Thursday, December 14, 2006

12-14-2006 - Verizon still quoting .002 cents!

This just in, posted by isaac.

I put the call out for people to verify if Verizon was actually following through, and here we have the first of the results.

Amazing call, I can't explain how it made me laugh. You have to listen if only for the humor value.

When you go to YouTube, please rate the "video" to get it more visibility.

VerizonWireless Billing Problem


Leanord said...

This is so easy to understand. A freakin 4-year old could understand this!

Unknown said...

Start logging all the time you spent on this talking to them, making blog, etc.

When you sue them for the $71 charge all that time spent as well...

Don't roll over, *please*. Stupidity(and especially corporate stupidity) needs to be punished.

Not to mention you should try to get a class action started where they retroactively must pay back *everyone* who was quoted .002 cents and payed $0.002

We are talking about millions and millions of dollars...

George Vaccaro said...


Just to bring you up to speed. I was already refunded, but I know of a case that has not yet been dealt with. Also, while some verizon representatives claim to have issued a notice about the proper way to quote this, as you can see from the latest post, they are still quoting it wrong.

Derek said...

I noticed that the rep actually "corrected" him when he repeated "0.002 cents," saying it was actually ".002 cents," without the preceding zero.

Because there's no difference between 0.002 cents and 0.002 dollars, but there is a difference between 0.002 cents and .002 cents, you see.

George Vaccaro said...

@derek K.

Very funny. I heard that, but didn't think about it that way :).

Joeywhat said...

My dad happens to agree with Verizon....while me and my mom both agree that the differnece between $ and cents is indisputable. My dad is in business, and my mom is a musician. Me and my mom have college degrees, my dad does not. I tried to talk him into seeing reality, but he just doesn't see the difference. He thinks that since you can convert cents into dollars (i.e. 100 cents= 1 dollars), that .002 cents = $.002. I'll admit, he made a good argument, and I can see where he's getting caught up. I guess some people just can't understand it. I even used different examples (like how millimeters and centimeters are different), but to no avail.

Have fun arguing with Verizon. Jut remember, it's an American business...they don't really care too much about the customer...

Unknown said...

After listening to the audio, I really feel sorry for the very pleasant customer representative. It's not really her fault to lack math skills when it comes to decimals. It's the problem of Verizon for not having proper training, and not being able to realize the seriousness of this problem.

Someone in YouTube said the CSP could get fired. I say different. If Verizon dares to fire any CSP for this, he/she can sue Verizon, and I'd support that.

Isaac said...

I strongly agree that the customer service reps are not at fault. It's a company issue.

It seems all it would take to correct this problem would be a company wide memo!

Unknown said...


Time to take advantage of your dad ;)

Since .002 dollars = .002 cents to him, simply divide by .002 on both sides and you get dollars = cents. Give him 50,000 cents and tell him to get you a Corvette (worth ~$50,000) ;)

I think my dad would see the humor in it, at least :)

Chuck said...

I feel it is the customer service rep's problem, as well as Verizon's. When you are hired for a job where you deal with billing, you should *come* with basic math skills. Job training rarely includes 3rd grade math lessons.

The problem is also that Verizon is hiring unqualified people to deal with billing issues, at most likely very low hourly rates. This is likely to avoid the 'India outsourcing' stigma, since people seem more amiable toward a native English speaker, even if they are incompetent.

Anyway, that's my take on this.

Urabus said...

Harhar...she said "it works really good", when we all know proper English grammar dictates the use of the word "well" in that instance.

Anonymous said...

This makes it obvious that you need to pursue getting this story in the mainstream media. Verizon will never care what customers think. They only want the story to go away. You'd get better and faster results if this gets put on Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, or the Colbert report. Otherwise your just wasting your breath with Verizon. Now that the story is off the front page of Digg, they may just be waiting for people to lose interest.
Should also bring it up with your states attorney general offices. They can bring legal action against Verizon. They carry clout. You dont.

Anonymous said...

Joe, you said your dad doesn't get it. Could you please explain to me what he doesn't get. I have a mental block understanding how this isn't insanely obvious to everyone.

I was playing this for a student who's getting a masters in comp-sci. I don't think he understood the difference either, but quickly became embarrassed and wouldn't admit it. I will admit this student is not the brightest light on the tree.

KBAM said...


Interesting comments. How might your dad evaluate the following posted prices for bananas at two fruit stands:

Stand #1:
¢2.02 per lb

Stand #2:
$1.29 per lb

Which one would he perceive as the better price?


KBAM said...

On a related note, percentage math is another very difficult domain for many people.

To demonstrate, ask two adults the following question; one will likely get it wrong:

You earn $20,000.

I earn 150% more.

How much do I earn?


Daniel Rudmin said...

that question is a little bit ambiguous Bruce. When you say you earn 150% more, it could mean that you earn 250% what he makes, literally 150% more, or as most people would take it, you earn 150% what he makes, more than him.

Thinking back to grade 5 I had a big argument teacher over the ballad of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The relevant lines wer:

With a load of iron ore 26,000 tons more than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.

I took this to mean that the load the Edmund Fitzgerald carried weighed 26000 tons + weight of ship. The load is 26000 tons more than the ship.

But the teacher said I was wrong, the load was 26000 tons period. If this was the case there should be a comma after tons, but I still was told I was wrong.

The actual load was 26000 tons, but the way it was written in the ballad said it was more like 39000 tons.

Unknown said...

ROFL. I found verizon's math on line!

Proof that one dollar equals one cent:

$1 = 100¢

= (10¢)2

= ($0.10)2

= $0.01

= 1¢


AnotherGuy said...

I've been following your story since it showed up on Slashdot a few days back.

Funny thing just happened. I just called Verizon CS 10 minutes ago. "Reggie" answered. I gave the same story as the 14 Dec Youtube (the guy who spoke with "Priscilla").

I asked if the $79.99 unlimited US data plan for a blackberry covers data usage within Canada. Is there a charge to download data in Canada? His answer: FREE!

I asked 3 times if he was sure...he said yes, he was positive. So I asked to speak with his manager, "David". Sure enough his manager came on and said "Reggie was wrong. It's .002 dollars/KB. I asked him if he was aware of the controversy. He said "no", but there had been a recent big push for training on this stuff. He was unsure why the push was mandated, had not heard about VerizonMath, and didn't know why "Reggie" hadn't yet been trained properly and was unwilling to ask for help when it should have been clear I was setting up.

Dang, I wish I was able to record that call. This is going to be a huge lawsuit.

Unknown said...

I don't find Bruce's question to be ambiguous if taken as stated and at face value. It doesn't appear to be a difficult question and so I'm not sure what the trick is.

+ $30,000 (150% x $20,000)

bocaJ said...

OK - so here is where I can see people getting tripped up. Too often we assume there is a dollar sign at the front of any number with units in money. This makes it really easy to change units unintentionally. For example, if I post something online, I might end saying "Just my .02 cents" when I really meant that to be read as "Just my two cents". Especially if someone doesn't understand how to convert units, by setting up equations where the old unit will cancel (.002 cents/KB * 1/100 dollars/cent = .00002 dollars / KB), then they might really assume that all money equations are in dollars, and stating things in cents is just something you do sometimes.

This problem is further compounded since in english, the "$" unit is the only unit that we place BEFORE the number ($0.002 not 0.002 $). We don't even place cent markers before numbers - the proper way to quote with cents would be 0.2¢/KB.

That being said, people should still be able to grasp this concept fairly quickly, especially if they are responsible for billing.

Unknown said...

I have to agree that the question isn't ambiguous. If "150% more" is allowed to mean "150% what he makes", then what does "50% more" mean? Half what he makes? The only reasonable answer is $50,000.

Unknown said...

I think I could come up with a better proof that $1 = 1 cent, or rather, that 100 = 1.

1 = sqrt(1)
= sqrt((-1)*(-1))
= sqrt(-1) * sqrt(-1)
= i * i
= -1


1 + 1 = -1 + 1 = 0

Then 2*(99/2) = 0*(99/2) = 0,

So 99 + 1 = 0 + 1


George Vaccaro said...

@anotherguy - interesting experience. Thanks for posting it.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Rudmin said...

1 = sqrt(1)
= sqrt((-1)*(-1))
= sqrt(-1) * sqrt(-1)
= i * i
= -1

Here's the problem with your proof Mark. You are essentially doing the same thing as saying that 1=-1 because 1^2=(-1)^2. sqrt(-1) can also be -i

Unknown said...


I'm aware that there's a problem with the 'proof'. It was an attempt at humour. :) I'm not sure that you've quite pinned what that problem is, though.

It's not the same as saying 1 = -1 because 1^2 = (-1)^2. If I started with the latter equation, one would have to take the positive square root of both sides or the negative square root of both sides, and one gets 1=1 or -1=-1. I never took the sqrt of both sides of an equation.

Kelly Hawk said...

I agree with David that it's time to go big with this. Verizon doesn't seem interested in responding adequately to the problem.

George is being the quintessential "reasonable man", and in my opinion Verizon is being completely unreasonable and taking advantage of that. I think they have been given MORE than a fair opportunity to address these problems.

For lack of a better analogy, I feel like I am watching ping pong game...
Verizon hit the 0.002 cent ball to George, George hit the 0.002 dollar ball back to them.
Verizon hit the apology email to George, and he hit the "make changes" email back...
and then they stopped playing and went to corner to pout.

