Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dear Verizon, I Didn't Think It Was Possible To Be As Bad As Comcast

I just wanted to let the universe know that Ren finally got a cell phone--not that I think he will use it all that much. He famously avoids texting and shies completely from social media, so I don't anticipate major waves of change here. Still, it's good that I won't have to worry about him when goes out of town on his own or when he's at the doctor with one of the kids or we are trying to execute a rendezvous.

The additional cell phone may even help us avoid fiascos like the 2014 Chicago weekend trip when we lost each other for nearly an hour despite the fact we were only 100 feet away from one another. And who knows, maybe we WILL communicate more so that we don't both make trips to the grocery store only to awkwardly run into each other in the vegetable aisle. Yesterday, for example, he called me from the Red Box kiosk and then Face Timed with me when I was trying to eat lunch. That's two times more than I usually talk to him during any given work day.

This particular lifestyle change happened nearly a month later than planned due to my misguided attempt to change cell phone carriers. I am too tired to do justice to the rant I'd like to write about Verizon, but it was HORRIBLE. First, they sent us the wrong phone, and even though I realized the mistake had happened almost immediately and called Verizon right away (well before the phone shipped), I was told my only option was to wait for the wrong phone to arrive and then return it to the Verizon store. So, I waited dutifully. But, when I went to the Verizon store with my unopened phone, an associate there told me the phone couldn't be returned in person. She also told me the phone we wanted was backordered for three weeks but that it didn't matter since we couldn't get one anyway--what seeing as how we already had a Verizon phone and all. That less-than-helpful associate also told me my other phone was set up and ready to go, so I went an entire day using it without realizing that no one could call me on it (something I learned when I came home from work to find Sky in a complete panic because he thought I was ignoring his calls).

These two problems led me to call Verizon again. And again, and again, and again--in all, I talked with 6 different people and spent more than 9 hours over the course of one week trying to work out these two messes. On my fifth phone call, I learned that the person who signed me up had actually given me incorrect information regarding the pricing of my plan (something the first four phone associates AND the store associate failed to mention), and that I would not indeed get the promised discount. Since the discount was the whole reason I decided to switch in the first place, I tried pushing the issue. Whenever I expressed my frustration to the associate, however, he simply said, "I'm sorry to hear you received wrong information. I want to make sure you have correct information going forward." Apparently Verizon has been working hard to train employees in empathetic listening.  Every person I talked to was indeed very sympathetic to my horrible luck (which their company manufactured), though no one ever seemed to care enough to actually FIX their mistakes.
Screen shot from my chat with Riley at Verizon: "If I am the one to accept your frustrations, I certainly understand it. If this will let you express your disappointment about the matter, I am ready to listen...You can count on me."
Here's the thing: empathetic listening doesn't help me if I am being misled and then overcharged. Baiting and switching consumers seems like a bad business model. Since I'd already changed carriers, I thought about waiting it out to see if Verizon's coverage was any better than my old carrier or if eventually they would get my bill right. But, then I decided I didn't need the stress. Verizon, like Comcast, has adopted a seemingly customer-friendly (but ultimately patronizing) approach to talking to us because they know they've made us mad by constantly changing rates and offering sub-par service. Only after I could finally extract myself from the clutches of the Comcast monopoly did I realize that well-run, customer-centered businesses don't need to sweet talk consumers.

While I would have much preferred spending those 9+ hours hanging out with the kids or reading a book, at least I feel like I am growing as a person. Instead of sticking around to fight it out with Verizon, I decided to just walk away. That's progress for me! I'm glad to be back where the customer service staff is helpful and no one tries to make me feel better! Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long future of being able to find Ren when I'm looking for him.

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