As anyone who doesn’t have an autolock on their apartment will tell you, most of the time it is easier not to answer the door! After all, my record so far has been a guy looking to buy jewellery for a ‘good price’, 2 Jehovah’s Witnesses and, of course, countless Internet companies.
However, one day I looked through the keyhole and saw a young man wearing a badge that told me he was an agent of Softbank, the company that also provided my mobile phone. His pitch was simple: put both your Internet and your phone under one package and save money. Ok, I thought, let’s hear him out.
On his request, I showed him a monthly statement from the company that was supplying my Internet at that time: NTT. Right afterwards, I was given my first surprise as he pointed out that I was paying for a number of additions that I almost certainly didn’t need. These additions, he explained, were costing me almost 1000 yen a month.
At this point, I was happy to sign his contract. I even managed to negotiate 10,000 yen from Softbank to pay for the extortionate cancellation charge that NTT charges (Does it really take 10,000 yen just to shut off someone’s Internet?!?).
Cheaper Internet and no cancellation fee? So far, I’d looked like a canny negotiator, gaming the system for my benefit. However, I should have remembered an old saying associated with all games: ‘the house always wins.’
Right at the end of the session, the salesperson wrote down a list of things that we would have to do to get the best value Internet possible. At first, it seemed pretty simple as he wrote down the steps: cancel a few minor things and then I would be fine. However, he kept writing and, as the list got longer and longer, so did the steps get progressively more complicated. By the time it was finished, we had a seven-point list of things that had to be cancelled, all in Japanese and all by very specific dates.
At that point, I decided to make it a mission to try and cancel as many of these as possible.
The next day I decided to go into Softbank and get a printed list of everything that I could possibly cancel vs. what was essential. After a long discussion, the list of things that were essential were only three out of ten added options. Each of these added options would cost me between 300 and 500 yen if not cancelled properly.
For any other Softbank customers, here is my list of things that visitors to this country almost certainly don’t need:
- BB サポートワイドサービス
- BBお掃除/ レスキュー
- BBフォンオプションパック (There are usually two or three of these, but I cancelled all except the basic one called simply BBフォン)
- Yahoo! BB基本サービス
While some of them were simple to cancel, some were ridiculously complicated. Cancelling the trickier ones involved going onto specific websites and looking for very specific links. Some of these were so confusingly labelled that even the Japanese people who helped me struggled to find the right link.
Others even required you to apply for unnecessary free services to cancel the paid ones! The most annoying of these were the ones that even limited options I’d previously enjoyed such as paying at my local convenience store. From now on, I can only pay by direct debit.
Even with native speakers helping, it took a significant part of a week to get the majority of the unneeded options off. My bill has gone down from over 5000 yen to around 3000 yen a month!
The problem with all of this wasted time and effort is this is that Internet should be for both parties’ mutual benefit. After all, I need their service and they need my money. Instead the experience is a painful reminder of the all the worst parts of the Japanese hierarchical culture: the company just doles things to the customer who is expected to take it without complaint.
While this article is about NTT and Softbank, it likely applies to every Internet company visitors to Japan are likely to deal with. So make sure to check your bills and ask yourself whether you actually need most of the options listed there. Make sure to get a native speaker to help you as even cancelling only half of the unnecessary options will save you a huge amount every month.