Monday, December 11, 2006

Background - Peter's initial correspondence with Verizon

Peter had posted this as a comment, but I wanted to promote it to the front page and provide some context. To clarify, this is the correspondence prior to making the call in the previous post. I should have posted this earlier - it would have at least been a bit less confusing :).

I've bolded some of the most interesting parts.

Also, you will see that Eva is apologizing for a 10 day delay in getting back to him.

FIRST EMAIL sent 11/30

From: Peter

Last week I called to inquire about the data rate per kb for internet usage. I was quoted ".015 cents per kilobyte". Upon paying my bill I noticed that the rate was much higher- in fact $.015/kb. I called back to complain but was shocked to here "the rate is .015cents per kilobyte" and "... .015 cents is $.015".

At this point I was dumbfounded by her ignorance and hung up. Calling back I was shocked to experience this scenario a third time so promptly asked for a manager. He reiterated that ".015 cents per kilobyte is equivalent to .015 dollars per kilobyte". I then spent 30 minutes trying to explain to him how these were two very different values to no avail.

While these 4 employees gross deficiency in elementary mathematics is appalling, the fact that Verizon employees these people who are so inept as to misstate a rate by a factor of 100 is disgusting and probably legally unwise. You at this point have one customer that is very angry and frustrated due to this misrepresentation that resulted in a bill literally 100 times larger than expected.

I would suggest that all phone representatives be corrected on their erroneous math as the third representative put me on hold and stated "all the people here say .015 cents is 1.5cents" before retrieving a manager; hence the problem runs beyond the four I spoke with. Initially, I wanted a refund but after experiencing this abyss of ignorance I feel my fees will be better served towards teaching remedial math towards these employees and will be satisfied with an apology.

SECOND EMAIL sent 12/09

From: Peter

since you have not acknowledged my previous complaint of being charged 100 times more than quoted numerous times over the phone for data usage and everyone is speak with is too incompetent to realize the issue I have reported you to the FCC. I will continue pursuing this in each and every avenue at my disposal until you appease me.


From: Verizon Wireless Customer Service MW
Date: Dec 10, 2006 3:02 PM
Subject: Re: Bill Charges
To: peter xxxxxx

Dear Peter,

Thank you for contacting Verizon Wireless through our website. I am sorry for the delay in responding to your inquiry. This delay was a result of technical difficulties, which have since been resolved.

My name is Eva, and I am eager to address your concerns for the kilobyte charges.

On behalf of Verizon Wireless, please allow me to apologize for the frustration this matter has caused you. Verizon Wireless has a strong customer commitment to delivering the best from our service and staff. I am disappointed that you feel the service you received did not reflect this commitment.

Upon further review of your account, I found that even though our explanation may have been confusing, you were provided correct information regarding the charge for kilobyte usage. We bill the usage at $0.015 per kilobyte. This means $0.015 of a dollar, not $0.015 of a cent.

The verbal information given at the store was also correct. Your original e-mail indicated you were told "$0.015 cents per kilobyte." If it was the charge you understood it to be, it would be verbally given as 0.015ths of a cent. The charges were presented and billed correctly and I am sorry, no a credits are due at this time.


You are a valued customer and we hope we can restore your confidence in Verizon Wireless. Thank you for using Verizon Wireless products and services.


Verizon Wireless
Customer Service

"We never stop working for you!"


Michael said...

The problem is that people all try to go higher up the Verizon Call center food chain. Evidently Verizon call centers aren't jobs that require a lot of mental prowess, so people that were able to tolerate this environment for 2-5 years may not be very bright.

Ask the manager for the new guy. Tell him/her to look around for the kid that has been there for two weeks, better yet, some kid working there part time to pay for a college application.

Mark said...

What does $0.015 cents mean? It's like sayign you owe $15 yen or you get 95% thirds off. I think an explanation of what the '$' symbol means is in order. Where I grew up it means dollars.

JT said...

Ask the manager for the new guy. Tell him/her to look around for the kid that has been there for two weeks, better yet, some kid working there part time to pay for a college application.

Better yet.. call on family day at the office, and ask for someone's 12 year old kid :)

Jeff said...

