Skype Hype

Living in the Yukon, long distance calls can get expensive regardless of which end of the phone you’re on. Even when using calling cards or special long-distance plans through the telephone company, the costs still add up.

Before I moved to the Yukon, I lived in southern Ontario and was subscribed to Sprint. For a low monthly flat-rate fee, this plan allowed for unlimited long-distance calling ANYWHERE in Canada (so they said in all their advertising campaigns). Eventually, they capped the number of minutes you could use, and then would charge 10¢/min. for additional minutes. It was still reasonable and perfect for calling home in northern Ontario.

When my boyfriend at the time moved to the Yukon a few of months before I did, I thought, “Perfect! It won’t cost me an arm and a leg to call him.” I even called their customer service line to ask whether their plan covered calls to the Yukon.

“Anywhere in Canada” replied the clerk without a second’s hesitation.

The first statement I received after started my long-distance calls to the Yukon looked normal. Two months later, however, I was out a few hundred dollars. Okay, I’ll just call them up and set things straight.

ME: “Doesn’t your plan cover long-distance calls anywhere in Canada?”

THEM [Again, without hesitation]: ” Unlimited calls anywhere in Canada Ma’am.”

ME: “Then can you explain why I’m being charged for calls made to the Yukon? Last time I checked, it was still in Canada”

THEM [After a few minutes detailling account information and putting me on hold to check]: “Oh, because of extra costs involved, Sprint now charges an extra fee for calls to the Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut.”

ME: “Hhhmm, you didn’t charge me on my last statement, so it’s obviously very new. Can you tell me how Sprint informed its customers of this change? There was nothing indicated on my last bill — I even read the fine print — and there were no leaflets in the envelope. I didn’t see anything informing me that your rates have changed.”

THEM: “Our rates haven’t changed Ma’am. It’s still only $xx to call anywhere, uh, I mean, almost anywhere in Canada.”

RING!!!!! WAKE UP LADY!!!! You’re charging an extra fee and claim that your rates haven’t changed?

In the end, after a bit of haggling and a few phone calls later, the company finally agreed to remove the extra charges on my telephone bill, and told me that any calls to the Yukon from that day forward would incur the extra fees. You can imagine how irritated I felt the next time I saw their TV commercial advertising, “Call anywhere in Canada…[blah blah blah].” I have very little tolerance for false advertising. I think they eventually changed the wording.

Fast forward to calling FROM the Yukon.

The ridiculously high long-distance calling rates here prompted me to purchase a calling card. I researched price per minutes, connection fees, everything, and finally settled on a plan through VOX. I won’t bore you with the details, but about the same thing happened: initially, fees are straight up; suddenly out of nowhere, I learn that my minutes are being sucked into a dark, mysterious, black hole; a call to customer service confirms a new surcharge for callers in the Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut.

Damn these long-distance telephone companies!

Today, I found a new option for long-distance calling that’s affordable. SKYPE. For about $30/year, I can make unlimited – well, up to 10 000 minutes according to the fine print — long-distance calls anywhere in Canada and U.S. using the Internet. I just plug in my headset to my laptop, and dial-up any land line or cell number.

I doubt very much that I’ll ever use up the 10 000 minute limit, unless I plan on being on long-distance calls for 5½ hours a day. Even my mom would get sick of me.

When I tried making my first phone call this morning, it was like when the sun rises, and the colours dance in the sky and warm you. It was like being right there, next to my mom, talking to her. It was divine.

Now I’ll just have to keep a close eye on my credit card bill. Hopefully, this time the hype will last.

9 Comments

  1. exploretravel said,

    August 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    I use a regular phone service from West Can Group ( http://www.westcangroup.ca/ ) – calling their toll-free number first to get out of Whitehorse, and with a toll-free number to call in, calls from and to anywhere/everywhere are now dirt cheap. On this week’s bill, 97 minutes to Ontario for $6.70 and 30 minutes from Stewart BC for $2.05

    Murray

  2. August 3, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Hmmmm, let me know how that goes, since I am getting a little tired of having to call Telus every month to point out errors in my phone bill. They even told me to stop calling last time I called – apparently if I wait a month or two, all will be just fine. Hmmmmm……………

  3. August 3, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    That’s interesting Murray. I’ve never heard of them before. It’s still much cheaper with Skype, but the advantage of Westcan, I guess, is being able to call using your telephone.

    DBM: I’ll keep you informed. I had tried Skype over a year ago, but it was very flaky. This time, all went very smoothly. No problems yet.

  4. Moon said,

    August 4, 2008 at 10:12 am

    you can make calls through Skype for free, and with a camera if you chose !, When I was in the UK, or Canada, when Mrs M was in the USa, we talked all the time using Skype… free ……. It was very good, and to be able to see your loved one is a massive bonus, it helps us so much ….

  5. onlineindependent said,

    August 4, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I have a friend here in the US who uses skype to call people in canada over video chat. it is pretty awesome and the video quality is incredible.

  6. August 4, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    I have yet to try the video. I’ll have to get to it.

  7. Moon said,

    August 5, 2008 at 9:54 am

    you will… also, add people to your skype.. we can all talk to you then !!

    Also, you do get to occasional Japanese girl requesting to be your friend !

  8. Baino said,

    August 8, 2008 at 1:39 am

    G’day from down under . .popped over from Moon’s. Skype is sensational and I’m with Moon, you don’t need to pay for it PC to PC . . .it’s my lifeline to a wonderlust daughter currently in Europe. Not to mention bloggers, relatives and friends overseas and all it cost was $99 for a decent pair of Sannheiser headphones (although with the Mac you just talk to the screen baby!)

  9. August 8, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Hi Baino! I know you (from Moon’s blog, of course). Thanks for dropping a note. I just have to get my family to get set up with Skype, and I’ll be set to go. And Mac…ah, that’s my next purchase. The school system all over the Yukon uses Mac.


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