Monday, December 11, 2006

More audio - Unbelievable!

This is really amazing. You have to listen until the end, but they are still claiming that there is no difference between dollars and cents.

Peter's Audio Here

Nice work Peter, and thanks for the link.

I think a few more things are starting to become clear from this.

1. They try very hard not to acknowledge this problem.
2. They realize now that they might have their call posted, and are trying to gain some sympathy - she goes out of her way to explain that she will be working Christmas Eve - and mentions very nicely that she will follow up with him. In my case, I got a referal to the web feedback form - quite a change.
3. They are walking a thin line - IMO they know that if they say this the wrong way, they might have thousands of people calling for refunds.

108 comments:

Jack's Doppleganger said...

This situation is really just becoming more and more ridiculous isn't it?
Good luck George!

annagel said...

As acording to Verizon Wireless, .002 cents = .002 dollars, do you think verizon would mind if I started using a similar conversion to pay all my future bills? I will even send it in using pennies if that makes it easier....

Graydon said...

I think to make them realize that there is an error, they should have all their paychecks paid in cents. So they are now working for 8 cents an hour.

Yad said...

More coverage:

http://technocrat.net/d/
2006/12/10/12025

(Link broke into two lines because of the margins.)

Laurence said...

peter:

I'm not sure if you should have compromised at all, but I would have considered asking for the $60 back, but pay for the data package cost of $25 or whatever.

Important recording just for that the fact that she _does_ say ".015 cents" herself once or twice.

The problem is she keeps thinking of a billing issue, when you are reiterating again and again that its the acknowledgment of the mistake. It's not what the charge is, it's what it _should have_ been!

Saskboy said...

They stand to lose 100 times what they want to bill. You bet they are going to tread carefully, and start changing training procedures shortly.

Amaduli said...

This has just sealed the deal that I will never use verizon. You need to file some kind of complaint to the FCC or BBB or the Justice Department. This probably happens all the time but noone has taken the time to record or blog it. What's sad is that so many people probably just roll over and take it.
Bless you, sir. You are a saint for this crusade.

mevans said...

I believe this is not just a verizon problem. If you would write down $0.002 and asked the average person what that represented they would read .002 cents and not dollars. Probably 9 out of 10 would answer that way.....

Now my question concerns wiretapping. I am not a lawyer (and I don't play one on TV) but at no point in either recording did I hear that the conversation was being recorded. (although there was a mention that this recording was going to be put on a Blog).

According to the following website - http://www.brickhousesecurity.com/
about-wire-tap-and-phone-recording-laws.html
(split for margins)

most states allow it as long as one in the conversation knows. However there are 12 states - (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington) - that require that both parties know. Now - the first person in the call may have been told, does that cover all supervisors later? And most support call I have made say "this call may be recorded for training purposes" (yea right). Does them recording make it OK for you to record also?

Just curious...(I am from a dual party state.)

Laurence said...

I would think that the "this call may be recorded for training purposes" or whatever, automatically means both parties know the call is (maybe) being recorded. All CSRs would probably be told that in training. And if they have a copy - why couldn't the customer? I would think this notice satisfies even the dual-party requirements.

Ian said...

This is amazing! Mirrored once again.

Verizon vs math 2 - Peter's battle

Thomas said...

mevans, the problem is their inability to see the difference even when told that .002 cents is a lesser unit than .002 dollars.

I'm by no means a mathematician, but I have no trouble whatsoever understanding this much.

gulliverfoyle2 said...

Discovered this online, agree it is appalling, but having taught math at the seventh grade through adult levels, I'll tell you that many, perhaps a majority of adults cannot understand the issue here.
I'm about ten minutes into the recording and I think the George is doing an outstanding job of explaining his situation. I can understand it perfectly.
It appears a whole company can't multiply or divide by 100.
And the poor schmuck on the phone is serious and sincere.
I expect this from my felons working on their GEDs,but this whole deal is just amazing.

Davman said...

One remix coming up.

georgevaccaro said...

@gulliverfoyle2

Thanks, I appreciate the schmuck coment. :)

Patrick said...

Well, as far as wiretapping goes:

What they state is:
"This call MAY be recorded for training and quality assurance purposes."

NOT

"WE may be recording this call for training and quality assurance purposes"

Yet another big semantic error. In the first case, they are saying that permission is being giving for recording of the call, without stating who will be doing the recording.

In the second case, that are stating for your benefit that THEY will be recording the call and that by continuing you are giving implicit consent to allow them to do so.

So as long as the recording you are doing is for "Quality and Training purposes" (which it most certainly is, and they do NOT state who is to be trained and whose quality is to be assured) then you have carte blanche in the first case. We're training other customers to assure the quality of their own service. We have been told that the call MAY be recorded.