I already commented on Peter's message board entry of Eva's letter but figured I'd chime in here too now that George put it up:

Eva introduced an even worse term into this mess..."0.015ths of a cent". So now we have people mixing fractions and decimals together. :-/

I also love the "0.015 dollars of a cent".

georgevaccaro said...

@jeff - i know, i love that. I guess that would be 1/0.015 cents or 66.6666666 cents?

Eric said...

What does "0.015ths of a cent" mean?

Usually fractions and decimals aren't combined like that, but lets play along.

Normally one would say something like "a fifteenth", which would mean 1/15. Therefore 0.015ths of a cent would seem to mean 1/0.015 cents = 66.67 cents. Clearly different from BOTH the correct rate and the quoted rate.

georgevaccaro said...

... and I guess thats the same as $66.66.

Eric said...

Oops..looks like we were having the same thought at the same time.

georgevaccaro said...


Jack Sparrow said...

His use of "here" reminds me of the cent/dollar problem

Kelly Hawk said...

@ mark
95% thirds off.. hahahahhaha

Man, this saga is GREAT! I can't wait till this hits the mainstream media. I want to hear the radio play this quote over and over:

G: [big sigh] Okay, I think I have to do this again. Do you recognize that there's a difference between one dollar and one cent?
A: Definitely.
G: Do you recognize there's a difference between half a dollar and half a cent?
A: Definitely
G: Then, do you therefore recognize there's a difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents
A: No.

The best comedy writers in the world could not come up with stuff better than this!!

My favorite quote from Peter's saga is:
"all the people here say .015 cents is 1.5cents"

As in, "it's ok for us to completely screw you over because we speak our own language here at verizon."

It just gets better and better.

peter said...

yeah im a horrible speller :)
ill take that over being bad at math

ambersdad said...


I agree with what you said about Verizon providing a service we all like and working with companies by giving them the benefit of the doubt, but if 5 out of 5 reps make the same mistake, there is no room for doubt left. Statistically, if this was a shipment of bananas you would send the whole shipment back. I agree with the person that said once they canceled your bill, they feel you will go away. You have given them more than a fair chance to respond to the real problem, and now it is time for you to take the action you think best.

My $2¢ would be to respond first thing Tuesday morning to the media. Just like Vincent Ferrari and AOL, you are doing both consumers and the company a favor by using the power of the media to force them to make a correction.

If it were me I would come up with a specific way that the Verizon reps should present the rate so it is not confusing to the customer or the rep and make Verizon agree, within a certain time period, to make the change. In all cases, it seems like any rate less than 1 should not be quoted as the average math (and also logic) skills seem lower than they use to be. Your solution would become known as Vaccaro's Validation for Verizon, or VVV for short.

I am thoroughly enjoying following and being a part of this, and it's even more fun following it with my daughter. Would you believe a side effect of your effort is closer family ties? Great job! I like the way you are handling it.

JT said...

G: Then, do you therefore recognize there's a difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents
A: No.

Maybe Verizon's employee training program includes a short stay at the Ministry of Love

Olga said...

Hi! I came across your conversation with Verizon customer service on, and I could not believe it. You did such an excellent job explaining the difference to them, and they had completely, completely no clue what was going on. And I was just about to suggest taking it to small claims court, when I found out that the issue got resolved. Congratulations on the determination. And thank you on behalf of other frustrated cell phone users.

Kelly Hawk said...

@ ambersdad

I liked your bit the other day about rejecting the full refund and demanding that they send the correct bill to George. A smashing idea.

Also, I agree - I too am thoroughly enjoying watching this play out. The degree to which this has captivated my attention is unprecedented.

thirty-seven said...

I have to agree with other posters, like ambersdad, that there is nothing unfair about going to the media and doing interviews right away.

If you just tell the facts of the case, like you've done on your blog, and answer the interviewers' questions, and state what you think Verizon should do to satisfy you and make sure this doesn't happen again to more people, then how could that be unfair to Verizon?

John.W.Scott said...

I read comments that start, "When this hits the mainstream media..."

But I'm getting an uneasy feeling that the mainstream media might pass. Why? 100% of the population can immediately understand someone being rude -- hence the AOL story gets played. But not everyone understands 4th grade math, I'm sure including some TV executives. And those that do might worry about offending people in their audience.

I hope I'm wrong about this. I want to see this public as much as anyone.

georgevaccaro said...