Unfortunately for Verizon, the solution now may be to throw the bowling ball of the national media and FCC. Maybe that would encourage them to come out and play.

Eric N. said...

Kudos for all your work on this. I've been reading the blog+comments religiously! I, too, agree that you should take the momentum going right now to push for more mainstream coverage -- I finally got around to listening to Peter's audio recording from earlier on your blog, and it was simply too frustrating to handle!
I've always been troubled by the poor math skills in this country, especially people's problems dealing with units. Not only does your case and those like it show how Verizon needs to admit its mistakes, but also it points out the general lack of basic math in the population. It would be great to have a mainstream spotlight on this educational problem.

Eric N. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric N. said...

Hey, it looks like you made a paragraph in the
Wall Street Journal
online yesterday. Those folks actually understand money-math and decimal points!

Unknown said...

utterly REDICULOUS widespread incompetency. keep pushing.

Trist-10 said...

Hey George,

I've been following this blog from pretty much the beginning and have probably listened to your recording over 5 times by now. I'd just like to start off by congratulating you on your refund. Now for my thoughts on Verizon..

After my first listen of the conversations, I suspected that perhaps the reps at Verizon were just trained not to admit fault on behalf of their company, in case a lawsuit was ever pursued. It now appears to me though, the basic mistake the reps are making, is thinking that the dollar sign ($) in front of a number represents only a currency, not an actual unit of amount. I’m still baffled however, despite George's very well thought up explanations (it's obvious you’re a well educated man), they still couldn’t acknowledge, or even comprehend the difference.

Another dispute I noticed has been brought up among the blog comments several times, was whether the mistake is by fault of the reps, or the company itself from a lack of staff training. Personally I think the blame can go either way. If Verizon are truly supporting the idea of there being no difference between .002 cents, and .002 dollars, then yes they should take responsibility. But even so, that’s no excuse for the ignorance of their staff. Perhaps Verizon should be more careful who they employ in the future, or at the very least provide some immediate basic math training to all their reps for the time being to correct this mess.

Either way, these are just my thoughts and opinion. I’d like to wish you good luck with everything, and I’ll keep following this blog :)

KBAM said...

@ Dan, roberto, and Mark,

There is no trick to the 150% question. It's straightforward and unambiguous. The answer is $50,000.

Still, have observed that many people believe 150% more than $20,000 is...$30,000, an incorrect result. In effect, they make no distinction between 50% more and 150% more.

Unfortunately, many see "150% more" as 1.5x when, in this example, it's actually (1.5x + x = 2.5x), and so on.

The struggle with this sort of problem is similar to the lack of basic skills leading to "VerizonMath." Those who have trouble with decimal operations will likely have trouble with percentage operations, and vice versa.


DeeLoaf said...

What you need is more people that have been misquoted and thus overbilled by a factor of 100. (did I use that term "factor" correct?!? ha I know you know what I mean.)

People like Peter. Where is Peters refund? I want Peter to get his compensation. And Isaac ... well Isaac has been quoted/confired at the .002 cents rate ... so he should go to Canada, use a lot, then get refunded too.

Gotta get more ppl demanding refunds. And yeah maybe get on Colbert. Colbert could make it funny and give verizon kudos for not pandering to the elitist mathetmats or something. ;)

Kelly Hawk said...

To support the statement that there is no ambiguity in bruce's question, I would offer the following example:

I make 20% more than X.
If X makes $30,000 then I make $36, 000.
There is no ambiguity in the above example, and there shouldn't be when the % is over 100, but there often is (which is bruce's point as I understand it). The same formula would apply, regardless of the %%%.

Kelly Hawk said...

Also, I completely agree that the Colbert Report would be an excellent place to start with this. That man is ridiculously clever and would make this very funny.

See my verizonmath blog entry for verizonmath and click on the "truthiness" link the bottom.

give verizon kudos for not pandering to the elitist mathetmats or something. ;)

To quote Colbert:
I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart. And that's exactly what's pulling our country apart today. 'Cause face it, folks; we are a divided nation [...] we are divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart.

James said...

The only obvious solution to the problem of the '$' coming before the number is for all of us to defy "convention" and start placing it after the number. If people can create words just by using them and getting them published enough, perhaps we can change the convention given enough supporters and enough time.

However, this doesn't fix the fact that apparently people at Verizon are incompetent.

my .002$ (starting a revolution)

AstroBlue said...

Wow, this is truly amazing. I'm going to keep following this blog until this issue is resolved. I can't believe this.

Chuck said...

120% "of" 1000 is 1200
120% "more than" 1000 is 2200

That's where the confusion is with percentages. It's really just mixing up wording.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RvL said...

Bruce's question is not ambiguous in and of itself. The problem is that if you are smart enough to immediately understand the question properly, you are smart enough to realize that the person asking the question might not really understand what they are asking themselves.

It's sad when we have to break down and analyze such a simple question simply because we are so used to having to compensate for the morons that make up such a large portion of the general population.

DeeLoaf said...

Thanks for emailing Here's the information you sent:

Stephen, recently there is controversy surrounding Verizon billing practices. Google for "verizon math" to find the backstory. But in the end, Verizon provided valuable communication services to Patriots! And so we should support verizon whether it is quoting one thing and billing another or not. We must not pander to the elitist ivy league mathematicians. Stephen supporting verizon in these troubled times will show the nation that math does not matter and that people need to just pay their bill regardless of what rate they are quoted!

George Vaccaro said...


excellent job! great email!

Dennis said...

Actual Verizon training courseware can be seen here:


Nicholas Bahl said...

This is just what Verizon deserves. I have nothing but problems with them:

1. The randomly take away free night, weekend and in-calling minutes. I had this happen and it took me 8 phone calls -- all escalated to supervisors or beyond -- to finally get this fixed. During this process I was called a liar by 2 supervisors.

2. Every time a phone breaks it's due to "water damage." Why? Water damage is not covered under the insurance and so you have to buy a new phone. I got this excuse and after talking to my sister found out that she was told this at two stores, and then finally another store -- with no knowledge of what the other stores had said -- told her that it was a faulty phone and it was replaced.

In my situation, my one-month-old phone stopped working while I was at work. They said it was water damage which was impossible. They can tell it has water damage when the strip on the battery turns pink -- so they claim. I was told by supervisor after manager after CSR that I had no option but to buy a new phone at face value. Finally, I got ahold of someone in Verizon's PR group (I write a newspaper column and began to research for a column on this) who magically sent me a new phone; however, the new phone was the cheapest phone they sell and not the one they promised to replace. It took me about 3 weeks to get them to replace my "water damaged" phone with the phone they promised me. When this new phone arrived the strip on the battery was pink as soon as I pulled it out of the box. My brand new phone had water damage already.

3. My bill showed that I had downloaded Tetris, which was absurd. I called was told that the cell phone towers do not lie and that the supervisor would remove the subscription but I would have to pay for the month used. I went to the store and told them to find the game on my phone -- they couldn't. The charge was then taken off, but showed up the next month. I called and had to go through the same steps to get it removed and was assured it wouldn't show up again. It showed up for 3 more months.

4. I moved. I changed my address online. One month later the bill was still going to the old address. I called to have it changed. One month later the bill was still going to the old address; however, when I called and the computer asked for my zip code to verify me it accepted the NEW zip code and started giving me personal information about my account even though the authentication information I put in wasn't correct according the the person I talked to subsequently.

When my other sister moved back to Denver from Miami it took her 2 YEARS to get them to finally change her address. She called every single month, and changed it online 15+ times.

5. Last month they over charged me $300+. I called to see what was going on and they told me I used too many minutes. I asked who I called that much and they told me that I could download my statement and go through each call. If I found some incorrect calls they said they would address those. I told them that it's their responsibility to make sure they are billing me correctly and not mine. I asked a supervisor (Mikel I believe) to research it. He said he would and he would give me a call in an hour. Three hours later I heard nothing and called back. I asked the CRS for Mikel's extension, since he had given it to me. I was told that she could not transfer to extensions. I asked for her supervisor. This supervisor confirmed that they cannot transfer calls (though they can get calls to supervisors somehow). I told him my issue and he said he would research it and call me back within 48 hours. 4 hours later, Mikel called and told me he was still working on it and would call me back in 48 hours. It has been ONE MONTH and I haven't heard back from either of them. I then called and spoke to a manager who told me that the cell phone towers don't lie (yeah like I believe that now), but she would give me a $50 credit -- she wanted to get rid of me. I took the credit and asked her: If I change my plan will it extend my contract? She said no, because I was in the first year of my contract. I made her repeat this several times and confirm that the WAS ABSOLUTELY NO CHANGES I COULD MAKE THAT WOULD EXTEND MY CONTRACT.

Several days later I went into the store to change my plan. I was the first person into the store. The manager was at the door organizing a list/line. I was first on the list. Another gentleman came in while I was waiting. When the sales person was done helping a customer, the manager took the guy who came in after me to the sales person. I had to wait 15 more minutes after this gentleman was taken to the sales person.

I digress. I went to change my contract. I was told that it would change my contract. I told the lady that she was either wrong or the manager was wrong, but I expected them to satisfy their promise. I was given the cold shoulder. I call "Customer Service" and was told that there was nothing I could do that would change/extend my contract. I went back into the store and was again told that it would, even though this second supervisor noted my account as such.

