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Even after the stores opened and the customers have packed home with their lawn chairs, the disaster that has been the iPhone’s launch in Canada continues to ring (pardon the pun) in the ears of consumers. I took a spin around Vancouver on my motorcycle (sorry, going too fast for photos) this morning at 7:30 and counted 250-300 people at the Broadway & Arbutus Rogers store, some TV trucks, and some balloons but otherwise not much fanfare. The smaller stores had maybe a dozen or so people hanging around at best.

I was concerned that the media were going to get taken on a ride by Rogers with this launch. Fortunately, the CBC is reporting that desperately few of the customers who were encouraged by Rogers to go to Rogers flagship stores in 6 Canadian cities have walked home with the prize, while still others are getting denied the purchase because some Rogers outlets are showing preference to new customers (and thus, highly-spiffed new activations) over existing ones. The CBC has thus far been on the money on this issue I hope this REAL story is echoed in other media over the course of the day.

As Daniel Smith reported, Apple may have heard the more than 63,000 voices at RuinediPhone.com and diverted shipments destined for Canada to elsewhere. Plausible, but this clear internal “leak” might actually be a way for Rogers to blame the lack of supply on Apple in a very subtle way.

This is what happens when big, arrogant service providers who fail to remain customer-centric come into contact with a mass-market trend. The launch of the iPhone in Canada could (should) have had a huge impact on subscriber loyalty and shareholder value for Rogers, but today even those few folks lucky enough to actually have paid through the nose and signed their lives away on a 3-year contract to get an iPhone are embittered by the experience.

It seeps down from those obnoxious gouging prices and the three-year lock-in (in an industry where the life cycle of a phone is less than 2 years) all the way to the flagship Rogers store passing out Granola Bars from Costco instead of paying the overnight campers the respect of some eggs or pancakes (they promised ‘breakfast’).

Somewhere in between those two offences is the fact that, with diminished supply on hand, Rogers store managers failed to tell those in the lineups that there weren’t enough devices to go around. Moreover they failed to give those people any promise that they might get one sometime in the future, so as a result many fan boys have now sat on their asses outside a store all morning for nothing.

Rogers created a media event around the iPhone launch.. great for free marketing, bien sur. They made promises about special promotions and breakfasts and early openings for these stores, and encouraged crowds to concentrate at specific stores to make sure they’d be part of the media frenzy and make the event seem much larger in scale than it actually is. It’s an even trade, I guess, when the consumer ends up getting what they went there for. But with the biggest stores having fewer than 100 units on hand you can do the math: of those 200-400 people who waited at each of the flagship stores, as many as 75%-80% did it for nothing.

In essence, Rogers exploited them to generate buzz and get some free marketing, and gave them nothing in return. So let’s do the math: A Triple-Lock for the lucky few, a lost night’s sleep for many, and for everyone a granola bar.

Yeah, screw you too, Rogers.

The next thing I’ll line up for is to be the first subscriber on the nation’s next GSM wireless carrier.

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