@jt - lol.

@ambersdad - thank you and amber, and i'm glad to have been a part of that. thanks for being a part of this. And I do agree with you. I just need to figure out where the line is.

everyone else, thanks so much for the support.

I never wanted to be the poster-boy for bad math, but I was always a math boy genius, so maybe its my calling :).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Thanks again.

georgevaccaro said...

You know, my last comment reminded me of my math nerd history, and the single biggest influence, my favorite and most inflential high school teacher - Dan Flegler. I think I'll write more about this later, but for now, here is a link to his Math League website.

roberto said...

Jeff, I agree. "0.015ths" is not a good term to interject at this point, or any other point. Since it is mixing fractions with decimals, I don't know if there is any correct way to interpret it, but if I had to I would read it "fifteen thousandths thousandths" or 0.015/1000 or 0.000015.

Theorist said...

I finally understood their slogan "We never stop working for you": Because they can't get any work done for you due to gross incompetent in grade school math so they just keep working and can never stop.

oracle said...

this is why i never complain when i get a hard to understand outsourced person on the phone.. they at the very least are way over educated for their job... a phd doing customer service.. they might not say the words right but oh man can they type!!! overall thank you for taking one up for the little guys who would have snapped and throw their phone at a verizon store... blogs/wiki's are finally doing for the citizenships of our land what newspapers and activist groups fail to do.. stick up for that person who gets railroaded because he does not have the money to fight back.. thanks man, have a great holidays.

Daniel said...

I must be missing something. Are some of you saying that .015 cents and $0.015 are different? I MUST be missing something.

First, the dollar sign is simply indicating the currency being referred to. Generally when people use the word "cents" they are referring to how many cents are required (to make a purchase, for instance), and in this case it would require .015 cents (or one and one half cents). Now, if someone said it would cost fifteen hundredths "of a cent", or something like that, then that would be different, but that is not what I see being asked for.

Second, if .10 means ten cents, and .05 means five cents and .01 means one cent, then .015 means one and one half cents (or .01 and 1/2). This would be the same if it were written: $0.10, $0.05, $0.01 or $0.015 - the dollar sign does not imply anything other than the currency being used.

I do not see what is confusing about this.

If I am missing something, please let me know. Otherwise....well, let's just say that I hope that while I spend forever waiting for customer support agents other people are not keeping them busy with issues like this (unless I am missing something, and it would not be the first time). : )

James said...


First off, I am going to assume you are sincere in your comment. The dollar sign indicates much more than just "the currency being used." It indicates a fundamental fact of the problem at hand...the UNITS. Just as 0 degrees fahrenheit is different than 0 degrees Celsius, or (as I'm sure you agree...) one dollar is different than one cent. Both cents and dollars here represent American currency, but in two different forms. Dollars refers to the number of dollar bills. "Cents" refers to the number of pennies (the little copper thing with Lincoln on it).

So, you know that having a dollar bill in your hand is very different than having a penny in your hand. A one dollar bill is the same as having one hundred pennies (100 cents). If you only had half of that, you'd have half a dollar ($.50), or 50 cents, right?

Also, if you only have 1 penny (1 cent), you have much less than a dollar, and I'm sure you agree, we could write it as $.01

Now, let's say that out loud... point zero one dollars. But, we already agreed (I hope) that this was the same as us having one penny (1 cent). So, one and a half cents (1.5 cents)is $.015 or point zero one five dollars. To use your say ".10 is 10 cents." This isn't correct. What is correct is this: $.10 is 10 cents. That is, .10 DOLLARS is 10 cents. Keeping track of units is key, because there are 100 cents in a dollar...but there is only 1 cent in 1 cent--just like there is only one apple in an apple.

So you say ".015 cents or one and one half cents." ...think about that for a moment. If you had .01 cents, would you say you had 1 cent? If you had .1 cents, would you say you had 10 cents? (Since .01*10 = .1). I hope not...that wouldn't make much sense now would it? If that still doesn't do it, take it one step further...if you had ONE cent, that wouldn't be the same as 100 cents, would it?

I sincerely hope one of two things: that you were being facetious, or that you understand after this post (or someone else's better explanation).

Charles said...

