Monday, December 11, 2006

Response from Verizon - Getting Closer

This just in.

Apparently someone is listening, or in this case reading. Or maybe not, this is apparently a response to a complaint I filed through PlanetFeedback.com. While I cannot necessarily attribute this response 100% to them (this blog probably affected this response), it might have provided a higher level of rep than the normal route. Thank you PlanetFeedback.com.

I have finally received acknowledgement that they made the mistake - Thank you for finally admitting it - I hope it doesn't take the average customer the collective laughter of hundreds of thousands of people in the future.

Please note the second bolded part of the email. There are a number of qualifications here that I think need to be addressed.

First, as it applies to Canadian roaming rates - rememer there are 2 rates - 1 for unlimited customers like me, 1 for everyone else. If I'm not mistaken they are $.002 and $.005 respectively. Obviously the same rules apply to the later.

Second, as we saw in Peter's case, the same problem applies to other rates, such as text and picture messaging rates. I'm sure there are also other roaming rates - Mexico maybe? I'm not sure.

Third, they need to ensure that they not just update CSR materials, but also phone sales materials - I'm not positive, but I would guess those are separate groups.

Dear Mr. Vaccaro,

The Executive Relations Team responds to consumer issues that are brought to our executives' attention. I am in receipt of your email via PlanetFeedback.com regarding your data charges while roaming in Canada . Thank you for letting us know that we inadvertently incorrectly quoted a rate to you. We have issued a credit to your account of $71.79. In order to prevent any future inaccuracies, we are supplementing the reference material used by our representatives to better highlight that the Canadian roaming rate is .002 dollars-per-kilobyte, which is equal to .2 cents per kilobyte. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Sincerely,

Ana Diaz
Verizon Wireless

West Area Supervisor, Executive Relations

59 comments:

Timothy said...

Um, Wow, took them long enough! Where to now?

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly Hawk said...

Did they actually take responsibility there?
I’m not so sure that they did…

“We inadvertently quoted” – as though it was a complete accident that every one of their employees said the same thing?!?

Also, “we are supplementing the reference material”
Note, we are supplementing, not correcting, the reference material. Supplementing doesn’t imply that much of a wrong has been committed.

I don’t think they’ve admitted to any wrong here, other than “accidentally” giving George the wrong rate.

It sounds to me like they’re merely saying “oops, we made a one time error.” And that isn’t the case… is it?

Laurence said...

They need a memo to go around right now so that all current CSRs stop this instant using incorrect terminology.

I doubt reference material is going to be looked at much if reps feel they 'know' it already. This is really a different level of understanding than what they might be doing - which could just be double checking that their rates are written correctly (eg: "$0.002").

They need to make sure their reps interpret and speak correctly too, which is a more involved task than updating some text.

Scott Lamb said...

An admission of fault, a correction, an apology, and actions promised to avoid the problem in the future. That's great!

Why is this so hard to get, though? (How could a non-blogger ever make this happen in a similar situation?) And do you believe it was inadvertent, given that so many people were involved?

Brendan said...

well at least they refunded you, but they still didn't say they made a mistake which means they are screwing over other people too. Not that I am saying they are doing it on purpose, but they have to realize when you say one thing you cant mean another thing.

georgevaccaro said...

@Brendan

They did admit it, finally, see the first bolded part of the email attached in this post.

ghanima said...

"Dear Sir:

We are sorry that our employees don't understand basic math. Thank you."

Trent said...

Did you see this?
http://www.verizonmath.com/

username said...

I'm thinking the source material either says "$.002" or says "$.002 cents". If it is the first one then the source material is correct. When most people see "$.02" they will say "2 cents". They likely get confused when there are not exactly 2 (or zero) places after the decimal, and end up failing to move the decimal point.

I would recommend that it be changed to read:
".002 dollars per kilobyte"
OR
".2 cents per kilobyte"


Note that there are no dollar signs, so reps will be less likely to attempt to change units on the fly. The second one is more clear, but I'm not sure that it will not cause additional confusion when the reps try to calculate by hand.

I would also strongly recommend
That ALL the prices listed on that sheet less than 1 cent be converted.

