Just when I was starting to have semi-fond feelings for the technical staff at Shaw Cable – at least the ones who work with the business accounts (don’t even talk to me about the residential account people) – I was brought down to earth.
Over the years I have had my ups and downs with Shaw over various things. But after I realized that because my e-mail was a business account and not residential (how I got there is a story in itself) and started dealing with the technicians in that department I thought I had reached Nirvana. The business technicians seemed much more technically competent and helpful.
Then came the reckoning.
For the past 15 years or so I have sent out a little e-mail ALERT, under the name of the BC Wildlife Federation, to about 450 people; a list that I have accumulated over that period. I forward articles, etc., that I think will be of interest to most of the group (you can’t please everyone all of the time or, more correctly, any of the time).
However, recently a nasty problem has raised its head.
A while back, I sent out an ALERT and it just disappeared into the black hole of the internet. I send out the emails with my recipients listed as blind copies and nothing came back to me and nothing went to anyone on my list. It was just gone!
I contacted Shaw and discovered that after all of this time I had been tagged as a spammer. When I tried to determine why, after all of these years, I had suddenly been blocked I was given a number of reasons: Too many addresses on an e-mail, although I was within the limit set for me by Shaw. Inactive addresses that I had not deleted from my list, of which I was guilty.The fact that I was blind copying the addresses on my list,which according to the technician raised the spam suspicion level (this seemed ridiculous to me).
So I reduced the number of addresses per e-mail, which meant that I had to send out more e-mails to cover my list. I deleted the old inactive addresses from my book but I continued to blind copy my list as I didn’t want to have everyone’s e-mail address out there for all the world to see.
I was back on line and everything went well for a while. Then I was closed down again.
This time I was told that I needed to put a line on my posts that told the recipient how to opt out of receiving the ALERTs. I was naive enough to think that anyone who wanted off the list would simply hit reply and ask to be removed – which various people had done over the years. So I added this information and eventually was able to get off the blocking list.
Then the other day it happened again. I sent out an ALERT and it disappeared.
I called Shaw and this time I was told that there had been complaints about the list being spam. I asked them for the nature of the complaint and who had made the complaint(s) so I could remove them from the list. They said they couldn’t do that, although they did indicate that they did have that information (whether or not that was actually true, I don’t know).
I pointed out to them that their handling of this was similar to being tried in court and not being allowed to know what the charges were or who was making the accusations. This argument did not resonate with them in any way – obviously not civil libertarians.
The told me that it was my problem and it was up to me to fix it and they did this to protect their customers. I pointed out to them that I was their customer and they should be trying to help me. Again they were unmoved by this venture into logical discourse.
What they now told me was that I needed to contact everyone on my list and get confirmation from them that they wanted to continue to receive the ALERTs. (This was not a short conversation as I tried the patience of a technician close to the breaking point – although he gamely managed to stay civil – and then did the same with a supervisor. None of which gained me any ground in my attempt to get them to assist me in solving my problem).
Knowing when I was whipped I decided to go the route of getting ‘opt-ins’ from my list.
In my first attempt I wrote up a note asking the recipient to give me a ‘yes’ or’ no’ answer to the question of whether they wished to continue receiving the ALERTs. I put 70 addresses on one email and sent it. Of course it also disappeared into the blogosphere. Now I was in a catch-22 situation. I had to contact my list but Shaw was blocking me from doing so.
So I phoned back to Shaw.
Now if anyone has ever had the need to phone into a call-in centre you know it’s not a process for the impatient. There is a wait (although admittedly Shaw has a call-back process that works fairly well if you choose to use it). But by now this was about 11:00 PM so I opted to just hang on to the phone and eventually I got another technician.
I gave him a ticket number I had received from Shaw some time back which (I presume) explained the history of my problem and I would hope all that had happened since. I told him about my problem with trying to follow their instructions about sending out an opt-in request.
His solution? Send individual e-mails to each of the 450+ list members. I said that bordered on ridiculous. It could have been a serious suggestion, but I think it was a standard call-in centre ploy to try and get your customer off the phone and out of your hair in the quickest time possible. However, that may just be me being cynical.
He then went away and studied further on the situation and came and told me that my e-mails had now been limited to 20 addresses each. At this point, being late and my frustration level set at maximum I hung up. Rudely, I’m afraid.
Then I decided, OK we will play by the new rules. So I set up an e-mail and, playing it safe, put on 18 addresses. It disappeared, presumably into Shaw’s spam folder. I tried it again with 18 different addresses with the same result. I then tried to send an e-mail with 5 addresses, again with the same result.
At that point I gave in to the inevitable. But it is an interesting conundrum.
Shaw shuts down my service because they have tagged me as a spammer. The can’t or won’t reverse their decision when I explain the situation but tell me that I have to fix the problem on my own. Then to complete the circle, they won’t let me even try to fix the problem.
For this I pay them money.
Welcome to the new world of customer service.