When I got my discharge paperwork from the Army, the first stop after getting off the airplane was the Alltel store. After all, it was 2003 and you weren’t cool unless you had 4 pounds of plastic hanging from your belt. Alltel was the obvious choice for me as I had their service for years prior and was always treated like a valued customer. I did have the occasional billing error and/or disagreement, but they always stepped up and made a concerted effort to right the wrong. In Jan 2010, I signed a new contract with Alltel knowing the switch to Verizon was coming that spring and I would see an increase in costs if I didn’t have a contract in place. When Alltel was absorbed in my area, the transition was fairly painless and I saw no change in my contract terms and by all accounts, Verizon was honoring the Alltel contract terms. Fast forward to June 2011 and let the fun begin!
I received an advertisement from Verizon offering an early upgrade on my primary business line. I looked at the current offerings of phones and the Samsung Charge caught my eye. Long battery life, better camera, better document viewers than my BlackBerry…what’s not to love? I did my research on the phone but as a new release, there were only a few reviews published with the standard 1 or 2 negative points. The other 4G phones that were on the market all seemed to have equal cons, but their battery life was rated far less than the Charge. Called the number on the advertisement and signed up for an early renewal. The charge arrived and man-oh-man was that thing cool. As it was my first smart phone, the first week or so I hung up on a LOT of customers.
At first my customers were pretty understanding as many of them were making the transition themselves. After the 3rd week of the phone locking up, dropping calls, and making weird Matrix Movie sounds at me, I called the Verizon tech support line for help. From here kids, the ride turns south and enters a dark cave full of bumps and gore. I’ll abbreviate as much as possible to maintain a G rating.
Verizon tech support was inept, and customer service is like a polite executioner. I have no idea why they bother with courtesies.
For 2 months I fought tooth and nail to get a phone that worked. By the time I realized the problems with the phone weren't being caused by me, I was out of the “grace period” and they would only warranty the phone, not take a return. They sent me a new phone- it had the same problem. Replaced sim cards- no change. They walked me through changing settings- no dice. Elevated the ticket to a field engineer to check signal strength by my office- all okey doakey there. They ducked and weaved, danced like a butterfly, and pretended like this was a singular event and the Samsung Charge was a solid 4G phone on their network. Every time I’d point out that their tech support forum was filling up with thousands of similar reports they’d reply with a std answer- “Only people that have problems post on our forum”. My response- “Sounds like you’re ignoring the voice of the customer to me”. Oh how right I was.
After several conversations that escalated into rapid vulgarity at great volume to get their attention, they finally agreed to switch me out of the Charge to any other phone currently shown on the website. Since the Charge was the most expensive phone for sale at the time, they also agreed to credit any difference in the price I paid for the Charge, and the new phone I selected. BUT- In order to make this switch, I would have to sign a NEW contract. Wait a minute… I’ve just had 2 months of miserable customer service, and more missed expectations than Miss Cleo’s customers.. and you want me to pay for more of the same?
I pondered their offer for a few days and then called back for clarification. Me- “ To clarify, I have to sign a new contract to swap out the Charge, and the contract that has been in place for the prior 2 months will be cancelled”. Verizon- “That is correct sir”. Me-“ So with this new contract, the standard terms and conditions apply for new contracts which gives me a 14 day grace period to return the phone, and/or cancel the service without penalty.” Verizon- “That is correct sir. It will be a new contract effective when you activate the new phone. If you have additional questions you can refer to www.vzw.com/terms.”
I took them up on their offer. Picked out a junk phone to get the most credit back from the Charge, and less than an hour after I activated the phone, I was in a competitor’s store porting all numbers on my account. Given the fact that you’re reading this on this forum, you can probably foresee what’s coming. A few weeks after porting all numbers, I receive a bill for nearly $800. At first I got a good laugh. It was clear to me they hit me with an ETF for swapping out the Charge. This was a clear error on their part as I switched service, and returned all equipment within the 14 day grace period. I tried to access my online account to see an itemization of the charges on my bill and they had locked me out!
I called customer service and asked for a breakdown of the charges. He rattled off the normal stuff and then listed a $350 ETF for the contract on the Charge. I explained that this was an obvious error and recited the conversation I had with operator xyz, and pointed out that all cancellations and returns happened well within the 14 day grace period. His response- “Sir, your contract went into effect 2.5 months ago, when we swapped out the Charge, it was done on a management exception. There is no new contract. “ Me- “WHAAATTT!!!”
I asked for an itemization of all charges on my account to be mailed to me since they locked me out of the online account. A month goes by, I get another bill for the $800 or so plus late charges, no itemization. I called again, and requested the itemization again. “Yes sir, it will go out in the mail today”. Couple weeks later, still nothing.
I finally got fed up and stopped by my lawyer’s office. I gave him a quick rundown and since I've paid for his last 2 vacation properties, he agreed to review it pro bono. He got a good laugh. I record all phone conversations related to business, and he actually listened to them all. Afterwards, we sat down and tried to determine what I was liable for, and what I wasn’t. From what we could determine, I owed less than half of what Verizon was billing me for.
We drafted a simple settlement proposal, stapled the settlement amount to the letter, and mailed it in. If they deposited the attached check, they accepted the settlement and agreed to discharge the erroneous charges. If they didn’t agree to the terms we were to immediately enter arbitration per the contract and the check was void. Well, they deposited the check…..and then sent me another bill.
For the final time I called customer service and tried to talk sense into them. Remember my previous comment about an executioner? I’ve never heard a blank stare through a phone before; this time I did. It was like she was surprised that I was still talking while hanging from the rope. Her only comment was that if I didn’t pay it immediately, it would be turned over to collections. I reminded her that they accepted our settlement offer and she said there was no record of them ever receiving one. Geez…I have the cancelled check, the delivery confirmation, etc…..Kinda par for the course though.
About 3 months after that conversation, I get a notice from my credit watch service that Verizon has posted a collection account on my credit report. Not happy was I. I contacted all 3 credit bureaus and sent in copies of the settlement agreement as requested. 2 of the 3 immediately removed the posting and I’m convinced the 3rd works directly for Verizon. As I never use my personnel credit anymore, it was more of an annoyance than anything. I quickly figured out how to run the collection thugs off and I really had much bigger fish to fry than Verizon kicking and screaming over a couple hundred bucks.
Exactly 1 year later (Spring 2013) I get another notice from my credit watch service that Verizon had refreshed the posting and relisted it with all 3 bureaus. That’s it, I've had enough. I did some reading online, including this forum and found the link to the executive escalation dept. E-mailed a summary of the activities that took place to Joan Bowyer and I was quite shocked when they called me about 12 hours after I submitted it.
Once again I got nowhere-albeit they do sound like direct Verizon employees and not someone on work-release. They are still claiming that there was no contract signed 2 months after the original, and the balance is still valid. Sure…..and for our next trick……
If I had to surmise what drove all this, I would point to a 3rd party call center and the metrics they use and/or poor training. Listening time and again to the conversation I had that renewed the contract, I don’t hear any deception in the voice of the operator, but he does stumble a bit when I’m pushing him for answers. I’ve done business with some really shoddy fly-by-night outfits in the past and this isn’t the first time I’ve had a deal turn on me. However, this is the first time I’ve found such a large company to be so deceptive and obtuse. Lesson learned.
From where I sit, it appears Verizon bent over backwards to help you. When you bailed out on not 1, but 2 contracts, Verizon decided to hold you accountable. Maybe I misread your long post.