Friday, December 8, 2006

My email response to Verizon

Nikki,

As I described in my original message to you, when I called before entering Canada I spoke to a rep who quoted me a rate of ".002 cents per KB." I thought that seemed like a great rate and confirmed it with her - she confirmed. I even went so far as to have her note it in the account.

Then, knowing that rate, I used your service in Canada accordingly. I now understand that the rate is actually ".002 dollars per KB" despite the fact that all your reps still claim its ".002 cents per KB." Also, had your company a policy of quoting rates per megabyte, which would result in a much more easily interpretable rate $2.05/MB this whole situation could have been avoided.

The main problem I've had in explaining this to your customer service reps is the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents. To demonstrate that to you I have provided a link to google that will help you see what my bill should be using the rate that was quoted to me:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=.002+cents%2Fkb+times+35893kb&btnG=Search

As you can see, the charge for my usage at .002 cents/KB is $.71786 - or $.72 rounding up to the nearest cent - 72 cents. That is what I was quoted and that is what I am therefore willing to pay.

If you have any problems understanding this, please leverage someone from your accounting department to help you understand it, as I'm sure they know the difference between dollars and cents.

Finally, if you'd rather not acknowledge this mistake, I'd like to at least offer you some advice. All 5 of your customer service reps quoted me the same rate ".002 cents per KB." You can find an audio recording of 2 of those 5 quoting this rate repeatedly to me when I called yesterday, on my blog here:

http://verizonmath.blogspot.com/2006/12/verizon-doesnt-know-dollars-from-cents.html

You can also see there that most people understand the difference between dollars and cents, and you therefore might want to offer your reps some training on the issue.

Thanks very much,
George Vaccaro

155 comments:

Davman said...

This is actually worth me waiting up for (it's 1:20am in the UK) to see what she says.

This is easily the funniest thing I've heard/read all day. Possibly all week.

I hope someone there sees reason soon!

garrett said...

props to you man, i can't beleive how stupid they are, a person as head office doesn't even know the difference, i barely passed grade 11 math and i know the difference, good luck with this, and i can't wait for the final outcome

Joshua said...

Hey did you check and see if the kilobyte total has been passed through the canadian exchange rate?

It may only be 21535KB.

Good luck getting the full credit, I admire your patience. You do a great job keeping cool on the phone.

Quiescent said...

Next time try asking them to calculate it used .002 dollars. With their math skills they would get the same number and then you would have them :)

Brad said...

have you stopped cc payment? (assuming you have your card autopay)

Conor said...

Very very good response. As soon as somebody who isn't an idiot and understands the issue sees this I guarantee you the charge will be dropped in a second. This is hugely embarassing for Verizon and I also suspect they'll take you up on the suggestion to charge by the megabyte to avoid it happening again.

Wayne Cheng said...

You know, seeing how many other people may have been ripped off due to miscalculations - this could end up being a huge class action lawsuit.

Chris said...

This is unbelievable. What state is this in?

georgevaccaro said...

Thanks for all your comments. I'm getting a huge kick out of this whole thing. If I don't get my money back it will be $71 well spent!

georgevaccaro said...

@chris, my account is in CA.

Timmiejane said...

With the attention this article is getting... hold your ground! Oh, and direct Verizon to the Digg site, so they can see the ton of bad PR. Also, see if you can't get some of the online newspapers directed to your blog.

Kris said...

Apparently they cannot hear you now.

Robert said...

If they refuse to charge you only 71 cents, you refuse to pay them. DO NOT let them have YOUR $71 dollars. If they make it through all this publicty and they still get 71 dollars, then nobody will ever be charged fairly and they will continue this tactic.

Go to your local paper/newstation with this. Bring along your audio.

aogail said...

One better than providing a cryptic (to these people, at least) URL to google is to tell them to:

1. Go to google.com.
2. Enter ".002 cents per kilobyte times 35000 kilobytes"

I can't believe the grief you're getting over this. I also can't believe how many people you've gone through without finding someone with a basic understanding of units.

Brian said...

Tell them to write this out on a piece of paper:
First line - put a "dollar sign", ".002", "times", "kb usage", "equals", then the answer. Do it again with a "cents sign" on the next line. When they move the sign over to the answer they should see the difference.

Hugh said...
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Shane said...

This made my night, only because you were so cool when I was screaming at my computer "you people are idiots!?" The educational system truly failed. It is nice that you got the quote on paper and now in a recording. Without the recording it would be simply unbelievable.

Don Q. said...

If you have to explain this to somebody else and you run into the same problems, you may want to ask them to momentarily forget about dollars and cents - ask them to calculate it in bananas instead. When they state that you would owe 71.79 bananas, ask them to replace the word bananas with cents, since they quoted you originally in cents rather than bananas.

Adam said...

You poor man... I feel your pain. Great job keeping your cool. Hope things go well for you.

(May think about removing the girls phone number from the recording. I would hate for something like that to cause you problems.)

Brian said...

You need to email Verizon this link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinola

Maybe they'll get it then?

Drew said...

You need to explain that .002 x .01 = .002 cents. She doesn't get that.

So say the math is .002 x .01 x whatever your total usage was.

Don said...

Can you hear me now?
Can you UNDERSTAND ME NOW?

garrett said...

if anything you should do what that lady did in texas, just sue them for the amount in small claims court, just serve the papers at a kiosk

Ryan said...
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Michael said...

