Mr. Rogers, Cellphones Wreck Relationships

Cellphones can do anything ?these days – including ?destroy relationships.

Gabriella Nagy, 35, of Toronto recently sued Rogers after they put her cellphone bill under her husband’s name.

Cellphones can do anything 
these days – including 
destroy relationships.

Automated answering systems can only do so much. Say you want to call Rogers Wireless about a cellphone issue, and your call is directed to an automated menu. You might be instructed to press “one” for account information, “two” for technical support or “four” to report a lost or stolen phone. But say you’re calling to complain because Rogers switched your billing routine without your permission, consequently allowing your husband to see cellphone bills he wasn’t supposed to see, causing him to discover a series of very long phone calls to a mystery number, leading him to the realization that you, his wife, have probably been making hot monkey love with someone other than him, your lawfully wedded spouse, causing him to initiate divorce proceedings, causing you to call Rogers and complain. Is there a button for “Planning to sue our ass?”

Thirty-five-year-old Gabriella Nagy of Toronto recently launched a $677,000 lawsuit against Rogers for invasion of privacy and breach of contract. Nagy says she had asked the company to send her cellphone bill to her home under her name. But without warning, Rogers began bundling her bill with the rest of the couple’s accounts for pay-TV, Internet and home phone, under her husband’s name. Nagy’s husband got suspicious when he saw the frequently called number and called it himself. The man who answered turned out to be a surprisingly honest fellow. He immediately confessed to having had an affair with Mrs. Nagy. Frankly, that’s the kind of service one rarely gets from calling an automated system: a helpful, straightforward individual who instantly provides useful information. If the cuckolded husband had phoned Rogers seeking the same info, he would have been put on hold until his wife left him from sheer boredom.

Mrs. Nagy and her husband split in August 2007. In her statement of claim, she says the affair was over by that time and would not have been uncovered had it not been for Rogers’s negligence. It’s an issue for the courts, and the Nagys, to decide. But with new cellphone companies now invading B.C., the timing is interesting.

Wind Mobile and Mobilicity have both decided to set up shop in Vancouver, with Wind launching in June and Mobilicity tentatively arriving this fall. Both newcomers are promising to undercut the Big Three – Rogers, Telus and Bell – on price. But what about services? Will Wind phones rat you out to your beloved life partner? When you’re busy hiking the Appalachian Trail in a cheap hotel, will Mobilicity help you keep it on the down low?

Cellphones are arguably the most rapidly evolving consumer technology of the day. The increasing sophistication of smart phones has created a trend toward fewer cellphone calls and more data use – a little less conversation, a little more action. Unfortunately, Mrs. Nagy’s action was all there in the billing records. 

Mrs. Nagy’s problem with Rogers isn’t really about technology; it’s a customer service issue. Also a marital issue. Presumably those fall outside the range of services likely to be offered by new cellphone providers. But who knows? Phones can do a lot of stuff now. Few predicted that cellphones would replace loonies as a means of feeding parking meters or that mobile phones would be used to activate household appliances. It could be that, in the near future, cellphones will astonish us with innovative new ways to juggle an array of sexual partners. Your phone-of-tomorrow will concoct for you a believable alibi, even as it presets the oven for that perfect roast chicken.

Far-fetched? It seems more likely than an increased focus on customer service. However many possibilities our little hand-held wonders will provide, the most far-fetched of all would be rapid access to a real human being.