I guess that's enough for now, but Verizon truly sucks. They are not in the business of SERVICE, but in the business of SELLING HARDWARE that is manufactured to break easily, often and sometimes for absolutely no reason at all. I could go on in on about how my boss was told his calling plan change would be predated to cover overage the previous month, and then when it didn't appear they told him they were sorry that he got wrong information but there was nothing they could do. Or the other lies my sisters have been told... or the problems and lies my parents, friends and coworkers have been told, but --

Enough for now, really...

Feel free to e-mail me as I'm doing a column on Verizon and their tactics, lies and "customer service:"

Unknown said...

Here's a way to explain it:

A cent is the same as a penny - right?

So, .002 cents is the same as .002 pennies - right?

OK, then the bill is 35,893 x .002 pennies, or 72 pennies.

Jon said...

"1 = sqrt(1)
= sqrt((-1)*(-1))
= sqrt(-1) * sqrt(-1)
= i * i
= -1"

There is a problem with the "proof". Sorry, I know it was done just for fun, but I just had to sift through it. ;)

1 doesn't equal sqrt(-1) * sqrt(-1) because that property is only valid if the values are positive because you can't take the square root of a negative number. True, you can use imaginary numbers, but the properties don't apply to imaginary numbers.

BostonQuad said...


Wow. Why do you still use Verizon?

Unknown said...

@ jon

True, that. It's a fun little 'proof' for confusing people with 'just enough' mathematical background.

Jon said...


Yeah, it had me for a little while until I decided to look up the properties of radicals. ;)

Nicholas Bahl said...

I don't. I recently moved to another carrier. I had a hard time, despite and because of the problems, with the idea of paying Verizon to cancel my "service." It just didn't make sense that I should pay them to cancel because they offer such terrible service and product support.

But I wandered passed a different carrier's store and they were offering a free phone (which they ended up being out of so they gave me a very nice phone because of this -- get Verizon to do that!) and paid me $100 to switch. I could handle paying on $75 to get rid of Verizon.

Nicholas Bahl said...

I don't. I recently moved to another carrier. I had a hard time, despite and because of the problems, with the idea of paying Verizon to cancel my "service." It just didn't make sense that I should pay them to cancel because they offer such terrible service and product support.

But I wandered passed a different carrier's store and they were offering a free phone (which they ended up being out of so they gave me a very nice phone because of this -- get Verizon to do that!) and paid me $100 to switch. I could handle paying on $75 to get rid of Verizon.

Lawrence said...

Still??! That's pretty crazy...

Jonathan Peelle said...

The lack of math is ridiculous, as is Verizon's lame response to the situation. However, I think it would be decent of you to filter out individual customer service rep's last names and extensions...

Unknown said...

Oh well... The most incredible thing that I can see in those comments is no the fact that someone would misquote or have problem understanding 3rd grade (I believe it's more like 4th grade, although) stuff.

But watching at kinda grown adults failing to grasp basic economy or simplest business case that network operators are using is outright funny. Here is a hint - don't want to mess with shit, BRING YOUR OWN PHONE.

As for the guy who got 100$ switchover cash back - good luck switching away from your newly chosen operator, should the need arise.

USA cellular industry is such a funny beast to watch - but it wouldn't be possible if there weren't that naive belief that free phone is a free phone and nobody has to pay for that. A pity - if you would start shopping direct for the phones it would give some chance for USA market to actually stock some decent phones as well, instead of all that shit operators are offering because they receive quite a nice stocking bonuses from the scums like Motorola or LG.

Unknown said...

I've been following this story with mixed feelings of amusement and horror. I imagine this is what it was like when the scientists were trying to convince the church that the Earth was round and revolved around the sun.

My theory/explanation for why this keeps happening has two parts and is as follows:

1) All of the reps in these recordings sound old enough to have been educated before Canada went metric (or they're Americans, who are definitely not metric yet).

I was taught the metric system measurements in Grade 3, and as part of that, they explained to us all about how to convert between the various measures, which are all powers of 10 --- which means that "conversions" are just moving the decimal point, because our number system is base-10.

Imperial conversions on the other hand are always nasty, because their conversion factors aren't anywhere near powers of 10 (or any other consistent number for that matter). When you convert from feet to yards, you're doing an explicit division by 3, which will probably make the digits in the answer change significantly --- e.g. 1 foot = 0.3333 yards; you can't miss that the number changed.

In metric, 10 decimetres = 1.0 metres -- none of the digits changed; it's a bit easier to miss.

Now, there is one exception to the totally illogical imperial system --- dollars and cents. Converting between those two, the digits do *not* change, so for someone who's educated in imperial and accustomed to unit conversions meaning that the whole number changes, I can see how dollars and cents might be a bit confusing in situations like 0.002.

Perhaps America should have stayed completely imperial --- if the money units were pounds and shillings and halfpennies, by God you wouldn't muck up 0.002 of something, because 0.002 pounds would end up being 0.48 pence, or 0.04 shillings (if I'm using Wikipedia correctly).

Perhaps this is a wake-up call: USA, it's time to go metric -- don't wait for the 23rd century (USA is finally metric in Star Trek).

2) When I was little, I remember writing (and seeing other people write) dollar amounts like this:

(note the unit signs on *both* sides)

Nowadays I only ever see the dollar sign on the left; very rarely I'll see something with just cents (e.g. when something's on sale for $0.99), but writing both seems to be defunct. But, if someone grew up with that into adulthood, this isn't so much of a stretch:






which could easily be read as "0.002 cents" and seem equivalent to the first two variants (to someone who hasn't spent a few years in science courses).

So, in my view, the morals of the story are:

- Americans need to switch to metric *now*. C'mon you guys, just get it over with; after 1 generation you'll laugh at your forebears' silliness.

- Everybody (including Canadians) should get more education.

Just my 2 cents' worth;


arantius said...

I thought of the verizon math effect when I recently digitized all the weigh-ins from The Biggest Loser TV show.

For each contestant that was weighed, the host read off the number of pounds lost, and then the percentage of weight lost, the percentage being the metric that the prize was judged by.

Every time somebody lost XY.0Z percent, the host read XY.Z percent. She completely ignored the "dot zero".

Anyways, now that I'm finally commenting I'll put in my "0.02" ... pun intended.

Clearly, everything in the computerized system that these reps deal with is in dollars, and is never labeled. It's surely a system designed at a time where nothing was sold for a fraction of a cent.

Some things, like long distance minutes, might be sold for cents. When such an occasion arose, the display would just say "0.10" perhaps, for ten cents.

So, a rep that deals with this system every day will see the leading "0." and mentally assume cents. In the case of whole cents, they'll also, likely at a nearly unconscious level, convert the (displayed) dollars into cents, when reading.

Obviously, the point at which their (pathetic) brains melt is when we get to the fraction of a cent level. The unconscious or unthought processes in their head see the "0." and they already get into cents mode, but then they can't figure out how to convert something that isn't even one cent. Meltdown!

Nygdan said...

How can anyone say that the customer service reps SHOULDN'T be fired? They definitely should. Verizon is running a scam here, but these reps from the recordings are simply morons. They aren't even considering what the 'units' are, whether its dollars or cents. They are looking at a screen, and inputting the numbers. The computer is smart enough to know that its really 0.002 dollars, and spits out the right bill. But these idiots that are at the call center are the ones that don't understand.

Its really not the job of any company to figure out whether or not a person knows the difference between dollars and cents, its supposed to be a given. They're just taking advantage of the huge number of stupid people out there.

David said...

With respect to the humorous 'proof' that begins with 1 = sqrt(1), and goes from there. That's where the true problem lies.

sqrt(1) is either 1, or -1. You must follow each possibility down the proof chain seperately. You only followed one, that's why your proof is wrong. :)

David Hyton said...

I had a similar problem.
I signed up with Verizon with a $99 2000 minute contract. I was told that if I didn't want to the phone, just return it before 14 days and pay for your minutes pro-rated. Six days latter I returned the phone and I get a bill for about $400. Apparently when Verizon prorates they do it by the day. So I only got 66.67 Minutes a day. With 600 minutes in usage, i was way over, and they were charging me 25 cents a minute to boot. Eventually I settled on $40 dollars just so they would leave me alone. I could never get them to prorate the minutes, I guess I could of solved the problem by just holding onto the phone for a few more days.

rednammocbus said...

George, I am afraid you are wrong.

You were quoted .002 cents not; .002 of A cent.

If someone asked you how much a gallon of gas in your home town is you might say something like; it is two dollars and thirty one point nine cents per gallon, or gas is two thirty one and nine tenths of a cent per gallon. Could be dispalyed as $2.319 or
$2.31 9/10

We don't say the price is two dollars and three hundred nineteen thousands of a dollar, which is how we should say it.

If I asked you to write down numerically 2 cents you would might write the number 2 followed by a cent sign, or you might write .02, to be correct it should be written $0.02 But you wouldn't pronounce this as two one hundreths of a dollar you would recognize this as two cents and say two cents.

When you were quoted, "point zero zero two cents" you should be thinking, like the gas price, that the cost is zero cent (singular) and two tenths of a cent, .00 2/10 Not two thousands of a cent, .00 2/1000

We Americans are lazy we often use verbal short hand. When you were quoted "point zero zero two cents" what the person was reading might have been written on the contract something like $0.002, which should have been read as two ten thousand of a dollar. If I wrote $0.02 and asked you how much that is you would most likely respond the price is two cents, you would not say the price is two hundreths of a dollar. I think you owe Verizon an apology and some money.

