite
Being Wrong – Kathryn Schulz
Carbon Shift – Thomas Homer-Dixon
The Upside of Down – Thomas Homer-Dixon
The Party’s Over – Richard Heinberg
Power Down – Richard Heinberg
Collapse –Jared Diamond
The Mountain People – Colin Turnbull
The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One – William K. Black
Web of Debt – Ellen Brown
Tyranny of Words – Stuart Chase
Economic in One Lesson – Henry Hazlitt
Future Tense – Gwynne Dyer
Climate Wars – Gwynne Dyer
The Story of Stuff – Annie Leonard
Violence – James Gilligan
The Singularity is Near – Ray Kurzweil
Confessions of an Economic Hitman – John Perkins
The Secret History of the American Empire – John Perkins
The End of Work – Jermey Rifkin
The Spirit Level – Richard Wilkinson
A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
The Gift – Marcel Mauss
The Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein
Manufacturing Consent – Noam Chomsky
The Host and The Parasite – Greg Felton
Denialism – Michael Spector
The Long Emergency – James Howard Kunstler
The Grand Chessboard – Zbigniew Brzezinski
Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser
The End of America – Naomi Wolf
Give Me Liberty – Naomi Wolf
Sustainability and the Civil Commons – Jennifer Sumner
Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller – Jeff Rubin
Reinventing Collapse – Dmitry Orlov
The Pursuit of Happiness – David G. Myers
In the Age of Spiritual Machines – Ray Kurzweil
The End of Growth – Richard Heinberg
The End of Nature – Bill McKibben
Eaarth – Bill McKibben
The Ingenuity Gap – Thomas Homer-Dixon
A Language Older than Words – Derrick Jensen
Seeing Like a State – James C. Scott
The Collapse of Complex Societies – Joseph Tainter
End Game – Derrick Jensen
Small is Beautiful – E.F. Schumacher
Your Money or Your Life – Vicki Robins and Joe Dominguez
Deep Economy – Bill McKibben
Peak Everything – Richard Heinberg
Plenitude – Juliet Schor
Heat – George Monbiot
Ecological Economics and the Ecology of Economics – Herman Daly
Cool It – Bjorn Lomborg
End of Poverty – Jeffery D Sachs
As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things you can do to stay in Denial
– Derrick Jensen and Stephanie Miller
Death of the Liberal Class - Chris Hedges
American Fascists - Chris Hedges
Days of Destruction, Days of Rage - Chris Hedges
What's the Worst that Could Happen - Greg Craven
Poisoned for Pennies - Frank Ackerman
Prefabulous & Almost off the Grid - Sheri Koones
The End of Growth - Jeff Rubin
Wrong - David H. Freedman
The Value of Nothing - Raj Patel
The Vegetarian Myth - Lierre Keith
Listening to Grasshoppers - Arundhati Roy
The Next American Civil War- Lee Harris
$20 per Gallon - Christopher Steiner
Water Conciousness - Various
Overshoot - William Catton
Bottleneck - William Catton
Unity of Law - Henry Charles Carey
Free to Choose - Milton Friedman
Road To Serfdom - Friedrich Hayek
The Economics and Ethics of Private Property – Hans-Hermann Hoppe
The Economics of Needs and Limits – Frank Rotering
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
The Culture of Make Believe – Derrick Jensen
Shoveling Fuel For a Runaway Train – Brian Czech
Counting For Nothing- Marilyn Waring
Don't Sleep, There are Snakes - Daniel Everett
End Game Vol 2: Resistance – Derrick Jensen
Crossing the Rubicon – Michael Ruppert
Economics Unmasked – Manfred Max-Neef
Global Warming for Dummies – Elizabeth May
Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet – Mark Lynas
Why We Disagree on Climate Change – Mike Hulme
Confronting Collapse - Michael C. Ruppert
Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations – Dave Montgomery
Guns, Germs and Steel - Jared Diamond
The Enemy Of Nature – Joel Kovel
The Crash Course – Chris Martenson
No Contest: The Case Against Competition – Alfie Kohn
Walking Away From Empire – Guy McPherson
Prosperity Without Growth – Tim Jackson

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Our G8 Leaders Cannot Solve Our Problems

Indeed, our G8 (pronounced "great") leaders cannot even recognize what the problem is.

I read an article today on Yahoo entitled "G8 leaders back Greece in euro zone, call growth 'imperative'".

This is a bit of problem as I enumerated in the following comment on the article:

"Our G8 leaders don't get it. Growth is done. The easy oil is gone. All this unrest you are seeing in the world is the result of us hitting hard limits. Politicians and economists just don't get it."

Brief and to the point. Definitely not my usual style.

The first cogent reply was from Joe S. from Kansas City, United States where he wrote:

"Growth is not done... we just need to allow individuals to pursue their dream, but of course with some and limited oversight. If governments got out of the way, we'll have growth within months.

Consider the attack by Obama and democrats on the coal and oil industry. They killed the Keystone pipeline and his type of people are regulating the coal industry to death.

The socialists want businesses under their control and that is why they pursue an unsustainable "green" energy that requires subsidies.

That is why growth appears to be done.... socialistic concepts.

Ronald Reanan(sic) quote:
If it moves, tax it.
If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving,
subsidize it'"

Sigh. Perhaps it is not just politicians and economists that don't get it.

Joe, I agree that this is a problem of ideology, but the ideological problem is not republican vs. democrat, free-market vs. socialist. Deficit spending will not solve this problem because creating additional financial claims on a limited pool of resources isn't going to fix anything. Cutting regulation and taxes to stimulate business isn't going to do anything because of resource limits, you can't grow what you don't have.

