The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
but in ourselves, that we are underlings.
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, cited by Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt in U.S. Is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls
My relationship with Verizon goes back a decade or more, since I installed Verizon’s FIOS in my house in Reston VA. FIOS is a good service and I really had next to no problems with it until 2010, when everything got interesting.
To make a long story short: Verizon wants us to pay a $200 ‘early termination fee’ to close my dead father’s landline account.
My mother and father lived with me, my wife, and our sons in Reston for 20 years, and when we transitioned to FIOS from Comcast, we switched the landline and cable to Verizon at the same time. The account was in my parent’s name, although we paid the bill from a joint household account.
In early 2010 my mom passed away, and we tried to change the name on the account, which led to a huge mess (see A Take Of Two Companies; Verizon And Verizon) where our landline, cable and internet were temporarily cut off by the dumb side of Verizon, and we were rescued by the smart side of Verizon.
This is about the dumb side of Verizon, again.
In July my dad moved to an assisted care facility. So that my dad could continue to have land line phone service, my wife called Verizon to move the landline number to the facility, and to direct the bills to us, and not to my dad. However, instead of just changing the name on the bill, Verizon insisted that the the only way to continue land line phone service for my dad would be to open a new account, one with a two year contract. In the heat of the moment, we created the account, having no idea how long my father would be with us.
My dad died at in October, and we’ve tried to close the account. Verizon continued to bill us for several months, and insists that we owe a $200 early termination fee.
My wife, Sarah has had three conversations with Verizon reps, and each time they promise to close the account and send the final bill. At the end of her last conversation with them, they refused to reverse the early termination fee, and suggested that she speak to someone in the “escalation department.” She left a message for someone in that department to call, and they have not returned the call.
I understand that customer support is difficult and companies need to make money, but this goes way over some important line. Honestly, this makes me despair for the human race.
If there is someone in Verizon reading this, please take steps to clear this up. I will print a follow up in a few weeks, one way or the other.
Original post: 27 Jan 2011
I emailed AT&T, suggesting that since Verizon is trying so hard to get AT&T iPhone customers to switch, and since many have reported being able to get their former unlimited data plans reinstated, I would like to get the old plan back, too, please. No dice.
Dear Stowe Boyd,
Thank you for taking the time to e-mail AT&T regarding reinstating your unlimited data plan. My name is Kellye Johnson, and I am happy to help you with your inquiry.
Stowe Boyd, unfortunately due to you have changed to the 2GB data plan that includes tethering, we unfortunately are not able to reinstate the data plan.
Oh, obviously, since you are paying extra for tethering, as well as paying for the data plan, you are obviously an idiot, and we aren’t going to help you a bit.
I encourage you to visit our web site (www.att.com/wireless) often to view current and previous monthly statements, make payments and to shop for new product and service offerings.
If you need to contact us again regarding a new issue please send us another e-mail via the contact link through your online account.
Stowe Boyd, we recognize that you have a choice in wireless providers and we thank you for choosing AT&T and being a valued customer for several years. My name is Kellye Johnson, and our goal is to continue to provide you with excellent service.
Online Customer Care Professional
Ok. Thanks for the help, Kellye.
I guess I will have to take a long look at Verizon.
I already have an unlimited data plan with Verizon, because I have a mifi card with them.
More to follow.
Update - 30 January: I responded to the previous email by saying ‘I don’t understand why you can’t,’ and received the following:
Dear Stowe Boyd,
Due to the nature of your concern, your account has been assigned to a specialty group that will conduct research and follow-up with you via phone or email within one business day (Monday-Friday). We want to ensure that we provide you with total resolution for your issues/concerns.
Please note that when the representative contacts you to discuss account details with you they will need to perform account verification for the protection of your information. Also, when we call you back we may be listed as an unknown number or our toll free number may display on your caller ID.
Online Customer Care Professional
Who knows. They may actually do the right thing.
Update: 31 January
Got another email, although I was told in the last one I would be contacted by phone:
Dear Stowe Boyd,
This is a follow-up email in regards to why you couldn’t have the unlimited iphone data plan again. On 9/30/2010 you add tethering to your iphone which doing so requires you to go with the 2 gb data package with tethering for $45. We do not have an unlimited data + tethering plan. When you agreed to the 2gb data package with tethering package any previous packages you had is no longer available which is your issue at this come can not be re-added. When you change from a plan or feature package and at a later date want to make a change, you can only make a change to an existing plan or feature that is available and the unlimited iphone data plan is not an existing feature that is available to add.