According to the US Mint we do not have cents in America we have pennies. England uses cents.

Unknown said...


Please go back to school.

Unknown said...

Here is another company that charges a similar price for their overcharge:

(URL is in two lines due to margins)

Anyone feels like calling them up and compare how they quote their overcharge?

I have the feeling it will be the same erroneous quote. There is either a major problem with our society's understanding of basic numbers or corporations are training their customer service reps to misquote on purpose in order to make their service sound cheaper than it really is. Either way, this has to be brought to light!

Unknown said...


Actually, you're the one mistaken. Indeed he was quoted .002 cents. 1 cent is a penny, .1 cent is 1/10th of a penny, .01 cent is 1/100th of a penny and .001 cent is 1/1000th of a penny. So he was quoted 2/1000ths of a penny.

And your example wasn't quite relevant. Sure, it proves we don't (and shouldn't be expected) to quote in fractions of a dollar as that's why we have cents. However, their rate is $0.002 NOT 0.002 cents as they read out. It's actually .2 cents, from the way he was billed.

You continue to refer back to the gas throughout your post as if it proves that .002 cents is .2 cents as well. The problem with that, though, is the fact of how you refer to the gas price. If I were to ask you to read $2.139, the proper (as in, accurate) way to say it would be "two dollars and 13.9 cents" or "two dollars, 13 cents, and 9/10ths of a cent" or some variation of. You do not say "two dollars, 13 cents and .009 cents" or any variation of. If you do, this is improper and the failure to communicate is on your side ... people should NOT have to "think of what you meant" when quoted a price. If we did allow that, then I could go around quoting 500,000 cents for my car and when someone comes over, they sign a contract to buy it and then I tell them "So do you have the $500,000 now, with you?" That's why we have public (i.e. basically free) elementary school and require kids to go.

And just to reaffirm what I'm saying... When you read off $0.02 out, you say "two cents", right? So basically, you convert .02 dollars into cents by multiplying it by 100. So 2 cents, right? So $.002 x 100 = .2 cents. NOT .002 cents. You can say "laziness" all you want, but it's a 100 times difference and it's called criminal negligence, look it up.

Oh, and I hate to be rude, but like the other guy said, please go back to school. If you're like 40 or so, then you're probably just rusty so you ought to just read up in books or something. Just because you're out of school doesn't mean you shouldn't continue learning as learning is a life-long process.

Unknown said...


Actually, no. Jon (above) was correct in that the only error in the proof has to do with the properties of radicals. There is nothing wrong with saying "1 = sqrt(1)." You don't need to follow it down both the positive and negative branch. The only time you have to do so is when you are solving an equation by taking the square root on both sides. There is absolutely nothing wrong with simply stating "1 = sqrt(1)" or "-1 = sqrt(1)" they are both equally correct on their own. Consider this analogy: "X is my parent." If I'm solving this, I would have to say X=mother or X=father. However, there's nothing wrong with starting a proof by saying "My father is my parent. Therefore we are related." The fact that my mother is also my parent in no way detracts from this proof.

Senn said...


England does not use cents, has never used cents and will never use cents. We use Pounds and Pence. These terms represent the actual monetary value.

Your term 'pennie' represents a coin, the *value* is a cent.

As others have said, please desist in showing your abject intelligence.

Akec4242 said...

(C).002/kb * 35880kb = $71.76
is what they are saying
they honestly think theyre saying:
$.002/kb * 35880kb = $71.76

the problem verizon is having i think is they have the dollar amount $.002 in front of them. it is fair to say the average person, myself included, is not used to dealing with dollar amounts to the thosandth decimal place. the verizon reps are probably looking at "$.002" and assuming that it HAS to be cents, solely because it is such a small decimal.

then after they do the math with their misquoted ".002 cents" they see a bigger number 71.76. and because they recongnize XX.XX as being the format for dollars the dont carry the cents sign to the other side of the equation slap the dollar sign on it without doing the conversion.

lotta people are visual learners. i would have had them write it down. also, just ask if they have an account on staff you could talk to. "lemme talk to the guy that actually knows numbers"

glad you got your refund, thanks for the laugh for my whole family (including my 12 year old brother who understood the problem without any explination at all)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the interesting read. I was reading a forum and got linked from a link from a link... (if that makes sense) and ended up here. Then I got hooked reading.

Unknown said...

I actually have another theory. I suspect that at least one or more of the representatives that you spoke with realized - at some point in the conversation - that you're correct. But they don't have the authority to actually admit that Verizon has made an error, and that's usually the point at which they hand you off to their supervisor. Who in turn stalls you by feigning stupidity, probably in hopes that you will eventually give up, end the call, and simply go away.

BigJim30 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony said...


Essentially, what you're saying is that 0.002mm is actually the same thing as 2 mm (it is, in fact, 2 um, or micrometers).

Also, the U.S. Treasury website makes numerous references to the value of coins in cents, and on the page I viewed acually never calls a penny anything other than a "one cent coin".

michelle1234 said...

My cell phone service provider has been cingular wireless for the past 5+ years. I am not otherwise affiliated with cingular wireless in any fashion except as a customer, I promise! Infact, I will be the first to admit, over the years, I have had a few headaches here and there re: a few service snafu's (as I am sure other cingular customers have also).

However, I have recently been in contact with the phone reps at cingular over the past few days (3 times total) with a few basic questions re: my service (unrelated to this blog). EVERYTIME, the rep has ended the conversation by asking me "Have I completely answered your question and are you completely satisfied with the outcome of this phone call". (this usually comes across as if they are reading it from a scipt, but I was pleased they asked)

As far as I know, this is not something that I have ever been asked before from my cingular rep. Maybe it is simply a coincidence in timing, but, it otherwise leads me to suspect that even if Verizon is not taking this too seriously, other cell phone providers have taken notice of this and are now going above and beyond to ensure their customers are happy.

Either way, I owe you a thank you! It appears you may have lit a fire under some cell phone service providers and now they are striving harder to ensure their customers are happy!

George Vaccaro said...

Thank's everyone for your comments.

@rednammocbus - google "decimals" - I see why some people find it difficult, but in this case you are clearly the one that is wrong.

Jecca said...

I would recommend that you provide a sample message that readers can send to Verizon expressing that they've seen the blog and do not find the situation acceptable.

I sent one myself but I think more people would be inclined to do so if you had a direct link to the on-line customer service contact page with a little blurb they could cut and paste and send away.

Unknown said...

You've gotten your money back and an admission that they were wrong and working to correct it, stop being an attention whore and let it go.

Verizon is an outsourcing company, not nessisarly outsourcing to India but to another company who handles their call centers. These call centers are often located in rural towns where they can get away with paying 7 dollars an hour. At 7 dollars an hour, you don't think you're speaking to Stephen Hawking do you? Hell I would go so far as to say the majority of those fine fine employees didn’t graduate high school.

They made a mistake, they apologized, and they paid you back. Drop it.

Unknown said...


It is because of attitude like yours that consumers have to put up with incompetence like this.

Take the time to think beyond the $71 and you will see that the problem is greater than that. Read some of the comments made on this site and you will see what I'm talking about. You don't just "drop it".

sarcaz said...

It reminds me of this

TommyD said...

You should have paid your bill via mail. Maybe they would finally get it when they got 72 pennies.

TommyD said...

You're just offended because you didn't "nessisarly" graduate high school either.

Matt Vassallo said...

This is absolutely incredible. I'm going to school for engineering, and I just finished Calc III for fall semester. I received an A.

I was in the middle of looking for funny math t-shirts, and I found one that made me laugh a little bit, before finding this website via a google search.

I go out of my way to look in grocery stores for incorrectly written price tags, just so I can have a little bit of fun with america's lack of education :)

I couldn't buy this shirt because it was incorrect, although funny.

Se^x = F(u)^n .

integration of e raised to the xth power equals f(u) raised to the nth power.

Well, everybody knows that integrating e to the x equals e to the x plus c. but nowhere does the shirt say that f of u to the n equals e to the x plus c. so it could, or it could not. it's simply way too ambiguous for me.

So then I came to this video, and I heard it, and I lost it. I can't believe this. I mean, I can, and I do, but the fact that there were multiple different people at verizon customer service that couldn't figure it out absolutely amazes me.

Imagine what would happen if the rate was given in 0.002 cents per kiloBIT.... oh my goodness, it would be even crazier.

I like to have fun with the kilobit / kilobyte thing all the time as well.

I would have taken it to the level of writing it down on paper, but first i would have converted it to oranges.

if you have .002 oranges, times 34500, how many oranges do you have left?

(ans1) oranges.

alright, if you have
.002 snakes on a plane x 34500, how many snakes on a plane do you have now?
(ans1) snakes on a plane.


if you have 0.002 cents on an irritated phone bill x 34500 , how many cents do you have now?
(ans1) cents.

and that is your free math lesson for the day! you can tell them, and end the recording. hahaha.

oh man.

can't stop laughing.

Matt Vassallo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler_Letofsky said...

What hardware or/and software would you recommend for recording calls from a cell phone... i have a similar situation with rogers that i would like to record.

Unknown said...

I just told my husband about this..We are Verison customers, so I figured it was not only funny but something we should think about...It turned into an hour long fight, with him claiming that Verison was correct, because the term 'dollar' has no monatary value. I conceeded and dropped the subject finally.

*is so very, very embarressed for her husband*

Jason said...

