Friday, May 11, 2012

Too Soon?

Hooray. Verizon removed their line from my lawn and my neighbor's lawn. Comcast stopped demanding I return their equipment and instead sent me a check for the money they owed me. Wow. Everyone's finally doing the right thing. All it took was some public complaining.

In addition, a reader pointed out that Verizon's battery backup unit has a Silence Alarm button on it. I knew that already. But it seemed to have no effect. What I didn't know is that the button only worked when there was no power to the unit. Actually, I'm not even certain that's the real explanation because the button gives no feedback. I pushed it a lot - with power on, power off, holding it in for awhile, etc. Not sure what was important but the alarms have stopped. I suppose I'll have to wait a year to find out whether the alarm still works when the battery dies.

I also figured out how to cut short Verizon's regular sales pitch. Every time I called, the Verizon representatives would end with "I noticed you haven't signed up for TV service. Can I make you an offer?" Unfortunately even saying "Unless the offer is free service, no thanks" wouldn't stop these people from their scripted interaction. One representative willing to deviate slightly even said to me "It's at this point in the conversation that I'm supposed to ask if I can give you a deal on TV service." To several representatives, I tried explaining my true feelings - that I would willingly pay for TV shows but only a la carte, only without commercials, and only if I couldn't already get them from Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix.

In this day and age, I consider it absurd to pay Verizon (and the erstwhile Comcast) for TV shows and accompanying commercials that I don't care about. But explaining that never cut the conversation short. My rhetoric only moved the representatives somewhere else in their script. Finally, I figured out the correct response: "I don't watch TV." The statement is not true but at least it ends their scripted pitch. Now if only I could stop the paper flyers for Verizon services that still flood my mailbox!

Technically, I have no complaints about Verizon's internet service. It hasn't gone down at all so far. With Comcast, I used to get glitches - the service would come to a crawl or stop outright for ten minutes to an hour several times a week. This no longer happens. Verizon's service appears to be very consistent. But the registration, website, and many of the interactions I've had with Verizon personnel were awful. A lot of people wrote to me privately offering similar stories.

Now that I've been a customer for a month, there's one last part to my welcome to the world of Verizon: Reading that Verizon has just announced new price hikes. (Too soon?) As a dslreport report put it, Verizon "feels it can charge a premium for the service, and start doing away with some of the more aggressive pricing promotions." This might make sense and it might not. Price conscious consumers have a lot of alternatives: dropping to a slower tier, dropping or finding a cheaper provider for TV and phone, and, at least where I live, switching to Comcast. Personally, I am willing to pay a premium for quality internet service. A year from now I'll have a better idea of whether that means sticking with Verizon, even with higher prices, or not.

Coincidentally with the final part of Verizon's welcome, I received the final part of Comcast's goodbye. I missed their call two days ago. No message was left but a number was recorded on my answering machine. I googled it and found that many people were reporting the number as a service calling on behalf of Comcast to ask if customers were satisfied. But now? After I have left? This has to be the ultimate punch line to years of bad service.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Mow Carefully

It's been over a month now since I switched from Comcast to Verizon and I've learned a few things.

Mow Carefully

Verizon's line is still laying over my lawn and my neighbor's lawn. The line is thin and hard to see so it is both a trip hazard (lawsuit anyone?) and likely to be cut. I like to think I mow carefully but I do have to constantly remember that line is laying hidden like a snake in the grass. I cannot imagine why Verizon isn't being responsible on this issue.

Battery Backup Beeps

I still haven't come up with a way to silence the battery backup unit. As I mentioned previously, it's inappropriate to have the unit beep every time the electricity goes out. I'm not talking about the 6 to 24 hour outages that strike once or twice a year. I mean the two or three second glitches that occur repeatedly, sometimes several times in an hour. It's crazy to be woken up for that.

I googled for "silence Verizon battery backup" and, not surprisingly, found many pages where people described how to silence the unit completely by physically disabling the beeper. However I want the unit to alert me when the battery needs replacing, not when the power fails. Verizon - help me out here!


Got my first Verizon bill. It contained two surprises.

The first was that I found no tax or additional fees. As I mentioned previously, before signing up, Verizon could not tell me what the taxes or additional fees would be. I contacted many people including Verizon's own billing department. They only gave estimates with very large ranges.

After signing up, the computer generated a specific number. However it didn't match what was on my real bill. I repeat: there were no taxes or fees on my bill. How can this be? After all, Comcast has been charging me taxes for years. Am I going to be surprised next month or next year when Verizon recomputes the bill? Is anyone else getting internet-only FiOS with no taxes?