Stowe Boyd, should you have additional concerns or questions about this issue please reply to this email. If you need to contact us again regarding a new issue please send us a new email via the contact link through your online account. We realize that there are many choices in the wireless market, and we thank you for choosing AT&T!
National E-Care Resolution Team
Obviously, what I am being told is ‘tough luck.’
But I don’t see why I can’t have an unlimited data plan with tethering. Why not? What’s the difference what I am doing with my unlimited data access. It’s unlimited, right?
And they wonder why so many people just jailbreak their phones.
Guys - I am trying to do the right thing, but this angle where you are gouging me for rejinkulous amounts of cash to tether is nuts.
Update: Feb 1st
Had an annoying phone call with Sarah Rudd of AT&T. She called me to let me know that AT&T has some procedure set up where some people are getting their unlimited data plans reinstated. The criteria for reinstatement are not known to her — ‘it’s some other group, not in my building.’ But there is not option for unlimited data with tethering. Her explanation is that there has never been such a plan, so they can’t reinstate it for me.
I know there is no such plan. But this isn’t because of the physics of telecommunications: it’s because AT&T wants to gouge customers. The only possible reason to *not* offer tethering on an unlimited plan is that people would use it, and AT&T would lose a bunch of money that they get now by charging $10 every time I hit the limit, and need more bandwidth.
Dear Mr. Boyd,
This is a follow up e-mail from AT&T to confirm our conversation at 2:15 pm CST on 2/01/2011. My name is Sarah Rudd, and I am happy to help you with your inquiry.
I called to speak with you regarding submitting a case to have your iPhone Data Unlimited for $30.00 reinstated on your account. I explained that submitting this case would not be a guarantee that this feature would be added back and that you would not have the ability to tether with this plan as this ability was never included in the iPhone data plans before the change to our new features. You declined to have this case submitted as you did not want to lose your tethering ability. I did forward your request to have this option available in the future to management who will provide it to marketing for consideration and review.
Mr. Boyd, we thank you for allowing us the opportunity to assist you with your account. If we can be of further assistance, please contact us at http://www.att.com/wireless. Should you have additional concerns or questions about this issue please reply to this email. If you need to contact us again regarding a new issue please send us a new email via the contact link through your online account. My name is Sarah Rudd and thank you for choosing AT&T!
National eCare Resolution Team
So, they are giving me every incentive to move to Verizon.
Dan Lyons is wrong in nearly every bit of market prognostication, as John Gruder adroitly takes his argument out behind the barn.
But Gruder leaves out the most basic point: Microsoft formerly licensed its Windows Mobile software to a dozen or more mobile companies. It fell like a stone. So the idea that having a wide variety of manufacturers developing on a mobile OS = guaranteed success is just wrong.
I am willing to bet that Verizon’s iPhone will be a big success.
In a post on the Google official blog, the search giant’s Richard Witt takes exactly the wrong tack in trying to clarify what Google is up to with Verizon on net neutrality. First of all, using the rhetorical device of contrasting ‘myths’ (what others are saying) with ‘facts’ (what Google is saying) is condescending.
And when you dig into it, the truth is that Google and Verizon have worked together to propose a sweeping policy that is a giant step away from net neutrality. They have proposed treating mobile access to the Internet as separate from the immobile web, and allowing the mobile marketplace to be largely unfettered from regulation.
This lines up neatly with how players like Google and Verizon want to run their businesses, but does not obviously accord with the interests of users, or smaller innovative competitors to Google and Verizon, like Facebook, who has taken a stance opposing the Google/Verizon proposal.
I hope the the FCC gets approval to mandate net neutrality before all the oligarchs pay off enough of our elected officials to let this slimy maneuver become the law of the land. I hope that our congress remembers that the Internet does not belong to the corporations who want to milk it for all its worth: it belongs to us, like the air and the oceans. David Weinberger once said that the opposite of open is not closed; the opposite of open is theirs.
Reads like the Spain and Portugal dividing up the world at the Treaty of Tordesillas. So much for Net Neutrality.
My mother recently passed away, and we are starting — a few weeks later — to start to dig out from the more humdrum aspects of that, such as switching the name on certain bills. Now, my mother and father have lived with me for over 20 years, and we pay everything out of a shared bank account that we all contribute to. But my wife, Sarah, is taking over much of the bill paying, so she recently tried to switch the name on the account to hers instead of my dad’s.
And that’s the beginning of a long tale.
Apparently, Verizon wants to treat a situation like this as a new account. Sarah said, more or less, Ok, but it’s the same folks, the same address, same service. Unbeknownst to her, the person on the phone cancelled the old account, created a new one, and pressed various buttons. Sarah was told the switchover would be on 29 March, but nothing else: no warning of what was coming.