An aside though, funny how you should mention that Obama and the democrats are attacking the fossil fuel industry, by trying to regulate it. Perhaps the best way is for the Obama administration to cut all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and let them compete on their own merits, just like in a true free market? Of course the Republicans would rail against that. And you are back to status quo, pinning the hopes of your economy on a non-renewable fuel source.

The economy runs on energy, without access to ever increasing energy you have cannot have a growing economy. And unfortunately due to a flaw in the foundation of classical and subsequent neo-classical economic thought our global economy must grow or die.

What is that flaw? From the times of Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, and John Stuart Mill, economics as a system, consisted of land, labour and capital. Neoclassical economics subsumed land into capital, treating land as a subsystem of capital. The error, one that has been made worse from the transition of classical to neoclassical economics is that land is first a subsystem of economics, then a subsystem of capital.

All along we have had it exactly backwards.

The Economy is a subsystem of the Environment (land).

Without environment, which provides all externalities, you can have no economy. Thus laws governing environment (physics) take precedence over rules governing economics. And that law is the second law of thermodynamics. The easy oil that fueled economic growth is nearly gone and I say again that the unrest you are seeing, riots, political uncertainty, debt crisis, housing crisis, unemployment, food crisis, climate change, repeal of freedoms, all stems from the energy crisis.

This might have been something that could have been dealt with 30 years ago, but now it is far too late. So while those in the US continue to treat politics like a team sport, the really important decision do not get made, indeed the really important issues do not get discussed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Giant's Footprint (aka Where is Salby’s Peer Reviewed Article?)

A gentleman commented on my blog the other day pointing me to another article written by our resident climate skeptic Eric Booth issuing a challenge to all those that subscribe to climate change driven by CO2. It was a talk given by Professor Murry Salby.

I figured it must be pretty good stuff seeing as when I did a search on his name there were blogs titled:

“An Emily Litella moment for climate science and CO2”
“Greenie Watch”
"It continues to unravel"
“Al Gore, My Favourite Whore”
“The Climate Scum: Salby Demolishes AGW Theory”
“Another Nail in the Coffin”
“Prof. Murry Salby falsifies Anthropogenic Global Warming”

and my personal favourite:

"The Climate Change Debate Should be Declared Over!"

It is interesting to note how many of these blog posts spread out like wild-fire in the first week of August, telling the exact same story with very little analysis or original commentary.

So I went to search for the peer reviewed paper but I ran into a problem, I couldn't find it. Most of these blogs were dated around Aug 2011, most likely soon after the talk was given and some of them talked about a paper being submitted for review. The latest blog dated April of this year said 6 months until it was to be published.

All this celebration and it hadn't even been reviewed yet.

Please, by all means, if you know where Salby’s article has been published in a peer-reviewed publication, throw me a link and I’ll change this posts title.

In the meantime there has been a rebuttal. A few actually. from about comment 37 on. Pay special attention to comment 81 as to why no one in the “warmist” camp is getting all hot and bothered by Salby’s talk.

And of course Professor’s Salby’s co-worker Professor Colin Prentice had something to say as well, just scroll down to the bottom of the page:

Notice the blurb under the link (emphasis mine):
“This article is in response to a recent talks delivered at the IUGG and Sydney Institute by Professor Murry Salby. As Professor Salby has not yet provided any data (published or unpublished) to support the ideas presented, this piece is a response to the verbal content of his talk only.”

Me, I'll wait for a peer-reviewed journal like the Journal of Climate (or some other peer-reviewed source) to publish the paper and then get excited about the prospect of an underdog scientist defeating the establishment scientists.

I am reminded though that this is one scientist with one paper (that has not been reviewed yet), so I fall back on Michael Shermer's ten famous rules for unearthing bullshit:

Drumroll please.

1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
2. Does the source make similar claims?
3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

In Defense of Minimum Wage

The following was a video posted by a Craiglist dignitary whom we've nicknamed Slavery Boy (based on his admission that voluntary slavery was preferable to minimum wage).

My critique:

The premise is that minimum wage laws are in fact causing job destruction.  In the simple model employed by the narrator of the video, he does appear to mathematically demonstrate the subsequent reduction in the consumer and producer surplus with the establishment of a minimum floor. 

Of course with all simple models, invariably what happens is it leaves something out so it is not actually modeling reality at all, but rather it is modeling wishful thinking. 

Minimum wage laws are indeed a tool that redistributes the wage pie in a way that is advantageous for the worker.  The narrator would like us to think that to do so we must rob Peter to pay Paul, i.e. to prevent some from working so others can work for more money.   The model conveniently omits increases in productivity achieved by better business practice and innovations in technology, what I like to refer to as the "productivity dividend".

The natural consequence of increases productivity is one can produce more products for the same amount of input. Or conversely, generate the same amount of product, with less input. 

Input consists of raw materials, energy and labour.  Thus if productivity outstrips the business's capacity to sell it all, the logical conclusion to benefit from the productivity dividend is to downsize your workforce and redistribute the savings.   In the aggregate, employer's demand for labour over time is shrinking. 

Historically the redistributed savings would end up with upper management and the shareholders, with the workers receiving very little as their jobs are increasingly tenuous over time placing additional downward pressure on wages due to increasing productivity. 

In Summary:

1. The reduction of hours will proceed at pace, irrespective of minimum wage laws. 

2. Minimum wage laws are a way to force businesses to redistribute some of the productivity gains to the workers and fight the downward pressure on wages that is devaluing labour in absence of union protections.