During over 8 years living on this continent I’ve developed reasonably thick skin in dealing with business calls, unsolicited mailings and other annoyances of aggressive selling. I was pretty sure nothing can make me really upset. Up until yesterday. Thanks to amazing capability of the Direct Energy sales force who does not take No for an answer.
But let’s start from the beginning. About 3 weeks ago I started to get frequent calls from Direct Energy about their flat rate plan. After avoiding them few times, I realized that they will not give up and answered the call. I have got myself into a discussion with guy who wanted me to lock up my price per kWh for next 5 years. Sort of protection plan. The idea is that you pay same amount – starting with higher than market price – and as the price goes up, you may end up to be better off over time.
As I never buy anything from a telemarketer, I said no. Upon insistence, I agreed that it is OK to mail me information about the prices and so on. I was very explicit to repeat about three times that I am not ordering anything, or enrolling into any plan – and the guy agreed. Just an information – no obligations.
Now guess what: yesterday I have received a letter starting with sentence “Thanks for enrolling into flat rate …”. That got me really going. I had to call customer support just to find out that I was indeed enrolled. I cancelled, of course, but feel this is such rude and inappropriate behaviour, that it deserves some publicity.
What is proper English term for this “business” method – when a sales person is openly lying to you ? It is not false advertisement. In that case, the consumer decides to buy based on incorrect information – but at the end, it is the customer that says yes and decides to buy. I am not a lawyer, but what happened sounds like fraud to me – I was put in position to be paying for something I have not ordered. And because one can safely assume I was not the only case they have tried it on, maybe even a scam ? It would not be the first time:
“Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. and Ontario Energy Savings Corp. have been fined a total of $232,500 after some of their agents apparently forged signatures on 31 consumer contracts, the Ontario Energy Board said today. Direct Energy was fined $7,500 for each of the 21 switched consumers and Ontario Energy Savings Corp. was fined the same amount for 10 switched consumers.”
The only difference is that now, they are not even bothering to fake your signature – they just sign you up, because you have answered the phone.
There seems to be nothing wrong with the idea of locking down the rate you pay for electricity for 5 years. Assumed that a) the prices will go up by predictable amount and b) you will indeed be able to get electricity or whatever you paid for for the full duration of the contract. There is even sound business plan behind – with enough subscribers, you can buy in large quantities with discount and have decent margin. What happened to a friend of mine was that he enrolled and paid about 2 years higher price. On year 3, the company he had contract with claimed bankrupcy and the new company promptly offered new 5 year plan – for a price about 30% above market price in year three. Hmm, how very convenient …
As Hanlon’s razor says Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice. Last week, I would give them benefit of the doubt. Not today, I am afraid.
Lesson learned – never ever go to any discussion with a business caller. If you want to save time and do not mind sound rude, just say NO and hang the phone on them. If you want to invest some time and avoid being rude, here is what you can do: start recording the phone calls and tell the bugger you are doing so. Ask them to remove your name and phone number from their list – technically, they should be oblidged to do so when you ask. You can also ask for the intruder’s name, home address and home phone number – why should only you have to provide private information to him/her ? Ask also for the name of the manager or superior, his or her home phone number. When they ask why, tell them that you would like to call them at home, in their private space just to let them experience how it tastes when an unwelcomed stranger interrupts whatever they are doing and steals their time talking about some stupid braindead useless product or service. Let them feel the pain.