You ask them to put .002 cents into their calculator and they put it in as ".002" but I bet if you asked them to put 2 cents into their calculator, they wouldn't put it in as "2." They would probably put it in as ".02"

Say they charged 2 cents/kb. According to how they do calculator math in the audio, their trusty calculators would show that if I used 100 kb I would owe Verizon $200. Ouch.

Caulfield's Brother said...

I can't believe that this has gone as far as it has, I also can't believe that I'm chiming in when I feel like I know it won't do any good, but here it goes anyway.

The verizon people haven't made a mistake.

The word "of" is what's causing all of the problems.

.002 cents and .002 of a dollar are the same.

.002 cents and .002 dollars are not.

You were quoted .002 cents. Not .002 of a cent.

Unknown said...

Adam, you're unbelievable. Follow this:
.2 OF a dollar =20cents
.02 OF a dollar = 2cents
.002 OF a dollar = .2cents
.0002 OF a dollar = .02cents
.00002 OF a dollar =.002cents

He was quoted .002cents, which equals .00002 dollars. Genius!

Mark said...

Adam, just politely, please go back to school, read a textbook, anything. Just learn how to use units.

It's a ridiculously simple concept. So simple that everyone has to resort to convoluted explanations just to get it through people's heads.

You have a value and a unit. In this case, you have 0.002 (the value) and cents (the unit). The word 'of' does not come into it. It means nothing. If someone says "0.002 cents per kilobyte", the value is 0.002, and the unit is cents/kb. If you then go and multiply this by a value in kilobytes, you get an answer in cents.

I found the youtube video and couldn't believe what I was hearing. No wonder America has such a bad reputation for low intelligence, if this sort of crap can go through 3 levels of CSR staff. I know call-centre staff aren't screened for high IQ's, but this is simple stuff, folks.

Mark said...

The thing that really gets me is the "it's a difference of opinion" comment on the original audio.

Classic. Mathematics is now subjective, everyone.

Mark said...

As a post-post script, George: you should have tinyurl'ed the following link and asked the rep to follow it:

justdoit said...

I put 100% blame on the CEO of Verizon, Ivan Seidenberg, and his management team. He makes $6.25M (the “M” means Million, BTW), and who knows how much in stock options ( ). Wow, this guy must be smart, right? He must know all the Internet attention this is getting, right? He must know it can be a bit confusing putting $0.015 into words, especially for today’s younger generation growing up dependent on computers and calculators, right? Come on, Mr. Ivan, show us you are worth $6.25M and nip this issue in the butt! If I were a good manager or CEO, I would try to make things easy to understand. Why don’t you send out a company memo to your managers and CSRs stating something like “This is how you state $0.015…‘it’s 1.5 Cents’. Better yet, why don’t you change all company material to state everything in ‘cents’ when referring to anything less than 1 dollar?

Here’s another idea, Mr Ivan, why don’t you give up some of that $6+ Million and pay more for higher educated customer service reps? This is where customer service starts!! These are the people dealing with your customers!! BTW, what does one do with $6.25 Million/year?

0101010 said...

I love the way this thread is going - I wish more people had the time and energy to follow through. It looks to me that well dugg stories and YouTube postings have true potential in getting exposure - and the irony of hearing the "this call may be recorded for training purposes" notification is so thick its probably lost on Verizon.

But if everyone starts doing the same how long will it be before it is just one deafening cacophony of complaints with no specific action being taken? And how long before companies start trying to counter such trends with threats about customers recording their reps and posting emails? I know that ultimately that will fail - it will backfire (blowback?) too badly but it could get ugly for a while.

Two other random comments:

1. I know being a CS rep must suck - I try really hard to be very nice and patient with them, it usually pays off as my many success stories with T-Mobile problems have shown. It is frustrating that you sometimes do have to waste hours of your time and energy to get that far. If we all calculated our own time on the phone in dollars per hour most people would give up long before resolution, it is simply not economic.

2. I'm almost certain I got a similar misquote of data roaming rate from T-Mobile when I recently enquired about using it when traveling to the United Kingdom. When I went there two years ago it was completely free - part of my US unlimited plan, this time I think I got the point zero zero two cents per kb. I need to go back and check - if they haven't already wised up to Verizon's errors.

3. All this could be avoided if companies would only quote prices in dollars. As someone pointed out many people just are comfortable with fractions of a dollar, its just too much to expect from people living in "the worlds only superpower". Plus I think companies like to think giving prices in cents makes it sound cheaper. They could still give prices in dollars per kb and augment with an example - "so if you use 1,000 kilobytes, which is the same as 1 megabyte, then you would be charged $2".

Don't get me started on the confusion over 1k = 1024 or 1000 and kb = kilo bits vs kB = kilo bytes...

Mackenzie said...


Metric is a standard part of education in the USA now. I learned it in 2nd or 3rd grade (10 years ago). I thought centimetres were a perfectly reasonable unit of measure since they're smaller than inches (to be more precise) and have easier fractions (wait so 1/8 + 1/16...that's um...3/16? yeah...tenths are easier). When I gave my dad measurements in metric, he got really confused for some reason. I couldn't figure out how something so easy as moving the decimal could be that difficult. It didn't really require doing math. Yes, we do need to switch to metric like the rest of the world. Then again, what kind of measurement system could get going based on hex or binary? That'd be really funny, IMHO. When I read my binary watch, it confuses people enough.

Mackenzie said...


of means x (or on a computer *)
is means =

The rate is .002 of a cent
r = .002*c
In math, you don't really need to write the *, you can write
r = .002c
and it's still right. So .002¢ and .002 of a penny are the same darned thing.

Here, real life example. Candy is 50¢. So, candy costs you half of a dollar, right? That's $0.50.
$.5 = 50¢
Now, say, it's 1952 and you're getting penny candy. Okay, so candy is 1¢ or $.01. You can get 100 pieces of candy for a dollar. Now say that's for a package of candy, and there's 10 pieces of candy in the package. The package of candy is still $.01 or 1 penny. Each piece of candy, though, is worth 1/10 of a penny, or .1¢. You're getting 1,000 pieces of candy per dollar. One one thousandth of a dollar is $.001. So, 0.1¢ == $.001.

Unknown said...

I'm surprised I haven't seen any comments on the ambiguity of quoting a rate using kilobytes versus kibibytes. That's another topic I'm sure a whole slew of people have confusions on as well.

Please, think of the kibibytes.

Brian Baxter said...

Wow - just imagine how many customers did not catch this and are paying 100 times more than they signed on for.

And this is a mistake by Verizon?

ha ha

Bill said...

I think you should have tried this:
"The rate is 0.002 cents, right?"
"How many dollars is that? It is 0.00002 Dollars. Now if you multiply THAT times my KB, you'll get the correct amount to bill me, $0.71!!"

Mike said...

you have to say if it were 1 cent you'd do 1 times 100 which would equal 100 but that would be 100 cents... Which is why you use .01 times 100. 1 cent is the same as .01 dollers... So you enter in .01 times 100 and you get $1.

The thing is, they've been taught to do it that way for so long that they can't understand why it would be different... The more experienced they are, the more resistance they are to change..

I think that explains the problem with society is we just trust that things are right and think the way we've been taught rather then on our own.

Mike said...

Or even easier...
Ask them
How much is 200 cents?
2.00 dollars
How much is 20 cents?
0.2 dollars
How much is 2 cent?
0.02 dollars
How much is 0.2 cent?
0.002 dollars
How much is 0.02 cents?
0.0002 dollars
So how much is 0.002 cents? 0.00002 dollars

So if you want the amount that I'm paying in dollars you would use the .00002 *100.

rjheard said...

Math so easy even a caveman can do it.

Smash said...

I came to this thread late, actually, the the whole story. I did encounter links here and there but never followed any except the very first post about $.002=¢.002 a while back. The whole thing reminds me of when I used to complain to my teachers growing up about "When will I ever use this in real life?" I will rarely, not never, question a math teacher again. Unless they have at some point worked for a cellular carrier company.

Cal said...

This is the LAMEST thing I have EVER heard of. I understand the priciples of it, but po-lease. If you can (supposedly) afford VzW and unlimited data service, you can shoulder $71. Otherwise, go to T-Mobile. It's cheap and whiney customers like you that make it harder for honest and paying customers like myself.

You gotta pay to play!

Anonymous said...

bob, this thread is lame because a company misquoted him? I hope you take your vaseline everywhere you go to make it easier when you bend over to pay to play. Moron.

I'm glad he called them out for their own error. There is a huge difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents.

Unknown said...

Google Knows how to do it.

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

First of all, I'll welcome myself by joining in saying Bob, You're an idiot. Secondly, although this isn't relevant to the lack of mathematical knowledge amongst the verizon wireless customer service agents, it does have to do with their lack of intelligence. I recently purchased a PDA phone about a month and a half ago. They had a great rebate and along with that had another $100 off if you signed up for the Unlimited PDA package. So, I went to pay my first bill today, since I got the PDA phone, and my bill was $1322.01. It was so strange to me, as I had just read your blog about three days ago, and couldn't believe what I was now seeing on my statement. Well, after reviewing my bill it turns out that when I bought the phone, the person somehow managed not to put me in the system as having signed up for it. So, I wound up paying per kb for about 85,000 kb. However, I have the receipt in hand, saying that I am signed up for the unlimited package. Since their CS line is only open until 11pm....I will be calling them at 6am.....but I'm rather scared as to how well this situation will be handled after reading your blog......$1300+....what a kick in the nuts this is going to be to sort out! FYI...I laughed myself in to a coma, listening to your conversations with the agents!

jcarron said...

