To bypass the below introduction, proceed directly to the Table of Contents.
As Ted Rogers' promise to come to tea was splashed across the front page of the Globe and Mail on December 19, 2005, many Canadians have assumed that Ted would honour his commitment - or already has. Even a cartoonist at the Globe and Mail was anticipating how many lumps Ted would take. On March 1, 2006, the Globe published the following Back Bench cartoon in the comics of the review section:
Ted Rogers never did come to tea. Presumably Rogers' PR department figured that his promise to do so was sufficient unto the day. Tea is still being served: Tea without Ted.
Many Canadians also assumed that the debacle between Rogers and me was over when Rogers and Ted apologized in the national media over the weekend that the story broke about his cell phone having been cloned by a group linked with Hezbollah.
In fact, I had sued Rogers in Small Claims Court way back in September of 2005, three months before Rogers CEO, Ted Rogers, called me on December 17, 2005 and left a message on my home phone apologizing for the inexcusable way that his corporation had treated me. I had two Rogers phones: the one that was stolen in the summer of 2005, and a cell phone I got for my son so he could safely take public transit to school. I sued Rogers because the corporation shut off my then-10 year old son's cell phone just days before he took the Toronto subway for the first time in his life - and a full 8 days before my bill was due - because I wasn't "promising to pay" Rogers over $14,000 for calls made on my stolen cell phone.
The trial for that law suit was held over two days in late February, 2007. The written reasons for judgment were delivered a month later, in March of 2007. In a nutshell, the judge ordered Rogers to compensate me for the purchase of a Bell Mobility phone; ordered Rogers to compensate me for driving my son back and forth to school for three days (soccer moms of the world rejoice!!); and the judge ordered Rogers to pay me $2,000 in punitive damages for having immorally, egregiously, and maliciously shut off my young son's cell phone in their efforts to force me to pay over $14,000 for calls that I never made.
As a law professor, and a legal anthropologist by specialization, I decided to use the substantial delays in the Canadian court system to turn my dispute with Rogers into a research project.
This web site was set up in the spring of 2006 to facilitate that research project. The overall content can be accessed by way of the Table of Contents, at which I provide the reader of this web site with a synoptic overview of the issues and themes that I cover. At the Table of Contents, the reader can manoeuvre throughout the web site at their pleasure and according to their whimsies.
For some of the files on this web site, you will need to have access to Quickplace and Adobe 7 If you do not already have these programs on your computer, you can download the from Quickplace and Abobe.
The following is a breakdown in prose form of the objectives of both my research and the various aims and aspirations of this web site. It serves as an introduction to the web site as a whole. The first five headings of the introduction correspond to the five main headings on the Table of Contents":
1. Once upon a time...(The story in a nutshell)
2. The Scoop (Media coverage)
3. Rogers and You (Consumer issues and participation)
4. Rogers and Me: The Law Suit" (History of Me v. Rogers Wireless Inc.)
5. Rogers and Me: The Legal Ethnography" (Rogers and Me as an object of study)
Before laying bare the various levels at which this web site is intended to operate, let me point out a recurring theme that runs throughout it: the relationship between law and social justice. As social justice is, or (let me underline this clearly as a law professor) ought to be, one of the recurring themes in the law and its practice, I have invoked two familiar and primitive figures to metaphorically encapsulate that ideal relationship between social justice and the law: Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.
The flip side of the napkin: a children's story
J.J.Robinette, one of Canada's most famous trial lawyers, once advised aspiring young lawyers that if he or she couldn't reduce their legal argument to a pleading that could be written on the back of a napkin, their case case was sunk.
Neither Rogers nor I have followed that advice in small claims court. It might be worth a trip to small claims court in Toronto, along with the $10 fee the court charges the public to look at a court file, just to visually take in the significant volume of filings that both sides have generated in this case. It is no exaggeration to say that the file weighs 15 lbs and has the visual depth of 5 print volumes of the printed Toronto phone directory. At one point, Rogers had taken to serving me with four hefty volumes of motion materials at a shot.
