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.