Values that greater than one cent that have no fraction cent portion, can be left in standard notation. (Leave 5 cents as "$0.05").

Manish said...

George,

Getting closer is right, but you're not there yet. You shouldn't stop fighting just yet.

You need to either:

1. Get them to publicly admit that they have done this to all their customers (incorrect verbal quoting of the data rates), and will not happen again OR even better yet,

2. Do number 1 and refund everyone.

--

#2 is going to be tougher, but it's a price they must pay for a mistake they clearly made intentionally (NOT inadvertently). If it was not intentional, all the CSRs wouldn't be quoting a wrong quote. There's no chance that all of them can make the same stupid mistake.

Mark said...

Meanwhile, Sprint, Cingular, et al, quietly breathe a sigh of relief as they "supplement" their own manuals.

Brendan said...

On the verizon website, does it state that the data plans are charged as fractions of a cent, or fractions of a dollar? thats the true question. if the site advertises the cost as fractions as a dollar, then they wont have to pay everyone back, only those that were told by people that it was done by fractions of a cent (becuase they cant read numbers).

I am having trouble trying to find information on their site. maybe someone else can find it. if it does indeed list that payments are done in fractions of a cent(e.x. ¢ 0.002 and not $ 0.002) then what they have done is an example of major false advertising. please, someone find it and take a screen shot before they change it or something.

Noah said...

how about just quoting it by MB? then you get out of the whole fraction game. you can still say you used 1.432MB * $2.02 (or whatever). problem is, the truthiness of $0.002 dollars/KB sounds cheaper than $2.05/MB (not sure I used truthiness 100% correctly, but you get the idea).

roberto said...

Well, Verizon's executive committee finally got the math right. I guess some of them are college educated and therefore understand middle school mathematics and that is why they make the big bucks.

Nathan said...

Manish,

I think there is the possibility that the 12-15 people in question made the same mistake. I believe this would be a mistake that probably 90% of the population would make, and we all know that verizon CSRs aren't going to be the best and brightest in any group. Add to the fact that once they did realize the mistake, they would just pass it along. I don't think it's a stretch to assume they are all just idiots.

Believing it to be some form of conspiracy that they all instruct their CSRs to say is going pretty far with limited evidence.

The actual roaming rates were found and posted at slashdot earlier in the day, and they are correctly listed as "$0.002 for roaming in Canada." The only people this affects are people who were told over the phone the wrong rate, and even then a vast majority probably do not even have the means to prove they were quoted anything other than what is written in the agreement, which is correct.

John.W.Scott said...

Now that Verizon has both admitted a mistake and refunded your money, I'm sure some will claim victory and go home (metaphorically speaking).

However, personally I'm left with a very sour taste in my mouth about this whole thing. I have Verizon wireless and have already emailed one of their Vice Presidents that I expect to change service as a result of this fiasco. But honestly, do I expect any of the other carriers to have smarter CSRs?

I have 2 responses to my own question: 1) Maybe they're not smarter, but perhaps their literature avoids such confusion so their CSRs don't have occasion to show their ignorance and waste my time. 2) Verizon has a much uglier lie that they leverage. Remember the posts where customers on their "unlimited" plan exceeded their "unlimited" allowance, resulting in Verizon canceling their service and charging them a $175 early termination fee?

So, yes, I’m still upset about this, and am looking for another carrier. Who else thinks they’re likely to drop Verizon?

Nathan said...

I do not plan to drop Verizon, because I'm not confident that any of the competition has the edge on CSR. I do, however, believe their literature could have prevented this and perhaps it is made more clear with other providers. There are horror stories with all providers (my personal one involved Cingular 2 years ago) and it's really no surprise.

George did better for himself than he could have originally planed before he went to Canada, he ended up paying nothing for use the entire time. In the end, after much time and effort, they fixed the situation. That's all I think I could realistically expect them to do, and as such, feel no need to jump ship.

Manish said...

Nathan,

The idea of $0.002 being different from 0.002 cents may be confusing for some people. But if they have taken elementary math, the explanation that George gave on phone should have been enough for them to realize their mistake.