Congratualtions for "Keeping your cool" as other people have said.

Personally, I would have gone postal about ten minutes into the first phone conversation.

Hopefully they will take your advice and get an accountant to look at this. I expect they would have basic logic skills.

Keep posting updates to your blog. It's gone straight to the top of my RSS list. Don't give up on these people. Do not pay them what they're telling you.

Good luck!

Ryan said...

Ok I kept posting the wrong image, but here we go... Try getting them to write it out like this, and have them cross out the "kb" so they know what units they end up with.

http://img138.imageshack.us/
my.php?image=img3986nw8.jpg

Tom said...

They're offering you half. I'd take it. Yeah, you're in the right, but these companies NEVER offer a break, even when they're the ones that screwed up.

The normal routine is that you'll try to get the charges fixed for weeks, then when you refuse to pay for the pay-per-view wrestling you never fucking ordered, they'll send you to collections. They'll hold your credit rating hostage until you pay for whatever fake charges they drummed up. Even if you take them to court and win, it doesn't matter because the delinquency can never be taken off your credit report.

It's a fucking protection racket.

I'd pay the thirty odd bucks, then if you want to teach them a lesson, cancel your service and go to a competitor. Wait until your contract is up though, so they don't charge you those huge extortion fees for cancelling.

It won't actually do any good, because they're all in collusion, and the next guy will be just as big a crook. It's the invisible hand, giving you the finger. But at least it'll make you feel better.

fn said...

this is basic math... n cents * n = n cents

BUT I understand where verizon is coming from, it IS common practice to label anything less than a dollar in cents and not dollars... in accounting they never write 50 cents, it's ALWAYS .50 then they use the term cents because it's less than 1.00

now if they quoted him "2/1000th of a cent", than he's got a story, but if he was quoted ".002 cents"... than i can see the confusion...

can anyone in accounting back this up?

Mike said...

We are doomed as a nation. Only God can save us now.

Seth said...

George, you have an unholy amount of patience. I didn't think anything was left on the internet that could really shock me, but unless these people are conspiring to bilk you for $71, I cannot believe this.

Chris said...

Absolutely unfathomable.

oracle said...

i bet their IT systems are correct because its built in asia probably but the morons who wrote the script the Customer service guys use botched it up. either way i hope the mainstream press picks this up.. try to cut it up into a nice shorter version.. they should call that whole verizon network team thing to use a bloody dictionary and 4th grade math. to think ... they took the SATs...

oracle said...

pray they dont charge you $76,000.00 next

Johnie said...

Tom said: "They'll hold your credit rating hostage until you pay for whatever fake charges they drummed up. Even if you take them to court and win, it doesn't matter because the delinquency can never be taken off your credit report."

Tom, you are so beyond wrong. Look up the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It is actually quite easy to dispute an erroneous entry on your credit report. If they refuse to remove the entry even after you win the court case, they would be liable to you for up to $2500. Look up creditnet.com. It is a forum of people with advice on how to dispute inaccurate credit reports/collections.

Also, I don't think the point of the post is really to get the $70. I'd be more than willing to pay $70 to show the world how retarded Verizon is. It also reflect poorly on the educational system when people don't have the basic common sense.

Paul said...

I think fn above got it right. The problem is in changing the symbols "$.002" into words. I would be willing to bet your usage bill that the original quote noted in your file at your request uses the symbols "$.002" which is why they found that the rep provided the correct pricing information. The problem is not that "point zero zero two dollars" is not "point zero zero two cents" it's that "$.002" is not read as "point zero zero two cents" which is exactly what everyone is doing.

Paul said...

Given the above though, I still think Verizon is at fault here. Leverage your audio recording as much as you can. Good luck.

Jack said...

This is a blatant bait and switch. You should contact you're local authorities (Local Utility Commission?) to report this. It's also against the law to send fraudulent bills thru the post.

Norman said...

wonder if Ed Zander can help you out.

Michelle said...

$0.002 is fine but they insisted 5 times that point zero zero two cents was the quote.

I can't believe they didn't off to pay the whole bill and came back with half!!

How did you record the conversation?

Michael said...

I am seriously impressed by your patience. Try emailing them the following image :]

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mayerm/317591272/

georgevaccaro said...

thanks for all the comments. I think I should be hearing from Verizon soon. :)

btw, I recorded the call with my camera, I put them on speaker phone. Its got an audio recording setting.

georgevaccaro said...

@michael

Thanks, the problem is convincing them that line 2 is correct. That was really the whole challenge. They thought that .002 cents was the same as $.002.

georgevaccaro said...

@Quiescen

I just read your post and finally got what you meant - that is a great idea - I wish I thought of that!

thanks!
g

sirmarcos said...

The problem definitely comes from the $.002 way of expressing a fractional cent into words. Perhaps if you used the word "pennies" - and explained that 0.002 pennies is not the same as 0.002 dollars. You almost got them to get it when you said half a cent and half a dollar, but the "point zero zero two" thing - I don't think they get that means 2 / 1000.

Anyway, you were remarkably patient - I hope you get like a free year of Verizon out of this or something.

Michelle said...

How did you use the 35 megs in Canada?

georgevaccaro said...

@michelle

how many megs do you usually use on data networks? funny question.

Joey said...

I just fired them an e-mail as I hope tons of people are doing.

I was weeping both out of laughter and for the future.

