By Nicole Burrows
I DON’T usually use this space to complain about specific businesses, but I will today, because unfortunately I now join the chorus of unnecessarily disgruntled BTC customers, and my recent gripes with them are likely being experienced by their other many but virtually voiceless patrons.
After almost 50 years of loyal patronage to BTC, my household just switched phone service to Cable Bahamas. Now that’s not because Cable Bahamas is perfect, and it’s not that they don’t have their own share of crap service and customer unfriendliness. But so far Cable Bahamas has risen to the occasion and performed more like professionals in their jobs more often than BTC, at the same time allowing a little more room for recourse than BTC does.
With Cable Bahamas, we have had issues in the past: equipment hasn’t functioned, they charged for services they shouldn’t have charged for. And after VAT came along, something was not right with their formulas in the calculation of customer bills. They were overcharging by a penny here, 10 cents there. We went to their office to be reimbursed where we met other customers complaining about being overcharged.
At that time, the customer service agent looked at us blankly and asked “you want a refund for a penny?”
Yes, we want a refund for a penny. We absolutely do. Because, I assure you, had we owed you a penny, and didn’t pay it and allowed that penny to hang over into the next billing period, you would have charged us a $5.50 late fee on that penny.
But it’s more than just getting your numbers right, which is a point I want to make to Cable Bahamas, BTC or any other business that finds itself in this position with its clients. It’s the fact that 1) you are taking advantage whether knowingly or unknowingly, and that is what you leave with the customer; 2) you believe whatever the problem is it should just be accepted for what it is with little or no resistance; 3) you think that the customer should not find any fault with your errors, negligence or foul business practices.
Well, on all three counts, BTC really put their foot in it this time. Here’s some back story.
We changed our phone number (not the first time) after lots of wrong numbers and nuisance calls. The phone did not work properly since we made the change. We couldn’t dial out normally; a prompt beckoned us to enter “1 plus the area code and phone number you’re trying to reach” in order to call a local (Nassau) number ... from Nassau.
The customer service agent we spoke to about it told us that it wouldn’t be a problem and we should just do as we were instructed and use ‘1’ plus area code and we wouldn’t be charged. Of course, we took that with a barrel of salt, but because some phone calls just have to be made, which is the whole point of phone service, and because no one is interested in running up their mobile post-paid bill or using up pre-paid minutes to make necessary calls when they have a landline they’re already paying for, we made a few calls, nevertheless proceeding with an abundance of caution.
Sure as hell, by the next billing cycle, for which we have yet to receive the paper bill (even though we got the paper bill for the month after that), which the customer service agent indicated she could not print for us in the office, those calls we were hesitant to make were billed to us at long-distance rates.
This covered one billing cycle, but even before that billing cycle and that issue with dialing out normally we discovered that, upon closer inspection, for the whole of 2015, we’d been getting charged an extra penny or two every month on our landline bill.
Now, let’s see. One cent per month on a bill times 300,000 customers per year is $36,000 per year. Two cents would be $72,000. That’s BTC’s potential accidental revenue at a minimum from over-billing. Then consider the number of people who may in fact have more than one landline, residential and/ or business, as well as post-paid mobile service, and the possibility that they could be charged more than one or two cents per month and that accidental revenue escalates.
We went into one of BTC’s main offices and the customer service agent there laughed at us when we said BTC was over-billing us and we wanted a refund. Same story as Cable Bahamas ... we want a refund for a penny? Two cents? Ten cents?
I guess we are supposed to just suck it up.
Who the hell do these people think they are? I pay for that bad hair weave in your head, miss, and those eyelashes and fingernails. So don’t let’s go there.
Unfortunately, in Bahamian society, workers (public and private) are still lazy and disgusting with a sense of entitlement and an air about them that they’re doing you a favour by doing their job ... the same job they would not have without your money/bill payments. Instead of being helpful and getting to the bottom of the issue, and at least attempting to lend assistance in resolving it, they want to make you out to be the unreasonable one for wanting a proper accounting of your own money.
Then, suddenly, several weeks later, our landline stopped working altogether, and there was static and no dial tone on the phone line for weeks. So, in addition to all the other troubles, we were now paying for a landline phone that wasn’t operational at all.
We scheduled a service call, and were given a block of days (not even a block of hours like they do at Cable Bahamas which I used to think was ridiculous) for a technician to visit. No one showed. No surprise.
We called to follow up. We were told that it would be scheduled that day ... then a day later ... but no, it wasn’t even assigned to a technician but would be assigned imminently.
We called back again, and were told by another lady that she didn’t know what we were talking about, because there was no record of the service assignment, and she didn’t know why the other lady told us what she did because that’s not how it works. And you know where that went from there.
So after nearly 50 years, my mother, who is the most patient woman on the planet, said “cut it off”. And we did.
There’s just something about being taken for granted that doesn’t sit right after a while, and I guess she had finally reached the place I tend to get to very quickly. So off we went to the customer service agent who we told (no, not asked, told) to “cut it off”. She did not even attempt to keep our business ... not that we would have stayed, but it would have been nice to know that after almost 50 years and tens of thousands of dollars later, we would be more treasured than we obviously were as BTC’s customers.
And I suppose that’s the beauty of competition, because there was now somewhere else for us to go for phone service since we were no longer treasured. Granted it’s not quite the same, it is a viable alternative. With our new service from Cable Bahamas, we considered keeping the BTC phone number, but in our many recent encounters with BTC offices we overheard customer service agents on the phone and in person with patrons telling them “we’re not even supposed to be talking to you about this”. It seems a number of BTC customers are leaving for Cable Bahamas, trying to take their BTC numbers with them and BTC is not making it easy. We decided we didn’t need that extra problem, and would save ourselves the foreseeable headaches by just getting a new number.
In typical Bahamian style, with their big eye, BTC continues looking at what Cable Bahamas is doing and now wants to offer TV service but can’t get the traditional landline service right? The thing that is their core business ... the reason why they ever existed?
I’m convinced that until BTC understands clearly what competition is all about, especially with respect to customer and quality service, there will continue to be “20-something persons ahead of you” on the phone waiting to talk to a Cable Bahamas representative about new phone service, minus the number portability feature.
No matter how many catchy slogans and text-to-win phone card games BTC may come up with, they continue to make themselves appear as though they are not the first provider of phone service in The Bahamas and will never catch up to the competition.