I think the fact that they [the CSRs] decided to continue to say "zero point zero zero two cents per kb", even after being told that what the customer is getting charged is in dollars, is EVIDENT (at least for me) that their documents say 0.002 cents per kb. How can they not grasp the concept, if their documents actually say "$0.002/kb" ? I don't quite think this is possible. I think it's possible that one can make such a mistake, or maybe 2, but all of them? And even after they're told to read it carefully? Come on.

I think this should be a wakeup call for all corporations that trick customers to make money. Its the era of free world and free speech and the consumers rule.

Verizon, if anything, needs to be set example for other corporations. And it's not like they don't deserve it. They need to publicly apologize for INTENTIONALLY advertising incorrect rates, and nothing less, in my opinion, should be enough.

This is a chance for corporations to learn how to treat their customers. Don't let it slip away.

They need to learn money isn't the bottom line. Customer satisfaction is. Money is secondary.

Hua said...

"inadvertently incorrectly". Sounds like a casual mistake, but apparently not. Maybe you should ask them how exactly they think five or six employees (including managers) made the same mistake.

On the other hand, their time tick is up. You can't wait indefinitely for them to correct themselves. I think you should do some interviews with honest facts and opinions. I don't think Verizon has got it.

Nathan said...

Manish,

For all I know, their literature says cents. Maybe they have shorthand reference tables that are incorrect. It's a distinct possibility. But I also know a couple other things. 1) that the actual literature given the customer is correct and 2) people are idiots.

Armed with those two facts (assumptions, but in practice facts) I instead think that these people simply cannot make the conceptual leap beyond "anything on the right side of the decimal is a cent, anything on the right is a dollar." I honestly, truely, believe that this is so fundamental to their idea of money that they would never have understood or followed his logical progression. Maybe if they saw it visually...The are probably people who barely completed algebra in high school with a C average out of pity, because the teachers knew they couldn't teach a logical through process to people who didn't care.

All I'm saying is that 15 idiot CSR does not an evil company make. If they have the wrong literature, by all means the company is doing something extremely illegal and morally unacceptible. But if they are just idiots, what more can they do than correct the situation and provide better training?

Manish said...

Nathan,

I absolutely agree with you. 100%. But I still stand at what I said: I don't think it's just that all these people are idiots. I think they have incorrect literature.

It would be a HUGE coincidence that ALL of them make the same mistake. It's not that difficult. You're probably aware that George's is not the only case. There are other cases like Peter's. And possibly others.

I think they have incorrect literature. Who will second on that? I know our opinions don't count much. But it's not a matter of opinion. It's fairly clear to me. Others who don't see what I see, I'm sorry.

Yad said...

Sweet!!

Now Paul can use this as ammo against them. :)

Yad said...

Peter... not Paul. :)

Joe said...

George,

Please make sure in your reply you put Ana in touch with Peter as well (if you haven't already done so). Since she's already familiar with the facts at hand, she should be able to resolve his issue, as well as make sure someone there understands this isn't an isolated case. Even if Peter finally finds another CSR to fix his problem, it'd be unlikely either one would connect the dots.

Also, one of the things several comments here have brought to light is a need for recording law reform. Even with the notification at the beginning of almost every call to any of these businesses, there seems to be a great deal of confusion as to whether it's actually legal to record a call like you and Peter did. A movement needs to happen to get Congress and the FCC to explicitly permit taping of any telephone conversation by a consumer when dealing with customer service issue, regardless of any other state or federal notification requirements. There's no reason a company should be able to hide malice or incompetence behind the existing statutes.

Nathan said...

Perhaps the IT guy that posted in one of the earlier threads could get a handle on their literature and chime in with what their actual materials say. I guess at this point that's what we could hope for. Or I could just call and fake the funk to see what they actually tell me the rate is.

Nick said...

I think the reason so many people think the same thing becomes more clear when you look at what happened to Peter. At one point the rep apparently put him on hold and came saying he had polled everyone there and they all agreed with him. What probably happened there is he went around and convinced everyone in the office to agree with his cents == dollars theory. Stupidity often grows this way.

Manish said...