Michael said...

send a formal snail mail letter to verizon along with an invoice for your basic arithmetic (not math) tutoring

they are such morons - you deserve money for teaching these idiots

wanna bet they are college graduates?

DHofmann said...

$/MB may not work, because the term "megabyte" is ambiguous. Read about the mebibyte for more info.

Johnny Stinson said...
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Johnny Stinson said...
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Johnny Stinson said...
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Tim said...

If you end up talking to them again and still can't get it through their thick-brainless skulls, try asking for the highest up person there, or an accountant. Or better yet, do you have an actual verizon store around there? Maybe writing it down would get it through to them. I'm actually curious to go to one around here and see what they tell me.

Tim said...

Sounds almost like they're trying to play stupid to confuse you and get out of owning up to their mistake. It's hard to believe they can be THAT stupid.

bneises said...

Owwww... My brain hurts from trying to comprehend how many people have told you that $0.002=$0.00002 GOD! Why have you put stupid people on this earth?!?!

Zack said...

They simply don't believe you and just assume the "computer" cannot make a mistake. So the approach I would take would be to try and convince someone else (who hasn't already been a part of this) to work out the math and see the problem.

CS reps are stupid. Try running it past a few guys in the verizon tech dept, where they actually have to think. Then tell them to drop some basic math skillz on the CS dept.

You might have to get to 2nd or 3rd level tech support before they are allowed to use brains.

ex. call up tech support, get level 2 and word it something like this. "If I said I was going to be sending 38,000 files and they were .002KB, what would the total size be?" Then do it for .002MB. Then ask if they can substitute KB/MB for dollars/cents. It'll be weird for them but they can do it. (you'd probably have to reach a Sr Network Designer before they figured out 8 bits in a byte)

I think the key is getting someone else to figure out the math, walk over and slap the CS dept with some math.

Zack said...

oh, and if you really want to stick it to them, once they do realize their mistake. Demand they compensate YOU with like a free month of service or something.

Brian said...

I listened to this earlier today, and just noticed its now been slashdotted! But yeah, that email they sent you is a joke, no one at verizon can do math... they work it out in cents, then call it dollars... come on now. Good luck man, you better get the bill dropped and not even pay the 71cents cause of the trouble they caused you

Chris said...

American stores are sloppy with labeling stuff .50 cents instead of .50 dollars. this could easily be the case, but aside from that the mere fact they can't get the quoted price right shows how off the ball they are.

Good Job and Good Luck

Thomas said...

Wendy's once offered "double the meat for 99 cents", and in order to take full advantage of the deal, I ordered a triple cheeseburger and "doubled the meat". They tried to give me a burger with only four patties, but luckily after only a few minutes of arguing, they removed the extra patty and refunded me the 99 cents.

I, too, would have spent hours on the phone to remedy my mis-quoted burger, but I don't know if I could have kept my cool as long as you have. I really hope you don't give in. You owe them nothing less than $0.72. This is a matter of principle.

Chris said...

Well, come on guys, it's not like Verizon has ever had a history of being good with basic arithmetic. Here's another example:

http://www.codepoetry.net/2006/07/07/verizon_really_bad_at_math

synopsis said...

You could always tell them to try this...
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=convert+0.002+cents+to+dollars&btnG=Google+Search
But odds are, if they can't understand such a concept as .002 cents being equal to 0.00002 dollars, then I'm sure scientific notation is way above their heads, even though, seeing it like that might convince them since it doesn't say 0.002 dollars, heh.
Best of luck getting them to make your bill right though.
Also, good job staying patient, I would have lost it on the first representative

Bin said...

wow. just wow. you are incredibly patient in teaching them math, yet they do not understand. she completely brushed off your example of showing up with 20,000 pennies to pay for a car, when its 20,000 dollars. its incredible coming from a manager. if it was from a first tier rep, i would brush it off, but this is just ridiculous.

Reza said...

This is the greatest story in the history of man-kind. I have run into this exact situation before.

Jonathan said...

George, this is the most painfully funny thing I've heard in a while. The audio recording is priceless. I know most people are bad at basic math, but there has to be _someone_ at Verizon who understands this stuff. Oh god. Good luck.

thynk said...

I feel your pain. In one two year contract I had over $800 refunded for over billing. I had to fight for hours to get those back. I finally dropped them for another carrier simply because I got tired of fighting. Near the end of the battle I finally asked to speak with their customer retention department, who I must say refused to talk to me.

Han said...

It seems they are clueless about units. So try explaining it this way.

Ask them to pretend that they are charging 0.002 APPLES per kilobyte. Then ask how much you owe -- they should say about 72 apples.

Then ask them to suppose they charged in terms of, say, gold bars -- 0.002 GOLD BARS per kilobyte. Then how much would you owe? About 72 gold bars.

How about if the rate was 0.002 television sets? About 72 TV sets.

How about if the rate was 0.002 cars? About 72 cars.

Do this several times using easy-to-understand units and make sure that you emphasize what units you are working with.

Finally, ask them if the rate is 0.002 pennies, don't ask them what you owe. Instead, ask them in what units you will be paying.

Hopefully that will clear it up

Han said...

In case it wasn't clear -- in each easy-to-understand example you use, make sure that you ask in terms of what you will be paying. E.g. if the rate is 0.002 APPLES per kilobyte, ask them in terms of what will they be paying? If they need help, give them a hint by asking if your payment will be in terms of APPLES or something else.

