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A few years back, I used to have a mobile subscription with Orange France. At some point, a bright polytechnicien at Orange must have figured out that it would cost them a hell of a lot less to send electronic invoices rather than the old-style paper-based version you sometimes never receive because the postal service in France can be kinda shitty. I started getting letters from Orange in the mail telling me how good this would be for the environment. We are talking about a full 10-page colour document covering in full details how much this helps save trees, the Amazon basin, kitties, etc. without a single hint of irony. They may even have included an authorization you had to fill in manually, sign, and reply by post. Waste paper to save paper. This made me chuckle, and then I forgot.

A couple of days later, I got the same 10-page letter, and then another one, and then I started piling them up in my living-room, wondering how much more paper they would waste to tell me how good it would be to help them save the planet. The irony was rather sharp: a mobile operator who decides to use hand-delivered paper documents to communicate with their customers, about reducing paper usage. It must have occurred to another bright buddy at Orange that this was a bit unefficient, so they reduced their paper-sending rate to about once a month (got it with the paper invoice) and started bombarding me with SMS and phone calls from customer service: “wouldn’t be cool to save the planet? Aren’t you a bit concerned?” At this point I went into rebellion mode and decided to stick to dead-tree invoices, just to see how far they would be ready to go.

I seriously doubt that the Orange executives give a damn about the planet, but they surely know what cost reduction means. They could have been honest and said something like: “Switching to electronic invoices saves us N euros/year/customer, which we are ready to share with you 50-50.” Or: “the savings will be used for an environmental cause” (like: be honest, do it), or even: “thanks to these savings, we will maintain X jobs.” Anything but not the guilt scheme they tried to use against me. And then the story stopped when I left Orange for another telco.

A couple of years later, Orange was forced to drop their prices thanks to Free Telecom. They created a new brand: Sosh, in charge of selling the very same contracts but with Free-like prices. From a marketing point of view they had to reduce the perceived services in order to justify the lesser prices: your monthly bill goes down from 45 to 19, but customer service is now only through a web forum, your customer web interface is reduced to a strict minimum, etc.

To me these were all great features! The standard Orange customer interface was a nightmare to navigate anyway, whereas the Sosh interface only shows information I am actually interested in. Getting customer service through a forum is a lot more helpful: plenty of non-Orange people reporting problems and solutions, helping you out often with a simple Google search. Cheaper, and better service. Yay!

Among the reduced quality of service was a switch from electronic to paper-based invoices. Wait.. what?

The words on their web site were pretty clear: since you are enjoying a cheap subscription, you cannot expect too much; getting electronic bills is an advantage strictly reserved to pure Orange subscribers.

That made me chuckle, and then I forgot.
Until I started receiving paper invoices again. Shit. Filling up a drawer again.

It has been two years now, and today I received a fairly stern letter from them:

“It has been decided that in order to help us fulfill our environmental objectives, all of your invoices will henceforth be electronic.”

and then a couple of paragraphs down:

“Should you decide to remain stuck in the past, you can opt back for paper-based invoices by selecting the option in your customer web interface.”

Well, at least this time they are not having me fill paper forms for an authorization to save paper.
One, two, three turnarounds. Can’t expect such a big company to be consistent like a person would. Poor guys.

Written by nicolas314

Tuesday 15 July 2014 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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