Nathan,
It maybe too late to call and ask. All such literature is digital, and after all this fiasco, they might have updated/fixed it.

Nathan said...

Perhaps it was too late to call, but I decided to remix the situation so it wasn't identical. I actually called about mobile web, the internet feature on my phone. The CSR immediately came up with a data transfer rate of "like a penny a kilobyte" and then asked to put me on hold while he looked up the exact figure. Coming back about 2-3 minutes later, he told me that it was in fact one and a half cents per kilobyte. I confirmed 1.5 cents, and he agreed.

I guess it doesn't prove anything, perhaps they have actually taken steps to correct the action by sending out a quick math lesson memo, or maybe I just spoke to a competent CSR.

georgevaccaro said...

@joe - I definitely will.

FOTA said...

You pay $1000 for unlimited internet every year and you spent hours on the phone to bitch about $70 of one-time charges when you're in the wrong?

You agreed to an amount for Canadian roaming when you signed your original contract. Whether you like it or not, whining about what some CSRs said on the phone doesn't count compared to the fineprint you agreed to. The contract probably even specifies that rate changes quoted by CSRs don't count. It took me 30 seconds to find the amount is, in fact, $0.002/KB (that's a 5th of a cent for those keeping track) on their website.

Congratulations, you made some CSRs look bad while breaking your wireless contract just to prove a point.

Mike said...

Ok, so you got what you set out to do. You got your money back, and they will make changes so it doesnt happen again. In the process you are now a minor internet celebrity with a small army of followers.

What now? Will your army go on the march against verizon? Do you escalate your demands and begin boycotts and class action law suits?

I know what I would do if I was in your position. Try to find some way to capitalize on this further. Your thousands of interested readers wield power, and power can always be turned into money.

The google ads are a good start I guess. But I don't think this e-media circus is going to last a whole lot longer.

Careful.

Jen said...

My whole thought on this, now that they're trying to resovle it, how many people calling in and asking for a quote won't understand "point zero zero two dollars"? I know a few friends of mine that if they were told that would look at me with a strange look. Cause as just as easy as it is to mistake it looking at it it's harder when you're TOLD this. I agree whole heartedly that they should make it more easier for both the reps and the customers by putting it into MB instead of KB...even it if does make it sound more expensive, it'd be a lot less confusing on all angles.

georgevaccaro said...

@fota

1) Have you listened to the call?
2) So what you're saying is that when I was driving to Canada, without my contract, obviously, I should have known what the rate was?
3) Are you saying that its my fault that Verizon made the mistake? I should have to pay for incorrectly quoted usage?

Don't be ridiculous. BTW, do you work for Verizon?

Finally, did you read the last email from Verizon? Do you think they would acknowledge the problem if in fact they didn't ultimately reckognize it?

Thanks for the comments. Seek help.

Igor said...

@fota
"Whether you like it or not, whining about what some CSRs said on the phone doesn't count compared to the fineprint you agreed to."
If that were the case, their last letter would not have made it to George.

Timothy said...

If you click on the link fota (i.e. employee of the month) sent, it shows that the page is not currently available. It seems someone is working some OT tonight.

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

@fota: I'm just glad you're completely alone in your opinion here, because I shudder to think how a society based on fine-print legalistic arguments would run (read: it wouldn't). Let me guess, you don't think that CSRs quoting a customer a rate means anything at all, do you?

Adahn said...

Welcome to national rwknown, my friend. You have 15 minutes, starting now. USe them wisely. ;)

John.W.Scott said...

To any Verizon CSRs that may be reading this... I understand how it may appear that we're just trying to make fun of you. And I admit, often we have.

But that's not the purpose of this blog. Listen to the original recording, and tell me if you honestly think George could have resolved it any other way than by bringing it light.

You may object with, "But he was charged the correct rate, which is listed on the web site." But not the rate he was quoted and given in writing. Do you have time to verify every rate ever quoted to you?

You may object with, "Big deal, all that time wasted for $71." So we should allow Verizon to keep making this mistake to customer after customer, and waste all our time as well? Maybe you can start to see why I'm behind George on this.

