So I’m at work and I hang up the phone, right? …And the net result is $175 credit applied to my latest Verizon wireless bill. The obvious question is how did we get to this point. I mean, whats’up with Verizon wireless and why would hanging up a wired telephone at work apply monetary value to your personal wireless phone bill? We’ll get to that in a moment but first… what’up y’all???!!! I’ve been absent from my regular posting for quite some time. I mean there’s about 6-7 recent stories backed up in my queue but I never have time to finish and publish anything. (Look for some of these queued up stories in about 6-7 business days as I carve tiny holes in my busy work and over scheduled personal calendars to dedicate to things such as Groovy, wireless J2ME development on the Mac, Mac OS X and Quicksilver, Mint Linux and more.) Man, I miss you all. I haven’t looked at my stats but I’m sure they’ve sunk to the single digits. No worries. I have some new stuff that’ll hopefully bring some of my crowd back. (It should also entice new-comers who’ve never heard of a Linux Kernel or a TCP/IP port.)
Back to the point. what’s with this $175, the wireless bill and all? It started a long time ago when Cliff decided to buy into the Verizon network and purchase a chocolate phone. (It was an actual mobile phone with the brand name of chocolate not a choclate bar molded to the shape of a mobile phone.) These phones are actually kinda cool especially with the Verizon VCast option. I was enjoying my phone and life was good… but then I had to get it cut off. Not because of shoddy service, bad hardware or whatever but because of an Embarq screw up. Yes, Embarq’s screw up was the reason I had my Verizon service disconnected. I’d elaborate more but it looks better in print if I move on with my story. (Suspense builds.) So after canceling I get these two Verizon bills totaling over 300! In self defense I assumed Ki-pong-ya-ebu, (…that’s basic form #1 from my childhood taekwando training. Even as I still remember the specific names for the stances I continued to get beat up in high school.) picked up the phone (still maintaining my stance), and dialed customer support. I wanted to explode with profanity but Christian teaching and prior experience held my tongue and cooled my temper as I casually explained my dilemma to the rep on the other end.
Me: I see a discrepancy on my recent wireless bill. It shows a balance of $206 but I canceled my service well within the 30 day trial period.
Verizon Rep [innocent and will remain nameless/blameless]: Ok sir let me look into your account to see if I can figure out the problem.
Me [thinking, “give me a lower number you scumball or I’ll torch your workplace and harass your neighbors!”]: Thank you.
Verizon Rep [innocent and still nameless/blameless]: I see they charged you an early termination fee on one of your lines.
Me [bubbling with anger and the following comment, “See, that’s the brain-dead stuff I’m talking about! I just told you I was well within the 30 trial and here you go with an early termination fee!”]: I see
(twenty second pause and moment of silence on both ends broken only by faint keyboard clatter on the Verizon end of the phone.)
Verizon Rep [sounding guilty but still nameless/blameless as before]: let me see if I can go in and correct that for you.
Me [Surprised and excited at hearing the words “correct that for you”]: Ok.
(Three additional minutes of quiet keyboard clattering ensues)
Verizon Rep [completely innocent and now my bestest buddy]: I’m sorry for the delay sir. There’s a few screens I have to go through and update.
Me [choking on a rainbow of joy]: Take your time.
(Two more minutes of quiet keyboard clattering…)
Me [speaking in my big-boy professional voice]: With whom am I speaking?
New Best Buddy Verizon Guy: My name is ****.
(name omitted to protect the guilty, me, from additional follow up charges)
Me [continuing in my big-boy professional voice]: And do you have a rep or employee number?
New Best Buddy Verizon Guy: Yes sir that number is 1234.
(more silence while screens are updated and balances are deflated in Verizon-town.)
New Best Buddy Verizon Guy [politely]: OK sir. I’ve taken care of that problem for you and you will have a $175 credit applied to your bill.
Me [seeing blue diamonds, red hearts, green clovers, and teddy-bears yet still pretending to be professional]: Alright, so that should be decremented from the $206 reflected in my latest bill?
Cool As Ice Verizon Guy: After taxes sir. I’m not sure what the final amount will be after the adjustments are made.
Me [cautious as diamonds, hearts, clovers and teddy-bears evaporate into reality]: Fine. Then can you confirm that the $175 will be applied to my subtotal before taxes? Also can you confirm that I am not being charged any late fees or extra charges due to the bill not being paid? I ask because I still have no idea what my total amount is.
Polite and Helpful Verizon Guy: Yes that credit will be applied to your subtotal before taxes. There will be no late fees or penalties and actually you can call in and phone pay after three days when the credit completely processes. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Me [lips puckered to be applied to Mr. Verizon’s rear end]: Not at all. You’ve been a great help today ****, Thank you for your assistance.