Try this... Lets substitute cows for cents. If the rate (as they quoted) is .002 cents/kB, lets just say it is now .002 cows/kB. Multiply the usage 35,893 kB times .002 cows/kB and you get about 71 cows.

Irisi said...

George, you're my hero.

Verizon has a lot of problems all around... They like to accidently assign their phones other people's phone numbers. It's happened to several of my friends that they suddenly found themselves on a party line, and just recently I discovered *I* was sharing a phone line with a verizon customer, who was apparently also paying for my minutes as I had an inflated bill for her minutes....

It hasn't yet been resolved, but it's really dumb.

I think it's only a matter of time before the wool these phone companies have regularily been pulling over our eyes is exposed... Asshats!

Keep plugging :)

Andrew said...

I just saw this (hadn't been on slashdot lately)--it's nice to know that all phone companies are apparently the same--I've gotten the run-around on a similar issue from Cingular before (only in my case over $300 ended up being credited to my account--I billed them for time on the phone in addition to the error). T-Mobile is smaller and therefore more needy of customers but seemingly have similar problems. Hurrah for rampant commercialism (not that any opposing system is any better)!

Chris Lewis said...

Troubleshooting a smartphone for work yesterday, I called Verizon. I spoke with a smartphone CSR - much smarter than the CSRs you talked to. While waiting for a reboot to complete I couldn't resist asking him if he'd seen any memos about $.002 being different from .002C. He said no, what are you talking about. I proceeded to tell him all about your situation. What's great about it is he said, "you mean they couldn't understand how there was a 100 fold difference?" He then begged me for the I pointed him to the blog...he said he would not be able to look at it while at work, but would definitely check it out when he got home.

Unknown said...

Hey. This is ridiculous. I just started working for a firm in Madison, WI that handles some of the customer service for Verizon Wireless. I'm not sure if you've had this issue resolved yet, but I'll look through this blog to figure that out... and if it looks like you haven't, then I'll talk to my boss about this tomorrow. I don't see how these people could be THAT stupid.

I haven't memorized all of the Verizon price-plan/charges info yet... but I'm pretty sure I saw the price quoted as is $0.002. Since you were quoted "cents" you should obviously not be charged in dollars. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the notes in your account info say "was quoted $.002" instead of "was quoted .002 cents"

Good thing you have this audio file to prove what was actually said.

You should get ahold of me when you read this. If my comment shows you my gmail address, then use that. Otherwise, email me at

Unknown said...

Ah, so yours was resolved... but the other guy's wasn't (the .015 guy)?

Without an audio file or some proof of the actual misquoting, I probably can't do much... especially since I just started working there.

BUT... I'll talk to my boss anyway about the problems caused by how they write $.015 or $.002, and how reps misread that. I'll also mention (several times, insistingly) this specific unresolved case, perhaps that will help.

At the very least, I'm going to try to get the message to a higher-up about how they need to change the way they write their rates. I can only imagine how many people have been, and will continue to be, screwed over by this issue.

dalas v. said...

I just sent this message via their web feedback form ( I am a Verizon customer):

This message is addressed to the Corporate Executives and the call center Directors:

I have just spent probably an hour reading this blog and listening to the recorded phone calls with your representatives:

I am appalled by the fact that even when these customers explained their problems in very clear and explicit terms, your representatives still lacked the intelligence required to grasp simple mathematical concepts.

The customers even went so far as to basically teach the representatives math that they should have learned in middle school, yet the reps were still incapable of understanding that 1 cent does not equal 1 dollar and therefore 0.002 cents is not the same as 0.002 dollars.

They seem to be paralyzed by the fact that they believe the computer is infallible and could not have made a mistake. Furthermore, the situation should not have even escalated as far as it did, since the customer should have been given a courtesy refund for the misunderstanding as soon as it was apparent that there had, in fact, been such a misunderstanding.

If Verizon's call centers are anything like Cingular's (where I worked for a short time), you have frequent training sessions. Perhaps you should devote one of these sessions to explaining basic math to your representatives and also explaining to them that computers are capable of mistakes.

I realize that this is a result of the American educational system and not directly your fault. However, you should see this as an opportunity to excel in your industry by raising the education level of your employees.

dalas v. said...

And the response:

Dear Dalas,

Thank you for contacting Verizon Wireless through our website. My name
is Darcey, and I thank you for taking the time to voice your concern
regarding the email blog you recently read.

Dalas, of course, because this involves a private customer matter, we
can only say that it has been settled. Nonetheless, as a result of the
experience, we are supplementing our existing employee reference
materials to further help representatives explain the exact billing rate
should we receive similar inquiries in the future.

Your feedback provides us with the perfect opportunity to hear exactly
what you think and your comments have been forwarded to our Management
Team for review and consideration.

It has been a pleasure assisting you today, and we appreciate your
business. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply
to this e-mail.


Verizon Wireless
Customer Service

Tom Evans said...

I've had this same problem so many times. Usually it's obvious, like a book is priced 0.99p instead of 99p, but when the other unit is also obscure, like kB, the mistake is unforgivable.

Funnily enough I had the reverse problem in Staples when looking at some high end printers. They were quoting the cost of ink per page as £0.09 (9p), which is a huge amount. The trouble is, the "alternative" meaning of 0.09p seems too low in contrast. No one there knew which was actually right, so eventually I just bought a very cheap printer and all I know is the cartridge lasts a year or so. :)

Jon said...

Well I tried verizon chat and they are just as bad:

Me said...

So I am going to Europe next month. Do I pay € 0.001498 or € 0.00001498 ? I am confused. Or because I will be traveling internationally, will I pay a markup? Maybe 100% of € 0.00001498, which is € 0.00001498. Math stuff can be very difficult at times. I wish the new, old AT&T would acquire Verizon, rebrand it as the new Cingular, bill everyone in pesos, and fire everybody.

But then the question becomes who’s Pesos? Chilean Pesos? Maybe Colombian Pesos? 0.00002 US Dollar = 0.04476 Colombian Pesos = 0.01139 Chilean Pesos = 0.0002198 Mexican Pesos = 0.00001853 Cuban convertible Peso. I found a convertible Pacer for $200 dollars, which is equal to roughly 10 million Kb. Can I pay my bill in car parts?

rjnerd said...

People are always more willing to trust a machine over their brain. I went into a national sandwich chain (some years ago). Ordered my usual sandwich, and the amount rung up wasn't the usual amount. Looked up at the board, it didn't indicate a price change. Pointed out to the counter person that the machine was overcharging me.

"oh yea, there was a price increase" - I pointed at the price board (unchanged). "But thats not the price". I reminded them that they have to honor the posted price, unless they wanted to be charged with fraud.

What made it particularly amusing: The manager didn't have an override so he could charge me the correct amount. (apparently they couldn't just say "misc taxable $4.73", they could only push the specific item buttons). He had a bit of a clue, and gave me the thing free.

I am sure lots of people didn't notice, and overpaid. The only reason I noticed, was that it took the total from under $5 to over $5. I happened to hand over a $5, and thus expected a few cents change, not a request for another quarter. (had they updated the sign, and not just the computer, I would have handed over the extra without comment)

mrdotkom said...

Yeah dude. first off, she might be fired. apparently the phone number she gave does not work. also, i am gonna be a freshman this year, and i didn't do so well in math last year, but i understand where your coming from. Its very simple math and i don't see why they couldnt figure it out. they probably were reading the numbers off of the quote statement, instead of writing down what you actually said. such stupidity should be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. if i ever go anywhere i am going to make sure this doesn't happen to me. thank you.

Mike Shor said...


"Me and my mom have college degrees,..."

Apparently you focused on math, but spent a wee bit less time on English. Why must everyone have innate fractional skills but it is acceptable to have no understanding of pronouns?

tygr20 said...

You know- the amazing thing is(and maybe someone has pointed this out) isn't .002 dollars STILL only .2 cents? I mean, a dollar is 1.00, a quarter is 0.25, a penny 0.01... so isn't $0.002 2 tenths of a penny?

Colt Cooper said...

You sound just like Fox Mulder.

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

Just changing my previous post, I was concerned it sounded too much like binding legal advice which I'm not really comfortable giving out on comment boards.

In Scotland I think our laws on contracts would have given you a pretty good defence. I recommend that although it's a question of numbers you start off with i think there's an error in my contract, so they don't think you're a crank trying to teach them that two identical numbers aren't, make it a serious point about the information you were given by one of the company's agents being misleading and influencing your actions to your disadvantage, it might help. Although the woman in that recorded conversation not responding to the danger phrase "I think I was misquoted" seems to bode poorly for your chances to get any success from customer service lines.

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike W said...

To begin, the customer is completely right and Verizon should be embarrassed by whoever set and published their pricing.

Next, I'm troubled by the fact that there are people out there that can state, and then DEFEND, something like:

$0.002 = 0.002 C

This type of "logic" would lead me to believe that $10 and 10 C are also equivalent. Bottom line - dollars and cents are NOT the same unit. Try paying for your next $10 cab ride with 10 pennies and see how well it goes over.

The argument about the issue having to do with the word "OF" was correctly dealt with by at least one person. Thank you.

At the root of this problem is a complete lack of understanding about units and conversions.