Do this several times using non-monetary units, and then finally ask them about the rate of 0.002 PENNIES.

Jon said...

Wow, you have to be kidding me. I just listened to the entire thing with my mouth hanging open.

How can these people not grasp this? I can't think of any other way to explain something that a child in grade school would have no problem with.

Steven said...

You should really consider becoming a teacher, you're so patient with slow learners. Good luck with that refund, personally, I left Verizon, but that was because of poor coverage and a crappy class-actioned cell phone. What the hell.. I wish I could be a customer service manager without knowing simple mathematic conversions. Screw college.

Raj said...

Read your contract:

http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/businessSolutions/global/globalaccesspriceandcoverage.jsp?section=smallMediumBusiness

They may have quoted you wrong (.002 cents) but you signed the contract. Your contract says $0.002/KB. You're gonna hafta pay.

Though I do find the stupidity of others funny, Verizon needs to train their people to say $0.002 instead of .002 cents.

Trevor Harmon said...

Hey George,

With all this bad publicity, I'm betting Verizon will soon refund your money, but if not, I recommend against Tom's advice of accepting the half-refund offer. There are other options, such as requesting a refund from your credit card company (assuming you paid by credit card).

Another option is to take your case to small claims court. Last year I ran into trouble with T-Mobile, who ignored my repeated complaints about a bill. After six months of back-and-forth with customer service, I gave up and sued them in small claims court. As soon as T-Mobile got the subpoena, they gave me a full refund and paid all my court costs.

Even when the customer is clearly in the right, taking these big corporations to court is sometimes the only way to get them to listen to you.

hakob said...

It seems like they are having difficulty understanding difference between currencies like Dollars, Cents, Rubles, Tumans... I think if the sales rep was from a different country, like India, they'd understand the math :)

I think IRS should take a closer look at this. This seems to be a fraud.

Jeremy said...

It took until the final woman for me to even comprehend where the hell these people were even coming from with their damn misconceptions.

then I figured with their limited math skills that when they see say .02 in terms of money they would say 2 cents (possibly I would hope otherwise all hope for their intellect is completely lost)

but since .002 has no physical representation in currency they have no other way to say it then flat out

point zero zero two

and then they need to come up with a unit and its after the decimal, which to the less competent is synonymous with being cents.

anyway you should definitely go all the way if need be. Their case would hold up all of five minutes in court.

Quark said...
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Jeff said...

Dude, I'm no legalitician, so I don't know the difference between breaking 1 law and .01 laws, but they might just be equal in this case. As an aside, you may have screwed yourself if you replied directly to Nikki (if you indeed did) instead of directing a more different email (props to trogdor) to the corporate headquarters. The ultimatum, "Please reply to this email if you would like to accept this offer." scares me. The man is horribly sneaky dude. Watch out for that junk. You definitely have them on "Misrepresentation" at least in FL. They agreed to the recording, which makes it admissible in most civil courts, should you choose to pursue that course of action. If they try to screw you again, contact the BBB (Better Business Bureau). They'll at least provide assistance in getting you your duckets (dollars) back due to the painfully obvious disparity between quoted and charged rates. You are most definitely entitled to the 70+ dollars they screwed you out of (verbal contracts are binding on most states), plus any "punitive" damages such as "mental anguish" you may have been subjected to as a result of your attempts to resolve the issue (apparently to no avail). I charge 2x10^47 grams / second for mental anguish. Good luck brother.

Sith Snoopy said...

I'm very sorry for what you had to go through.
You have the patience of a saint!!!

But I'm overjoyed that you posted this! My husband and I were ROTFLOL while listening to the phone call on youtube. :)

This is just bloody scary, though. This is simple math, and they just don't get it... What, aren't they pumping enough fresh air into the Customer Service dept. in the Verizon buildings???

Jory said...

Perhaps you should contact your state's Public Utilities Commission (PUC)? I live in California and used to have problems with the phone company all the time (PacBell/SBC/AT&T/whateverthehelltheirnameisthisweek). I could never get issues resolved until someone informed me that the California PUC could make the earth move!

Try calling the PUC and ask for their complaint line. They will get an executive on the phone who is capable of getting things done. And they will resolve the problem before you hang up.

Try it! It works!

Jory said...
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moe said...
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Tyler said...

Awful, man...it's ridiculous that these people cannot see the difference between .002 and .00002. I mean, look at the numbers...they're not the same! How hard is that? I thought you had almost gotten somewhere on the recording when you talked the woman into admitting that a half of one cent would be .005 dollars. I thought she ALMOST had it. I think SHE DID almost have it, and she just didn't want to admit you were right.
I'd be pissed, too, as I would have assumed the same thing you did. I think any normal person would be able to see the difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars. You can't just use those terms interchangeably unless you do it all the way up the scale! If that's the case, I would argue to them that I wanted a new phone for $1. Since .002 cents is the same as .002 dollars, then a $100 phone should cost $100 cents...or $1.00. Keep up the fight, please, and if there's an email address that we can send math problems to, please post that in your blog, too. I'm going to forward this to a few news outlets...maybe they can help you out.

Magiske said...

Heads up from Denmark.

Boy are they slow..

Would LOVE to be in the office when the 0.02 cent drop..

/M

DigitalDren said...

I think the best way to describe it to the reps would be like this.

