My least favourite corporation is Rogers. This is a rather strong statement because a) I am not exactly a fan of corporations in general and b) there are probably at a bare minimum of thousands of corporations out there, harming the world and its people more significantly than Rogers is.
And yet, I hate Rogers most of all. There are two reasons for this, both of which I will discuss at some length. The first: I am a Rogers customer. The second: I am a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, a sports franchise owned by... Rogers.
Residents of Toronto are victims of a telecommunications oligopoly featuring Rogers and Bell. There are far worse forms of victimization in the world (practically every other form is worse, actually), but that fact does little to mitigate the frustration this causes. What I am saying is not to be taken in any way, shape, or form as an endorsement of Bell. I am certain that Bell is awful, possibly worse in many ways. But my experience is with Rogers.
Currently, my partner and I receive cable television and internet from Rogers (I say "currently" because we live on the perpetual verge of cancelling these services). We used to get home phone as well, but in a moment of good sense and abated masochism, switched to a VoiP provider that is infinitely less awful.
Because Rogers' only real competition, especially for television, is Bell, they are able to charge exorbitant (and constantly increasing) prices. This is the basic reality of an oligopoly, which which we are no doubt all familiar. It is frustrating and, even for an ardent free market capitalist, impossible to defend. It is also the logical outcome of unregulated free market (neoliberal) capitalism. But, that is a discussion for another day (in my case, practically every other day).
No, the real reason why I hate Rogers is that, simply put, they don't give a shit about their customers. A telephone conversation with Rogers is... well, it's hard to articulate without resort to some sort of clichéd invocation of Kafka.
Certainly, it involves dialing a number listed on a bill as the appropriate contact for questions about, say, the internet. It then entails pushing a variety of numbers to signify, according to an automated message, the precise nature of your call. From there, you are likely to reach an employee, who will ask you for information about your problem. After listening politely for a detailed five minute description, you will be likely be told, "This is the wireless phone department. let me transfer you to our internet services."
This, on its own, seems like rather a small issue. That problem is that, as a Rogers customer, one is constantly compelled to phone in. So this senseless rigamarole will happen again, and again, and again. You will double and triple check the telephone numbers listed on your bill, but you will never get the right department on the first try. Never. And you will have to keep calling. Thanks to frequent billing errors (coincidentally never in your favour, or at least never in my favour) I have to call Rogers nearly every month.
For example, the other day I discovered that I had been billed an extra four dollars for internet usage that exceeded my allotted amount. This was galling, not least because during the month in question, I had received a notice the day after the billing period had ended telling me I had exceeded my limit and had phoned in to inquire about the issue, only to be informed unequivocally that I would not be charged a penny more than my usual rate.
So, upon receiving the bill with the excess four dollar charge, I was irritated. Four dollars is a small amount, but when your bill is wrong nearly every month, the small things begin to feel like big things. I called in.
When I recounted the story to the Rogers employee who answered my call (and believe me, I feel badly for hapless employees of Rogers and regret that I am not always chummy during our phone calls), I was informed that this would be the one occasion on which I could remove such a charge from my account.
What, I asked, if I am incorrectly billed again?
Oh no, he told me, this was the correct billing.
But, I said, I received the warning after the month was over, so it's not possible that I went over my allotted usage. The month was already over.
The warning is delayed, he said. If you continue to use internet after the warning, you will be charged.
Right, but I didn't continue to use the Internet after the warning, because the warning came after the end of the billing period. A new billing period had started, and I was at the beginning of a big fat new allotment for the month. So again, I didn't use the internet for the period in question after the warning.
Actually, he said, the warning is just a courtesy.
Around and around we went.