It's ridiculously easy. $1 = 100 C or $0.01 = 1 C (a 1 in front of either the $ or C unit is nice since it gives a "unit rate"). The $ to C conversion requires moving the decimal 2 places to the right; the C to $ conversion requires moving the decimal 2 places to the left, with place holders (zeros) inserted as required.

The type of pricing error made by Verizon shows up everywhere. Some examples of what else I've seen:

"Coffee 0.50 C" (that means I get 2 for a PENNY by the way)

"Pine flooring 0.99 C per square foot" (ok honey, maybe we CAN afford that renovation)

And of course one of my favourite "hybrid" examples, which combines innumeracy with improper punctuation all in one line:

"Banana's 0.59 C per pound"

(Aside: sometimes the word "per" will also be (incorrectly) omitted - without "per" or a "/" sign, the price is not a rate)

This type of sign is what Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves) calls the "grocer's apostrophe" since it occurs so often in grocery store advertising.

The sign SHOULD read (correcting both errors):

"Bananas 59 C per pound"


"Bananas $0.59 per pound"

The apostrophe is NOT required since it would denote possession - i.e. a banana owns the price. Completely ridiculous. The intention is to form the PLURAL of "banana" which simply requires the addition of an "s".

Come to think of it, I've also seen some very cheap "chicken wing's" for "0.25 C each". A group of friends and I could eat well, having 100 wings for 25 cents. One quarter of a dollar. Leaves lots of money for beer - this is a good thing. (it will inevitably be priced correctly. Pity.)

I'm trained as a math teacher and tutor math on the side. (I've taught at the high school and college levels) A grade 8 student and I were reviewing her notes from class one day. According to this student's teacher:

1) 1 m^3 = 1 L
2) area of a circle is the same as its circumference
3) given: 27.5 m^3 tank, fill rate is 50 L/min. Then the time to fill the tank is 27.5*50 = 1375 L
(this is exactly what was written - don't get me started on this one)

I corrected these terrible errors of course:

1) 1 m^3 = 1000 L
2) A = pi*r^2, C = 2*pi*r
3) 27.5 m^3 * 1000 L/m^3 * min/50 L = 550 min

Part of the problem in our elementary schools is that most teachers are only comfortable with a handful of subjects, and those subjects that are not well understood get taught poorly either through completely incorrect teachings or avoidance of the subject altogether. More often it is probably a combination of both of these things.

The core subjects like math and literacy (reading, writing, speaking) are crucial for the continued success of a society. I know there are a lot of millionaires who didn't finish (or start) highschool but these folks make up a very slim percentage of the population. (I'd be curious to see numbers on this sort of thing) I in no way will discourage a student from pursuing their goals, but I also stress the importance of at least finishing high school in today's world. It's good to have a back-up plan in case things don't turn out as planned.

After all this discussion about Verizon, I would like to check my Roger's bill to look for similar errors.

In closing... I'm off to the store to pick up some tenth-of-a-penny candy... as advertised, of course!

Mike W said...

I need to correct something from my recent post.

Thinking about my last comment about the penny candy - it would likely be (incorrectly) marked as "0.01 C" meaning it should technically be called "100th-of-a-penny candy". My mistake.

Correct pricing would read:

1 C or $0.01

stunned_disbelief said...

I feel your pain brotha. I got rid of verizon after an erroneous bill and many calls to cust support. I had a similar argument over data as well, but my bill was about 11 bucks, so i just gave up.

Unknown said...

Maybe make them do something like this to grasp the simple concept:

100 cents = $1
10 cents = $0.1
1 cent = $0.01
.1 cent = $0.001
.01 cent = $0.0001
.001 cent = $0.00001


.002 cents = $0.00002

35893 * $0.00002 = $0.71786

Maybe you can email that to them, or even better, make a colorful flipbook with some cartoon animals explaining it. That may work a bit better.


psyjunta said...

As a telemarketer I recently encountered a customer who briefly explained that his current phone company had removed his quarterly fee of 375 and instead given him a much lower fee of 125 per month... I hung up.

Bad math... not only in America

Anonymous said...

This is truly unbelievable. How could any person rise to the level of manager and not understand this. I'm literally speechless. Like you said, says a lot about US education.

Unknown said...

I'm English and a housewife and even I understand this!

Marymuses and The Duchess said...

Even when I was 16, which some these reps may very well be, I knew the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents. MORONS!

gladlyplaid said...

Ryan absolutely hit the nail on the head with Bruce's example. While the statement is crystal clear when written here by an intelligent person in pure English, the problem is that, in practice, you don't know if the person making the statement knows what they're really saying. If you say, "I earn 150% more," the word "more" automatically adds 100%. In other words, you make "250% of" his salary.

The other hitch is that one generally wouldn't phrase the sentence that way except on math quizzes designed specifically to catch people in this regard, with the alleged purpose of teaching us a lesson about syntax. In common usage, one would say "I make two and a half times his salary." Math textbook editors know this, which is exactly why they write those types of questions.

It's kinda like the old trick question, "How many cubic feet of dirt are in a hole one foot wide, one foot long, and one foot deep?" The answer, of course, is zero, because a hole by definition has no dirt in it. Subconsciously we know something isn't quite right about this question, but we as an intelligent species attempt to make sense of it, and assume the person asking it really means, "How much dirt would it take to fill a hole..."

Interestingly, there is a good lesson about communication and copywriting skills in there too. But instead, often we're slapped on the wrist for "failing at simple math" rather than being taught to write more clearly and communicate effectively.

Unknown said...

He coulda just said 0.02cents is $0.0002, as in sounded out each individual 0 for them. Then he coulda said they were charging him $0.02 not $0.0002 like he was quoted. But he probably would have had to have them write that out on paper in front of themselves to get it.

Unknown said...

It's just common sense that 0.002(something) does not equal to 0.002(something else), if that "something" doesn't equal to the "something else".
Be that pennys, cents, dollars, pounds, yards, or bananas and apples, it's just ridiculous.

Skyeline said...

The argument here is one of semantics not math.

When you receive money say $1.10 you say the .10 part as 10 cents which is 1/10th of a dollar. You don't say .10 dollars you say 10 cents. Logically then it follows that $0.002 is semantically said as .002 cents not .002 dollars. Semantically .002 cents means $0.002 not .002 of 1 cent.

Unknown said...

I remember something similar years ago when I signed up with Verizon. They told me I could call to "anywhere" in North America, unlimited, for free. I asked, "does that include Canada too?" and they said, "yes." I called back, asked if they were for sure, 100% sure I wouldn't be charged for calling Canada -- no long distance charges, unlimited minutes meant unlimited, anywhere in North America, especially including Canada? "Yes."

My "too good to be true" sensors were up, so I called back in about 10 days to check my amount owed. The automatic system said I owed $200.

I called and spoke with a rep, shocked and furious, and asked for a complete refund. "Oh, our plan changed while you were a member, so we don't include Canada any more." I asked why I hadn't been informed, and told them I'd only signed up 10 days ago. No real response to that. I refused to pay the bill, and was told to hold.

After a very long 20 minutes of waiting, the person came back on and said, "I spoke with my manager, and we can offer you 50% off your bill." That made me even more furious -- I wasn't looking to make a deal, I wanted what was right. I said, "that's ridiculous, I am not paying for those charges. You offered me one thing, then told me something else. I called back twice to ask for confirmation, as you can probably see from my call logs, and was told that I would not be charged. Now you're telling me that in 10 days my plan changed, I wasn't informed, and I owe $200 that you've evidently started billing from the start of my service, not just when the plan changed." The last part was improvised -- I wasn't sure, but I figured that's probably what they did.

They put me on hold for a further 20 minutes. Finally they came back on and told me my charges would be completely removed.

And I discontinued service with Verizon shortly thereafter, within my allowed 15 day "I changed my mind" period. After holding for another hour to discontinue service.

Given George's original issue, the point of commonality between my and his problem seems to be Canada -- ? Perhaps Verizon should follow South Park's movie lead and Blame Canada! Taking the blame themselves seems to be just too much work.

MrTheFrog said...

You guys all missed the point- he was billed correctly, they just explained it wrong. It costs $2/MB, or roughly $.002/KB. Sure, the store clerks are kinda dumb for not getting it, but the bill was correct.

Mike W said...

The original post states that the customer was quoted ".002 cents per KB". Upon billing, the customer was charged ".002 dollars per KB". This is the issue.

Indeed, $2/MB is roughly the same as $.002/KB, but this is not the issue. The customer ended up paying 100 times more than they were quoted.

Verizon apparently thinks that CENTS and DOLLARS are the same thing. This is complete nonsense. Which would you rather have in your pocket?

The best post I've seen lately was from Akos, who said:

"It's just common sense that 0.002(something) does not equal to 0.002(something else), if that "something" doesn't equal to the "something else".
Be that pennys, cents, dollars, pounds, yards, or bananas and apples, it's just ridiculous."

Those who argue any sort of thing to the contrary need to go back to grade school.

MathChique said...

This is the best story ever. The tape is great. I love the part where you object to her claim that "This is a difference of opinion".
People in this country are math-apathetic/math-phobic. I should know, I'm a math teacher.

Ryan said...

Here is the math for all you idiots who agree with Verizon:

$0.002 x (¢100/$1) = ¢0.2
¢0.002 x ($1/¢100) = $0.00002

This means 0.002 dollars really equals 0.2 cents

So, 0.002 dollars DOES NOT EQUAL 0.002 cents.