Yet again, a HUGE semantic difference between what they intend and what they say.

(I put a cookie on the table and say: "This cookie may be eaten for training and quality assurance purposes," then speak nothing of it. Would you assume that I was telling you that you could eat the cookie, or would you think that I was warning you that I was pondering eating the cookie, but you were under no circumstances to touch it?)

mevans said...

thomas,

I agree they refuse to accept the difference. But when folks see $.05 they will say 5 cents, so naturally will say .002 cents when the see $.002. Even though it is wrong.

Also I am curious when George asked them to note the rate in his account did they note $.002 or did they note .002 cents (Seeing they do not know the difference)

Nathan said...

Obviously if we are getting a kick out of this, we have the intellectual ability to discern the difference between the two. Mevans is correct, as was another post that put it much more eloquently in a previous comment section. It is a conceptual naming mistake. Most people skip understanding anything other than the shortcut, which generally will suffice, that anything to the right of the decimal is cents. $.0.002 would be read by the vast majority of people, in any country or currency, as “point zero zero two cents.” Ask someone to read $1.002 and they’d probably still say “one dollar and point zero zero two cents.” The fact that they equate it with “point zero zero two dollars” is simply by default, because “point zero zero two dollars” can’t be anything else.

The user agreement was posted on Slashdot, it’s no surprise that it reads $0.002 for roaming coverage in Canada and that it was read as “point zero zero two cents.” I don’t think it’s that the calculation on the fly to realize that it is actually “point two cents” isn’t possible by the majority of people, it’s that they don’t realize they might actually have to do something if they are changing their unit from dollars to cents. Now let’s point the finger at the school system.

Ian said...

^ I agree with the whole shortcut thing. I'm thinking of asking a few people I know to read the value $1.002.

Then again, maybe its best for my relationship with them if I don't :)

mevans said...

nathan,

Can we assume "school system" to be "government - run school system"?

Kelly Hawk said...

I just checked YouTube again. Your clip has:
Views: 177 815
Comments: 809
Favorited: 760 times
and 1379 ratings

Interestingly, it STILL is not showing up as one of the Top Rated, Most Viewed or Most Discussed clips.

I wonder what Verizon is paying YouTube to keep it off the front page?

mevans said...

patrick,

good point on the recording semantics.

Perhaps they should actually use it in their traing.....

georgevaccaro said...

@kelly

I'm pretty sure the unqualified top level pages are for today only - meaning that the counter resets.

Check out the weekly pages.

Just sent you an email too.

:)

Nathan said...

I also have Verizon service, and I just called to speak to a CSR, inquiring about recording calls. I should note that I did NOT have any warning that the call was being recorded, or may have been recorded on their end. The CSR informed me that some calls are recorded for quality insurance purposes, despite my lack of warning. Also of note, basing of earlier information, I’m calling from a dual notification state.

As we can see, who knows if what the CSR had been informed of, or what he told me, is actually correct. But that is what I could find out through a simple call to Verizon’s customer service number.


Mevans - I have no problem calling it the govt run school system, but I'd be willing to bet that it wouldn't make much difference between public and private schools with a large enough sample of people. I'd be more comfortable blaming perhaps government/private school expectations and standards instead of the education that one is capable of receiving at such a school.

georgevaccaro said...

@mevans

how do you get:

$.05 = "five cents"

and then:

$.002 = "point zero zero 2 cents"?

Why are you saying the "point" in the second example? And when you consider why you are saying the "point" - that is when you should consider the units conversion.

Which should result in "point two cents"

I agree that this is the mistake they are making, and that its a common mistake, but that doesn't change the fact that it is a mistake.

georgevaccaro said...

My point being, "naturally" is not the way I would describe it. Its unnatural to me to simply say ".002 cents" - it does not follow the same rules as "50 cents".

georgevaccaro said...

Finally, it also indicates that they should use 2 non obscure, less ambiguous units. Right now both units are obscure.

1. Fractional cents
2. KB

Most people are bad at fractions. Most people don't know what a KB is, and don't have any relative measure.

While MB is not perfect, its at least better. Most people know that an mp3 is about 1 MB/min. An average digital picture (fresh from the camera) is approximately 1 MB, give or take.

Why use 2 unfamiliar units of measure? To cause confusion - to misrepresent. So much confusion in fact that their own people can't even operate on them accurately or even pronounce them correctly. And that's if you are giving them the benefit of the doubt (which is still in question - did they do this on purpose?)

Change the posted and articulated rates to $2.05/MB. There's nothing unclear there.

Yad said...

@george

I am the same way. If someone told me .5 cents, I would not think "50 cents", I would think "1/2 of a cent".

I do not think this is a problem with the school system in general. I remember doing the unit problems all through grade school into high school (although they were progressively harder). You cant start expressing something in cents, and then at the end of the calculation change units to dollars.