Show them how many bits are used per cent. Which at the rate of .002 cents per KB, would be 1cent=500KB. Then after they grasp that concept. Have them take your total usage of 35893KB, and divide it by 500. Which would give you a total of 71.786 times that 500 goes into 35893. And since we established that 500=1cent, it would show that you only owe them 72 cents. (rounded up)

This is really sad that even simple math is beyond certain people.

Andrew said...

@Johnny Stinson-
No, he's still in the good. It didn't say don't reply if you don't wish to accept.

Tyler said...

Just an FYI...I sent the link from the video and this blog to Hannity and OReilly. Not sure what your political affiliation is, but I don't think it matters in this case. Not sure if they'll do anything, but it can't hurt to try. Hope it all gets resolved.

Interwire said...

Unbelivable. Anyways you should have just explained how units of measure carry through the whole problem. If you begin in cents you end in cents. Hope you get it resolved and with all the publicity this is getting I dont think you will have any problems.

moe said...

I was hoping you would explain to her this way....

2 cents = .02 (in calculator)
.2 cents = .002 (in calculator)
.02 cents = .0002 (in calculator)
.002 cents = .00002 (in calculator)

so if you charge me .002 cents, well use .00002 in calculator!

Quark said...
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Jon said...

I think we can conclude that Verison has 0.002 sense per kilobyte.

moe said...

well said...

Scott L said...

This is fantastic, I listened to the entire recording and I was cringing and laughing at the same time - reminded me of the humour from George Costanza's character or the office. Laughing yet cringing.


Good luck with this - sooner or later someone with a clue should fix you up, I hope.

- abrasion / scott

Jeremy said...

Well to be fair... it is all about the network... and not the customer support after all.

Rohit said...

You have a godly amount of patience. I can not wait for this to end in your favor. If I were a Verizon customer, I would cancel my service just out of principle as well as in support of you.

In response to the whole "reply to this email" issue, given I am not a lawyer - I deal in the contracts world quite a bit, the wording of your reply obviously has no intent of acceptance of an offer made nor does it seem anything can be appropriately interpreted as valid, therefore enforceable, contract. Regardless, if it came down to it, no court would enforce such an uncertain and vague statement. (/my personal interpretation)

Regardless, good luck to you. Please keep us all updated.

Inqu said...

Holy moly, I had to take breaks listening to that audio because my bloodpressure was building up by the sheer stupidity of the reps.

It's a dark week for math, first a dude invents a symbol to "solve" one of maths oldest problems and now this.
I hope none of those ppl get relocated to verizons account department..

Jussi Ruokomaki said...

George, love your patience!

Paavo Heiskanen said...

Strength, man. This kafkanian episode made my day.

classifiedlogic said...

Man, I wouldn't think so many stupid people work in one office.

Hua said...

Don't worry George. At this point money is no longer important. It's so sadly funny that we all can't wait to see Verizon's embarrassed apology to the public.

Great job! Please stick to the end and make them apologize.

Perry Jones said...

I listened to the entire recording on YouTube, and it literally hurt. I'm very patient with idiots from my own experience in customer service, but this would have pushed me too far.

In all seriousness, good luck on getting this fixed. I hope you get the right person on the phone and can hear them groan when they realize how stupid their co-workers are.

Will said...

Unfortunately, I have to agree with a couple other posters. I'd bet all .002 cents/KB that in their notes they wrote it as $0.002/KB, and not .002 cents per KB. It's just that everyone who sees it does the same bad math translation.

Second, you suffer from the same problem a lot of smarter people have, that is trying to educate and persuade at the same time. I've worked in a call center before, I know who gets promoted to Sup. and Manager. It's not exactly the best and the brightest.

Keep us informed! I like the ideas of going to the PUC, small claims court, or BBB. Perhaps an episode of The People's Court or Judge Judy? LOL

Tyler said...

Well, it really doesn't matter what's written down (IMO...I'm not a lawyer). They gave him a verbal quote of what he was going to have to pay - .002 CENTS per KB. He even had them write it down. Now even if they wrote it down as $.002, they still admit (on a recording, nonetheless) that he is supposed to be charged .002 CENTS per KB. He's not seeing the paper or the screen they are looking at. He's going by what a (supposedly) knowledgeable employee of the Verizon company is telling him. To me, that constitutes a verbal contract and unless he specifically signed a piece of paper that stated "$.002 per KB no matter what anyone else said" I think that contract should hold up. It's not his fault they are ignorant. I would say that any one of the 100 people who commented on this would have come to the same conclusion George did. I know that if someone told me .002 cents per KB I would have thought they meant, literally, $0.00002 per KB.

Bryan said...

I plan on emailing Verizon as well on this matter.

I have to deal with them on a daily basis in my job (most of my customers have DSL through Verizon and you wouldn't believe the kind of problems that causes).

I would make one suggestion to George and also to anyone else sending messages to Verizon.

Keep on the look out for responses. If Verizon responds to anyone, other than George's email, with information regarding this incident, it is a huge violation of Privacy and you will then have a case that most lawyers would drool to represent.

clint said...

you should call tom leykis with this. i bet he'd put it on the air.

Jacob said...

