Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Verizon Perma-call of Doom

I haven't blogged in a week because:

A) I'm a horrible person who doesn't care about my 5 followers.
B) I just worked 6 days in a row.
C) I am dog sitting and being in a different house distracts me.
D) B and C.

The answer is D, but I could understand those of you that picked A. After all, how hard is it to pick from my list of posts to write and write one? Apparently with work, dogs, and my favorite coworker back in town for a week, my motivation gets consumed pretty quickly. I am going to make up for my absence. I have two days off and only one get together and some gym visits scheduled, so that leaves lots of time for blogging.

As the title of the post suggests, I'm not going to keep harping on my negligence for the rest of these paragraphs. I am going to talk about my recent experience with trying to talk to a Verizon representative on the phone. Let me start by saying that I actually like having a Verizon cell phone and that I enjoy not having to deal with Comcast for my internet. On a day to day basis, Verizon works for me... but then there are days when for some reason I need to talk to customer service. On those days, I frakking hate Verizon. (Notice I didn't just say Fuck. Those of you that know me irl know that I say Fuck a lot. I was going to avoid it. Then I thought "Fuck it" and put in this parenthetical with 3 uses of the word. Yeah, I'm awesome and easily amused.)

Last week, I had to try to make two changes to my Verizon account. We wanted to disconnect our land line and upgrade our internet. I figured that they would not be happy with the first one, since they'd have to charge us less per month, and that they might make trouble about it. I hoped that upgrading my internet at the same time might lull them into a false sense of long-term gain and allow them to make this a speedy process. I decided to give them the bad news first and then the good news. To prep for the call, I logged into My Verizon, checked what internet was available in my area and how much it cost, got some coffee, and found a comfy place on my couch. I knew this had the potential to be a long haul of hold time, but I figured that coffee and webcomics would get me through it.

After realizing that they wanted me to call two different numbers for phone and internet, I chose the number for residential phones and made the personal commitment to not dialing the other number. The customer service person either had software in front of them that could also change my internet or they could transfer me. I was oddly stubborn about this commitment as I dialed the number. I was going to get this done quickly and efficiently, damn it. I really wasn't asking for much. This would go well!

After dialing and speaking my way over a few automated hurdles, I was 90% sure I was on hold for the right operator. Now was the time for waiting. A few things struck me as I waited.

1) I really hate having to speak to an automated menu. If they can't give me a real person to talk to, why do I have to talk to their computer? I feel like I have to over-enunciate while I slowly almost shout. Can't I just press a number? The computer can't tell me, "Sorry, I didn't get that. Can you repeat your choice?" in it's creepily cheery voice if I just have to press a number. Everyone has touch-tone phones now. Let's use them.

2) I am on hold for a communication company, a company most known for phones. In light of this, why don't they invest more time and/or money in their holding audio? Seriously, the music cuts in and out randomly and is always quieter than the static that accompanies it. If I didn't already have the service, this hold "music" wouldn't make me confident that this is the company that will give me clear, consistent conversations between my loved ones and I. Hell, I know their cell phones work, but the longer I stay on hold, the more I wonder if other companies wouldn't work better. Eventually, the thought that 95% of my friends and family have Verizon and that in-network calls are free 24/7 reassures me that their crappy hold audio isn't enough to dump them. Still, they're a communications company... they should work on that. It's embarrassing.

3) I've been putting off this call forever. I felt a sense of dread about it like I was calling an ex-boyfriend to help me move the couch that we bought together and I knew he wasn't going to want to do it and I didn't want to ask but the couch needed to move and I couldn't do it by myself. Not that I didn't have a totally more justified reason for calling than some dumb couch. For months now, whenever the land line rang, we got kicked off the internet. Clearly, something was wrong with that, and even more annoying, the only calls our land line got were collection calls. Let me make clear that my husband and I have no past due bills. The collection agencies can apparently search for numbers by address, presumably to avoid losing contact with their victims when they change their numbers, and seemingly every previous occupant of my apartment owed money to somebody. Now, these somebodies kept calling for people who I've never met and haven't lived at this address for over two years. No amount of explaining these things got the calls to stop. Given that Jer's mom has Skype now and that I got really tired of explaining that I didn't know Jason and no we had no vendettas against each other as I didn't even know him in the first place, the phone line had to go. It was finally time to make the call despite the dread.

After contemplating all of that for about 10 minutes and running out of webcomics, I finally got off of hold and talked to a real person. Unsurprisingly, she was required to ask why I wanted to ditch the land line. I explained the above, and though she didn't seem to think the reasons were as compelling as I did, she said the land line would be canceled today if that's what I really wanted. It took another 5 minutes of being on hold off and on for her to figure out how to actually turn the phone off. Finally, she told me that it would be off later today and that I wouldn't be able to dial 911 from it anymore, which sounded a bit like a threat. The tone in her voice seemed to say, "Just wait until you're on fire and swarmed by killer bees. You better hope your cell phone is charged enough to call 911 or you'll die from bee stings and 17th degree burns and it won't be my fault because you're the one that chose not to have a land line."

I pushed past her apparent desire to see my flaming corpse swarmed by bees and gave her the good news about wanting to upgrade my internet from "Power" to "Turbo." This did seem to make her happy, and she set to work on upgrading. This procedure must have been harder than turning off the phone line since this time I was on hold periodically for 15 minutes while she figured it out. I used this time to unload and reload my dishwasher, pace the length of my apartment and check how hot it was outside. Finally, she came back and said, "Ok, your land line has been cancelled and you will be upgraded to turbo today. You'll have an internet outage of 15 minutes to 4 hours for the upgrade, probably today. That will be $66.99 per month."

There are so many thing wrong with that. When will the outage be? No estimated time? My internet access is now a ticking time bomb just waiting to erase a role play post I might write? The crazy price eliminated all those questions.

"$66.99? The internet had a very different price," I said.

"Well, if you put the phone line back on it will be [some smaller number]," she responded... Oh, tricky. Not falling for it.

"I've been your customer for over three years and the Verizon website says Turbo is $39.99 without a phone line."

"I'll see what discounts I can get you, Ma'am," she said as I went back to scratchy, patchy hold 'music.' 10 minutes and 3 offers later, I've gotten a $35.99 price, rejected their DirectTV pitch, and thankfully hung up. I still had two hours until work. Sweet.

Mission accomplished...

Until I check my e-mail and see two new messages from Verizon thanking me for signing up for their Security Suite ($6.99/month) and Starz Unlimited Movies and Games ($27.99/month). WHAT? Damn it. I hate everyone. Rar. When we moved two years ago, they also signed me up for these two services without asking me. That time, there were no thank you e-mails so I had to call to get it taken off of the bill. This time, I'm nipping that shit in the bud and back on the phone with Verizon. More scratchy hold audio, more talking to automated menus, more hoping webcomics updated in the last hour, and then another customer service person.

I explained to him that not only did I not ask for these "services" but that nobody even mentioned them to me. They were just thrust upon me like stripper flyers in Vegas, and I wasn't in the market for security, movies, games, or even strippers. He apologized but didn't sound surprised like they regularly try to just slip these things onto a bill and hope you don't notice the $30-35 when it comes time to pay. He took them off, I got off the phone, looked at the clock, and realized that Verizon had just eaten almost 3 hours of my life that were never getting refunded. Plus, my internet was still a ticking time bomb of sudden failure that could come at any moment, which made the last hour before work really boring.

I guess the moral of the story is that my internet is faster now, so if we both want to play video games and watch Netflix, one of us could also be downloading videos of Vegas strippers or a person on fire swarmed with killer bees without lagging.

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