Ok, this is going to be another long rant resulting from a frustrating experience with a big company. They seemed to be among my most popular posts (see here, here or here, for example).
So, for this post, my blog about poker and
boobies Las Vegas will be suspended while I tell you what I went
through to get a new cell phone.
It all started a month or so ago when my cell phone started acting up. I had the Samsung Galaxy S3, a great phone. But it started losing the Wi-Fi connection to my router for no apparent reason. Sometimes turning the wi-fi on and off fixed it, other times I had to reboot the phone. That was mostly just a minor annoyance.
But then suddenly, the connector started going bad. It got harder and harder for me to get the plug in and make contact to charge the damn phone. When charging, I would constantly hear the phone click in and out of charging mode. On top of that, I could no longer connect it to a computer to transfer files. The computer would charge it, but it wouldn’t connect well enough to read it as an external storage device. Additionally, the phone would run out of juice faster and faster. I dunno if it was the batteries (I had two), or the flaky way it was charging or the phone was just going thru power like nobody’s business, but I couldn’t get thru a day on a single battery if I wasn’t hooked up to a power source. My last trip to Vegas, I had to change the batteries every day, unless I stayed in working until 6PM (and thus had it fully charged).
It was so bad while in Vegas I considered getting a new phone (or attempting to) while there—afterall, I had gotten the Samsung while in Vegas (I’ll get to that)—but decided I didn’t want to waste all the time necessary to set up and learn a new phone while I was supposed to be having fun.
Of course, if you want a new phone, you have to make sure you’re “eligible” for the upgrade. You know how it works. You can only get a phone every two years, at least in theory. I knew I had that phone—and been with Verizon—for pretty close to two years. It was a little less than that, but I didn’t think that would be a problem. Boy was I wrong.
You see this was my first renewal with Verizon. When I got my first cell phone, around the turn of the century (and by the way, that’s actually literally true, that was around the time I got my first cell phone), I went with AT&T. I don’t even remember why. I guess it was because they were cheaper than Verizon, more minutes for less money (remember when we chose cell phone plans based on phone usage?—seems like ancient history).
I stayed with AT&T for years. And I’m pretty sure every time I got a new phone, it was less than 2 years since the last one. I can’t remember how early I could upgrade—in my mind it could have been as early as 6 months, but for sure it was at least 2-3 months before the end of the contract. I am positive of that. I’d always find some reason to shop for a new phone, and I’d always check and even though it was less than two years, they’d say I was eligible for a upgrade at the discounted price.
I assumed it would be the same with Verizon. (Note: At this point I originally veered off into a tangent on my time with Sprint, but that’s not what this post is about, so I moved it to a separate page, if you’re interested, you can find it here).
On returning to L.A., I went online to check the date it said I would be eligible for an upgrade. I thought it was close enough to two years so that it would say I could the upgrade any time now. But no, instead, it said I was eligible for a new phone on August 10. That seemed too long and I checked my records. I bought the Galaxy S3 and signed up for Verizon on August 10, 2012.
So, no grace period for the early upgrade? None at all? That seemed very odd to me, based on all the experience I had upgrading early with AT&T. But I figured it was just about three weeks away from the contract date, I was sure that it would be a mere formality to arrange the every-so-slightly early upgrade. What business turns down orders?
With the weekend coming up (last weekend) I did my due diligence and researched phones. I narrowed my choices to two, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G3. I figured I’d look at them both, pick the brain of a Verizon rep in the store, and then make a decision.
So last Friday I went online and saw on the Verizon website both phones were “on sale” at special promotional prices, $99 each (upgrade or new contract price). Fantastic. All I had to do was get Verizon to let me do the upgrade a mere three weeks early and I was good to go.
While on the website, I first tried chatting with them to ask if I could do the upgrade early. They said I would have to call a special customer service number to request that. OK, so I called the number and spoke to a woman named “Maria.” Yes, that’s the name she gave me. No phony names in this post.