Nathan said...

I think "naturally" comes into play because these CSR in particular have been programmed to think of "cents" in terms of two decimal places. $1.50 is obviously “one dollar and fifty cents” just as $0.76 is obviously “76 cents.” The conceptual failure is when there is a third digit, because what is a thousandth of a cent? They have no prescribed method of calculating or referring to something in the thousandth place in terms of “cents” so they combine the method they rely on naturally, which would be to convert to “cents” if there are no dollars, and their limited grasp of numbers by just reading them all. The problem then lies in their thinking that they are right with their conversion or conceptual leap, whatever you want to call it, when in effect if they had just been so totally confused that they read off “zero point zero zero two dollars” they would have by default been correct.

I agree completely with your assertion that they should not use unknown units to discuss rates. Obviously we don’t talk about “$0.0016 per second” for long distance, and it’s pretty clear that would be an absurd way of labeling their rates. If anything comes from this, especially as a Verizon customer, I would hope they can implement change in the way rates are discussed.

Yad said...

@george

I would agree that the reason they are expressing it as "$0.002/KB" is because that sounds like a really low number. I know that there are 1024 KB in 1 MB, but most people probably do not know that.

If Verizon told people that downloading 9 songs (assuming file size of approximately 4 mb each) would cost them $72 they would not do it.

sven said...

Here is my email to verizon wireless:

Hello,

With regard to the (escalating!!) George Vaccaro billing incident that I and THOUSANDS of others have wrote about, Google gives you the correct answer:


(35 893 kilobytes) * 0.002 (U.S. cents / kilobyte) = 0.71786 U.S. dollars

Notice that the above answer is 72 CENTS not 72 DOLLARS! (both numbers rounded)

Now, Verizon wireless needs to understand that they have made a huge mistake by informing their CSR's to use 0.002 CENTS per kilobyte (as stated) rather than 0.002 DOLLARS per kilobyte (as written). The customer service department must understand that there is a HUNDRED-FOLD difference between the two units. Your CSR's are quoting a price 100 times less than what you actually charge. These price quotes must be honored in all cases. A class action lawsuit is imminent.

Verizon has chosen to use illegal tactics to steal money from those who have not caught on to your thievery. George Vaccaro, many hundreds of thousands of bloggers, and soon all the major news networks will soon out Verizon for this. I suggest you pass this email on to your legal department and soon. Also, George and frankly all of your customers, deserve an apology and further they deserve their money back.

So, one more time:

Verizon wireless DOES charge 0.002 DOLLAR per kilobyte while in Canada.
Verizon wireless DOES NOT charge 0.002 CENT per kilobyte while in Canada.

Thank You,

Timothy

Ian said...

^ it depends what level of courses you take.. here in Canada anyway.

I took grd 12 calculus ('university' level) in summer school to raise my mark. We also had the college level and essentials level grade 12 math class in the same room.

The guy beside me by the end of the course (he was in essentials) couldn't wrap his mind around pythagorean theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2). He'd had months to work it out.

He passed, I assume.

John.W.Scott said...

George,

I agree $2/MB would be much clearer. But perhaps marketing thought $.002/KB sounded cheaper, and didn't recognize a chance for confusion.

With regard to why they say
$.05 = "five cents"
and then:
$.002 = "point zero zero 2 cents"

Consider in their mind that
$.05 = 5c = .05c = $.05c
(The last 2 being redundant.)
Also consider that by default, they probably just say "5 cents". But then, they encounter

$.002

They think, "Strange, usually there's just 2 things after the decimal... well, to be safe, I'd better say, 'point-0-0-2', and then cents, because it's all after the decimal point."

Remember the first CSR on your recording, who reiterated the rate as ".002", and you asked "cents or dollars?" I think in his mind, he had already answered the question by starting with "point" (but to be nice, he answered again with "cents").

They have no concept of changing units.

georgevaccaro said...

@sven - great email.

@John.W.Scott - I agree. And so you know, I understand why they do this, but it is a lack of thought, an oversight, a mistake - or potentially something worse in this case.

Ron Avitzur said...

Has this come to the attention of the FTC yet as a false advertising problem worthy of investigation? Or do they only do this in Canada? What's the Canadian equivalent for enforcing companies to honor advertised rates?

Beau Henry said...

I was so impressed with this situation i created VerizonMath.com (feel free to use the logo)

Margret said...

Listen. I had a different kind of problem with another carier, which was equally stupid. I ended up getting free Treo's out of the deal. Just foill out an online form to the FCC with detailed info, and Verizon should call you back within a couple of weeks, begging your forgiveness.

http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html

Brandon said...

In all honesty, I think there is a general problem with the way money is written in the first place.

