Offshored tech support from the phone company… so bad it's funny + $240 per year for an email address ?!

We usually feature articles on technical fundamentals in the newsletter – but this related topic might lighten up your day… a “help” desk so bad, it’s almost funny.

Recently, a relative asked me to help them sort out an issue with their ISP. They were paying for two internet access services, one old dial-up plan and one DSL plan. They wanted to go to a new 802.16 WiMax broadband wireless plan from the same ISP. They question they were trying to sort out was whether they could move their email addresses from the two existing services to the new one… or if they would lose those email addresses.

So I agreed to contact the ISP’s email “help” desk to find out the answer. One would think that the question: “Can I migrate my email address from one service provided by your company to another?” would be a frequently-asked question at an ISP email help desk, and could be answered “yes” or “no” in a few seconds.

However, it turned out that the ISP, a subsidiary of Bell Canada, has outsourced most of its customer service, and what could have been answered in a few seconds turned into a 20-minute waste of time. Here’s a transcript of the online chat session:

4:53:35 P System Welcome.
4:53:35 P System Connecting to server. Please wait…
4:53:35 P System Connected to server.
4:53:44 P System Anu (SCI-12051) has joined the session.
4:53:44 P System Connected with Anu (SCI-12051)
4:53:44 P Anu (SCI-12051) Greetings, Thank you for choosing Bell, my name is Anu (SCI-12051), how may I help you today?
4:53:57 P You Hello, we have a DSL account, and a different dialup account, both with email addresses at your domain that we need to keep running. We want to get the WiMAX service as we are on a long loop and the DSL is flaky. Is it possible to transfer the email addresses to a new WiMAX service and cancel the DSL and dial-up services? In other words, can the email addresses be transferred to a new service? Thanks
4:55:05 P Anu (SCI-12051) I would like to inform that the e-mail address once created are saved in the Server
4:55:32 P You [what the …?]
What kind of BS response is that?
4:55:55 P Anu (SCI-12051) If it is a Primary e-mail address, then Server informations can never be recreated
4:56:52 P You Can email addresses that are the primary addresses for an existing account be transferred to a new service after the new service is established? Please answer “yes” or “no”
4:56:55 P Anu (SCI-12051) If the e-mail address is Secondary, then you may or may be able to avail for that same e-mail address. It is completely depended on Server part and no one could be able to help you with the same
4:58:02 P You Can email addresses that are the secondary addresses for an existing account be transferred to a new service after the new service is established? Please answer “yes” or “no”
4:59:35 P Anu (SCI-12051) No e-mail accounts even Primary or secondary can be transferred from one account to the another. But there are chance you can recreate the Secondary e-mail address if you have deleted the one earlier
5:00:11 P You What is the delay in time required after an email address is deleted until the time it can be re-created on a different account?
5:01:25 P Anu (SCI-12051) May be a day. but please note that it is not sure that you can recreate the account. You may or may not be able to get back the same e-mail address
5:02:56 P You Under what conditions would I not be able to recreate it?
5:03:55 P Anu (SCI-12051) As mentioned earlier the e-mail account once created are saved in the Server. So none can judge if we can recreate the same e-mail address again
5:04:26 P You That is the most total BS I have heard in a long time.
Of course they are “saved in the server”. Is this the email troubleshooting help desk ?
5:05:15 P Anu (SCI-12051) Yes, this is e-mail troubleshooting helpdesk
5:05:45 P Anu (SCI-12051) I am sure that the answer given by me is correct.
5:06:05 P You If they are deleted from one account, under what circumstances will they not be able to be created on a new account owned by the same person? Is your answer “I don’t know”? Please answer “yes” or “no”
5:07:35 P Anu (SCI-12051) As mentioned earlier no one can guarantee you that you can recreate the same e-mail address. You may or may not be able to avail for the same e-mail address as it is entirely depended on Server.
5:08:58 P You A server is a piece of software. The software has known behaviour. You are wasting my time.
5:11:05 P Anu (SCI-12051) I understand that you are trying to move your service to Wimax. So I will suggest you to have a word with Wimax support helpdesk, so that you can get the right information if you are able to recreate the same e-mail address or not
5:11:25 P Anu (SCI-12051) Please contact Wimax Helpdesk at 1-866-875-9591

This is so bad, it’s almost funny.
What’s not so funny is the wasted 20 minutes of my life.

Calling the toll-free number, I spoke to a person who sounded like they lived on the same continent I do, and after putting me on hold for 30 seconds while they looked up the question online, gave me the answer: one of the services could be upgraded to WiMax and so the email address would be preserved. What about the other? Sorry. Email addresses can not be transferred from one service to another.

So, to keep both email addresses, it would be necessary to continue paying for the $20 per month dial-up plan in addition to the $65 per month WiMax… $240 per year plus tax for an email address, with online customer support on the cheap.
Sounds like a good business to get into!

This is a favorite trick of ISPs, locking you into paying for their service by tying you to an email address they control.
Solution: don’t use an email address furnished by your ISP. Use an ISP-independent email address you can keep for the rest of your life.

Google’s gmail may be a good choice as it is a) free, b) provides very good spam filtering, c) supports both browser and POP (e.g. Outlook) access and d) includes gigabytes of free email and file archiving. Yahoo, MSN and others might also be good choices.

Ideally, you would forward your ISP mail accounts to your new gmail for a few months while you notify everyone of your new email address then kill the ISP email accounts.

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