Maria first told me that I couldn’t do an early upgrade. She gave me the option of signing up for their new “Verizon Edge” program, where I wouldn’t pay for a phone up front, I would pay for it in 20 monthly installments added on to the bill. I would have to trade in my old phone but I would be eligible for a new phone after a year, not two. However, the cost of the phone this way was around $400, a mere four times what I could get for if I was eligible for the normal upgrade right then.
I didn’t go for that. I explained that I had always done early upgrades with AT&T and it was actually their policy to encourage it—I never had to ask. Then I explained that the reason I didn’t want to wait three weeks was that my phone was giving me a lot of problems. I had insurance for this phone too but I couldn’t see paying the deductible on a phone that I would be replacing in mere weeks.
I mentioned one other concern while waiting. I noted that the seemingly low price on the two phones was advertised as a special “limited time, promotional price.” I said, “What if the promotional price is gone on August 10?” She said that particular promotion would end soon (she quoted me a date, which very well may have been today’s date) but added, “We always have a promotion going.” In other words, don’t sweat the price.
Maria then asked me what phone I wanted to get. Progress! I told her that I had it narrowed down to two. I told her that I wanted to see both phones, compare them in my hands, and then decide. She asked when I would be able to compare them and I said tomorrow (Saturday). Well that was a problem. She wouldn’t be in over the weekend. But if knew what phone I wanted, and I called her back, she strongly implied that I would be able to do the early upgrade.
She even gave me a special phone number to call her back on when I was ready. It was not the 800 # I reached her at, but a number with an Arizona area code. She said, “I’m in Arizona and my day is just starting (this was around noon). So if you go today, call me back today, I’ll be here for some time.” She said the number she was giving me was a “special number’ and that I wouldn’t necessarily get directly to her, but that I could leave a message and she promised she would call me back.
Well, at first I agreed to that and I hang up. But I kept thinking how frustrating this all was. What was the big deal about upgrading three weeks early? I would be giving Verizon my money now instead of in three weeks. Money today is better than money in 3 weeks. Everyone knows that. More importantly, they’d be getting what they really wanted—my commitment to give them monthly service fees for the next two years, right now. Why give me three weeks to figure out that maybe another carrier would meet my needs and be easier to work with?
I realize you have to draw the line somewhere (it’s sort of like the argument of paying the money bubble in a poker tournament), and I don’t know what that sweet spot is. I can see why they wouldn’t want people to be doing early upgrades every three months. But surely no one could possibly see a problem with allowing me my early upgrade a lousy three weeks early. Right?
I was rehashing the conversation in my head and getting a little confused about what Maria was actually agreeing to. I was bewildered, and I decided that I wanted to contact her again and see what she was committing to and if there was some way I could get her to just set up my account so that I could buy a phone the next day in a Verizon store and go on with life. And by the way, I would have been totally fine if they started the new two-year period from the day the old contract expired, and not from the day I got my phone.
So I called the number in Az that Maria gave me. There was a problem with the number. It was a number for activating a new phone only. There was no option to talk to a human or leave a message. Nope, I put in my cell phone number and all they would do was attempt to activate my phone. Which was already activated.
That totally frustrated me. So I called the 800 number I had earlier used that got me through to Maria. Of course, Maria didn’t answer the phone. But the person who did, a guy, seemed to know Maria, or found her in the directory. He said he would send an email to Maria to call me. He looked at the clock—it was around 2PM—and said that Maria would be able to get back to me before she left work.
So I waited for Maria to call me back. And waited, and waited. Among the people who didn’t call me on Friday were Kate Upton, Emily Ratajkowski, LeBron James, The Pope….and Maria from Verizon.
While waiting I had another idea. I figured I’d send out a tweet to Verizon publically chastising them for the strict upgrade policies (using a different twitter account than my “robvegaspoker” one). I’ve done this before to get big companies’ attention and sometimes it works.
My tweet got a response from Verizon customer service. I explained my issue over several tweets and they replied that they would look into. In the meantime, someone from AT&T saw my tweet and started tweeting to me that they could make me a better deal. Considering that I never had this kind of issue with them, I was definitely thinking about it. I even mentioned that AT&T seemed to want my business in a tweet back to the Verizon guy.
