Friday, July 03, 2009

My Mythbuster adventure

Sometimes, choosing the right topic can lead you down an interesting path.

The scene: Early this past Monday morning. I'm up before dawn, mulling over topic choices for my Betanews column (recap: I write the Wide Angle Zoom column that publishes Mondays and Thursdays. Here's the home page.) I come across a story about Mythbusters star Adam Savage's recent trip to Montreal - my hometown - and how he inadvertently racked up an $11,000 roaming bill after surfing the web for a couple of hours.

He ended up using Twitter to garner support for a rapid-fire campaign to get the charges reversed. And it worked, so I thought his innovative use of social media - and the fact that we've all been there with our wireless carriers - might make a fun topic to explore. I also appreciate his show's ability to deliver great science broadcasting in a refreshing and engaging way. He's a huge favorite in our house. So over breakfast, I quickly write and submit my piece, which is soon published here: Myth-busted, or, Would AT&T have forgiven Savage's bill if he wasn't a TV star?

Later that day, my phone rings: a producer for CBC Radio's Home Run program read the piece and thought it might be fun to set up an interview with host Bernard St-Laurent. Neat. Even neater, they've snagged an AT&T rep AND Mr. Savage himself for interviews which they'll run through the afternoon.

Here's my interview:

Your turn: Have you ever gotten a surprisingly large bill from your wireless carrier? Or from any other service provider, for that matter? What did you do? How did things turn out?

One more thing: More aerobatic goodness coming tomorrow. For now, head here for our latest Thematic Photographic theme.


Pearl said...

hm. interesting question Carmi. I think if someone raised enough stink, it wouldn't matter if famous or not. sometimes it's just cheaper and more expedient to drop what you're owed than be ragged on by a customer who will drive away more customers.

Mojo said...

So why did it seem to me that you were better prepared for this show than the guy asking the questions? Great interview, even if the guy did mispronounce your name. But then, he tried to call Adam Savage Adam Sandler in the open, so I guess you're in good company. And apparently you get around quite a bit -- I didn't realize you were based in Montreal... I would've guessed maybe Toronto, or at least Ontario.

Good advice there -- even if you're not crossing the border. Back in 2005 we got zinged by T-Mobile after we got back from the road. While we were in Rochester, the hotel we were staying in offered their wi-fi service through T-Mobile, but in order to use it you had to create an account. All fine and good as long as we were at the hotel in Rochester, but at some point when we got back home my son's laptop connected to the T-Mobile network instead of the default network (presumably because the wireless end of the router was having a bad hair day -- which it frequently did). And suddenly, we're getting a bill from T-Mobile with dates that didn't make any sense -- because we were already back from the trip when the charges were incurred. It wasn't $11,000 or anything absurd like that, but it was enough to get my attention. After studying the bill for a while, it finally dawned on me what had happened. So we disabled that connection on the laptop to prevent it from happening again and eventually got T-Mobile to drop the charges. I don't remember anymore what argument finally did the trick, but you can believe that I didn't get a call from the president of T-Mobile. Or even that hot brunette that did their TV commercials at the time. (But then, if she'd called I might have even paid the bill.)

The moral of the story? Cover your butt when dealing with wireless carriers. Always.

Actually, that's probably good advice with any kind of service provider.

Chris Mathieson said...

NetChick sent me. :)

I think that they responded quickly because of how quickly he could spread his stink. It was the power of Twitter, more than the power of his celebrity that had the effect, IMHO.


Catherine said...

No surprisingly large bills here. Our broadband is free since our son works for our ISP. My mobile phone is a prepaid, I top up with ten dollars about once every two years, rarely use it except for an emergency or to check up on when someone will be home for dinner :)
When we went to the UK we didn't take our mobile phones as we were well aware of the huge cost of global roaming. We managed without (although we were not impressed with the huge charges some hotels made for phone calls, instead we went to Burger King for a half hour free wireless internet and used Skype for phone calls). I believe the hote;'s Wifi was cheaper if we had an account with one of the UK mobile providers but of course we didn't.
Strangely we managed to have a very enjoyable holiday without being connected 24/7, kept up with our e-mail and got in touch with the people we needed to get in touch with.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story. I too wonder about the star power. I've never gotten a huge bill. I pay attention to details like that. Aloha :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Carmi!
My husband has a cell phone through Rogers and one day they shut down the service to his phone. He came home livid, until he found out the reason his phone service had been cut off. Rogers had figured out that his cell phone had been cloned. Apparently he was making calls from Ohio and Mexico within minutes of one another. A Rogers representative had left a voice message on our home phone to explain the problem and left a number for him to call for clarification.
He called and the Rogers representative explained the problem and the service was reactivated by the end of the day. When the bill arrived it was over $600 but he only had to pay the usual monthly charge.
The bill was very interesting to see. The calls were all logged. The calls originated in Mexico and were made to places in Mexico, Singapore, Italy, Canada, and the U.S.A.
We were pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised with the good customer service. Rogers had taken care of and resolved the issue efficiently without my husband having to fight it.