What do you call 20 meters?
20m
What do you call 10 Farads?
10F
What do you call 3 dollars?
$3

The unit is at the beginning for dollars and at the end for every single other unit in existance.

I've always had a issue with that.

It would prevent people from writing stuff like $.50 cents

Cause then they would write it like 0.50 $ cents and they would realise their mistake.... I would hope.

georgevaccaro said...

@Beau Henry

I actually was going to get this domain, but I thought it was pushing it too far.

Also, I just wanted to correct you on your note on the site. Most of those ads are not Verizon, they are other companies selling added services to Verizon customers.

Nice logo, I appreciate the offer. I'll let you know if I'll take you up on that.

Airencracken said...

I've had my own troubles with Verizon. They sent me a Router/Modem that initially I couldn't get to work with my wireless router. So I called them up and told them what was happening. They refused to acknowledge the fact that the modem they sent me was also a router. Took me seven calls and three days to resolve the issue.

Nathan said...

Brandon,

I guess we should embrace the Japanese style of Yen. There is no subdivision of "cents" or anything equivalent. While living there, I’ll say I did quickly adjust to the monetary system, but to be honest seeing prices for things like a car, which is something like 2.3 million yen, would also require people to become better acquainted with math and general arithmetic, albeit a different sort than the kind Verizon is screwing up in this case.

Beau Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

"I guess we should embrace the Japanese style of Yen. There is no subdivision of "cents" or anything equivalent."

I was in Japan for two weeks and learned about cen.

The yen equivalent of a cent is a cen. There are 100 cen in 1 yen. Since yen are worth about the same as a cent you don't use cen very much. But they do exist.

Dan said...

sorry, that should be sen, it's pronounced the same

Nathan said...

Dan,

I must admit I have no idea what you're talking about with the "cen." Over the course of the 4 years I lived in Japan I never once heard of the term. Perhaps it has a historical monetary value, because at present, I am sure it does not. The smallest demonination is ¥1 (yen) which is already at present, less than one US cent.

Dan said...

http://www.paulnoll.com/Korea/History/money-Japan-50-back.jpg
here is a Japanese 50 sen note from the 50s

They were nicknamed toiler paper bills because they had very little value according to the website.

Nathan said...

I guess you learn something new everyday. It's just a historical unit. According to Wikipedia, "The sen and the rin were eventually taken out of circulation in 1954."

Brendan said...

Hey George, I have a favor for you.

you could please report this to

newsdesk@wsvn.com

It is my local news station and I believe this is something that should be reported. In fact, I think everyone should post local news stations emails so that George can try and get this stuff into the Media.

D said...

1. You need to submit your audio to Break.com immediately. They pay $400 if they use your submission on their front page, and how could they not?

2. As the problem was a result of confusion over units, you might have had some success employing a method that is commonly taught in physics and chemistry classes where units and conversion rates can be easily confused. Basically, you write each conversion as a fraction including the units for the numerator and denominator of each conversion rate. When you find a numerator unit that matches a denominator unit you cross both out. What you're left with is the correct units of your answer. In this case:

x kilobytes * (.002 cents / 1 kilobytes) * (1 dollars / 100 cents) = .002x dollars / 100

You cross out cents next to .002 and 100, you cross out kilobytes next to x and 1, and you're left with only dollars as your unit. When they can see that on paper, it becomes harder to screw up the math ... although I'm sure they'd find a way.

- david at benzephyr dot com

georgevaccaro said...

@brendan

I'm holding off on doing anything in the major media awaiting a response from Verizon Corporate. I will reconsider once they respond or if they don't respond.

Brendan said...

@georgevaccaro

That sounds like a good idea. Hopefully they resolve this and everyone else's problems. If not, do go to the mainstream media.

georgevaccaro said...

Thanks David.

I agree there are a number of different ways I might have been able to explain this to them. The bottom line is that I shouldn't have had to - its their job to understand rates, and the math necessary to manipulate them. Thanks.

I'll also check out break.com.

Mark said...

I'm kind of afraid that if Verizon holds off for a while, the thing will fizzle, and the media will be less likely to take interest. Don't wait too long without a response.

Ericka said...

I agree with some of the other posters in this thread and others that it would be a good thing if a mainstream media outlet picked this up. Verizon would be forced to change their language in speaking with customers, and unclear practices intended to confuse and dupe would have to be stopped.

If there are 'submit news' links at any of the major news sites, like CNN, ABC, CBS, etc. the audio could be submitted, as well as links to this blog. If dozens of people did the same thing, eventually they'd take notice.

Maybe *all* Verizon customers who were quoted the incorrect rate will get refunds. That's why they don't want to acknowledge it.

Brendan said...

@ericka

yes, if they admit they made a mistake, they will need to refund everyone they have charged. Everyone. so its a thin line they are walking on.

