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iphone-beaver.gifHave you had problems returning a damaged iPhone to Rogers Wireless?  If so, I’d like to hear about it in the comments.

It has been a year since Apple and Rogers Wireless launched the iPhone 3G in Canada.  It was that summer, in 2008, I unloaded my first-generation unlocked iPhone for a legit iPhone 3G from Rogers Wireless.  One of the benefits of having a carrier-supported iPhone is, of course, supposed to be seamless warranty replacement.  Shortly after I got it, my iPhone began dropping calls and failing to dial out on the network.  I assumed this to be A) a problem with Rogers’ network, B) a firmware bug in the iPhone itself, or C) a combination of both.

I had heard things about chipset problems afflicting AT&T iPhone customers so I assumed this would be remedied in a soon-to-follow update from Apple.  By October of 2008, I had given up.  I called Rogers tech support and was walked thru the usual “wipe it clean and pray it’s fixed” procedure and tried it for two more weeks but no joy, so in November I instigated the phone swap process from Rogers.  The call was short and sweet and all seemed to be well with a new iPhone winging its way to our house.

On the Friday before my iPhone was to arrive, my SIM suddenly stopped working and my iPhone could not connect to the Rogers network at all.  I later found out that this was due to the fact that my phone number had been reprovisioned to a new SIM that was in the box accompanying my iPhone.  Odd.  It was obviously my iPhone that was broken, not the SIM, and I just couldn’t fathom why they wouldn’t just give me a 1-800 number to call to activate the new SIM when it arrived versus forwarding my phone service to a brown box in the back of a UPS truck, leaving me without my phone service for 3 days.  I called Rogers (from my Vonage line) to complain, spent an hour and a half on the phone, and could not get this resolved after bouncing around 3-4 agents.

On the following Tuesday, the replacement iPhone arrived.  I tried starting it up, but it wouldn’t boot.  It had a substantial hardware problem that led to garbage on the screen and all kinds of other garbage, but in effect the replacement phone was DOA.  As I had to go on a business trip that day, I put the new SIM in my old iPhone and left the new iPhone for a week or so before I tried it again, this time putting the replacement thru all kinds of hardware resets and software reloads.  I could not resurrect it from the dead despite hours of trying.

So I called Rogers.  Again.  After two hours bouncing around various agents in various departments, I could not get an agent to take responsibility for my problem, instead each agent dispatched me to another department as I (admittedly) became increasingly irate.  One agent accused me of lying, and/or not knowing what I am talking about.  Finally I threatened to QUIT Rogers, switch to Telus, and sue them for breach of contract — I was transferred to a magic save department where I met a very nice lady who calmed me down, promised to solve all of my problems, and who would call me the following week which was, now 7 weeks after the Odyssey began, Christmas.

Needless to say, she never did call back.  Never solved my problem.  Probably got laid off.  Might be working for Bell Canada right now, for all I know.

Next I began to receive a torrent of threatening letters demanding that I return my old, somewhat functioning iPhone or I’d be charged $780.    I called Rogers again in January trying to resolve the issue, but to no avail:  Rogers Wireless wouldn’t take the badly broken replacement iPhone back without also sending my other one, leaving me phoneless.  I gave up after the best I could do was an agent telling me I had to send BOTH iPhones in one shipment to their call centre.  Fuming, I waited another few days to call back.

Eventually on my next call,  an agent relented: I kept the semi-working iPhone, sent back the badly broken replacement iPhone.  I packaged up the replacement phone and sent it back, recording the shipping tracking number from UPS.

Then the predictable happened.  They charged $780 to my card.  I was furious, but sugar-coated my attitude and called back AGAIN to ask for a refund.  After bouncing around to various departments, each complaining about the slowness of their computers, they could not track the whereabouts of the iPhone I had returned, despite the fact that I could even tell them the name of the signing agent who had received the package.  I nearly hit the ceiling.  I threatened a complaint to the CRTC (which, in fairness, I have every right to do).  Finally someone agreed to help me.  One quirk:  They couldn’t refund the $780.Instead I got a credit — in effect I was loaning Rogers money — against future use.  A compromise that irritates me, but was under the circumstances acceptable.

Now it was March.  By my logs of various telephone calls to Rogers, I had now spent about 9 hours on the phone with Rogers attempting to address a single issue spanning more than 6 months.  I was so exhausted with the process that I accepted the neutrality of being exactly where I was technically, and further behind financially, than when the problems began — with an iPhone that didn’t fully work and with my wallet $780 lighter but an account credit.

It wasn’t until late last month that I mustered the courage to call again and try to get a new replacement iPhone.  I had assumed that these processes, immature at the time I first endured them, may have seasoned and smoothened with time and experience.  I called again, had a very pleasant half-hour call with an agent, who whisked me a new iPhone 3G toot sweet.  As before, my phone service was disconnected for a couple of days after they shipped the replacement phone, but by now Stockholm Syndrome was taking effect and I was becoming numb to the varied mistreatments by my captor.

The very same day the new iPhone 3G arrived, I cracked open the box, dropped in the new SIM, zeroed my old iPhone, and boxed it up for shipping.  UPS picked it up that very day, May 28, 2009.  I expected to hear nothing of the issue further.  According to the UPS tracking data, the package arrived the following week, on June 6th.  On June 14th, Rogers sent me a letter threatening to charge me $730.


I cannot fathom that within 8 days, Rogers could not process and acknowledge the receipt of my RMA’d iPhone 3G.  I furthermore cannot fathom that when they do overcharge you due to their own error, they cannot refund the excess back to your credit card (which is how I pay for my phone service).

Rogers is a company clearly hampered by its own hugely restricted billing, provisioning, and customer service systems.  Ted Rogers, five weeks before his death last year, spoke to an audience marshalled by the local YEO chapter, which I gratefully attended as a guest of Mario from ShowTime Tickets.  Two thoughts of Ted’s permeated his frailly-voiced speech that day.  He said, of customer service, that “the secret to good customer service is always saying yes” and that his success as CEO was directly tied to the number of layers that existed between him and his customers — the fewer the better.

I know that it’s difficult dealing with the kinds of customers iPhone brings to the table and the scale of operations necessary to support the volume that a device like the iPhone can generate for Rogers.  Not easy.  But I wonder what Ted would think after reading this story?