This past week, my elderly in-laws moved into their new home. The day came for Bell to hook up their new phone line, and the technician left with the phone not working. After a complaint was put in that the first guy had just one job to do and hadn't done it, a second technician came the next day to visit and he also left with the phone not working. This repeats until we escalated complaints, got stuff in writing in emails (this was highly useful when the next technician failed to appear on the promised day) and eventually after hang-ups by incompetent operators and support staff, escalation and further escalation, we found a manager who called a technician and got him to drop everything on his list and deal with the matter immediately.
This is just to hook up a home phone.
Last night, my wife's iPhone 4 finally gave up and stopped charging. After speaking to Bell, we find out that given it's age, she's eligible for a free replacement if she goes to a Bell store. By "free replacement", what they meant was that it's not free as the store wanted $49. Not a problem, the $49 will be paid. Except the Bell Store doesn't take cash or a debit card, only a credit card. The wife doesn't have that on her.
Now, when I say the store doesn't take cash or debit cards, what this really means is they do, because you can buy a phone case, or any other product and pay cash or debit, but not for the $49 for an iPhone. The suggestion from Bell is to go to Shoppers Drug Mart and purchase a $50 preloaded credit card, come back and then all is well.
The icing on this idiotically bureaucratic cake is the laughable logic that the store staff member then tries to "inform" my wife with... Apparently, this rule exists because if you pay by debit card, they won't get the money for three days.
I don't know why Bell would train their store staff to tell lies, but for anyone that doesn't understand how a debit card and a credit card works, here's a quick primer:
- When you pay by credit card, first the issuing bank issues an authorisation on the spot. Second, when the bank is ready to settle the payment (in this case, being a Saturday, we're looking at Monday night), the money that is forwarded to the merchant. So in Bell's case, they're getting the money three days later.
- When you pay by debit card, first the issuing bank withdraws the money from your account on the spot. Second, when the bank is ready to settle the payment (in this case, being a Saturday, we're looking at Monday night), that money is forwarded to the merchant. So in Bell's case, they're getting the money three days later.
Yes, if you're sharp eyed and have a brain, you'll have noticed it's actually the same delay regardless of what you used, and Bell Canada was being incredibly stupid by arbitrarily blocking one method and accepting another.
So what is the difference in payment methods?
Quite simply that when you pay by debit, that settlement process comes straight out of your account, into a pool at the bank and then from there into the merchants, whereas with a credit card, that settlement comes out of the credit card issuers account and into the merchants, which then creates a debt on your behalf that you must repay when you get your credit card bill.
Now, if we were to be really picky about Bell's ridiculous red tape, we can accurately postulate that Bell Canada has actually enforced the worst possible payment rule out of the available options because we can challenge the items on the credit card statement easier than we can on a debit transaction or using cash.
Obviously, my wife left the store without a working phone, so naturally Bell is now losing further money from having another phone not working on their network.