Archive for the Category » business «

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 | Author:

Privacy, Time, Money

I don’t like debit orders. I’ve never liked the idea that another entity can, at will, take almost any amount of my money (well … whatever’s available). A colleague pointed out the issue with MTN would have been avoided had I been using a debit order. Maybe the “convenience” factor isn’t such a bad thing.

I suppose the penultimate question here is whether or not you want the convenience and can trust institutions (in this case with your money) – or if you can’t trust them and are willing to forgo that convenience. In my case, even though I still question the convenience, I learned the hard way with MTN that it doubly can be inconvenient to have your connected world reduced to “remote island” status. Almost everyone today goes with the convenience factor.

Convenience

On the other hand, now a long time ago, I had a dispute with Planet Fitness where convenience was a double-edged sword. I reported their business practice to the Consumer Complaints Commission (since re-organised as the National Consumer Commission) and never got feedback from them. The gist of the issue is that Planet Fitness’s sales agent lied to me and a friend in order to get more commission/money out of my pocket.

I’m a Discovery Vitality member which gives many benefits, including reduced rates on Premium brands – mostly health-related of course, as Discovery is a Medical Aid/Health Insurance provider. To put it simply, Discovery is awesome. Vitality’s benefits cover gym memberships which further includes Planet Fitness. You still have to pay something, a small token of sorts, to Discovery, for the gym membership. But, after all, they WANT me to be healthy, so they don’t mind footing the bulk of the bill. But, apparently, this means Planet Fitness’ sales agents don’t get the commission!

So what does this result in? The result is that PF’s sales agent gave me an inflated figure for a “Vitality-based” membership. He lied. He then had me sign on the dotted line for an inflated price of a “regular” membership (yes, it was actually more than even a regular membership would have cost), ending up about 4 and 5 times as much as the Vitality-based membership.

Epiphanies

Some time in 2011 I finally wisened up to the costs I was supposed to be paying. Discovery I am sure wouldn’t be too happy about this fiasco. I spoke to the Manager at the gym, and I was assured that the entire contract would be scrapped. I’m not one for violence … unless its for sport … in an Octagon … but after my 5th visit to the Manager to ask why the Debit Orders were still happening, he told me he was surprised I hadn’t brought weapons with me for the visit. After a few more visits, the Manager had actually left Planet Fitness and explained to me that the “contract” was between myself and Head Office and that the local gym, apparently a franchise-style operation, had little to no say about whether or not it could be cancelled. If Head Office said no, tough luck.

By this point I’d lost it. I had my bank put a stop to the debit orders. It was a huge schlep: I had to contact the bank every month because the debit order descriptions would change ever so slightly. It also cost me a little every couple of months to “reinstate” the blocking service. I can’t help but think the banking system supports regular expressions but the staff don’t necessarily know how to use it.

Technically I’m still waiting on the CCC to get back to me (never happened – and of course they were re-organised as mentioned above so the case probably fell through the cracks). Of course, by that point PF also wanted to blacklist me for not paying!

The Unexpected Hero

A haphazard mention of the issue to Discovery (I think I called them about a dentist visit) resulted in a callback by one of Discovery’s agents. They then asked me to describe the problem, in detail and in writing, to better explain from my perspective what had really happened. I obliged. It turns out I was right about them not being “too happy” about it. In fact they really didn’t like it. About three weeks later, Planet Fitness refunded me in FULL for all monies that had ever been paid to them.

Discovery is Awesome. 🙂

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Friday, September 24th, 2010 | Author:

The upgrade to WordPress 3 was long overdue (as are many draft articles). Surprisingly, nothing looks different since the upgrade has been completed, though I also would not be surprised if I’ve missed an important plugin breakage.

I’ll be spending a day this weekend solely on polishing the site and finishing up some articles. You have something to look forward to. 🙂

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Thursday, June 03rd, 2010 | Author:

Why I’ve left MTN

So I’ve been shopping around in a non-serious fashion in the last few months trying to figure out how best to leave MTN and how get the best deal for me. I don’t like MTN since I became an “irate“, as I might call such a customer in the ISP industry. MTN’s Customer-Service Call Centre had rarely been helpful or knowledgeable on their own systems. The final straw however was when their systems let me screw myself over and Customer Service was as helpful as a dead redshirt:

I had a billing issue where, admittedly, it started of my own fault. MTN has a feature where you can call in to find out the amount owing on your account. Only, as Murphy would have it, this amount was not the amount owing on the account but the last amount that was billed.

So one month my account was about R900. I called the number, mis-heard R500, paid the amount I thought I should: R500. 15 days later MTN suspended my account. No wrong done, right? Wrong.