You'd have to know that most small claims court filings are hand-written on one page, at most two, of a court form to appreciate just how terribly seriously Rogers took this wee little small claims court case.
In lieu, then, of that napkin back, I submit (for this web site) an analogous reduction, a la J.J. Robinette, of my legal argument to a children's bed time tale.
At the most basic level, rogersandme.ca recounts a morality tale, and one that should be accessible to the simplest amongst us. This web site recounts a story about an old and familiar villain and a vulnerable, yet, insouciant protagonist.
1. Once upon a time...
Because Rogers punitively shut off my young son's cell phone just days before he was about to embark on his first solo journey through the dark and forbidding forest of the Toronto Subway System, I feel some fidelity to the child's perspective in this recounting. I have therefore set a children's fairy tale running as a recurrent theme throughout the site: Little Red Riding Hood. This telling of the oft recounted story, however, is a refreshing take on the gripping tension between the vulnerable and powerful: I've adopted Phillippe Corentin's Mademoiselle Sauve-qui-peut (or Little Miss Run-for-your-lives) as the running motif of this morality tale.
I have tried to invoke Corentin's outlandish little character with good humour; however I'm not sure that I have been able to escape the lure of the engagingly bratty and childish Little Miss Run-for-your-lives. She crosses all boundaries with impunity, aggravating all in her path with her apparent obliviousness to the rules and established norms of conduct, and her apparently complete indifference to decorum.
Little Miss Run-for-your-lives appears to be the antithesis of the conventional lawyer, that properly suited and stodgy officer of the court.
And yet, she also appears to be the embodiment of Pierre Bourdieu's transcultural definition of excellence: one who plays the game according to the rules, right up to the point of transgression, all the while remaining wholly within the rules.
For lawyers and law students driven by a vision of social justice, Little Miss Run-for-your-lives appears to be the embodiment of the requisite spirit for the undertaking.
I do have some sympathy for the corporate lawyers and other stolid types who stumble across Little Miss Run-for-your-lives' path: her approach to the law is both vexatious and exhausting and forever abruptly and rudely shoving the discourse onto unpredictable tracks.
Yes indeed: I feel sympathy for corporate lawyers and their kin, and indeed even for that crusty old villain Ted Rogers - in the same way that Corentin's tale invites us to have some sympathy for the poor old wolf with his perpetual shadow of a bad rap.
While Little Miss Run-for-your-lives runs through the web site speaking to the child (or, if you prefer, the childish) in all of us, beyond my translation and partial reproduction of Corentin's children's book, this web site is not particularly directed to an audience of children. The web site operates at an essential level as a morality tale, but it also operates at several other levels as well:
2. Rogers and Me: The Scoop
At a second level, this web site summarizes the events relating to my debacle with Rogers. It is here that I have posted the media coverage relating to Rogers and me. And I've attempted to provide some ongoing narrative regarding developments and breaking news so that the ordinary reader, curious about what happened in my legal dispute with Rogers, can track the story as it emerged.
I've also posted here the entire conversation between Harry Gefen and the head of Rogers' Law Enforcement Department that prompted the original story in the Globe and Mail on December 17, 2005 and that provoked Ted Rogers to call and leave an apology on my home phone. The conversation is posted as an audio-recording but is also available as a transcribed conversation.
3. Rogers and You
At a third level, this web site is an informational hub for Rogers' consumers seeking and giving advice and tips about how to deal with a telecommunications giant with vastly asymmetrical amounts of bargaining, financial, and legal power.
While I have posted my own suggestions about consumer recourses, and taken a stab at Rogers' frankly impenetrable consumer contract, I am also interested in hearing from consumers about how they have effectively dealt with the corporation. I have provided a means by which readers can submit their experiences with Rogers (chatter) and a place where these contributions can be read (gossip) by other visitors.
The contributions to this web site must be true and any opinions offered must be honestly held. The truth and honest opinion are the means by which contributors and I can protect ourselves from a libel suit from Rogers (and simultaneously remain ethical beings). It bears noting that I have a fair deal of evidence (entered repeatedly, as it happens, into the court record) that both Rogers and its lawyers are PLENTY bothered by this web site.
