Why I refuse to be a Singtel mobile subscriber anymore

I have been a Singtel mobile subscriber for 13 years. I have wanted to stop being a customer of Singtel for the past 3 years. I was thwarted time and time again because of the iPhone. My love for Apple has overridden any distaste or dislike for the big red telco.

Now, with the impending launch of the iPhone 4, I am determined not to recontract with Singtel whether they hold exclusivity to the phone or not.


1. The Phantom 30%

I signed up for a contract for a VAS (value added service) sometime last year. I wanted to stay with my current plan (Classic) which didn’t provide 3G access, so I had to sign up for mobile on broadband. At that existing time period, the promotion was 30% discount with one year of contract.

My bill came the following month, and the 30% discount was not reflected. I assumed that the customer service officer had forgotten (not the first time they have forgotten requests) to activate my contract, and on second thoughts, maybe it was better not to be on a contract, so I left it at that. The itemised billing did not state whether the VAS was contracted or not.

Almost one year later, I signed in to their new one login service, “My Account” to check my recontract eligibility in the case I wanted to recontract with them for the iPhone 4 (still being open minded).

Imagine my surprise when I saw that I *am* on a contract. I called the customer service online and enquired. Apparently, the official status is, I am on a contract for BBOM which will end September 2010. I wanted to be certain of the error, so I asked her again if I was on a contract, which she impatiently replied the contractual end date, so I asked her how much I was paying now, and she replied $18.60 (before GST).

I was expecting her to make the connection as the regular price was $19.90 and I was on a promotional contract, but she didn’t, so I asked the officer why was I paying $18.60 every month for the past one year when I am supposed to be on a contract.

She replied that that $18.60 is supposed to be 30% off $19.90.

With my disbelief at her bad calculations, I had to ask her to redo the math again. She got confused, put me on hold for what seems like forever, and another officer answered.

Which he tried to do a smokescreen by telling me $18.60 *is* the promotional price. I am very confident that the regular price for BBOM was $19.90 when I recontracted, which I tried to politely tell him of my certainty and not try to pull off trying to make me believe that that was supposed to be the amount I was contracting for.

I had to get him to check (again) what was the regular price, so this time, he told me it was $19.90, so (for the nth time) I asked him why was I paying $18.60 then?

AGAIN, he replied that $18.60 (before GST) is 30% off $19.90 (after GST).

I cannot believe what I was hearing. Both officers have obviously bad product knowledge having to check the pricing time and time again, and I cannot find a word to describe their inability to realise 30% off $19.90 is definitely not $18.60, with or without GST!

And I am trying very hard not to doubt their ethics when they are obviously trying to make me believe that I was the one making the mistake.

This is just one of the many other incidents which I will describe briefly here as I really don’t want to write a 10-page essay.

2. ‘FREE” Colour-me-tones

TWICE, I had family members being subscribed to colour-me-tones WITHOUT permission. The first case was a new line under my name, which I clearly remember not agreeing to signing up for the VAS when I signed the form for the line.

The second case was very recent when my partner suddenly had her ringing tone changed. She was being subscribed to the VAS without her knowledge in the middle of her contract.

We have paperless billing (save the environment)  and we don’t check the bills every month. The service is free for 3 months which thereafter they wil start charging you if you didn’t notice it. Which you wouldn’t unless someone asks why your ringtone becomes some cheesy song when they call you instead of the default, or you scrutinize your bills every month.

I admit the responsibility for checking my bills, but I don’t think it is ethical at all to subscribe people to services without their permission.

3. The mioTV false promotion

Back in those days when mioTV was initially launched and nobody wanted to pay to watch it because of their uninteresting programming, they had people going door-to-door to promote it. My father and a friend’s father was persuaded to sign up for it with the promises that they will not be subjected to any contract and that there will be no hidden charges.

The installer never explained that the service needed an internet connection or a ADSL phone line, and he conveniently plugged out my brother’s Pacific Internet ADSL line, plugged in Singtel’s one, and also conveniently plugged out my dad’s starhub set-top box, and replaced it with the mioTV’s media connectors. How irresponsible. Nobody told my father that my brother’s ADSL will be rendered useless if he chooses to watch mioTV or vice versa.

Again, imagine my poor dad’s surprise when he tried to cancel the service and was told it was a 6 month contract.

I had to send a few emails with a few long phone calls before they agree to give a 50% discount to the subscription, refusing to terminate the contract.

Horrible customer service

I am absolutely sick of calling their hotlines and dealing with their customer service officers because for all the incidents mentioned above plus a few more, I had to be put on hold countless times, sometimes up to an hour just to get a officer to speak to me.

That is not all, they will first refuse to take any responsibility for anything, trying to insinuate that it is your fault/responsibility, often had no clear answers to questions, and many times, they promised to get back to me, only to go missing in action.

Why I had to write this

These mentioned 3 incidents are just the highlights. I have had more encounters that will probably take me a week to finish. Wrong billing, bills get sent to the wrong address, signing up for services that didn’t got forgotten and didn’t get activated, transfers of services that didn’t happen even though it was done personally at the customer service counter.

I understand in big organisations, mistakes will be made. I don’t mind the mistakes as much as they try to do tai-chi each time a mistake occurs. I also don’t agree with prioritising sales over ethics.

If you know me personally, I am not one to lose my temper at all or become aggressive at all when dealing with customer service officers, sales people, whoever. In fact, I empathise with them so much, because I know how much shit they have to take in their job. I am the sort of person who will tip a person even if I had bad service, hoping the small tip will brighten up his/her day.

To get my blood rising to this level, it requires extraordinary effort. Singtel has made that extraordinary effort countless times and I wish it would be put to better use instead.

I don’t feel that big organisations should get away with things just because of their monopoly (unless it is Apple). I think it reflects badly on their management when the junior staff behaves in such a manner. How are they being trained?

What I am going to do

One of my new mottos is to become the change that I want. I am just one person and it is a minute effort but any effort is an effort. I am not going to be a Singtel mobile subscriber anymore once any of the other telcos launch the iPhone 4.

Sadly, I have to be stuck with mioTV because my love for football overrides all that anger. The phone I can do without, the football I really have to watch.