Monday, June 30, 2008

Financial Issues From Abroad

One big fear you have when traveling is that you will run into some sort of financial issue back home that you can't easily deal with. For instance, I once had the experience of having a Mexican Bank machine fault and eat my bank card. In Canada this wouldn't be much of a problem, but abroad this type of thing can really mess up a trip.

As a result of previous experiences I tried hard to have everything in order. I arranged automatic payments for any house related stuff, filed my taxes, and set up all my banking so it could be done online. I took care of the house insurance, car insurance, and even cancelled my cell phone.

Unfortunately even the best laid plans can fall apart.

Today I found that Telus is billing my credit card every month even though I cancelled my cell phone before leaving Calgary. Something similar happened to me last time I went on vacation. Telus changed my rate plan without my consent and charged me $80.00 per month for 4 months even though I didn't make single phone call. It took hours to resolve, but since it was a short trip it was easy to deal with when I came back.

In Canada the whole thing would be resolved in about an hour by sitting in a bunch of voice queues. Unfortunately, because I am away the whole thing is almost impossible to deal with. The Telus website requires me to provide a username and password before I can email them. Unfortunately, since my service is cancelled my username and password won't work any more. So email is out.

I guess I could phone them. They are the phone company after all so you'd expect that to work. Unfortunately the important numbers all seem to be 1800 numbers which won't work outside of Canada. And even with a local number I'd have to deal with the horrible service levels. I've routinely been on hold 45 minutes or an hour with Telus, which is a problem when phone calls are expensive.

There real lesson here is that we simply shouldn't tolerate bad customer service. Telus has never been anything but terrible to deal with. Yet most of us are too lazy to do anything about it even though there are billboards all over the place advertising better products for lower prices. We simply deal with problems as the come up and hope for things to improve. Unfortunately when problems happen from abroad, bad customer service becomes impossible customer service.

Whether it is car insurance (another story altogether), or phone service, we need to become better consumers. If we are unhappy with what we are getting we should take a few minutes to get something better. An ounce of preventation and all that.

In my case, I managed to solve the problem with the help of my mom. She called Telus and confirmed that my account was shut down. She only had to wait on hold for 10 minutes she says. It turns out that my account cancelled in such a way that there were two more bills outstanding, and the second bill just happened to match the minimum monthly payment I make when I make no phone calls. No fault on the phone company. This time. But I still won't sign up with them again.

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