Douglas said...

Dude it's simple!
Just make your check out for 71.79 cents (WRITE IT OUT.. CENTS) and send it in!
heheheeeee..

Dan said...

Here's how you should have explained it to the verizon guy:

To begin with the total kb use was 35896 kb and the rate is 0.002 cents/kb. We both agree on that.

Now kb is a rather strange term to use, so lets convert everything into base units. One kb is 10000 bytes. A byte is 8 bits, or 8 pieces of binary data. So my usage of 35896 kb is really a combination of 287168000 ones and zeroes. You follow?

Now lets tackle the other end of the problem. The charge is 0.002 cents per kb. We've already agreed that this is different from 0.002 dollars per kb. We have also accepted that there are 100 cents to 1 dollar. So 0.002 cents/kb is 0.00002 dollars/kb. And again 1kb = 1000 bytes and 1 byte = 8 bits. So the charge is 0.0000000025 dollars per bit.

Now that's a lot of zeros and it's a hassle to say that over the phone. So why don't we assign a value of 1E-9 dollars to 1 nanodollar. Then we can say that the rate is equivalent to 2.5 n$/bit. n$ are nanodollars. E-9 is a way of saying *10^-9. The carrot symbol, ^ means to the power of. That means negative nine 10s multiplied together, or another way of saying 0.000000001.

So with the rate of 2n$/bit and a data use of 287168000 bits. The total charge comes to 717920000 nanodollars. Or 0.717920000 dollars.

Now I know that you might be a bit skeptical about some of these results because the math seems like "magic" to you. So we can confirm this relationship using something called dimensional analysis and the Buckingham pi theorem.

The Buckingham pi theorem simply states that a relationship of n variables and k independent fundemental quantities can be expressed by a set of p=n-k dimensionless variables.

Our case is a very simple one and won't take long to solve. We have the fundamental units of data and dollars, k = 2. We can guess that the total C = cost is some unknown function of two variables, D = the data usage and R = the rate of charge. C = f(R,D). So our 3 variables are: the total cost, the cost per data, and the amoutn of data used, n = 3. So we have p=1, only one pi group.

We can find the pi group by combining the 3 variables C R and D as a dimensionless quantity. C has units of $, R has units of $/kb and D has units of kb. Thus the pi group is equal to (R*D/C)^n is a constant. So from simple dimensional analysis we can determine that C^n = R^n*D^n. R is equal to 0.00002 $/kb, D is equal to 358896 kb, and C is our unknown. We can take each side of the equation to the exponent (1/n) and the result is that C =R*D = 0.717792$. I hope this assuages any of your doubts about the original arrived at cost.

Hua said...

Oh my god.

I am starting to think that it's not just a Verizon problem but a general educational problem for the general American population.

This is really worth major coverage for the mainstream media! It's a crisis that majority of the No.1 country cannot even understand basic math. This is huge.

Make it to CNN, NBC, New York Times! Let's start writing to them and make it a major headline. I want to watch it on TV this week!

George, you are my hero. Hang on there and I am looking forward to seeing you on TV.

Ericka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
georgevaccaro said...

@dan - perfect!

Mark said...

That's why I think Verizon may not respond, short of a media firestorm. The consequences of admitting their mistake are large, and they may decide to bunker it out even with media coverage. I think it's a hard story for the media to convey. They'd essentially have to give the listening public a math lesson in order to reach more than what is (I believe) a minority of listeners who will immediately understand the issue. Even WITH the math lesson, there's a subset of the population who still won't get it and won't like it.

Dan said...

quck addendum: fundamental units should be data or a measure of the number of possible states and money or value.

The n$ rate should be 2.5n$/bit not 2n$/bit

gnome said...

Perhaps a better way of explaining it to Verizon reps is to abandon the term "cents" for pennies. .002 pennies times 35893 KB equals 71.786 pennies, so less than one dollar.

peter said...

lol @ dan

Hua said...

Give up, people, don't try to teach math here especially with more than three lines, no matter how correct the logic is. If they can't understand "0.002 cents != 0.002 dollars", they certainly won't understand your logic here.

So stop trying to convince them with more math deduction. Get media coverage and let the news people do it. They are good at explaining complicated things to the general population.

thirty-seven said...

Replying to Steve's experiment of asking 5 random non-mathies if they know the difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents, etc:

I think that all 5 might likely get it wrong - but that is no excuse for the Verizon reps that George has dealt with. I tried this type of experiment with a non-mathie friend, asking them how they would read "$0.002" and they got it wrong, saying "point zero zero two cents". However, the big difference between them and the Verizon reps is that when I started explaining the mistake, my friend immediately saw her error and understood my point. When she said "$0.002" is read as "point zero zero two cents", I wrote down "0.002¢" and asked how she would read that. "Ahhh....," and like that, within five seconds she understood her mistake and the difference.

