cft

My Stolen $156.46: How It Ended

Either way, I have no illusions: I don’t hold any cards in this game.


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Melinda Blau

3 years ago | 2 min read

On February 5, I wrote about my battle with Big Business and Bad Customer Service, and concluded that…

This saga ends one of two ways: A refund will appear on my next bill or — my partner’s fear, which will intensify after this article is published — our cell phones will be turned off for non-payment. Luckily, fears are not facts.
Either way, I have no illusions: I don’t hold any cards in this game.

Our phones were not turned off (yet). But no refund appears on my next bill either. The February bill is “ready,” an email tells me, noting that $156.46 is “overdue.”

Samuel Johnson described second marriage as the “truimph of hope over experience.” The same might be said of my second, third….umpteenth call to the Verizon 800-number.

Apparently, practice helps. I reach a human in record time. She, in turn, quickly (and uncharacteristically) transfers me to a supervisor. Perhaps, this is because I tell her I’m a journalist and that I’ve just published an article about Verizon.

And, so, after seven weeks and conversations with a cadre of incompetent, lazy, and/or poorly-trained agents, someone helps me. Marie in Alabama acts like she cares that I still have not received a credit for the Fitbit I’d purchased in early December and returned a day later.

Marie in Alabama doesn’t put me on hold as she searches “all the Verizon data bases.” In minutes, she confirms that my Fitbit was logged in as “returned” on December 21 — 10 days after UPS records show it was signed for. Best of all, she gives me a credit.

Marie in Alabama can only refund $149, the actual price less tax. Her action must now be authorized by her supervisor and then I will also be credited for the tax.

As much as Marie in Alabama would be happy to just give me the credit, Verizon has to have safeguards. Imagine if every customer service rep handed out a $149 credit to everyone who called. The company might go broke.

I try to find out just how large Verizon’s customer-support force is, but it’s not easy. Traditionally, agents worked at call centers. But in 2018, Verizon laid off 3000 of them (leaving 3500). More recently, thanks to COVID, most reps apparently now work at home. They make $12 to 16 an hour, according to Salary.com.

I don’t blame the reps. It’s Management. At some point in time, in a conference room somewhere, someone is making these so-called customer support policies. Someone else is writing a training manual and a script for reps to parrot.

I didn’t bother to Google “customer service at Verizon” when I first wrote about this. But today I did and, not surprisingly, there are stories just like mine, even on the Verizon website: endless calls, frustration, misinformation, no resolution.

Perhaps Verizon doesn’t care. I am reminded of the documentary, The Corporation, based on the 2004 bestseller, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Balkan. It compares the profile of the contemporary profitable business corporation to that of a clinically diagnosed psychopath. It doesn’t have a heart or a soul. Why would it care about people?

Originally published here.

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