Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bye Bye Verizon!

How much more does it cost to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one? This age old concept is part of any basic marketing or business curriculum anywhere. I guess Verizon can't be bothered with questions like this. Today they could have kept a customer, me, for the cost of a mere refurbished phone, instead they lost me and my $125/month annuity. It would have seemed to me to be a quick decision that would have paid them back within the first 2 weeks at most. Once again, the true meaning of the new word "VerizonMath" is again reinforced by their insightful policies.

I bet many of you are saying to yourselves "it's about time", but I stuck with them for a couple of reasons. 1) They do have great coverage. 2) I had a smart phone with unlimited data access which was convenient for connecting to my home machine, checking email etc. OK, so literally a couple of reasons, now that I look at it, its not that compelling.

My PDA phone has been acting up, shutting itself off right in the middle of calls, which my last one had done, and the one before that as well. It seems like every few months I needed to replace it.

I went to the local Verizon store, and I only wish I had recorded this experience as it was similarly comical to the famous call. First I explained to the greeter that my phone was acting up and I'd like to replace it with some basic phone, even a refurb.

I was "transfered" by the greeter to tech support since the fundamental issue was that my current phone was broken. The apathetic tech called my name, "Mr. George", I also noticed that another similarly enthusiastic tech called "Mrs. Kathy" around the same time. It seemed to me they might have had either a training issue or a software issue, but clearly a case of at least mild retardation all around. I mean, "Mrs. Kathy?" WTF?

Anyway, I explained the situation to the "tech" who explained that since I had insurance on my phone I could call Verizon and have them send me a new phone for $50. Great, except I didn't break the phone, it's mint, but defective. I had actually dropped one of my previous phones and used the insurance to get a new one so I was familiar with that process. I felt this was not a great option considering I have had many problems with this model (Audiovox XV6600) and didn't really want another one. I just wanted a simple phone and I could lose the PDA functions (to carry me until I found a better carrier/phone combo). He couldn't help me, so he "transfered" me to sales.

At this point the "transfer" process started to feel familiar yet very strange considering I was physically there in the store as opposed to on the phone.

I cut to the chase with the sales guy and asked him for a quote, full retail on the cheapest phone they had. He told me $189, and then looked into my account to find that I had a "credit" of $100 from Verizon's "new every 2" program. This was another bit of comedy. Since the cheapest phone they offer costs $189 (before $100 credit), "new every 2" really translates to "new every 2 at your cost of a few hundred for an equivalent phone or $89 for the crappiest phone we have, oh and by the way, we gotcha for another 2 years." Wow, thanks for that. How about I just cancel my contract since I'm past my 2 year commitment? Then I could conceivably just resign for another 2 years as a new customer and get more than $100 off a new phone. But that's what I get as a loyal Verizon customer, nothing.

I chose to cancel and walk. They suggested I cancel on the phone, but I wanted these idiots to personally experience whatever pain Verizon might dish (if any) to them for losing a customer. Honestly, I would have been happy paying $50 for a used crap phone.

So, I'm "transfered" again to customer service where I met the biggest gem of them all. I should have gotten his name. This guy, said "gnome sane" at least 10 times, which was baffling because he hadn't said anything that needed to be explained. I took my receipt for the cancellation and left. Fun times. See ya Verizon, it's been fun.

At any rate, I'm now without a cell phone. However I do have a BroadVoice VOIP account where anyone who has my old cell number, which I've had for years, can reach me as long as I'm in front of my computer. I can have my calls at that number routed by broadvoice to any other number for free - that's my version of number portability without all the hassles of the handover between cell carriers. I've been through my share of those - not fun.

I do have to get a new cell phone within the next month or so, and I wanted to ask for people's opinions. I travel very frequently so I can't go with a carrier/plan that has roaming charges or spotty coverage (I think that rules out T-Mobile (the spotty coverage part) - but that might have changed in the time since I had my account with them). I'd like 3g data, preferably DUN access so I can get online with my PC in the rare case when I'm not near a WI-FI hotspot, however this is not too important. I'd like a smartphone so I can send/receive emails, and preferably one with GPS (non subscription) since I used IGuidance on my PocketPC phone pretty frequently. Also, if it had WI-FI and a SIP client, that would be great too as I could use my BroadVoice account when I was home on the handset and not eat my airtime minutes, and not be stuck in front of my computer (as I am now with my PC based SIP software).

I'm thinking the iPhone would almost do what I want, sans the 3G and the GPS, but I hear from the Apple rumor mill those might be getting solved early next year with the next gen iPhone.

I did have a MOTO RAZR on a recent trip to Australia, and I loved the battery life - not having to charge the phone except every few days was amazing considering I usually had to have my pda phone plugged in whenever I was home and it'd barely last 8 hours on standby.

Anyway, if any of you have ideas, opinions about carriers and service and phones, I'd appreciate the insights. For the first time in over 10 years I don't have a cell phone, it feels a bit strange.

Alternatively, if AT&T want to send me a next gen (or current gen) iPhone or Nokia N95 and treat me like a king with a free subscription for a year just to prove how great they are, and really rub it into Verizon's face what a horrible company they are, that sounds good too.

In the meantime I'm just happy to be rid of those idiots. Honestly, I have never dealt with a company that valued its customers so low, and expressed it so clearly. "Worry free guarantee", "new every two" - my ass. So much for "in" - I'm out!