I think that five random people might make the same mistake, but most of them would catch on within a few minutes of explanation. The problem with the Verizion reps is not that they made an unfortunately common mistake - it is that they cannot grasp it no matter how simply it is explained to them.

Brendan said...

@Hua

What I think is funny is I am terrible at math and yet even I know that .002 cents is different than .002 dollars.

I would love to see something like this on the Daily Show with John Stewart. He would have a field day with this story.

georgevaccaro said...

@hua - i 100% agree with you.

And in case anyone was wondering, dan's comment was just a really long way of saying the exact same thing as hua.

Thanks for that dan, nanodollars just sounds cool.

georgevaccaro said...

I was thinking Colbert - IMO he's quite a bit smarter than Stewart. I'm sure he'd have an innovative way of breaking this down into simpler terms. Although I'm not sure how much funnier this could get.

Colin said...

I feel like every time you say "you are holding off to hear from them" there is probably a Verizon employee reading it and reporting to his boss saying "it's ok, we still have some more time to craft our ways out of this."

Why not give them until a specific time (Tuesday at 12 maybe?) and then go to the media.

If you wait too long I suspect the media will lose interest.

thirty-seven said...

Stephen Colbert would probably pretend to take the side of the company. :)

Brendan said...

@thirty-seven

yes. Colbert probably would take side of company. Colbert is so funny.

Yad said...

More coverage:

Geekzone:
http://www.geekzone.co.nz/
freitasm/1847

DVD Talk:
http://forum.dvdtalk.com/
showthread.php?t=486037

GottaDeal:
http://forums.gottadeal.com/
showthread.php?p=665319

AlmostSmart:
http://www.almostsmart.com/forums/
showthread.php?p=238699

Subcreation:
http://forums.subcreation.net/
viewtopic.php?t=1885

Phone Scoop:
http://www.phonescoop.com/carriers/
forum.php?fm=m&ff=2&fi=919571

Tech Report:
http://techreport.com/forums/
viewtopic.php?t=46053

Liquid Ninjas:
http://www.liquidninjas.com/bbs/
showthread.php?p=110219

Corvette Forums:
http://forums.corvetteforum.com/
showthread.php?t=1569315

Fighting for Science:
http://fightingforscience.com/2006/
12/09/verizon-and-basic-math/

Links broken because of margins.

Dan said...

really the base units of data are # of possible states, omega = 2^bits
And then you would have to change your rate from money/kilobyte to dollars/omega. This works out to 2.5E-9 * ln2 dollars per ln omega. You can further simplify that to 1.73E-9 dollars per ln omega. (omega = # of possible states).

Now you might argue that you should only be charged for the number of states that you used, not all of the ones that you didn't use. And you only use one state out of 2^(2.87E8) possible states. You didn't recieve every possible combination of data given 35896 kb, you only got one possible set of data. So you should really only be charged 1.73E-9*ln1 dollars or 0 dollars.

georgevaccaro said...

@colin - I hear you on that. The only thing is, its important to give them the benefit of the doubt as a company. CS screwed up big time, and they seem to defer to themselves vs. the customer - which is obviously contradictory to their public profile, but the company as a whole, and the executives who run it deserve a chance to research the issue and respond. There are more than just a few people affected by this on both sides. Arguably there are more people on their side, if you consider the entire company, and individual investors.

The group that's been affected by this is limited to people who have been quoted fractional cent rates incorrectly. Arguably you can include anyone who dealt with a CSR who wasn't trying to actually resolve whatever issue they had (unrelated to $/c).

I think there is a tendency to look at large companies like some sort of inhuman monster operating solely in some selfish single anti-consumer interest, but they are actually just collections of people performing a specific needed function. Our society relys on business and is in fact founded on business - people who offer a service or good for a competetive price. We couldn't function and prosper without business.

Anyway, I don't want to preach here, I just want to keep perspective. A mistake was made, and if its a systematic mistake it should be addressed. The current response addresses my specific issue, but not what appears to be a systematic problem. I want to give the people at Verizon who have an interest in fixing this problem the chance to respond.

If the buzz stops, then by definition this is not an important enough issue to warrant a public response.

thirty-seven said...

@Dan

Is that 0 dollars or 0 cents?

Mark said...

@dan

Yeah, that will be easier to explain on the evening news. :)

peter said...

I'm hoping for a Christmas day miracle that they apologize when I get my followup phone call

Brendan said...

@georgevaccaro

Agreed. A lot of money could be lost and a lot of lives ruined by this one simple mistake. the company would have to owe many people money. I commend you for actually thinking about the entire body that this would affect.

Nathan said...

