April 14, 2009

The Verizon also sets

I've been busy losing a war on technology and have had little energy left to actually type anything into this decaying white box.

The most exhausting series of events over the past few weeks have involved Verizon and my "new" LG Dare mobile phone. Since I have told this story seventeen hundred thousand fucking times (and each time the preamble statistics have grown exponentially), I may as well make a digital record of it. Here goes. Let's try to do this chronomotographicogistically.

2002. I become a Verizon customer.

2002-2008. I remain a loyal Verizon customer and never have any service complaints. At some point I stop using Motorola phones because I had too many charging input issues. I switch to LG and never have a single problem with their phones.

Nov. 2008.
I have had an LG 8300 over two years and it shows no signs of aging, other than some cosmetic wear. As part of Verizon's New Every Two program, I am eligible for a free or discounted new phone with the two year extension of my contract, but opt not to take advantage of it.

Dec. 2008. I thought I lost my phone, but it was just a false alarm. It is still enough of a wake-up call to make me think a little more seriously about getting another phone as a backup, just in case I ever do lose or break the 8300.

After some intense research and a hands-on demo, I finally decide on a touchscreen phone called the LG Dare. I find the phone on Verizon's website, select the discounted rate with two-year activation, and pay the remaining fee with my debit card.

Amazingly, the phone arrives on my desk the next morning. I open it up and charge it. I play with it for a few minutes, but am too busy to give it much attention. It is the holiday season, and I have a lot of end-of-year work to finish, and I'm also in the process of moving to a new apartment. Simply put, I don't have the time to learn how to use a new phone. I put it back in its box and pack it away.

March 26, 2009 - I get a message from Verizon about a past due payment. I open up my paper bill and discover a $330 equipment charge assessed to me a month earlier. I call up customer service and explain the situation. Apparently, if you acquire a phone via the New Every Two program, you are required to activate your new mobile phone within 10 days, or Verizon will charge you full price for it. They assume that you have sold the phone on Ebay, or worse, activated it on a different carrier. My options at this point:
  • Pay the $330 equipment charge and continue using the 8300 for as long as I want
  • Return the new phone and pay a $35 "restocking fee"
  • Activate the Dare in person at a Verizon Wireless Store (because the original activation code has expired). The store may decide to wave the $35 activation fee because of my circumstances.
March 27 - I pay the monthly charges for February and March on my bill, leaving exactly $330 as the remaining balance.

March 28 - I go to the Verizon Wireless Store at Union Square in Manhattan. A salesman quickly swoops in and asks how I can be assisted. I start explaining my situation and he immediately cuts me off and shuffles me over a sign-in kiosk. I enter my name and get into the service queue. The customer service folks call a name and no one responds. They call the several times, then ask me if I am that person. "No," I say. They decide it's now my turn anyway.

I tell my story again and the person behind the counter tells me that I've probably been charged because I did not return my broken phone when I received my replacement phone. She clearly wasn't paying any attention to my storytelling. I tell her she's got it wrong and attempt to explain again. She then picks up the phone and calls Verizon Customer Service. Yes, the Verizon Customer Service Rep I'm speaking to in person is calling Verizon Customer Service on the phone for assistance. She quickly gives up in trying to explain my situation to the rep on the phone (because she never had a grasp of it in the first place) and then hands the phone to me. The rep on the phone tells me that the problem is not so much that I didn't activate the new phone, but that I did not activate the new two-year contract to receive the discounted price. I assumed that simply purchasing the phone at the discounted two-year contract price was enough to take of that, but I guess I was wrong.

At this point, I am now transferred to another on-site service rep who is better equipped to take care of this mess for me. The rep on the phone and myself both shift over to a new booth. They talk on the phone for a few minutes and it seems everything is now honky dory. They hang up. The on-site rep informs me that I don't even need to activate the new phone at this time if I don't want to. I would rather just get everything wrapped up right there and then, so I go through the activation process. I also get my information transferred over from the old phone to the new phone (another reason I had been holding off putting the new phone to work for so long). They offer to transfer over my pictures and videos as well, but that will require an SD card. Fine, I was probably going to buy one anyway. All done. The LG Dare is in my hand, active, and ready to rock.

March 31 - The Verizon Customer Service rep I had spoken to on the phone while at the store follows up and leaves me a message. The equipment charge still not does appear to have been removed.