The math is easy, its called dimensional analysis. Read about it and become smarter.

Jwinders said...

In your statement,"*everyone* who was quoted .002 cents and payed $0.002". What exactly is wrong with that statement? Yes the proper syntax would be to say ".002 of a cent", being 100 cents = 1.00 dollar right? Also it takes .01 to in order to be a called singular cent correct? So to say it's 2/10 of a singular cent would be even better still than saying two one-thousands of a dollar. Notation dictates that the whole numbers (real numbers) are before the decimal (this thing-->. ) and fractional values follow after in the form of tenths, hundredths, and thousands (ect..). Two tenths(2/10) of a thousandth is denoted as .002. Yes the clerk was some underpaid employee that didn't care about you or your phone plan, but never the less you are overlooking the fact that $11.001(in dollars)is still equivalent in numerical value as 1,000.10 pennies. The issue rises from your lack of clarity in your word play. If you feel this is wrong please reiterate your question of conversions. Yes there is many unit conversion in physics and chemistry but not so much in accounting.

MathChique said...

Jwinders... unfortunately some of your statements are mathematically incorrect.

" Also it takes .01 to in order to be a called singular cent correct?"

You haven't mentioned the units. '.01 of a dollar' is one cent.

"So to say it's 2/10 of a singular cent would be even better still than saying two one-thousands of a dollar."

This is correct.

"Notation dictates that the whole numbers (real numbers) are before the decimal (this thing-->. )..."

Whole numbers are positive integers. The category of 'real numbers' includes all numbers that are not imaginary.

"Two tenths(2/10) of a thousandth is denoted as .002."

Not true. 2/10 of 1/1000 is 2/10000, or 'two ten-thousandths'.

"Yes the clerk was some underpaid employee that didn't care about you or your phone plan, but never the less you are overlooking the fact that $11.001(in dollars)is still equivalent in numerical value as 1,000.10 pennies. The issue rises from your lack of clarity in your word play."

This is irrelevant. The mathematics in question is part of the curriculum in the United States in 5th, 6th and 7th grade so there is really no excuse that a clerk, hired to deal with these issues, is unable to do that level math. Moreover, the situation is perfectly clear. Shamefully, the Verizon clerks don't know what they are doing and are not even able to follow the logical argument that the caller repeatedly provides.

'Yes there is many unit conversion in physics and chemistry but not so much in accounting.'

This is just plain incorrect. The decimal system was used in money long before the metric system was invented.

Your arguments just reiterate the lack of basic mathematics comprehension of young people today. My 75 year-old mother who never went to college understands these concepts very clearly as did her father who only had a 4th grade education.

QuickClickz said...

.02 grams = .02 milligrams right?

For the retards saying that .0002cents is the same .0002 dollars just because the of isn't there, are retarded.

You don't say .002 of a gram, you say .002 gram. which means the same thing.

I don't know who gave you the idea that you're not a complete retard but they were clearly mistaken, you are the dumbest person alive

Unknown said...

Verizon took your advice. From their website:

ÈIn the Canadian Broadband and Canadian Enhanced Services Rate and Coverage Areas, usage will be charged at a rate of $0.002 per KB or $2.05 per MB.È

Unknown said...

Wow. It's amazing how people can't tell the difference between $.002 and ¢.002. I can understand that people freak out when they see fractions/decimals. But this is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I have to comment on the 150% question. My first answer, straight off the bat, was $50,000. Then I reconsidered it and came up with $30,000. The OP intended it to be $50,000. Why was there any hesitation or ambiguity on my part?

WORDING. It is a word problem. Here is the problem my mind caught:

I make 150% MORE than what you make (original phrasing) = $50,000.

I make 150% OF what you make = $30,000.

The problem is that unless you go back and consciously think about the MORE, you may not get this problem right. Meaning it is about language and not math skills. The OP's language was correct for the answer he wanted. I am pointing this out as an example of, again, how verbal communication problems affect the outcome, not just math skills.

Cameron said...

i listened for about 5 min. then realized i should put it on with yule log and just let it play while i cleaned up my room. Thanks for making a pleasent morning.

MathChique said...

The tape was clear. The difference in the amounts was explained and explained again, multiple times, even to the 'supervisor'.

I teach 7th grade math in an urban environment. I presented the issue on the tape and the lowest students, who are functioning at a 3rd grade level, understood the problem.

From my experience with Verizon, there seems to be a systematic attempt to try to nickel and dime the customer. I have also had a frustrating conversation with a customer service agent where he tried to 'explain' to me why Verizon was overcharging me on my bill. He was obviously taking the party line, fed to him by Verizon. However, mathematically, what he was saying, was false and made no sense.
I finally had to say to him, "I have a degree in mathematics, I teach mathematics, and you don't have a clue about what you are talking about".
Then I switched to a different provider.

Dan Gr said...

I think your original analysis of the function of customer services reps is correct. They are just there to inform you of how it is going to be and convince to hang up without taking your complaint further.

That said, in such a case, your best way forward (other than posting a recording to the internet), would have been to ask them to connect into the call someone from their tech-support dept. My guess is someone in the IT field would have understood what you were explaining.

MathChique said...

You are correct but I think posting the recording to the internet was ingenious, entertaining, and exactly what Verizon deserved.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

So, listening to the .002 cents vs. .002 dollars audio, it reminded me of something that I dealt with earlier this year. At my job, we ship out books. We are very concerned with the weight of the pallets. Anyway, these two women were wondering why there was a variance in the weight of a book. One scale said that the book weighed .7 pounds while the other said that it weighed 11.2 ounces, whereas it should weigh 7 ounces right? WRONG! I attempted (wasted twenty minutes of my life) trying to explain that there are not 10 ounces in a pound, rather 16; therefore, .7 pounds would equal 11.2 ounces. Even when I told them that .5 pounds equaled 8 ounces (which they understood), they could not comprehend that, in changing the units, 7 tenth of a pound equaled 7 tenth of 16 (11.2 ounces). This is very sad indeed.

Jenny in Wonderland said...

OMFG!!! I suck at math and get it right away! Man, maybe they should have child labor since they are hiring adults with the minds of children out of the womb.
They could save a bundle!!!!!

xria said...

For those that believe 0.002 cents is equal to 0.002 dollars, I will do you a deal.

I will give you 200,000,000 lots of 0.002 cents, if you will give me 100,000,000 lots of 0.002 dollars (half as many, so you are doubling your money if the two are really equivalent).

Saturn2888 said...

Please say you went to court with this or something. I think there are some huge supreme court issues here.

w said...

Found this site eventually through

First of all, very funny and sad at the same time. But I would have approached the explanation of the math in a different way.

I would've asked the Verizon rep to multiply $0.002 by 1000 kilobytes and tell me the result. ($2)

Then I would've asked them to multiple 0.002 cents by 1000 kilobytes and tell me the result. (2 cents)

To go another step, I would tell them to multiply 0.002 cents by 10000 KB. "What if I'd only incurred 10000 KB? 10000 * 0.002 cents... 20 cents."

Edge your way to 35k KB. "So if 10000 KB costs 20 cents, and I actually incurred three times as much, then I don't owe you a measly 20 cents, but 60 cents! Right? But you and I both know that's not the truth: I actually used 35 thousand KB which is... just 70 cents."

Schrödinger's Cake said...

I have a better proof that $1 = 1¢!

Start with $1

Now erase the "$" and add a "¢"

There you have it!
(Verizon should be nodding its head in agreement now)

Anyway, go big with this! This should be more public. I'm definitely mentioning this on my blog, at least.

Nhilante said...

what i wanna know is, did the company pay back all their clients? if not then is any court action taken to prevent them from acting?

Unknown said...

My 12 year old sons understand this. I am glad to know they will do well in the world of business. I am sorry your very basic explanation was not basic enough for them.

David E. Grim said...

Three words: Small Claims Court.

HaruMei said...

I just called and asked them what the data transfer fee was in canada, and they quoted $.002 to me! Which is odd, because I stated at the outset that I don't HAVE a verizon phone, and I thought that the fee for a person without a plan was different, and they only quoted that one price to me, but still! ".002 dollars per kilobyte, which is 2.05 dollars per megabyte"!
See? they CAN be taught!

Anonymous said...

As a .Net developer, I am wondering if I could get a System.VerizonMath library. I think it'd be hilarious!

ladym00s said...

I just talked to an online Sprint person, and they quoted me .05 CENTS per MB. "Wow, that's not a bad deal at all" I said snidely to myself--as I took a screenshot.


FishDawg said...

The problem the guy had is everyone at Verizon reads this number $0.002 as "point zero zero two cents". That is not the right way to read the number. They should say "point zero zero two DOLLARS" or "point two cents" or "two tenths of a cent" or "two thousandths of a dollar". When talking about money, people are simply used to calling the part after the decimal point "cents", but that doesn't work when reading the decimal point, like reading $1.23 as "one dollar and POINT two three cents".

Don S said...

The answer in in a simple matter of conversion.

35500 KB multiplied by rate

.002 cents / 1 KB

to convert cents to dollars, multiply by rate

1 dollar / 100 cents.

By doing this, kilobytes cancel, cents cancel, leaving the answer in dollars. The entire conversion is as follows:

35500 KB x .002 cents / 1 KB x 1 dollar / 100 cents = .71 dollars or 71 cents.

Verizon was quoting .002 dollars and never converting cents into dollars. In Latin, this is called "ignoramus".

Don S