But in the end, Verizon's behavior is just plain outrageous. I know this may be hard to understand, because all the CSRs remained professional and polite as they struggled to understand George, and the math thing may seem like a technicality. But it is in fact outrageous to claim that math "is a matter of opinion." It's outrageous that when I'm given a quote of $50/month, I now have to wonder if I'm in any danger of getting a bill for $5000 per month.

I have to guess that if a person doesn’t see how this is outrageous, that person probably doesn’t understand the original math problem to begin with. And if you don’t understand the original problem, you shouldn’t criticize our understandable reaction to it.

Brandon said...

"I'm just glad you're completely alone in your opinion here, because I shudder to think how a society based on fine-print legalistic arguments would run (read: it wouldn't)" No kidding. Right on.

georgevaccaro said...

@mike

I'm not really protesting against Verizon so much as I'm being a good consumer and trying to help fix something that was broken. In my opinion it was pretty small. The specific problem might affect a few thousand people a year. The problem of the crap attitude on the part of the CSRs is a larger issue.

Also realize, no company is a monolith. Sometimes companies need something like this to happen in order to shake them up and fix broken parts that might be hurting them on the whole.

I see it similar to competition. At first when a company has competition it can hurt it, but what it also does is keeps it on its toes so that they continue to innovate and economize. Sometimes less or crappy, or colluding competition is worse for a company in the long run, because it allows the company to become fat and lazy. A easy target for a nimble, innovator to take out.

At any rate, I'm not sure what happens beyond reaching the primary goals, which by the way are not completely achieved.

Peter still hasn't gotten his situation resolved, and as I mentioned, the corrections seemed very qualified - they need to be across the board, and I think they really should adopt a $/MB pricing scheme. Perhaps Cingular, T-Mobile and Sprint customers can put some pressure on their cell phone customers, so the whole industry can cut over.

Again though, all in all, I think this is a narrow group affected. The affected group members had to have received a verbal quote.

As for my aspirations on capitalizing on this, that wasn't really the goal. I've made some good contacts, online friends, I've maybe achieved some sort of branding to my name - thats really a lot more than I expected to get out of this.

So now on to the rest of the goals.

Thanks for your feedback.

georgevaccaro said...

@igor
@Timothy
@creamyhorror
@John.W.Scott
@Brandon
and of course everyone else.

I'm glad I share this blog with so many people who can see the big picture. Although, I have to say, there have only been 5 or so people who somehow missed the plot - that's pretty amazing.

Amber said...

All day I was eagerly waiting the opportunity to check your blog. The anticipation was almost unbearable. I told all my coworkers about it.

Now, finally, late rejoicing! It would have been fun to follow this further, but it's good for Verizon's sake that it didn't.

My dad and I spent the whole weekend discussing this and listening to your recording countless times (we were a bit obsessed, I admit.) We both agree that you are a very wise, thoughtful, "classy" (my dad said) person. An opportunity fell in your lap, and you took it to a reasonable level without being malicious. We think you're cool.

=)

georgevaccaro said...

@amber

Thanks so much, you are very sweet! Thanks for following along and participating.

It's been a very interesting, challenging and rewarding (and I don't mean the $) experience for me. I'm happy it sounds like its been rewarding to you too.

You both seem pretty "classy" and "cool" yourselves.

:)

James said...

I don't think anyone mentioned this yet, but it seems some people read the $ sign as a unit for money, not dollars. It's not that they don't understand the unit of dollars or cents, it's that they don't understand units at all. When they do any kind of arithmetic involving money they rely on 'shortcuts'. After the calculation they pick either dollars or cents as the unit, whichever one looks right.
This might sound ridiculous, but if they're been doing it for years the last part might be automatic for them. They might not even realize they've got a wrong answer.

Bruce A. said...

George,

This episode's twisted math is certainly sad, but it's not the real story. No, the reps and managers couldn't grasp a 7th grade drill, but neither could three liberal arts Ph.D.s and two attorneys I tested at random. All got it wrong.

Thus, one might forgive all math-challenged VZW CS reps and VPs, in advance. Still, there's something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

The major issue, and cause of action in your case, is...Breach of Warranty.