Unless contributors ask to be identified by name, I will post all comments anonymously and I will take every measure consistent with the law to protect contributors' confidentiality.
As this web site forms part of a larger research project, I would also like to use readers' contributions as a way to provide a more fulsome picture of Rogers' relationships with consumers. Confidentiality and anonymity will also be preserved for this larger project. If you submit a contribution to the web site, please also indicate whether you have objections to this secondary use of your contribution.
4. Rogers and Me: The Law Suit
At a fourth level, I have provided an ongoing narrative for the specific legal dispute in Small Claims Court in which I was engaged with Rogers. I have attempted to address, in this section, the various legal themes and issues that arose in my case.
Some of the material presents legal arguments by way of reference to statute and case law. But I have tried to bathe the legal material in a plain language prose context that makes it as accessible as possible to the non-legally trained reader. Where I've used a legal term or concept that a non-lawyer might have difficulty understanding, I've tried to provide links accessible on the World Wide Web (often to Wikipedia) with a plain language definition or exposé.
While Rogers' standard form consumer contract is written in small print and uses legalese that is virtually incomprehensible to the ordinary consumer, I have made every effort to ensure my writings about law are transparent and easily understood.
If you have difficulty understanding a legal term or argument that I have used, I would appreciate hearing from you (submit a question or comment to chatter) and I will do my best to clarify things on the web site.
Please note, however, that I am not a lawyer and so I cannot give legal advice about specific disputes. Further, the legal content of this web site should not be taken as legal advice.
5. Rogers and Me: The Legal Ethnography
At a fifth level, I have set aside a place where I lay out my observations of Rogers as an object of ethnographic inquiry. It is at this location that I provide a brief overview of the objectives and approaches of this research project.
I have transformed my legal dispute with Rogers, and my interactions with the corporation, into a fieldwork site for the observation of how corporations interact with consumers through their use of both formal and informal law.
As the tale about my legal dispute with Rogers emerged, I posted brief essays containing my observations. Some of these writings are rough and not very far removed from raw field notes; others are slightly more refined and reflective.
Again, I have tried to maintain an accessible style of writing through this last, and more theoretical, level of the web site. Where I've used terms of art, I've done my best to provide publicly accessible links that provide a more elaborate explanation about their meaning.
LAYERS OF LEGAL UNDERSTANDING
Understanding the Law
I am aware that a Princeton professor has been using this Rogers and Me story to teach a course about information technology and public policy. A political philosophy professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland told me she uses the site as a teaching instrument for understanding moral philosophy in its contemporary context. And a professor at Carleton is supervising a graduate law student attempting to understand consumer activism through (amongst other things) this web story.
But I have also been told that several of my colleagues who teach at law schools across Canada have begun using the web site as a pedagogical tool in their classrooms to teach a range of subjects from alternative dispute resolution to contract law. It is also towards this latter level of doctrinal legal intrigue that this web site is also pitched.
Law professors typically pursue one of three types of scholarly writing in their professional careers:
i) One form of legal academic writing looks at law as a phenomenon and studies it from this detached vantage, analyzing law as an object, for example, of theoretical or social or anthropological or political study. The aspect of this research project that is devoted to examining Rogers as a law-and-society case study fits into that research paradigm.
ii) A second type of legal academic writing focuses on law reform, picking up on lacunas and jarring dissonances between law and society, and proposing ways that governments could make the law better correspond to society's needs. There is a good deal of this web site that explicitly or implicitly suggests ways that our governments could reform the legal system so that consumer needs are more fairly addressed, on a more level playing field with gargantuan corporations. For example, this web site implicitly advocates that Ontario should adopt Quebec's model for small claims court which excludes lawyers and collection agencies from the court in order to protect the vulnerabilities of the unrepresented parties who constitute the bulk of small claims court litigants. That is one example of law reform oriented scholarship in action.
iii) A third type of legal research is devoted to what, in the scientific field, might be called the pure sciences: those research endeavours that do not necessarily bring about practical changes in the world of medicine or generate new patents but which are nevertheless foundational for the development of these more practical applications. Legal scholars sometimes undertake legal analysis of doctrines, legal institutions, and jurisprudence in order to explicate more robustly the black letter law in a particular field.
