Of cell phones, SIM cards, and questionable business practices...

Of cell phones, SIM cards, and questionable business practices...

Ah, don't you love it when companies just don't want to play ball? Personally, I just don't get it. How can they continue getting away with treating their customers the way they do, and still be in business? Monopoly, you say? That must be it.
Okay, here is my story on the Roger's Cell phone:

My current cell plan with Telus is about to run out, and I thought it was time for a change. I do business in both the Far East as well as in Europe, and my current cell phone is CDMA, so, it only works in North America. So, when I heard that Roger's was finally switching to GSM, which the rest of the world uses, I was very excited. You see, I was personally impressed when a business associate stepped on an Air France flight in Hong Kong, talking to his secretary before we boarded the plane, then used the same phone when we were collecting our luggage in Paris. I like that. No such luck for me, my phone works in neither of those places. So, about five weeks ago, I started the research cycle. Being a techno-geek, I am always happy to try out new things. The first thing that I found was the Handspring Treo. Now, for those of you that have never seen one, this is basically a Palm Pilot with an antenna on it, and it works as both. But after researching the device for 2 weeks, I found out a few things: a: A few of the Salespeople know little, the rest know less. b: Even though it has a full web-browser on it, you can't surf with it yet because of network limitations. c: Battery life is less than stellar. d: The dataplans are insanely expensive, because they were designed with WAP in mind, no full browsing. In any case, nice phone, but the time is not ready for it. No problem. Besides, it is rather large.

Enter the 'Motorola T280 Timeport'. Very nice phone. Small, good battery life, good sound quality, small, light, etc. Very nice. So, I go down to my friendly Radioshack, and walk out with my newly acquired Motorola tri-mode GSM cell-phone, proud and happy to now be able to also call up my wife after landing in Paris, and tell her that I have once again survived. Wife's always worry. I guess that's a good sign.

Two weeks later I am on a plane to Hong Kong. Landing there, I first find out that I have to switch the phone from 1900 to 900/1800 mode to make it work. No problem, I can do that. Once that is done, I can see the local network provider, and I can indeed make a call. Happiness is, right? Now things turn sour: Even though I can talk on the phone, I don't have access to any of the other features, like, SMS and GPRS, and not even to something as trivial as caller id. And at 2 bucks a minute, trust me, you want to know who is calling before you pick up the phone. Also, if anybody local wants to call me, they first need to pay the long distance from Hong Kong to Canada, and then I need to pay the roaming charges from Canada to Hong Kong, for something that amounts to a local call. Furthermore, if we are going to head over to Taiwan or China, the phone doesn't work at all, because no agreements have been signed yet.

Enter the creative individual: Why don't I buy a local SIM card and just plug it into my phone while I am here. I can do the same thing while I am in Europe. It would just make so much sense, right? Wrong! You can't do that. You see, Roger's puts a code on the phone so that it only accepts their SIM modules. I am sure it must be somewhere in that huge contract that they have you sign when you get the phone, but hey, who reads those thing?

Enter my poor wife, and all the things I keep putting her through. She phones Customer Support at Roger's, to ask them whether they would give me the code, and instantly gets the 'why don't you have the local provider there phone us and we will see what we can do' and the 'in order to provide you with the best possible service' run-around. Yeah, like that's going to happen!

Next, enter the friendly Roger's Customer Support individual, via email. I described my woes about not being able to use the cell-phone in Taiwan. The response was a lot more straight forward than the one that my wife got: "Our GSM department was informed of your situation. They explained, if you are using Taiwan SIM card with a Rogers' Motorola P280, you would need the phone to be unlock, in order to you use it in your country. There would be a fee of $250 to unlock the phone."

WHAT?!?!?

I can't believe they would do such a thing. I mean, didn't I pay money for this phone? Didn't I legally buy the phone? Do I not own the phone? And if I do own the phone, why would it be locked up? Besides, I am still on their two year plan, which I will pay faithfully until the end, so, how exactly are they losing money? Granted, they are not making as much as they could, but that's just plain greedy. And I am not even sure whether this thing is not entirely illegal, because in plain language, it comes down to simple blackmail, as in "Give us money, or suffer the consequences". Not being a lawyer, I can only speculate as an ignorant individual with some common sense. What would you call it? As well, there are many countries in the world that Roger's hasn't signed any contracts with yet, so, there it's not a question of not wanting to spend the money, it's a question of simply not being able to use the phone.

I have emailed Rogers about this issue, to justify their charge, but as of this writing, I have not received any answers. Guess there isn't a justification, and no reason they would dare to put in writing. But hey, stranger things have happened.

Personally, I prefer to get kissed before I get ... well, you know. If that's what they were doing, the are obviously very bad kissers. I didn't enjoy it one bit. The worst part is that, I went looking at the local phones yesterday, and it turns out that I can buy a brand-new Far East Motorola model tri-mode GSM Timeport for $800 HKD, which is about $150Cdn. No plan, no codes. You can then use that phone with anybody's SIM card. No restrictions. If I end up buying it, I am still about $100 ahead of paying Roger's their 'fair due'.

So, to make a long story short: If you are planning to buy a Roger's GSM phone specifically for the reason of taking it traveling, DON'T!!!

From one who has been there ...

Epilog: Well, I got my question answered with all the typical things about my phone not working with their SIM cards and their phones not working with my SIM cards, as well as the 'we gave you special pricing, now you are our slave' approach. You have been there, you know. There is just one thing I don't understand: How does paying $250 make the other SIM cards work any better with my phone?

The story continues here ...
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