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AT LARGE: Bait and Switch

AT LARGE: Bait and Switch

I got a letter recently from Optus. A year ago, I signed up for a package deal with unlimited cable Internet access and a phone line with free line rental. These two factors were the sum total of what swayed me to Optus.

The unlimited Internet thing has already been pulled out from under me, and I think I still have a few weeks to decide which particular limit I'd like. Not happy, but not much I can do about it. Not like I can start a protest campaign in the press.

From August 20, I'll no longer be getting free line rental either. Instead, I'll be getting a limited number of free local calls (Optus has a thing for limits these days). How many free calls I get depends on what local call rate I'm on.

I have no idea what local call rate I'm on. My latest bill says I made 83 local calls and it cost $14.94 - 18c a call. Optus loves to confuse me.

If I'm on the 20c rate, 50 local calls currently cost $10, and my line rental is nil. Under the new deal, the calls are free, but line rental is $20 - so I'm out 10 bucks. On the 15c rate, 100 calls currently cost $15, and the line rental is nil. Under the new deal, the calls are free and the line rental is $25 - so I'm out 10 bucks.

Optus says this change is "because we listened to feedback from our customers". I don't remember giving any feedback that I'd like to donate 10 bucks a month to Optus. I'd be very surprised to learn that anyone, in fact, said that. Anyone who did should report to my office immediately for a smack in the head.

Within a few days of Optus's letter, I got another one from Amazon.com. I've ordered a few DVDs in advance, including the Disney film Monsters, Inc. When I ordered it, Amazon's price was $US22.99. Now, the price is $US17.99 - a saving to me of nearly 10 bucks once you do the conversion to what we laughably refer to as "currency". Amazon has amended my order accordingly.

Amazon would be within its rights to charge me the price I originally agreed to pay. Certainly, if the price had gone up, I would be demanding that the original offer be honoured.

Amazon made the change, and let me know it had done so, in order to buy my favour and loyalty. It wants me to feel good about buying from Amazon and tell all my friends (which I suppose is you guys).

Certain telecommunications providers could learn a thing or two.

Matthew JC. Powell is a charter member of the Optus fan club. Prospective members should contact mjcp@optushome.com.au.


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