Welcome to Canada! Welcome to Second Rate Customer Service

ProudCanadianI am not going to lie. It is good to be back in Canada. It was a stressful return, but most of it is now behind me, and I can relax.

A couple of weeks ago a friend came to visit (and brought my Princess Sophie to me!). She has lived most (or all) of her life in Southern California, and while she has traveled the world, she had only been to Vancouver Island in Canada. As we drove around (I try to be a good host, and I took her to see several of our sites around) she commented that she was amazed by how similar so much of Canada is to the US. This comment (made a number of times) had to do mostly with our roads and infrastructure. The highways in and around Southern Ontario (certainly between Mississauga and Niagara Falls) are quite similar to the American Interstate highways.

Canada and the US are truly similar in many areas. There are, however, some differences between the countries that are apparent only with a careful eye. I cannot imagine that an American tourist to Canada would be ordering from Amazon, but it is something I do on a regular basis.

When I moved to the USA, it was simple to transition my Canadian Amazon Prime account to the US; even before I did (which I did for one particular TV show) the benefits were applied – free next-day shipping and all. So when I placed my first order with Amazon Canada I was surprised that they were charging me for next-day shipping. I had to call and speak with an agent, who assured me that there was no reciprocity, and there was also no way to convert my Amazon.com Prime account to Amazon.ca. Interesting. To their credit, they did refund me the balance of my year for the US account, and then applied the credit to a new Canadian Prime account.

Another interesting Amazon.ca issue that I noticed – it is not quite so simple to initiate a return on the Canadian site. From what I can tell, they have the same no-hassle returns policy as the US site does, it just seems to be harder to find how to do it. Also, the great arrangement that Amazon Returns has with the UPS Store in the US (no box or label needed) is completely foreign to the Canadian market.

When I moved into my new apartment, one of the first things I needed to arrange was an Internet connection. I went into a Cogeco store (I called and they were happy to send it to me in 3-4 days, or I could pick it up from a store). No problem, pretty convenient. A bit pricier than the USA, but that’s expected. That was on or about September 1, about six weeks ago. This past week I got a call from them asking when I was planning on making  a payment. ‘As soon as you send me a bill, I will pay it.’ After checking their files, it seems they sent it to the wrong e-mail address (.com instead of .ca). Okay, thank you Mr. Garvis, we will send you a new bill. By Saturday I had still received nothing, so I proactively called to see what was going on. The very lovely agent informed me, after a few minutes of checking, that they had not sent me a bill because I had not registered my My Cogeco account. Let’s leave aside for a minute that this is crap, she was happy to help me set it up on the phone, which we did. She then told me not to worry, 90% of the time they will send me a bill. I replied ‘So wait, if I am only getting a bill 90% of the time, does that mean if they are only sending a bill 90% of the time, that I don’t have to pay for the other 10%?’ Of course not. You know what? Let’s make things easier. Send me a paper bill until you guys get your affairs together.

It’s the little things…

Another Amazon difference – and yes, I do a lot of my shopping with Amazon – is that in the US, you can track your package. I don’t simply mean knowing when it’s en route, you can literally know, once it is on the delivery truck, where it is. They notify you when your package is ten stops away, and you can watch it arrive on the app. You get an immediate notification of delivery, along with a picture of the package sitting on your doorstep. Cool! In Canada, you will know the day that it is coming… but that’s about it. Although I will give the driver credit – he calls when he is downstairs dropping it off. That is not all drivers – there is one specific driver who does that. Other than his calls, I usually just go downstairs with Princess Sophie to be pleasantly surprised that a package has arrived.

I want to be clear… it truly is a minor issue, and the definition of a first world complaint. I was going to say ‘I remember a time when packages would arrive without you knowing approximately when they would arrive,’ but that is not a fond memory… it is how a lot of services still operate… both in Canada and in the United States. I was expecting a delivery from Japan when I was in California… for three months. It arrived one morning out of the blue. That’s okay though, things are getting better… some services (like Amazon) are great. Others… you kinda use the force to guess when to expect things.

I notice the differences from the USA to Canada, but the jump from services (and technology) from Japan (and, from what I am told, other parts of Asia) to here and to the USA are also extreme… things that I took for granted while living in Tokyo six years ago were still absolute science fiction in North America. While we have advanced six years, I assume they have too.

I have often (over the past fifteen years or so) lamented about how bad Canadian cell phone providers are, compared to the USA. When I returned to Canada I subscribed to a new cell phone provider. Things that I took for granted with T-Mobile are anathema to Canadian providers. I told the agent I dealt with that I needed North American calling and messaging. The first month’s bill arrived and I was shocked to find not only a one-time connection fee of $50, but about $22 in US calls and texts. Fine, I paid… and called Telus asking for a North American calling and messaging plan. This month’s bill arrived, and they not only charged me for ‘Unlimited Calling to US’ twice, but they also charged me $19 for text messages sent to the USA. In the 26 months I have had my own T-Mobile account, my bill has been exactly the same (and predictable) every single month. The only month where it was higher than the usual was because after my father passed away I made some overseas calls. With Telus I know I am going to get surprises… and they will never be pleasant ones. With Rogers, I used to have to call every couple of months to get them to reverse unfounded charges. I suspect this will have to resume with Telus. I am not looking forward to it.

Canada is a great nation, and a wonderful place to live. Yes, I am going to miss being able to golf down the street from my house in January, but I knew what the weather was here when I decided to come back. I do not yet know how Princess Sophie will react to the cold and snow, but the USA also has cold weather climes. Some things will be better and some things will be worse, and some things, as Terri pointed out, will seem the same. The customer service in Canada is something I am not happy to be returning to… but all in all I am happy to be back.

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