Then last Friday, a box arrived with instructions on how to pack up our gear and mail it to Verizon. Sarah planned to call them this morning to find out what was going on. However, when we woke up this morning, the internet, TV, and landline to the house were all down. I found a message on the TV with a number to call and a code. Sarah called, and we fell into the shadow of Verizon.
The first person handed Sarah off to someone in charge of angry customers. He told us that there was nothing he or Verizon could do. Yes, we would have to ship back all our gear: including the programmed DVR that my 85-year-old Dad uses, other cable boxes and our router. Yes, someone would arrive in the next day (or so) with exactly the same gear, which would be reconfigured to work. Of course this would mean reprogramming the DVR, learning new devices, getting a new password for a new router and so on.
Sarah was handed off to someone to actually schedule the onsite installation, etc. Sarah pointed out that we hadn’t been notified, and the scheduler pointed out that someone might have called the landline, which only my Dad uses: and he doesn’t use the voicemail.
This guy also suggested that the technician might be able to simply note down all the serial numbers of the existing machinery, but he couldn’t be sure if that was allowed.
I started twittering, and sending a series of message to @verizon, @verizonsupport, and any other verizon twitter account I could find.
About an hour later, I got a very nice Twitter response from someone called Marcus, who then called me up, and proceded to back out of the mess. He was able to reset the Internet, the TV, and the phone from his desk (although I did have to open the phone box and test two ports with a phone, but that was all). I encountered some weird bug with my Mac connecting to the wifi, but that turned out to be my Mac, not related to Verizon, and I straightened it out anyway.
Apparently, we are going to be getting the bills in Sarah’s name, without changing the gear, or any other ridiculous disruption.
So why is it that the initial person Sarah talked to a few weeks ago didn’t process her order that way? Why did we ‘have to’ get a new account? Presumably that clerk is compensated for closing new accounts. Someone at Verizon should track her down and have a short discussion about fooling with people’s time like it has no value.
And the first two people we talked to via the old school approach of calling customer support on the phone basically told us that it was too bad, and obviously stupid, but there was just no going back, no way to fix this except by going ahead with swapping the gear. But somehow Marcus — the new Verizon customer support contact via Twitter — was able to do what the other folks said was impossible, against the rules, immutable.
So, one of these things has to be true:
Also, I have learned that when people say ‘there is no way to do that’ it may not be true, especially when the thing that can’t be done is obvious and saves everyone time and money.
The lesson for Verizon to learn is about stupidity and intelligence. Don’t make your processes stupid. And hire more people like Marcus, who was obviously intelligent and well-trained, and knew how to do the thing everyone else said couldn’t be done, and then did it.
I wasn’t even surprised when the answer to my support question sent to Verizon (Cingular) came bad with an answer that I had tried already, and just doesn’t work.
Thank you for contacting our Verizon Wireless website. I will be more than happy to assist you with installing your USB720 drivers on your Macbook.
I apologize you are experiencing difficulty installing our VZAccess Manager software for your USB720 modem. Since you are changing devices, I suggest downloading the latest VZAccess Manager software from our website. To do so, please visit www.vzam.net. Once downloaded, please create your connection with the steps below:
1. Launch VZAccess by locating it’s icon on the Dock. If no VZAccess icon is present, open “Finder” on the Dock, then navigate to the “Applications” folder and double-click the VZAccess Manager icon.
2. Click on “Options” then “Run Setup Assistant…” from the VZAccess Manager Menu Bar.
3. Ignore “Check for updates” and select “Continue”
4. Select 2nd option (Detect WWAN device only) and click “Continue”
5. Ensure card is inserted and select “Continue”
6. On the “Select Wireless Account” screen select “Continue”
7. Enter the appropriate password to create wireless accounts.
8. Once accounts have been created, click on “Continue”
9. Click on “continue” once setup is complete.
10. Click on “Close” to complete the setup.
Should you need additional assistance, please contact our Wireless Data Technical Support department at your convenience. We are available 6am to 11pm, seven days a week. Our contact number is 1-800-922-0204 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-922-0204 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, select option number 3 for Technical Support. We appreciate your business and thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.
Data Technical Support
If you have received this e-mail in error or are not the intended recipient, please notify us immediately by replying to this e-mail and deleting it and all copies and backups thereof. If you are the intended recipient and are a Verizon Wireless customer, this response is subject to the terms of your Customer Agreement.
The real answer is to delete all the Verizon software, and install the new Apple WWAN drivers and connection software called “Verizon Card”. Note that this software has Verizon’s logo on it, although it is copyrighted Apple and downloaded from Apple.com. Works like a charm.