I think part of the problem is that many people can't retain more than a few logical arguments at once. So while you were very good at explaining all about the difference between dollars and cents, they couldn't retain that long enough to be able to apply it to your bill. If you talk to them again on the phone, I would suggest the following proof.
1. Have the agree that dollars are not cents
2. That in fact dollars are much larger than cents
3. Then have then agree that point zero zero two dollars is larger than point zero zero two cents
4. Then ask them to "humor you" and computer the bill with point zero zero two dollars.
5. Then ask them to compute the bill for point zero zero two cents.
6. When both computations come out equal (according to verizon math) remind them of what they agreed to in step 3.

It is important to not interject any other arguments into these six points, because many minds simply can't hold onto more than 6 points at a time.

Stick to your case, don't accept any half-off settlement. I wouldn't worry about replying to their email, because they didn't provide you instructions about what to do if you don't accept their offer, nor did they use and if-and-only-if style statement.

If the time comes where your bill is due, pay the full amount, but make it clear (write on the check, and everywhere else) that you dispute the amount. At no time do you want to do anything that even looks wrong, and not paying your bill looks wrong.

A lot of other users made comments about taking them to small claims court or take action through other consumer groups, and these are good options. Just before you do this, you should send Verizon a letter restating all your claims, and stating that you have "in good faith tried to resolve the dispute" and that you feel that you are left with no choice but to take action against them. If it goes to court, it looks good if you can show that you made every effort to work with them before working against them.

Drano said...

I sent the following message to support from my own Verizon account:

As a Verizon customer I am very disturbed by the information given to another Verizon customer, George Vaccaro. The inability do perform such simple math has me concerned about the quality of service I would receive should I need to contact a customer support representative.

As you are probably already aware the blatant mistakes Verizon representatives (including supervisors) made during his recorded phone call are spreading across the net quickly. The following links are just a few examples of how much publicity this is getting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gp0HyxQv97Q&eurl=
http://science.slashdot.org/science/06/12/09/0625245.shtml
http://digg.com/tech_deals/Verizon_says_0_002_0_00002
http://verizonmath.blogspot.com/

Each of these links has received millions of page views and tens of thousands of comments clearly pointing out the customer service representative's mistakes.

I am concerned as a Verizon customer because an important part of my service is having access to a knowledgeable customer service department. George Vaccaro's experience casts significant doubt on this expectation.

I am happy with my Verizon service and am certain you will take the appropriate actions to move forward with this issue and make sure George Vaccaro's experience isn't repeated with other Verizon customers.

Sincerely,

... ....

Rich Dougherty said...

At least Verizon's sponsoring "reading, writing and math skills" in Woodinville.

http://media-newswire.com/release_1039952.html

Michael said...

I also emailed verizon about this. Fight this one! Don't let those morons win!

hikari said...

The inability of some people to understand basic maths concepts makes me cry, it really does.

Vextor said...

Seriously, I am never getting Verizon if I have the option to. You hang in there brother...

Tom said...

How much would they have charged you if you had used only 1kb?

Matthew said...

I feel sorry for you, I really do.
It must be incredibly frustrating to hear "but sir, it's point zero two!" so many times.

My only hope is that when someone up the chain in Verizon realises what complete idiots these reps have been making the company appear to be, they'll all get fired - or at least sent to basic maths classes.

Michelle Spalding said...

Maybe Verizon should outsource the call centers to India. I'm pretty sure they know how to do math over there. ;)

Taneli said...

Oh man.. Go all the way, I also hope you get to charge them for the math lessons you gave their cs reps..

(If this actually is real, still can't believe it) you seriously are a grandmaster of patience.

Just my .002 cents.

Daniel said...

Kudos for keeping calm during that long call. However, I can understand that your explanation was - at times - a bit confusing.
I can't understand why you didn't use the most simple approach. I think you should just have asked:
- How do you convert 100 cents to dollars? Divide by 100, I hope the reply would be. - Okay, since I will be paying in dollars, lets first convert .002 cents to dollars, divide by 100. Use a calculator. Now multiply that by 35000-something. There is you answer, 0.72

Quinton said...

Wow, who would have known that people are that stupid? I should start giving out 25¢ pieces to people needing $25 in change and see if they notice...

Anyway, I think you should use the equation to your advantage. What I mean by this is go up the scale with multiples of kilobytes until they understand.

For example:

1 kB of usage = .002¢ charge on my bill, so therefore:

100 kB = .2¢
1000 kB = 2¢
10 000 kB = 20¢

etc until they understand.

Good luck and regards,

Quinton

Stephen said...

@tyler:
Hannity and Colmes wouldn't put this on because they don't like brainiacs like George here thinking that they know more than the general manager of Verizon Customer Support and they don't think we should expect Customer Service reps to have advanced degrees in mathematics!

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

The prices are correct on the verizon website:

http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/bu
sinessSolutions/global/globalaccesspr
iceandcoverage.jsp?section=smallMediu
mBusiness

But since 5 people have quoted you cents i would take this one to the courts!

Caleb said...

The whole thing is so comically sad that I'd be willing to chip in 71c to a fund just for it's humor value!

That's my 2 cents.

Steve said...

First - thanks for the laugh - it was hysterical.

Second - I do have an alternative solution for you that worked for me.

The following link is to the FCC complaints page - for dealing with advertising and billing complaints for wired and WIRELESS telecommunication services.

http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/cib/fcc475.cfm

I had a similar international billing issue using service in Mexico with a major carrier. I worked the phone for weeks to no avail, but within a week of filing the FCC complaint I acheived resolution.

I think it's partially because a third party is involved, and partially because the FCC has regulatory power over these companies and mass indifference to complaints would lead to big problems for industry players as a whole.