While I do agree that George is doing the right thing by holding off attention, and commend him for taking the time to allow the company to respond, I don't think this affects quite as many people as some people think. If you look up the numbers yourself, they are stated as "$0.002 when roaming in Canada." That is correct and what they are billing. How many people are actually calling in to customer service to request rates?

I'll grant that there would be quite a lot of money lost, but it's not something Verizon would be doomed from. I don't know how any of us can accurately predict how many customers this would affect, or more importantly how many Verizon would be liable to refund.

Mark said...

Wouldn't anyone who wished to be compensated have to be able to prove that they were quoted .002 cents? Is that likely to actually be a large number of people? Or in a class action lawsuit, would the evidence of a few weigh heavily enough to compensate the many?

Josh said...

My friend who works for Verizon's IT department claims that the now famous customer service reps work a few floors below him in the same building as his. He and his coworkers in the IT group have been having a good laugh over this and are thinking of ways to rub it in a little downstairs. (Without going too far, of course)

Suggestions are welcome.

Mark said...

I kind of feel bad for them as it is. Unlike some, I don't buy the idea that they were being deliberately obtuse.

filo said...

This is incredible. Totally incredible. I will never ever EVER be a verizon customer after this.

georgevaccaro said...

@mark

I think it could be in the thousands of people, but probably not much more, if you consider the US Canadian border, and the people that cross the border frequently.

As Nathan said, anyone who got their rates in writing wouldn't apply as it seems their documentation shows the rate correctly. Its only those like me and Peter, who actually requested a quote on the phone, or in the store in person.

I don't think its huge. That said, I'm sure they do quite a bit of sales over the phone, so potentially anyone that has a rate based plan - if there even are any - could be affected.

As for proof, that's a good question. I'm sure that's something that Verizon would be concerned about too - everyone and anyone calling and claiming their rate was misquoted.

Perhaps Verizon's best bet is to commit to educate their CSR's, and to change what appears to be a policy of brushing off customers vs. actually solving their problems.

Nathan said...

I don't think this is a provider specific problem, or that they are deliberately acting like morons. I wouldn't have expected them to admit a mistake, but I would have expected that as soon as they realized the error, to pass it on immediately, which isn't necessarily what happened. I'm pretty sure that this could have just as likely been AT&T or T-Mobile, etc.

Or maybe they have already taken the time to quote their rates in a less confusing manner...

georgevaccaro said...

@josh

My friend thought of this one as a payback. It sort of fits the bill. You're friends might like this one.

They have to take me out for drinks and keep buying rounds until they can accurately calculate the tip! :)

If I think of anything else, I'll be sure to post it.

Aaron said...

So how long are you planning on giving them to respond before you go anymore public with this?

I figure the end of today or tomorrow should be plenty time for them to figure out what they're doing with this, but then again I don't know how that company works. I would certainly be surprised if some of the chief executives didn't know about it by now...

Laurence said...

I expect a lot of customers that were quoted "point zero zero two cents" probably misunderstood the misquote, therefore interpreting for themselves the correct amount. Two wrongs making a right, as it were...

Still shouldn't stop those who understand the difference from being denied a refund or from Verizon et al educating their reps.

georgevaccaro said...

@aaron

Later tonight I'll make a formal post. I'll explain the attempts I've made to reach executives for Verizon west coast - I'll post the emails. I'll summarize people's concerns as posted on this blog, and request that they get in touch with me by a certain date - at this point I think you're right, it will probably be tomorrow night. And if they don't, I'll take some of the people who have been contacting me for interviews up on their offers.

Believe it or not, during the last hour there have been more hits to this blog than at any point previous, so I think there is still quite a bit of interest in these issues.

roberto said...

Regarding media coverage, this sounds like a story for Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC.

peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
georgevaccaro said...

@laurence

great point, and also, even if you were to ignore the fact that people might have been misquoted for a second, there is the problem that it probably is still happening. That part can be addressed by Verizon changing rates to per MB.

peter said...

Dont forget that mine was not for Canadian use, regular data usage
same usage if you send or recieve a text with a pic or browse the internet
applies to anyone with a Verizon phone

Anyways I updated the FCC complaint to include there dollars of a cents response

Subject: RE: 06-W12537918 (Form475 Filed Via The Internet)

Follow up on a previous complaint.
I was quoted that data usage form my phone was "point zero one five cents per kilobyte" upon calling Verizon's customer service.
A week later I realized something was wrong on my bill. I called and informed them that there was a mistake and I was being charged point zero one five dollars per kilobyte - 100 times more. I spoke to three more employees who not only insisted that the initial rate I was quoted was correct but that there is no difference between .015 cents or dollars. At this point I don't know if deceitful practices or down right ignorance is to blame so I put it into writing and this is the reply I got via email some 10 days later after two complaints and informing them that I had submitted a complaint to the FCC:


"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.