This web site also operates as a piece of doctrinal legal writing, in the third paradigm of legal research. This type of analysis of the black letter law forms a substantial part of what we teach law students across Canada. Law students need to know how to draft and interpret a contract; and how to assist clients who have contractual problems, or have suffered damages that might fit into a legally recognized category.
Layers and Layers
There may indeed be other levels at which this web site operates. For instance at the outer margins of the web site, I've linked out to peripherally related material, much of it, like the internet as a whole, perpetually renewing and re-arranging itself as unpredictably as gossip. I understand also that others have started to create links to this site which adds to it whole other layers of intertextuality, generating unpredictable new levels of meaning. While I have provided a more or less stable structure of meaning for this web site, that structure vibrates with these destabilizing elements.
And of course, this web site, and the research project that surrounds it, had a law suit at the eye of its vortex, a law suit that was unfolding in real time; a law suit in which I was pitted against a very powerful and cunning adversary, which owns a sizeable chunk of the Canadian media, represented by a formidable legal team and a well-endowed public relations department, both of which were apparently interacting quite actively with the web site and its implications. As the web site was unfolding with the law suit at its vortex, I was aware that at any turn I could have been foiled, or boiled alive in legals, and my actions re-interpreted and uber-spun by powerful media machine.
As this web site persists (and as it presumably remains an open irritant to Rogers and Rogers' legal team), its cheery tea-time-on-the-lawn motif continues to be menaced by dark figures furtively lurking behind the trees at the margins. Having access to my web stats, I have a fair idea about who is watching from beyond the edge of the forest and with what regularity. As Rogers received an inglorious "whack" from the courts (to use the language of the leading Supreme Court case on punitive damages) I suppose I should live, myself, in anticipation of a SLAPP - and then the story that has thus far settled will be perturbed again by another tussle between us using our respective arsenals of formal and informal law.
This web site, then, weaves an incomplete web. Its threads expand; they may be rended. I am still relatively close to the tangle; and some of the occult levels of meaning and import hovering about this web site, are not yet fully accessible to me.
The Architecture of this Web Site as a Whole
Throughout this web project, then, I have tried to create a web site that is accessible in its entirety to the demographic that read the original Globe and Mail article about Rogers and me that appeared on December 17, 2005. I have tried to make plain language the prevailing writing style of the web site.
But I have layered the web site for those who come to it with different interests and differing levels of curiosity:
1) those who want consumer information and who want to share their Rogers'
experiences with a community of like-minded consumers and web surfers;
2) those who want an overview of this Rogers and me story;
3) those who are curious about the legal dimensions of the dispute between
Rogers and me;
4) those who are curious about Rogers as an object of ethnographic inquiry;
5) and those who have a doctrinal interest in the law that relates to my dispute
with Rogers and to this web site.
Inevitably, while I have tried to segregate the material on the web site so that it is designed to reach audiences that bring distinct interests and inquiries, there will be overlaps between each level of inquiry. Sometimes this will happen as links on the pages of one level bleed onto the pages of another. And sometimes material might be grouped at several levels simultaneously. For example, an experience that a reader contributes to the "Rogers and You" section may well be analyzed from an ethnographic point of view in the "Legal Ethnographies" section. Or a story about my law suit with Rogers might turn up in "The Scoop" section.
Rogers and Me: The Book
All of the materials on this web site will eventually be grouped together and groomed for a more coherent presentation on a contemporary legal-sociological phenomenon: the telecommunications giant. Although this web site is a research project-in-progress, I am eventually planning to collect all of the materials on this web site and synthesize them into an academic book using Rogers as my case study.
The book should emerge out of scholarly reflection upon all that is reposed upon this web site and all of the nebulous material that hovers about it in the form of conversations and emails I've had with a huge range of people about my debacle with Rogers. It will also be constituted out of what librarians would call my "grey literature" on Rogers: the boxes of loose documents, reports, related laws, and legal articles that have accumulated in my study, and the copious lists of internet bookmarks pointing to related links.