Let's take a look at a portion of VZW's promise to you as a customer (and note the federal trademark declaring VZW's ownership of the claim itself):

Worry Free Guarantee®

"If you ever have a problem, it becomes our problem the first time you call."

http://aboutus.vzw.com/customersatisfaction/customerexp.html

"What, Me Worry?"
--Neuman, 1955

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_E._Neuman

VZW manifestly failed to deliver on its promise to take seriously, and quickly resolve, your legitimate concerns. In ethical commerce, parlor games are unforgiveable.

--BAM

georgevaccaro said...

@bruce a

Excellent find, and precisely on point - I will amend the letter.

Raj C said...

i hate verizon now a days i have been with them for 5 years and i hate them

1. i have requested address change 7 times within last 5 years just finally changed it.
2. switched my primary line and secondary lines so when i added features to my phone it was added to my brothers (supposdly secondary) phone and not mine (primary phone). So thinking i now have text messaging capabilities i sent like 500 txt messages only find 50$ charge on my phone.

3. they gave my PRIMARY line (supposed to mine) 1000 any time min to use for loyalty. so thinking i won t get over them i used a lot of min one time and was charged for.

i am dumping verzion just like 6 of my friends have done and going to cingular

i was frustrated just listening to your phone call.

diroc said...

I assume that the Verizon reps looked at $0.002 and just read it as "cents" because for some reason they may always associate decimal numbers with cents instead of fractions of whatever unit is used to describe the number, which in this case would be dollars.

So there may not be anything to correct at all. It's not an error on paper or in the computers, it's just that the reps say "cents" when they should actually say "dollars".

Just a problem with interpretation.

Jesper said...

I can understand how someone can initially look at the screen and say cents, but as soon as they are questioned about it, anyone with the least bit of brain, should realize that ofcourse it is in dollars.

Wouldn't it be wonderfull if we could just do calculations in physics and enginering like they do at verizon?

We don't need to worry about units. Just use whatever, and the result will be in whatever unit you wish to use!!! Hey, that's why the mars thingy crashed on mars. Although that was not because they don't realize the difference, they just forgot, and would imediately recognize it, if questioned about it.

Michael said...

I work for Verizon and basically we have an internal saying: "If it makes sense, it's not Verizon...if it doesn't make sense, it's Verizon..

Ben said...

verizon seems to be full of these kinds of problems, if you ever want to find another one go on to their website and try and get the "operating system upgrade" for the samsung i700 phone... you can pay for it, but it doesnt exist, and no verizon it employee can install / download it for you. Im no lawyer, but im guessing thats not legal

Logan said...

I was getting so pissed off at you while i listened, because you weren't cussing them out. I wanted to tell them, but they couldn't hear me. So incredibly stupid...

- said...

By all hi!!!
I from Russia. I am sorry for my bad English!!!
At me the question because of what events occurs increase PR of a site?
At me on a site PR-2 why so happens...
http://zarobotay.blogspot.com/
Whether it influences search???

virgo1234 said...

oh wow this is great , you had a tremendous amount of patience with them. I must admit at first I couldn't get my mind around it, but after you explained it I could. And I only go to the ninth grade. I'm surprised all they had to do was listen to you.

Katherine said...

Hi George,

I had a somewhat similar problem with Verizon. I live in southern California, about 3 miles from the Mexican border. I got my bill one month and discovered about $40 worth of roaming charges. When I called Verizon to find out what it was all about, they informed me that I was being charged for "global roaming", even though I had never left the country. They told me they could give me a one-time "courtesy credit" for the amount, but in the future they wouldn't be able to do anything about it, and that I just needed to "be more mindful" of when my phone was in roaming mode.

Jamie said...

I don't think the reps need "reference material". they need a fourth grade education.

Harold said...

Is everyone allowing this to die and fade?
This appears to me to be another intentional act of Verizon to increase their profits..... simply if it was not a scheme they would have simply quoted the .2 cents per KB.

The extra confusion cause by the .0002 to make the charge appear small enough to not even bother mentioning.... Has and is making Verizon millions of dollars.

This will be changed only when forced!