Finally, the last four digits of the Social Security Number (SSN) provided in your e-mail do not correspond with what is listed on your account. If you have additional questions, I will be required to ensure that your account has been verified before I can discuss any account-specific information or process any service changes.

To ensure secure transmission of your information, please do not reply directly to this e-mail. Instead, because our website is a much more secure method for you to transmit sensitive data, please send a new e-mail through our website and include the last four (4) digits of your Social Security Number along with your inquiry.

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.

Sincerely,

Eva
Verizon Wireless
Customer Service

"We never stop working for you!"
"
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Please note I never went to a physical store as asserted nor ever wrote the phrase "$.015 cents" in fact here is what I did say)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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 hear "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"...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This response is even more convoluted than the ones I receive over the phone.
This isn't right what is happening and I feel I am due a refund and I feel Verizon should stop quoting people these incorrect rates.

Laurence said...

george:

Indeed, the sound of "two dollars per megabyte, charged in kilobyte increments" sounds so much nicer. People probably relate to megabytes more than a smaller unit, which is really useless apart from talking about something like average "page views". I don't think people can visualize something like "zero point zero zero two bananas per micrometer" so easily :)

Mark said...

Bananas per micrometer... there's a unit I'd like to see come up in textbooks more often.

georgevaccaro said...

@laurence

I agree. And especially in the age of camera phones, pda phones, streaming video and mp3 phones.

KB is a stupid unit to use.

Bubba said...

So, is 1 KB equivalent to 1000 bytes or 1024 bytes?

Haha!

Dan said...

might as well put it in units of newton seconds over (hectars*mile/hour) of gold per exabyte

Hennell said...

@Josh

Perhaps the IT department could install a new wallpaper or screen saver system with a handy Dollar to Cent conversion chart...

georgevaccaro said...

@Hennell - great idea!

Noah said...

To be clear, this audio happened *AFTER* George's audio. right?

Jon said...

I think the main problem with them is that they're not understanding that when they're multiplying in cents, the output will also be in cents.

Cheesy Bread said...

As a mathematician, I understand the issue, but would never expect the average American too. However, if you had gotten a call center in India, more than likely the intelligent Indian staffer would have been able to understand the problem, if only due to competitive exclusion for jobs in Indian call centers versus here in American. Is this a reason to support outsourcing? I believe so. We can get better service cheaper. As far as Verizon goes, I will continue to use their service for the same reason I date hot girls who are a bit slow in the head.

SkipSmith said...

>>As a mathematician, I understand the issue, but would never expect the average American *too*.<<

Oh, the irony.

georgevaccaro said...

@skipsmith - :)

Heuros said...

I'VE GOT IT! I know I'm late to the party, but from listening to the recordings I've deduced the mental patterns in the heads of the Verizon reps, and I can show why the various proposed ways to show them their error can never, ever work. Here's a surreal conversation between George (G) and the Verizonoid (A).

G: These numbers you're talking about, are they in dollars or cents?

A: All decimal numbers are in dollars, but if a number is less than 1 I will say "cents". Once every hour or so I will mention a decimal number in cents, but that will be a brief flash, quickly forgotten.

G: What about "one cent"?

A: If it's an integer then when I say cents I mean cents... although if the number is more than 99 I might get woozy.

G: So 2 cents and .02 cents are the same?

A: Yes, but I won't say they're the same, because they're in different number schemes.

G: What about "half a cent"?

A: Yes, I understand english fractions, but only "one half", "one tenth" and maybe "one hundredth". When I use them and say cents I mean cents. But I can't manipulate them-- that is, I can't multiply them together, and I have a lot of trouble converting to and from decimal notation. "One thousandth" is beyond me. "One twentieth" would make me bleed from the ears. Oh, and I can't always grasp the concept of a fraction of a dollar.

Just try listening to the recording again-- it all makes perfect sense! And it's unassailable by logic.

sdchris said...

One thing that I've noticed about human nature is a perception problem with terminology.

I had a teacher that asked his students, "When do you celebrate the fourth of July?"

Of course all American students in the class said, "July 4" or some equivalent.

He had a Canadian student who said "We celebrate ours on July 1st."

Students from other countries answered with the day of the year their country was founded or their national independence day.

The teacher never asked them when they celebrated their nation's founding or independence day.

Unfortunately, I think this confusion with decimals is only going to get worse. As more high tech and research gets outsourced to place like India, fewer and fewer American students are going to get much education in math and sciences because the jobs aren't there in the US.

Aaron said...

I MUST Say. If I was in that possition. They would be facing a lawsuit. I feel sorry for those who went through this. You should have consult with a very good lawyer.

"Always" remember, you "time" is your "money" being spent or in this case being wasted.