After a bunch of back and forth, the Verizon guy tweeted back to me, “Good news! You can upgrade your phone today by signing up for Verizon Edge.” And gave me a link explaining the program.
I was livid. All that and all they could come up with was a terrible deal that I already knew about and rejected? I said AT&T wanted my business and asked how much to cancel my contract early. I actually had no intention of cancelling early; I just wanted to see if I could make them sweat.
They said it would cost me $125 early termination fee. I didn’t even respond to that bullshit. Sprint only charged me $75 to cancel early when there was a lot longer to go in my contract! This seemed like highway robbery.
I gave up dealing with the Twitter people. A few hours later, I had a long shot idea—maybe Maria was still there and I could somehow get to her. After all, she had told me she was just starting her day when I spoke to her. I called the 800 # and asked if by any chance Maria was still there, and of course, Jane who answered the phone this time had no idea who Maria was or where she worked. She started looking her up and I told her the story of the number in Arizona which wasn’t any good. Then Jane revealed to me she was in South Carolina! And so if she figured out which Maria I was talking too—a long shot—all she could was try to send her an email.
It was obvious I wasn’t getting thru to Maria this night. Jane than asked what the issue was and she would try her best to help me.
Well, I went thru the whole story again and after a few minutes, Jane said she could indeed help. In fact, she could take my order for my new phone right then and there and authorize the early upgrade. Success!
Well, not quite. In order to do this, I’d have to order the phone from her—in other words, I’d have to order it sight unseen, and pick one of the two phones I was interested in before seeing either one. Oh well, I knew if I didn’t order the phone right then from Jane, I couldn’t count on getting the same answer when I called again—and I certainly couldn’t count on ever speaking to Jane again.
Well, I had done a bit more research in the meantime and I was now heavily leaning to the LG G3. I just bite the bullet and said, let’s go with that. But I wanted to make sure it would be done as in-store pick up since I wanted someone to set up the phone and also show me some of the features. At first she said that wasn’t possible because the phone was so new, but she checked and said it could be done, there were plenty of the phones in stores in my area.
So she went over the order and said the cost would be $199. What? I said it clearly said on their website that it was $99. Yeah, well, that was just an internet special price. The way to get that price was to order it over the internet. Which of course, I couldn’t do because the internet wouldn’t let me upgrade early. If she placed the order, she would have to charge me $199.
I was totally exasperated at this point. I couldn’t see throwing away $100. I just gave up. I remembered Maria saying “there’s always promotions” and figured I’d be able to get a better deal on another day. And I hadn’t given up on the idea of reaching Maria on Monday and getting her to make good on what I thought was a promise. I sadly said goodbye to Jane, no closer to getting a phone than I was 10 minutes earlier.
The next day, Saturday, I drove over to a local Verizon store. Maybe once I was there, in person, with a credit card in my hand, they would realize how stupid it was to turn away a customer. Before heading for the store I checked online and guess what? The internet price for both phones was now $199, not $99. I wondered what the in-store price was?
Well, I got to the store and they looked up my records and told me in no uncertain terms that they would not be able to upgrade me today. No way. I told them about Maria and Jane and they said there was nothing they could do from their end, but if I called Customer Service and could get them to authorize it, that would work. But the in-store price was $199, not $99, and again, I didn’t feel like throwing away $100. I assumed that one way or another, I could get the phone eventually for $99. Hey, $100 is half a buy-in at a 1/2 game.
I did look at both phones and had someone “help” me with them. What the help consisted of was the lady looking at her iPad and reading me the same comparison chart that appeared on their website. It sure sounded like she knew less about either phone than I did.
But I saw them both and decided that the LG was the way to go. Three reasons. More onboard storage (32gig vs 16gig), more RAM (3gig vs 2gig) and a slightly bigger screen, but with the design difference, no discernible difference in the physical size. But I left with no phone and no plan on getting one this weekend.
On Sunday, there was a Verizon ad in the newspaper. It showed both phones now on sale for $99. This was the in-store price. And suddenly, again, the price on the internet. There was exactly one day that you couldn’t get the phone for $99. The one day I actually went to the store, naturally. But I didn’t both to try to talk them to again, I was waiting for Maria on Monday.