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

When the rep read from the script he did say it correctly, "The rate for Canada is $0.002/Kb Sent." However, he continued to botch it in his clarification. He should have converted from Canadian currency to US; they are not equal either.

Hal said...

HEY! You did Verizon Math in your reply.

Price per megabyte is not $2.05 dollars it is $.0205 dollars. You sent back the same thing they were saying to you. I hope you hear back because you have some explaining to do.

Good luck man. I hope you get this fixed. And fix that math error.

georgevaccaro said...

Thanks again everyone for the comments!

I'm expecting the humor value of this to wear off, but the comments keep it alive.

I'll be sure to keep you all posted.

BTW I have been slashdotted here:

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/12/09/0625245

But unfortunately not for my submission :(.

Its funny my original digg submission here:

http://www.digg.com/tech_news/Verizon_doesn_t_know_Dollars_from_Cents

also didnt get the same coverage as someone else's submission:

http://www.digg.com/tech_deals/Verizon_says_0_002_0_00002

But im just happy it got the publicity it has - I'm amazed!

Thanks again!

Will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

George, just noticed that you said you are in California. FYI California requires both parties to be notified before a phone conversation can be recorded legally. They can probably demand that you take down the recording, and the law would be on their side. It wouldn't do them much good now since the audio file is on the Internet, but you'd probably be unable to use the recording in small claims court.

Most distressing, Verizon could conceivably sue you for damages stemming from publication of an illegally recorded phone conversation. It'd be really brain-dead of them to do so since the publicity would really hurt them, but you should be aware that this is a possibility. This was the activity which got Linda Tripp in trouble after she released her recorded phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky.

Andrew Shimmin said...

I think you should reconsider accepting their offer. By their own math, it's a $3,600 credit. Not bad!

Dave said...

Excellent, thanks for some beautiful entertainment. Also, congratulations on remaining calm and reasonable for so long. I agree with the others that to convince them, try to have them work it down by scale. For example, I would try to email them this, or get them to write this down and agree to each line:

Suppose the rate is 2 cents per KB:
2 cents / KB * 35893KB = 71786 cents = $717.86

Suppose the rate is .2 cents per KB:
.2 cents / KB * 35893KB = 7178.6 cents = $71.786 (What I was charged!)

Suppose the rate is .02 cents per KB:
.02 cents / KB * 35893 KB = 717.86 cents = $7.1786

Suppose the rate is .002 cents per KB:
.002 cents / KB * 35893 KB = 71.786 cents = $.71786 (What I was quoted!)

Dave said...

And don't give up, George! Stay calm, reasonable and argue your case. You are in the right. You will prevail.

Dave said...

Also, if you get into another conversation with someone who cannot grasp the unit conversion after many tries, I would say something like this:

"I really mean no offense or insult, and I understand how this matter can be confusing, but I believe that you're not understanding the math behind the difference of .002 dollars per kilobyte and .002 cents per kilobyte. It's also difficult to explain it on the phone without being able to write it out. Is there anyone I can speak to who you believe has a very strong understanding of math?"

Mark said...

IANAL but if they systematically quote the price this way I'm pretty sure they are vulnerable to a rather huge class action judgement. The class would be pretty much anyone who called them for a rate quote and the damage would be 99% of the roaming revenues, which I suspect is kinda a lot.

Shawn said...

Ask them this:

How much would you be billed if you used 1KB ? They'll say "point zero zero two cents".

And that would show up on my bill as "point zero zero two"?

Yes.

And I would have to pay that with two pennies, right?

Hopefully they see the logic at that point, but if not, say...

But two pennies are TWO cents, not POINT zero zero two cents!

C said...

John, he cannot be sued. Both parties were informed of being recorded. When you call Verizon their phone system says that your call may monitored or recorded. The employees have already been informed at the time they were hired of this as well.

Also, towards the end of the call he informs her that he will be posting this recording in his blog and she doesn't object.

Xenomorph said...

i say stick it to Verizon.

get a free lawyer if you can. they may do the job for the free publicity.

they quoted you over and over .002 cents. multiple people quoted you at that. each confirming each other. so that is what you should be charged and paid. i feel this may hold up in court.

Noah said...

We should all call and sign up with verizon, since looking at their site, they have some good deals--since dollars = cents.

3000/min/month shared family plan: 149.99 cents.
Treo 700p: 399.99 cents.

We should all call, request these prices, and when they say, "those are in dollars", say, "oh, I was under the impression that verizon treated them the same. Listen to this tape:" (then play a select clip off youtube) :)

I bet if 10 people did that, it would make their daily report and keep this on their radar... especially if we did it like a month from now :)

Jeffrey said...

Truthiness: truth that comes from the gut, not books!!!

http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/TV/12/09/word.year.ap/index.html

Tamale said...

Just another idea for a methodology of teaching this concept:

First get several customer reps all available on speakerphone. Then say this:

"Please write this on a piece of paper:

(dollar sign) 0.75

Would you read this as 75 cents, or POINT 75 cents?"

When they accurately say "That should be read as 75 cents" point out that they didn't use the word point.

Then say this:

"Please write this on the same piece of paper:

(dollar sign) 0.752

This is 75 POINT 2 cents, right?"

At this point you have to argue vehemently if they say "no, it should be read as .752 cents". the whole crux of the argument is this stage I think.. because we generally don't see more than two digits beyond the decimal point in currency amounts..