April 2
- I call up and explain the story to yet another Customer Service rep. They see that the store has activated my phone, but did not process the renewal of the two-year contract. They are going to send me a copy of my contract so I can manually sign it and return to them for processing. I confirm my correct address.

April 6 - The Verizon Billing Department calls me. My phone is scheduled for shut off because of non-payment. I tell her that I'm still waiting for my contract to arrive so that I can sign it and get the equipment charge removed, and I've in fact already paid the entire bill, except for that charge. She confirms the balance (technically, the balance is less than $330 because I've paid the March monthly charge several weeks in advance of its due date) and will "make a note of this."

April 9 - The phone is shut off. I call Verizon Customer Service, furious due to the lack of communication between the Service and Billing Departments and the constant mishandling of my account. As of the 9th, I still had not received the copy of the contract to sign and resend. It turns out it wasn't mailed until the 5th. The 5th was a Sunday, so really it went out on the 6th. The charge will be removed immediately once the contract is signed, but not until then. She explains my options:
  • Pay the $330 now and get a credit once the contract is straightened out. I refuse this on principle.
  • Go to a store and sign in person. Unfortunately, I'm at work, and obviously the store thing didn't work the first time.
  • Sign the contract when it arrives in the mail. Mail it back. Sit with my useless phone up my ass for a week or more.
What about just getting the phone turned back on until the mess is straightened out? That will have to be worked out with the Billing Department. Then bring on the fucking Billing Department. Again.

I'm transferred over to Billing. A woman with a thick Irish accent answers. I tell her that the only reason my account is being held up is due to a equipment charge that is in the process of being removed and that I've already paid all of my regular monthly usage charges.

"There's no equipment charge here," she says.

"Yes, there's a $330 equipment charge because my two year contract needs to be reactivated. I'm still waiting for that contract to arrive by mail."

"There's no record of any equipment charge. I'm looking here in my records and they don't show anything you're talking about."

"How far do your records go back?"

"All the way back to your first bill," she boasts.


She's still being extremely arrogant with me, mumbling while going over the bill, "Usage... Additional Services... Taxes.. Equipment Charge... $330..."


"I've already explained all of this to the Billing Department a week ago. She said she would make a note of this."

"It says here she escalated this to a supervisor and your exception was denied."

"It was denied?"

"Yes, it was denied."

"Un-fucking-believable. I've had it. Transfer me back to Customer Service."


"Customer service, this is SomeDude, and how are you doing today?"

"Not so great, actually."

"Aw, I'm sorry to hear that. Is there something I can do to help?"

"Yes." And then the eight words that I had no reason to ever say in seven years of being a Verizon customer, came out of my mouth. "I want to cancel my Verizon Wireless service." Little did I realize that those are the magic words to make the Customer Service team go into fucking overdrive.

It was like a switch. I felt like a different person. I felt like a truck. Suddenly, this guy was going to try things to figure out the problem. He would see what he could do with the Billing Department. While on hold, I was already dreaming about what I would do with a Google Phone on T-Mobile, or dare I say it, an iPhone on AT&T. I was fully prepared to dump Verizon if this shit was not fixed by the end of the phone call.

Amazingly, in less than ten minutes, he was able to freeze my account while we wait for the contract to arrive. And in a half-hour, he promised my phone would be turned on again. Quite a turn of events. Sure enough, my phone was reactivated. The contract arrived in the mail on the 11th, and I've since signed and returned it. I'm still getting the hang of the touchscreen technology, and the odd power of having the internet in my pocket at all times, but I'm glad I finally did activate the Dare. I have to be honest, the Verizon's Customer Service people were extremely friendly and understanding to me on the phone, despite my varying degrees of pissedoffedness. The people in Billing and at the store though, not the brightest, and certainly not the most helpful. Motherfuckers were this close || to losing me. We'll see what happens in two years (or sooner).


100monkeys said...

Fight the power. Fight the powers that be. Fucking phone service, man.

kcw said...

I absolutely hate cell phone stores. Whether they be Sprint or Verizon. Sprint stores are by far the worst. I've actually had some success at Verizon stores but only after getting the customer service rep shuffle and waiting way too many hours for something incredibly simple (add a phone to my plan).

The customer service reps will do anything to keep you while Billing people are just looking at numbers. Billing ppl just don't get that you either pay $0 and they lose a customer or you pay $0 and you pay them $x/month for 2 years.