I think this is a hilarious story. I really liked the comment about the 95% thirds off. Its almost scary how many people agreed with the same error. Just imagine how horrendous it would have been if he was shopping for lengths of wire. The price might be $1 cents per .015" feet. I'm not sure they would know how to deal with the 1/12 ratio between feet and inches.

Kimberly said...

You spelled things wrong in your email. Perhaps if you had appeared more professional and did not insult the very people whom you wanted to do you a favor you would have been more successful.

I know it is hard though. I'd have probably been too angry to say anything constructive as well.

Nick said...

i dont think he was trying to write an english essay. he was trying to get across a point for the 5th time to CSR's who have the IQ of a dead racoon. maybe if they could have solved his problem in the first place on the phone he wouldnt be forced to write them emails.

brendan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brendan said...

0.015ths of a cent is simple.

A 5th = 1/5, a 100th = 1/100 so a 0.015th = 1/0.015 or 66.667 cents or $0.667.

Jason said...

I think you guys should take a lesson from the guy who recently sued Dell and won. Here's the story.

The gist? File suit in small claims court and have the papers served to a local retail store (just make sure in this case that it's a corp location and not an agent store), rather than VZW Corp HQ.

Most likely, they won't show up, and you'll win by default as long as you've got a reasonably well-drafted explanation that's easy enough for the Judge to wrap his head around.

roberto said...

brendan, your logic is impeccable! It is so counter intuitive that 0.015th cents would actually be more than a half dollar!

Edvin said...

"We bill the usage at $0.015 per kilobyte. This means $0.015 of a dollar, not $0.015 of a cent."

This is getting ridiculous. $0.015 of a dollar is what exactly? It's ** 0.015 dollars of a dollar **, resulting in 1.5%. So this representative is in other words saying "our charge rate is 1.5% per kilobyte". Likewise, $0.015 of a cent means 150%. I suppose a 1.5% per kilobyte rate is better than 150% though...

SirBrianTheLion said...

Being in telecom for 20 years now, I have dealt with partial penny rates for years & this is a common infraction (which still doesn't make it acceptable). AT&T (SBC) sells local usage in WI at $.0082 per minute. Most everyone knows what the rate means, but they simply can't "speak" that amount correctly. It's like they have bad grammar for numbers. Just like people who say or write "your next" instead of "you're next", 99 out of 100 times people try to speak $.0082 as "point zero zero eight two cents per minute" which is WRONG! It's correctly spoken as "point zero zero eight two dollars per minute" (or if you translate dollars into cents it's "point eight two cents per minute".

But what really concerns me here is that anyone would trust any kind of verbal quote & violate the general rule of life of "getting it in writing". As a telecom bill auditor and advocate for business consumers against these telecom carriers and their "quasi fradulaent" business practices, I accept nothing verbal from a carrier. If they are rates, I want to see the published rate chart or the contract with the rate on it. If I ever saw a contract from a carrier with $.015 cents per minute on it, I'd send it back because that's not a rate.

I agree that Peter got a verbal rate quote that was in fact 100 times less than the rate he was charged, and I agree that there are a bunch of functional illiterates out there that end up working in telecom call centers that probably couldn't give you change for a dollar. I also personally get an almost unhealthy pleasure (legitimately)beating up these carriers whenever I get the chance.

But in this case,I have to ask in all sicerety, "Why didn't you get it in writing?"

Gravely said...

After trying out on a pay as you go basis for 20 minutes and about 5 meg of data I called the next day to get a price check on my short usage and was told $81 and change. The four or five verizonwireless reps I called after that all told me that my data usage was .015 dollars per kilobyte until today. I finally got a rep to quote .015 cents per kilobyte. I guess they corrected the conversion formula internally and won't admit it. What is so complicated about that basic concept?

bokorpop said...

hey, how about we send one of the T shirts to the president of verizon as a sign of goodwill, along with a audio cd of the phonecalls?

Chris said...

Hello, everyone I too have had issues with verizon wireless. The fastest way to resolve this manner and get a refund is to issue a complaint with the Public Utilities commision in your state. I am in California, the process was very easy and I was able to fill out an application online for the complaint. In about a week or so verizon promptly gave me a refund and also provided additonal credits to my account. My issue was with there great VCast service which was added to my phone even though the service was not available in my service area!!!!