Once you finally get them to agree with that, say:

"Now, please write this on a piece of paper:

(dollar sign) 0.002

Don't you see now why this should be read as POINT 2 cents? Or even better, ZERO POINT 2 CENTS?"

You need to point out why what they're SAYING when they see $0.002 on a screen is wrong..

That's the angle I would've taken, anyway.. hopefully someone would finally get it then..

Stockingfoot said...

If they are willing to settle for half you owe 36 cents.

Paul said...

This is definitely extremely funny. I can't wait for their response back to you.

I hope they realise just how big a deal this has turned out to be.

5 of their employees cannot tell the difference between dollars and cents - it's amazing!

How the hell did you keep your composure when 2, I repeat 2 reps clearly stated "No" to the question, "Do you recognise the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents?"

Truly unbelievable. Thank you for posting ... I'm eagerly awaiting an update.

Kelly Hawk said...

In response to fn who said:
"BUT I understand where verizon is coming from, it IS common practice to label anything less than a dollar in cents and not dollars... in accounting they never write 50 cents, it's ALWAYS .50 then they use the term cents because it's less than 1.00"

The flaw in your logic is that iF five cents is noted as 0.05.

0.05 is spoken as "five cents" not "point zero five cents"

See the difference?

Julie said...

It took me a while to find your blog after I listened to your phone conversation on YouTube. I just wanted to point out an irony here: http://www.coastal.edu/math/mathcontest/Level2_04.pdf

Corey said...

Probably a more understandable way to explain it to the customer service reps would to have

If $.002 = .002 cents, multiply them by 500, then they would be saying $1 = 1 cent, which we know is wrong.

Pancasatya said...

Here's to help you out a bit. I used to deal with various telephone companies, MCI, AT&T, and all the 10-10-### companies that used to f me up.

BASIC RULE: "KEEP THE UNITS!"

Here's the math, it's called the dimensional analysis.

in inline format

¢0.002/kb × $1.00/¢100 × 35,893 kb = $0.72
(the cents cancel, the kb's also cancel, and you are left with $, aka bling bling, j/k!) But seriously, you only owe 72 cents, aka $0.72.

If this is still confusing just, let me know. :D What they are missing is the conversion $1.00/¢100, that is there are 100 cents in 1 dollar. Just gotta talk to them and explain them in an email! It is probably more useful! I've been in your situation before.. nobody was helpful! Maybe this is the time in the cosmic time when I step in!

good luck and peace!

X-uuperson said...

If you you do finally get this straightened out I'd advise going to a new provider ASAP. Worked for a company that was bought by Verizon and even the employees won't use the wireless. Even the employee discount isn't worth dealing with the billing department. Remember, these people were going by the name "Worldcom" not too long ago. They aren't know for their math skills.

Brian said...

Dude, do you have a department of weights and measures in Canada ?

I am sure they would love to hear about a MAJOR network overcharging by a factor of 100.

But as a person who deals with VerizonUS on a daily basis, I would agree, they are FLAPPING THICK, and I deal with people higher than the phone arangutangs and their supervisors.

If they hit you for 100 times, and you are ONE customer, how much extra do they extort out of their customers, if 100,000 users are overcharged by a factor of 100.

Kobie said...

Ok... I think you could have explained this better if you made them label their units in the calculations... 0.002 cents times whater the kilobyte amount was versus 0.002 dollars. Anyway, they may still not have gotten it but it might have made things simpler.

Craig said...

Don't let them win. The publicity you are getting over this is starting to snowball. Soon, they will be offering you a public apology, more then likely, some compensation for your troubles.

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

I highly recommend everyone email Verizon and tell them what morons they are. I just did.
http://www22.verizon.com/ForYourBusiness/common/utilities/contactUsEmail.asp

Donald said...

I just emailed Verizon and i'm not even a verizon customer. LOL I told them if they can't do math they don't deserve my business. Good luck George.

Paul said...

WOw, i'm late to this but this is a marvelous site

texas_chic said...

I am also late to the whole ordeal, but I sent an email to Verizon. I'm not even a Verizon customer and thanks to this I never will be! George, keep up the fight!

hoechin said...

you should have asked them to take out a piece of paper to write this down.

$1 = 100 cents
$0.002 = 0.2 cents
$0.00002 = 0.002 cents

But im pretty sure they are stupid enough to not understand that.

Balgram said...

(Just barely heard about this debacle and listened to the audio; so I'm mainly commenting on that)

While I understand that Verizon is completely wrong in their calculations and that if they sat down and did the math they should see that they were wrong, I can understand part of the representatives' confusion. I'd panic a little too if someone was disputing over the phone like this and explaining 100's and 1000's of a decimal. I would suspect foul play and get defensive, like the first manager did.

I almost want to explain "Look, when you plug this in to your calculator, be careful not to change the units. We're talking cents. So when you say .002 cents, and you plug in .002 into that calculator, then you are working in cents. Which means that when a whole number comes up (everything before the decimal point), that's the number of CENTS, not dollars. Do you understand why?" and go from there. I think that was the main thing they weren't getting.

I don't know if that wording would have helped at all. Frankly, I'm just awed by this.

And this e-mail. I'm glad that everything got resolved in the end, and I'm glad that this exists. I'll remember to send people to this story when there are "Why do we need math?" questions presented to me.