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Deja Vu all over again

Looks like Rogers is about to repeat their PR nightmare from last year’s iPhone 3G launch by holding back the pricing of the iPhone 3GS for current 3G owners until the last possible minute.
iPhone
There hasn’t been nearly the same level of outrage as last time around but the rumours and speculation are running rampant…being dodgy about tethering policies and pricing certainly isn’t helping.

I’m still expecting some surprises from Rogers/Fido for current customers….last year they relaxed the upgrade rules a few weeks after the initial launch…most likely to boost sales after the initial rush.

The thing most people aren’t realizing is that they got the iPhone 3G was a subsidized device….the initial iPhone cost $499US when it launched in 2007 from AT&T then dropped to $299 in 2008 under a subsidy. I would expect those with a high monthly iPhone bill to get a break on the ‘rumoured’ full, no-contract prices for the 3GS of $699/$799 for the 16gb and 32gb respectively since they’ve most likely paid a fair bit of their subsidy down. But since Rogers/Fido uses a fairly complex tier scheme to catagorize their customers, the prices will most likely vary by individual account…possibly another reason why they are keeping the prices quiet since they may not have a blanket price for all 3G owners that want to upgrade.

On the bright side, it looks like there will be a full unlock/jailbreak by the weekend for the 3GS….hello Ultrasn0w!

I guess we’ll have to see what transpires over the next couple of days leading up to the release on Friday of the 3GS.

UPDATE: As I predicted, Rogers came out with decent upgrade pricing for iPhone 3GS. You can read the specifics on the Rogers and Fido websites. Pricing varies by your account specifics but assuming you got an iPhone 3G last year before September and have a certain level of voice/data plan combination, you should be able to upgrade for the ‘new customer’ price of $199/$299.

As I said on Twitter to the Rogers PR person, “RogersKeith“, I hope that he relays to his superiors the frustration felt by many customers (not just me) by leaving the pricing details to the last minute. It’s not a good way to engage and endear customers to your brand, especially in the fast moving social media world we now live in.

While not quite the angry mob like last year, anger was certainly growing online because of the lack of information when other carriers around the world had made their plans known in advance. Hopefully they learn from this experience for next year when Apple will inevitably release another version of the iPhone and all the 3GS owners will want to upgrade. RogersKeith said on Twitter, “iPhone launches aren’t typical” to which I replied that iPhone users aren’t typical either….this isn’t your daddy’s Blackberry hardware refresh.

UPDATE 2 (June 20th): The good news is that I finally have an iPhone 3GS. The bad news is that it took over 6 hours of wasted time to get it. I went down to Wireless Wave bright and early on launch day (19th). I was first in line of about 5-6 people. I expected the computer systems to be totally overwelmed and of course they were so the dealer wasn’t even able to log in and see my availability for a long time. I’m pretty sure Rogers computer systems are running on Vic-20’s. I waited about 4 hours at the store for them to be able to process my phone upgrade which they were unable to do. I don’t blame Wireless Wave, I blame Rogers unpreparedness for this portion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait at the store any longer as I had to leave for Whistler. Since I was leaving town, I basically had to give up the phone I had on hold – I was hoping to get one from a dealer en route to Whistler but alas all were sold out. I came back from Whistler on Saturday morning and called the same Wireless Wave to see if they still had stock. I was told they didn’t over the phone. A friend had called the Apple Store and was told they were doing upgrades as well as new activations so I stopped by there on the way back from Whistler and was told they weren’t doing upgrades in the store right now. I then had a friend check in with Wireless Wave if they had any stock left and they did so I was back in the line for one. I was told they would process the order and it should be ready by the time I got to the store. It wasn’t. They basically set it aside for me and were going to process the paperwork when I actually showed up. Then began the 45 minute wait on hold for the Rogers dealer person to confirm that I was in fact eligible for a hardware upgrade (at $299). Once the dealer finally got through, they confirmed I was eligible. There was a problem though – the Rogers computer system (Sales Central) didn’t show that I was eligible for any kind of upgrade. The manager at Wireless Wave wouldn’t process a manual transaction for the phone because it’s their policy to not do them as there is a chance the paperwork will fall through the cracks and they won’t get their commission. The manager did call his bosses who confirmed that he wouldn’t be able to sell me the phone despite being eligible. A visit to another store in the mall confirmed the same thing. It wasn’t until I got a tip from Gary that there was a store in another mall that had staff that should be able to help me as he had a similar issue with his upgrade. I drove over to that mall, and within ten minutes of dealing with Thomas and Kelsey, left the store with my 32gb iPhone 3GS. They appeared to have no issue doing a manual transaction with the approval of the dealer call centre.

So what are the issues here? Well, inconsistent policies for handling customer upgrades – even between stores of the same dealer. I really suspect that the reason Wireless Wave didn’t want to sell me the iPhone was that because I wasn’t a new activation, they weren’t going to make as much commission. The fact that they led me on for over 6 hours also pissed me off. I know the systems were busy but I didn’t get a sense they were really trying too hard to get the answers they needed to get. There seemed to be a lot of policies that threatened termination if not followed correctly that the staff kept bringing up. The fact that other customers were able to get iPhones also pissed me off as I know that some of those people had the same account setup as me. A couple of friends that came with me to the store on launch day all had different experiences with getting the upgrade but had similar account/upgrade configurations as me.

I even decided to reach out to the Rogers PR person on Twitter who ultimately wasn’t needed to help me get the phone but did result in my getting a call from an advisor from the (Rogers) President’s office who wanted to know the full story. We had a good discussion about the problems I encountered and had I not been successful the day before, I’m pretty sure he would have helped me get a phone today. I wanted to make sure they understood this iPhone thing isn’t a fad and there will be another update next year so hopefully they will fix some/all of these issues – which are really more communication issues between Rogers and their dealer network. Customers shouldn’t have to run all over town to get a phone upgrade if they’re eligible.

Overall, I feel that Rogers did everything they could *for me* given the situation. Twitter was instrumental in helping me get in contact with the right people to escalate my concerns. So we’ll see what happens in 2010…I sure hope I’m not writing another deja vu post.

3 Comments

  1. Gene Blishen says:

    This is what I have heard. We have 10 iPhones on a commercial account. Apple keeps very quiet with Rogers on what they are doing so you can only get tidbits. We were told that we can upgrade to the new phone after 1 year so that means July 10, the original release date. Plans shouldn’t be affected. Tethering will be supported as Rogers supports tethering for Blackberries, the same goes for MMS. Plans may need to be adjusted given new volumes with tethering. You are right in that they have some fairly complex tiered schemes with different account categories. It will be interesting how this unfolds.
    I just did a survey of all the staff who have iPhones After one year it is still an extremely valued device in every users mind.

  2. John says:

    Thanks for the info Gene….one would hope that Rogers give customers the ability to upgrade 3 weeks early if they want…they’ve already most likely got that final payment to take the user to one year anyways.

    The missing piece is the cost to do a hardware upgrade for those of us with 3G’s from last year (or in my case had mine stolen and decided to wait until a new device before replacing it)…I’m not expecting it to be the $199/299 price for new customers but they really should throw us some kind of a bone.

    We shall see.

  3. Dunk says:

    The Telco’s here in Australia are playing the same game (we don’t get the new iPhone until June 26th): they all have “register for interest” pages on their websites, and nothing else. The Apple store website has a similarly vague page that simply says the day they go on sale – no pricing or anything. I’m REALLY hoping they allow them to be purchases outright as I’m not on a plan, but it’s unlikely…

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