Crowded though my research space has become, I welcome further contributions that might fill out my perspective on Rogers.
"Rogers and Me: The Book" does not yet, therefore, have a full blown presence on this web site, except in incipient form. The visitor to this web site is free to decipher the book's eventual meaning and content between the cracks and lines of this web site; and I would be delighted to hear how others make sense of this whole experience.
On the Record/Off the Record
With postings to the web site and in any eventual use made of contributions to it, I will not publish any identifying information regarding any comment that is submitted and the confidentiality of contributors will be protected to the maximum extent provided by law. On the other hand...
Rogers has complained to small claims court several times in its court pleadings that I have set up this web site. The Vice President of Rogers Communications Department has gone so far as to swear an affidavit attesting to her knowledge of the web site's existence. Rogers' legal team desperately tried to make an issue out of the web site at the trial (to no avail). None of Rogers' legal pleadings assert a cause of action that would elevate these complaints to any more than disgruntled grumblings about negative publicity. The
Small Claims Court judge cried no river alongside Ted Rogers and his legal team; in fact her response to Rogers' legal whining about consumer internet advocacy was something along the lines of a irate school marm teaching a tattling brat the "sticks and stones will break my bones..." refrain.
While I am confident that I have violated no laws with this web site, and while it has been Rogers and not me that persistently drew the court's attention to its existence, I am also confident that Rogers could not be more fully apprised of the fact that this web site exists and that comments made by Rogers personnel, as well as the lawyers associated with my small claims dispute, are comments made "on the record". After all, they're being paid the big bucks to manage disputes for Rogers, both in the courts, and in the public eye.
While Ted Rogers' apology did not bring an end to my dispute with Rogers, I am also of the firm conviction that when Ted Rogers called my home phone and left a message on my answering machine on December 17, 2005, he was fully aware that that message was thereby entering the public record:
Throughout the day on December 17, Rogers was attempting to get a hold of me to stop me from doing further damage by expanding my commentary in the media. Indeed, inundated by calls from the national media on the day that the Globe and Mail story broke, Ted Rogers called me on my cell phone as I was on my way to CBC and CTV television to give interviews. Because I was in the car and it was not therefore safe to speak on the cell phone, I told Ted Rogers to call my home phone and leave a message.
Throughout that day, as journalists were calling Rogers' corporate communications department for a comment on the Globe and Mail story, Rogers informed reporters that the corporation was attempting to get a hold of me to apologize. Rogers had to settle, in others words, with telling the media that their efforts at damage control were still just an "attempt" to apologize; it was this "attempt" to apologize that was reported on national radio and television throughout the day.
In the media-intense circumstances of December 17, 2005, a figure as public as Ted Rogers could have no expectation of privacy in a recorded message left on my home phone. I am indeed certain that Ted Rogers and his corporation would have liked nothing better than for me to announce at the earliest possible moment to the media that Ted Rogers had fully executed his apology and cleared the air a trifle. This would have enabled Rogers to bring the story to a close and to manage damage control at the corporation's own pace.
By leaving a message on my home answering machine on December 17, 2005 Rogers chose to enter Ted Rogers' apology into the public domain. And it is there that it is now reposed, tightly wrapped at the specific location on the World Wide Web that is constituted by this web site. Like most things on the net, it will eventually blow away on the winds of time, along with the threads of this tale. In the meantime, Rogers and Me is a hub of meaning dedicated to catching the heft of a big plump corporation marauding its way through early 21st century Canadian law and society.
Questions and comments about this web site or the overall research project of which it forms a part are most welcome and can be submitted to me, off the record, at chatter.
While writers of academic books and articles are almost universally provided copy and content editors to ensure that they don't commit an idiocy in print, this web site relies upon your generosity in providing me with feedback regarding how to improve its style, tone, architecture, and content - and also regarding typos, spelling, and grammar.
Tea Without Ted
Ted Rogers still hasn't take up his comittment to come to tea.
But you're invited to Tea without Ted.
The Spread: Table of Contents