Verizon Guy: And thank you for doing business with Verizon Wireless. You have a great day.
There’s a couple of things to note here. First thing is my decision to spring into action and make the call. Far too often we consumers accept the mathematical prowess and computer accuracy of various companies as superior to our own common sense. Double check your bills, your monthly statements, your receipts, and anything else dealing with money. If you see something that doesn’t add up or feel quite right, report it. It sounds like second nature but you’d be surprised at how many accounting and transaction errors occur on a daily basis, even within your own life. You probably got ripped off twice on your way to work if your weren’t careful. For example, in my experience I have yet to enter into a telecommunications deal where there wasn’t some mistake or discrepancy. (Cable, telephone, Broadband, Wireless, providers all try to sneak extra charges and remove services you were promised on sign up.) Stand up for yourself as a consumer and make the salesman, customer service guy, or whatever rep explain everything in detail. Have a calculator handy as you work through charges.
Another thing to point out from the aboves discussion would be my asking for a name and a customer or rep number. Whenever you speak over the phone to a representative make sure you record their name and rep number. This is critical for tracking down discrepancies. I saved $60 on my phone bill over last year because I wrote this information down when I initially ordered my service. You have a lot more power when you comment, “I spoke with Andrew, representative #938, on April 15 last week and he said…” than you do when you say, “The dude I spoke with a while ago told me I wouldn’t be charged for that service…” Always record every detail. Write down every charge/transaction you agree on and every one you don’t. Contest the ones that don’t make sense and if you don’t get satisfaction ask politely to speak with a supervisor.
That brings me to my third point from above. Notice how I kept my cool? I’ve made the mistake far too many times of overreacting with a customer service rep. If you show them respect and mechanically talk through a discrepancy often times they can reverse charges and apply credits to things you may not even be entitled to receive. Think of it like remotely programming a computer on the fly. Saying the wrong thing can result in an irrecoverable error so be patient and think each word through. To hammer my last point home consider the above conversation under a different context. Here’s how it could’ve gone if I had just gotten in late after being stuck in rush hour traffic and also after having a nasty fight at home.
Me [poised to jump through the phone in a moment’s notice]: I see a discrepancy on my recent wireless bill. It shows a balance of $206 but I canceled my service well within the 30 day trial period.
Verizon Rep [innocent and should remain nameless/blameless]: Ok sir let me look into your account to see if I can figure out the problem.
Me: give me a lower number you scumball or I’ll torch your workplace and harass your neighbors!
Verizon Rep [innocent and still nameless/blameless]: Sir you were charged an early termination fee on one of your lines.
Me [bubbling with uncontrolled anger]: See, that’s the brain-dead stuff I’m talking about! I just told you I was well within the 30 trial and here you go with an early termination fee!
Verizon Rep [Calm and completely in control of the situation and my wallet]: Sir the line that we charged you for was not converted over to another number. If you read the fine print on the contract you signed you will note that the thirty day garauntee applies only to numbers that are converted to another provider. I’m sorry but you’ll have to remit this payment.
Me [$206 lighter in net worth yet loading pistol loudly so it can be noticed over an analog line]: Look here! I refuse to pay the damned bill. Either you fix this mess or I’ll fix you!
Verizon Rep [still in control of my wallet]: I’m sorry for your misunderstanding sir. Also I must inform you that this is the second notice we’ve sent so there will be an additional $40 late charge applied on top of the $206.
Me [choking on daggers of rage and $246 lighter in overall net worth]: Gimme your supervisor you putz!
(Two minutes of quiet keyboard clattering…)
Unnamed voice: Hello?
Me [completely unaware of who I was just talking to]: With whom am I speaking?
Voice: I am the floor supervisor, Murray, may I help you sir?
Me [continuing in my little-boy tantrum voice]: I was talking to the other guy and he tol me I had to pay something that I don’t agree with!
Murray [also in control of my wallet]: Yes sir our records indicate that you were charged an early termination fee for a number that was not ported. Also I see a mistake in the bill. We were supposed to charge you for the actual use the secondary line as well. There will be another bill sent out with the pro-rated $50 usage and the applied monthly charge of $119.
(more silence broken by the sound of pistol cocking gestures.)
Me [$415 in the hole]: OK I’ve had it! I’m going to report you all to the BBB and we’ll see who has the last laugh!
You see a lot can go wrong when you talk to a rep. You have to be diligent and professional while walking a tight line of composure. I’d love to give more stories of how great I am and how my code is much better than yours but the clock is well past quitting time and I gotta bounce. (“Bounce” is urban slang for “bye-bye talk to you later!”) Get up with me people!
(The author leaves the last phrase as an excercise for you to decipher.)