And indeed, around the same time I reached her on Friday, I called back on Monday. But I used the Arizona number. I wondered if I didn’t respond at all to their voice prompts, could I actually get to a human being—and hopefully one who knew who the hell Maria was.
Amazingly enough, I actually was able to reach a live person that way! Why didn’t I think of that on Friday? However, this live person—a female whose name I can’t recall—didn’t know Maria. But she offered to help me and since I was able to almost order a phone with Jane late Friday, I thought I’d give this lady a shot.
After another retelling of the whole sordid tale, this lady eventually said she could authorize the upgrade, but she couldn’t actually take the order. She said she would transfer me to the sales department and explain the situation to them so I could easily order my new phone. Great!
Except when I got to the sales department, the person I spoke to, Michael, had no clue what the situation was, the lady I had just been talking to told him nothing. He heard my story and read some notes that the other people I’d spoken to had made on my account. And apparently the notes indicated that my issue was getting the internet price, not getting the early upgrade. Oh geez. I told him the price was no longer an issue since the in-store price and the internet price were currently the same. At least for this very minute. Who knows what it would be in another few hours?
Michael didn’t switch me back to customer service to get the upgrade approved. He put me on hold and spoke to someone. I was on hold for a long time. Fortunately, like most people, I have nothing better to do than sit on hold with the phone company. He came back once to tell me he was still working on it and hadn’t forgotten about me. Then he came back and told me he could take my order! Yes. I could order the phone. And he would give me the internet price. Which was the only price they had at the moment.
Then he asked me my address. I started to give it to him and then said, “But I want this to be done as an in-store pick-up.” No, no, he couldn’t do that. If he took the order, it would have to be sent to me. But he could probably send it overnight at no charge. WTF? I couldn’t believe all these stupid rules, which seem to totally change from one person to the next.
Just as I was about ready to face the horror of asking him to send me back to customer service, he said that….lo and behold….it now said on my account that I was eligible for the upgrade. Really? “No shit,” he said. OK, he didn’t really say that. But he insisted that my account was now reflecting that I could upgrade any time now and that I could therefore go into any Verizon store in America and buy any damn phone Verizon sells.
That’s when I asked him to verify his name. And he even spelled it for me. Because Michael is a hard name to spell. Anyway, I thanked him, hung up, and then immediately regretting not checking my account online to confirm what he told me before hanging up. But I did so as soon as I could and yes, yes, it said I was now eligible for the upgrade! Victory?
Well, I decided to get my ass over to the Verizon store before they flipped another switched. I called the store to make sure they had the LG G3 in stock and they confirmed they had plenty.
And with that, I went over there to get my phone. Of course, there was one last hitch. When I showed up and gave them my phone number and they checked my account, they said I wasn’t eligible for the upgrade until August 10!
I was pretty close to losing it. This was worse than having your dreaded pocket Kings cracked. I explained as calmly as I was capable of that, no, I was told it had been changed and that I had even confirmed it online myself. He resisted, but I was insistent and finally he said, “Let me see what I can do,” and disappeared into the back. I then realized that I have the app on my phone that can check all that and I loaded it up and sure enough, it said I was eligible for the upgrade. I kept that page on my phone for when he returned. I was gonna get my phone today or start taking hostages.
He took a long time and when he finally returned, he said it had just now shown up on their system in the store that I was eligible for the upgrade. Phew! He apologized and blamed their slow servers or something. Anyway, he could sell me the phone and he did, and I finally walked out of there sometime later with my new L3. Phew.
But man what an ordeal. It shouldn’t be that hard to give someone your money, should it? I can’t believe Verizon puts a customer through so much hell just to get the money three weeks early. If their coverage wasn’t so much better than their competitors, I would have told them where to go. I guess that’s how they can get away with it.
Note: The girl below is actually the T-Mobile girl (or was, until recently). You know, the one in the pink dress. But I don’t think there are any female Verizon spokespeople who look as good. Or are dressed like this. So I also included a pic of the famous, “Can you hear me now?” guy.