Silly me. I assumed a notice asking me to acknowledge that continued use would lead to a charge had some actual bearing on if and when I would be charged. I observed that Rogers' corporate policy in this regard seemed both deceitful and disingenuous. He didn't seem to appreciate this observation, but he stopped arguing and proceeded to use my "one time only" exemption to remove a four dollar charge. Another satisfied customer served.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this already-bloated post (once I start ranting about Rogers I just don't seem able to stop) I am a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Before proceeding, a note on fandom: I am the first to acknowledge that professional sports fandom is an absurd exercise. Why am I cheering for a bunch of athletes who have been hired to represent the place in which I live? Why do I care if they win? What does that actually mean? These are all perfectly legitimate questions to which I have no real answer but to say that I have been socialized to care about this to the extent that it sometimes seems like one of the most important things in the world. I am ashamed, but I keep watching and cheering. In a sense, I suppose, the teams I support are like teddy bears -- beloved childhood transitional objects I cannot yet (and may never) relinquish. Incidentally, I also love teddy bears. Make of that what you will.
Back to Rogers. Rogers, it turns out, is the wealthiest owner (scroll down to the fourth paragraph after following the link) of any Major League Baseball team. This would seem to be a very good thing, given that MLB does not feature a salary cap that limits team spending. Potentially, the more money that an owner has, the more money can be spent on a team.
Prior to this season, Rogers has not spent as if it was baseball's wealthiest owner. It has not spent like it was one of baseball's ten wealthiest owners. In fact, its spending has been more akin to Ebenezer Scrooge's (if he owned a baseball team). One reason for this, in recent years, is the poor construction of the team. Former General Manager J.P. Ricciardi showed little foresight in the way that he put the Jays together, signing mediocre players to expansive contracts (examples include this, this, this, and this) and paying little attention to amateur scouting and development.
His replacement, Alex Anthopolous, in a sense, started from scratch. Anthopolous hired new scouts, traded away those contracts he could, and got incredibly lucky when a journeyman player magically transformed into the best player in baseball, and then skilfully parleyed that luck into a very affordable contract with the newly-minted superstar.
Through these moves and others, Anthopolous was able to improve the team and stoke interest among the fan base. All of which leads us up to the winter of 2011-2012, a period of anticipation for Jays fans, who wondered which free agents would be signed and how Anthopolous would improve the team.
The optimism of fans was dealt an early and painful blow during the Winter Meetings, a time typically noted for wheeling and dealing by General Managers throughout baseball. At the Meetings, Anthopolous delivered a press conference in which he said: "I have boundaries. I believe, if I do my job, and we as a front office do our jobs, and the team gets better, there will be greater interest in the club as you win more games. Greater interest should drive revenue even more, and as such, I think those boundaries, or parameters, will rise."
This was news to fans and media alike, who were under the impression that a) no payroll parameters existed and b) money would be spent in order to entice fans to come to games, not vice-versa. As Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star has pointed out, this is an absurd form of passing the buck, of blaming the consumer for the inadequacy of the product. It made Jays fans angry.
This anger turned right back into excitement, however, during the Yu Darvish sweepstakes. Darvish is a Japanese-Iranian pitcher whose Japanese league club decided to sell him to a MLB team for a posting fee. The posting system is an archaic silent auction system in which the rights to a player are sold to the highest bidder, who is then given a window to negotiate with the player. Darvish was said by analysts like ESPN's Keith Law (insider only) to be the premier pitching prospect available in free agency, well-deserving of some MLB team's ardour. Early on in the posting process, a funny thing happened. Word leaked out that the Jays had won the bid.
For the next few days, a tidal wave of excitement built among Jays fans online about how this would change the team's prospects, what other moves might follow, etc. As such waves often do, however, this one crested anti-climatically. The Jays had lost the bidding, had not even come close. And Rogers had allowed it to happen. Rogers had somehow decided that if they crossed their fingers and didn't say anything to anyone, no one would notice that they had not in fact submitted the fifty million dollar bid that had been credited to them. In other words, they hoped that they could somehow get the credit for making a bid that they never made.
This is why I hate Rogers.
It's a corporation that provides a sub-par product and totally ineffective and obnoxious "customer service". It's a corporation that regularly steals my money and my time. It's a corporation that ruins my favourite baseball team. All of these reasons are fuel enough. But what makes Rogers truly loathsome is that it treats us like dupes. The corporation's powers actually seem to believe that they can trick us into being satisfied through disingenuous warning notices, syrupy employees spouting the company line, and lies of omission on a grand scale.
What was Bell's number again?