Having recently decided to return to Toronto from Pittsburgh, I needed a new phone plan. WIND mobile stood out as a great candidate due to their low prices, their telecom-reform advocacy, and their storied customer service. Really, I was just excited to give my business to somebody else other than the “big three” (Rogers, Bell, and Telus). As excited as I was with WIND, I was quickly disappointed by their services and support. Ultimately, I was forced to switch to one of their competitors, and I lost eighty dollars in the process. Ouch.

Starting strong: I have a plan

On the seventeenth of December, I arrived bright-eyed and eager at Yorkdale mall. The gloomy weather did nothing to quell my spirits. I had a full day to find the best phone plan for my moderately-used Nexus 4, and by golly, I was going to do it right. My only distraction that day was the very clever marketing campaign by WIND, whereby re-tweeting their posts every 15 minutes, one could win one of fifty new Nexus 6 phones. Yorkdale’s WiFi network proved valuable in this regard, as I was without a mobile plan of my own. It is lucky that my Twitter account was so new, which limited the SPAM that was unleashed on my non-existent followers.

The plan was to visit all of the providers in the mall, collect pricing information, and make an informed decision. I can already hear you: “Jesse, would it not be more efficient to find this information online?” I can only answer that, occasionally, interacting with a real person can actually be pleasant: they have information you might not, or insight into how a store or company works.

With that, I walked up to the Virgin Mobile booth, and made my inquiry.

Getting discouraged

“Really, you’re going to find the prices are the same with everyone.”

That’s what the young teenager manning the booth told me earnestly after I told him that I was going to scope out the options in the mall. In my heart of hearts, I knew this to be true, but I wasn’t going to let this young spiky-haired whippersnapper ruin my fun. He let me know that Virgin was a great option because they were a partner with Bell Canada, rather than a subsidiary. This was unlike the relationship between Fido and Rogers, where Fido users actually have lower tower priority than their Rogers superiors. This was actually a good selling point, and I took my leave, thinking that I might return.

The rest of the booths and stores were uneventful. Pamphlets were handed to me with familiar pricing, by salespeople ranging from confused teenagers to eager middle-aged men. I occasionally very rudely interrupted the salesperson to re-tweet a WIND promotion, always briefly explaining the contest, as if that made it better. I visited Rogers, Fido, Virgin Mobile, Bell, and Telus.

I was quoted, by every carrier as best as I can remember, something close to $70 CAD per month for unlimited Canada-wide calling and 2 GB of data. Bringing in my own device often resulted in a 10% discount on this rate.

Then, I decided to walk into the WIND store.

Gusts of Hope

To listen to the posts on the Toronto subreddit and other online sources, WIND was some kind of Canadian telecom messiah, provided you lived in their coverage area. They offered unlimited data plans at relatively cheap rates, weren’t owned by any of the evil overlords, and they had fantastic customer service. Even better, for $60 per month, one could have unlimited calling and data in the United States as well as Canada. Now, that was nifty. Even better, they had a special promotion: it was $44 for their Canada-wide plan, plus a life-long $10 credit on add-ins (like their $15 American roaming plan). Thus, I was paying $49 for unlimited data and calling in the US and Canada. I paid $20 for the new SIM card and the first month’s bill – about $80 for everything – and happily left the store. The call quality and service in Yorkdale was decent.

Dispair

I headed to my new apartment in the heart of downtown Toronto (near King and University), on the thirteenth floor. Stepping in to my bedroom, the worst happened. I was getting no service: data or otherwise. In the common area of the unit, my phone showed full signal strength, but loading Google on the browser stuck indefinitely. For somebody without WiFi in their apartment yet, this was a real problem. Unlimited data at 0 B/s is useless.

I walked over to a local WIND branch about two hours after my Yorkdale purchase, and explained the situation. I was hoping to return the SIM card, and have my money returned to me. Clearly, the service didn’t work as advertised, and I couldn’t afford to be out of communication for much longer. Generally, I think I’m polite and respectful (if persistent and perhaps annoying), but the employee explained unhelpfully that by the terms of the promotional price, I had waived my rights to their return period of fifteen days. To be fair, I think the employee at Yorkdale briefly touched on this, but it obviously went over my head.

It was rainy, cold, I was frustrated, and tired of living without phone services like some kind of barbarian. I walked over to the nearest Fido branch and signed a deal with the devil, porting the number that I had been assigned to by WIND. If Rogers/Fido have one thing going for them, it’s that their coverage is reliable, and their download speed is fast.

One last attempt

I decided to tweet the WIND people, and I was rather happy to see that they responded:

WIND tweet

I supplied them with the information they requested, and this chain of messages followed:

WIND direct message 1/4 WIND direct message 2/4 WIND direct message 3/4 WIND direct message 4/4

Conclusions

I was so excited to be using an alternative option in Toronto like WIND for my mobile plan, and ultimately I was really disappointed at the low quality of their services. It was impossible to use my phone in my apartment, and even in areas of Toronto where I had coverage, the connection was slow and/or spotty. At the end of the day, reliable and fast service is important to me. Most of all though, I’m disappointed that WIND didn’t see fit to return my money after only a few hours. It would have been a really nice gesture of good faith. As it stands, I will avoid WIND in the future.