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Can you hear me now?

Here’s a fun story that ends with Jeff getting screwed.

I’ve been a Verizon wireless customer for many years. Tracy and I bought each other cell phones back in the mid-90’s when we were driving back and forth between Louisville and Notre Dame all the time. It wasn’t Verizon Wireless back then, but it was some company who got bought out and then bought out again by Verizon Wireless. So I think I’ve been an official VW customer for 6-8 years or so.

Several years ago, we converted the two phones onto a family plan — where you have multiple phones on a single bill. The idea is that you pay the bulk for the first phone and then a smaller increment for each additional phone on the account, and you all share a common pool of minutes per month. When we made the change, it was a net savings for us, and seemed like a good deal.

Over time, we’ve upgraded our phones. Verizon has a “new every 2” program where they basically heavily subsidize [sometimes even to the point of fully paying for] a new phone every 2 years. This is actually a good deal for Verizon because it virtually eliminates all the older technology phones deployed by customers (apparently many people come in every 2 years to the day to upgrade their phones — we tended to wait until our phones died, which was typically around 2.5-3 years). They also lock you into a contract for 1-2 years when you exercise the “free” upgrade, so this also guarantees monthly fees for Verizon.


Flash forward to early this year. Tracy and I finally decided that it was time to ditch the second phone on the family plan — we rarely used it and it was just an additional $20/month that wasn’t worth paying. So I called Verizon and inquired about canceling it. “Sorry, that phone is still under contract until November of 2006.”

Doh!

Well, ok. I did agree to that when we upgraded that phone last time, so I’ll cope. I dutifully put a to-do item on my calendar in November to cancel that phone (there is the possibility of terminating the contract early, but it carries a hefty penalty fee — the math worked out that it was cheaper to ride out the contract than to pay the penalty fee).


Flash forward to June. I get the cell phone bill and see a bunch of calls to and from India on the second phone. Egads — we’re now a victim of this identity theft stuff that’s all the rage these days! ☹

It took some back-tracking to figure out how this happened. Best that we can guess is that Tracy accidentally took the second cell phone on her business trip to India in early 2006 and then had it stolen (we never use the phone, so we didn’t even notice that it wasn’t anywhere to be found in the house). We don’t know why it took several months for the phone to be abused. [shrug]

So I called up Verizon and explained the situation to them. The representative was quite helpful; once she fully understood the situation, she credited back the cost of all the fradulent calls. No problem there. But here’s where the fun part comes in.

“I have deactivated that phone so that no more fradulent calls can be made from it,” she said. “Do you have another phone here in the US that you want to transfer that number to, or do you want to go get a new phone at a local Verizon store?”

“Well, we actually don’t use that phone much and are just waiting out the contract, which expires in a few months,” I said. “Given the fact that the phone was stolen and there’s no way that we can use it, can we cancel it now?”

“Let me check,” she said. [sound of typing] “It looks like that phone is under contract that does not expire until November. So it looks like you have three options:

  1. You could cancel now for an early termination fee of $175, or
  2. We can transfer the phone number to a new or existing phone, or
  3. We can leave it like it is — the phone number is not connected to any phone.”

I was definitely not interested in paying a hefty cancellation fee ($20/month for the next few months is far cheaper), nor was I interested in buying a new phone (and potentially getting locked into a new contract). And I don’t have any old cell phones to hook the number to (we donated them all).

“So let me get this straight,” I said. “I’m going to pay $20/month until November for:

  1. The privilege of having a phone number that will not ring anywhere, and
  2. An account that I can’t possibly make any phone calls from

Basically: I’m paying $20/month for Verizon to do nothing. Is that right?” I asked.

“Er…” she said, obviously embarrissed. “Yes. Sorry.”

I even tried the “I’ve been a Verizon customer for many years” card, but to no avail. I realize that the letter of the law of the contract that we signed 2 years ago says that we’re bound until November 2006, but… really. Given the circumstances, I would think that the rules could be bent a little to show a little customer appreciation. Apparently not.

So I’m paying $20/month to Verizon for absolutely nothing. That’s awesome.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 27, 2006 8:28 AM.

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