First off, I received no notification of any kind. An sms would make the most sense, especially since it would cost MTN almost no resources: “Your account xyz is in arrears by R400. Please contact blah blah blah”. They could phone me, they could email me, something, but nothing of the sort happened. Suspend without Prejudice. Thats the best way to get the customer’s attention!

Now, not only could I not make calls and sms’s, I could not receive calls or sms’s. Further, I could not even call MTN’s toll free phone number. I had to use someone else’s phone to get to the bottom of the problem. After two days of haggling I finally found a lady kind enough to re-enable the account. Ten days later my salary goes in, I call the same number and hear a number close to “R900”. I think to myself maybe I should double-check juuuust in case I mis-heard. I call again, I hear the same number again. Right. Pay the R900. Fifteen days later, my phone is suspended AGAIN. WTH?

Remember what I mentioned earlier?: “this amount was not the amount owing on the account but the last amount that was billed.” So, in spite of the fact that the voice prompt specifically says “Press 3 for Balance Due; [Presses 3] ; The Total Outstanding Balance is; Nine; hundred; and; #whatever ; Rands; and; #whatever; cents”, I actually owed them R900 plus the R400 that I’d paid short the previous month. No, I do not know if MTN has fixed this. I no longer care. Since I figured this out I started waiting for paper statements to see how much was actually due. Interestingly, their paper statements were also wrong. Only they had the opposite problem: “This invoice: R1300” in spite of the fact that on the next page it says opening balance “R400”, closing balance “R1300”. Pah! Is it fixed? Again, I don’t care.

I let them know I wasn’t renewing the contract and I’ve now already ported my number away to Virgin Mobile. Because I want to keep my number and port it elsewhere, the store said I could not put “unsatisfactory service” as the reason for ending the contract but that it should simply say “porting”. Apparently by putting anything else there they might not “notice” that I want it ported. WTF.

What next? (without MTN)

In my research I’ve found that contract “deals” are most popular. Typically, you can get a R8000 phone for R800 per month over 24 months with R500-odd worth of airtime per month. This amounts to you paying R19 200 over a 24-month period for a phone worth R8000 which will be obsolete within 12 months. You will get some airtime every month so you might feel its not a complete loss. However you should also remember that it costs the cellular companies nothing when you make those phone calls. Profit.

There’s a better way

There are much cheaper contracts, contracts for between R50 and R200 which include cheapish phones – phones that work damned well as a phone but won’t let you play games on the train. Most of these contracts actually give you the same airtime value (sometimes more!) as what you are paying. So for R100 you might get R100 worth of airtime plus some free sms’s, and a cheapish phone. The best deals I’ve seen recently have all been for the Samsung STAR, an understated but good cell phone, available from a number of retailers for between R100 and R200 per month. In most cases the deals have included the full amount of airtime. Virgin Mobile has probably the best example here: The cost is R199 per month which includes R200 in airtime and 1000 sms’s (yes, you read that right – one thousand!).

Virginal Service All the Way!

Another reason I’ve gone with Virgin Mobile is a little something no other service provider does: A “mixed” Contract/Prepaid facility. I get R200 in airtime however, if I go over that, the extra just gets added to my invoice. With MTN this could go sky high without the option of a limit! With Virgin, because I asked, it has a limit of R300. However, I can still add prepaid airtime (with cellphone banking, nogal). No other service provider lets you do this!

Remember that R8000 cell phone I mentioned earlier? My plan is to get the Samsung STAR and spend less than R300 per month. I’ll have saved enough money to actually go and buy a more expensive phone (or laptop) with the cash I’ll have saved! Of course, if you actually use that R800-worth of phone calls, I guess the best available deal is where you spend the R19200 anyway. Maybe at least with a more critical view on your choices you’ll save yourself a good amount of money in future. Good luck in your search for your best deal!

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Monday, April 20th, 2009 | Author:

I’m looking at the South African banking system (partly a result of watching the Zeitgeist “documentary”) and, after finding my bank implicated most with regards to the SA-Banking Competition Commission wikileaks scandal, I’m putting serious consideration into switching banks.

What ethical banks are out there right now? I’ve even looked into Sharia (Islamic) banking because of their strict ethics laws but even there I’m looking at even more unknowns. I’m not Islamic and I have nothing against funding pork-related activities.

On that note, do you know if your bank has a code of ethics? If they’re public, where can we see these ethics codes?

Tell me about service levels I haven’t heard of before and which bank you believe deserves to handle my money.

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Monday, March 16th, 2009 | Author:

Im not gay. But if you’re single, ill marry you…

— Anon male client to Anon male consultant who went out of his way to help the client out.

If I were the one who helped this client and I got a response like this, I’d feel good about it.

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