The second surprise is that my bill said "Make check payable to Verizon." But when I signed up, the Verizon website insisted I had to provide a credit card. Look at the picture below. It says "Your Bill Info (required)" and "Please provide your credit card details for your order." It even highlights "required" in orange.


And before signing up, I did some google searches ("Why does Verizon require a credit card?") and found many people all pointing out the same thing - that Verizon requires credit card payment for FiOS internet-only. And I double checked this with the Verizon rep through their Live Chat service. I took a snapshot of the discussion to show the confusion of the representative. In the pic below, first she said the credit card is related to fraud and equipment. But when I asked outright if the bill will go to my credit card, she said:

Holly : Yes, if you are ordering FiOS Internet service alone, the monthly charges would be credited from your card.

Here's a picture so you can see my question in context.


Needless to say, when I got my bill, I didn't pay it, assuming I'd see the charge on my credit card statement. But after a week, it occurred to me I should be sure. I called Verizon and spoke to a representative who told me the opposite - that I should write a check.

I felt uncertain but wrote a check anyway. (I assume Verizon will refund my money or apply my payment to my next bill if appropriate.)

Is it possible that when I changed from paperless to paper bills, that shifted my payments back to check as well? If so, that certainly wasn't clear from Verizon's website. I'd go back and get some screenshots of those descriptions but at this point, I don't trust the website to leave me with paper bills. It appears that just trying to read those screens automatically shifts you to paperless billing.


To date, I've called Verizon by telephone a number of times - perhaps 6 or 7. Each time is a struggle. Getting through the phone tree is not so bad. It asks for my phone number, zip code, TV vs internet, home vs business, etc. Finally, I end up speaking to a person who asks who I am. Wait - didn't you get all the stuff I just entered? No, please give me the phone number on your account.

I already know what's going to happen next. The Verizon rep will say Sorry, we don't have that number in the system. After this happened on several calls, a rep finally explained We can only look phone numbers up if they're Verizon phone numbers. Well, that's idiotic. And it's even more idiotic to ask for a phone number if there's a good chance the info won't be usable. But why won't Verizon use my phone number?

Last week when I called, I figured I'd save time and told the rep I had no phone number. Ok, what's your name. I give him my name. Sorry, I cannot find that in the system. Then can I give you my account number? Sure, go ahead. Upon giving him my account number, he couldn't find that either. He then asked for a callback number. I told him there was no point since my number isn't in the system. Instead, I asked if he could try looking my up by my address. Ok, what's your address? I gave him my address and finally, he found my account.

I then asked him what was the most expedient way of authenticating myself to Verizon. He said: Just tell us to look you up by your emergency contact number. It doesn't have to be a Verizon number. And we have it in your account.

So when I next called up, I offered my "emergency contact number" as I had been instructed. The rep said he never heard of such a thing. I explained why I offered it and he said it made no sense to him that another rep had said such a thing. I asked him the most expedient way to identify myself and he said they fall back to looking people up by name. So I gave him my name. Sorry, can't find you. What's your street address? State? City?

I pointed out to the representative that not only had I entered my phone number but I had already entered my zip code. So while I understood the Verizon phone tree was throwing away my phone number, why did he have to ask for my state and city when that should be evident from my zip? Answer: Verizon only uses the zip code to confirm a Verizon phone number! So since the number wasn't recognized, the zip I had entered was discarded too. I asked him if there's a way to bypass the computer voice that asks for my phone and zip? Yes he said Next time you call, say 'agent' and that will get you right to a person. Then when a person answers and asks for your phone number, tell them you should be looked up by your address.

So I dialed Verizon again and when the computer voice asked for my phone number, I said "Agent". It didn't work.

Why does Verizon have such a hard time authenticating people? And why do the representatives give completely different instructions for dealing with Verizon? And why don't any of their instructions work? Are they just making this stuff up as they go along?

Thanks for Choosing

But Verizon isn't the only one having a hard time believing me. Comcast has now contacted me about my cable modem. Several times. A week or so after I dropped Comcast, a woman called me to tell me to I return the modem. I told her I had. Her records indicated I had not. I told her I had (again). I didn't have the receipt handy but I described the whole visit to Comcast, the date, etc. She seemed satisfied and said she'd correct the error. Then a week later, I got a letter telling me that I would be charged $500 if I didn't return the modem. I figured the letter hadn't caught up with the earlier correction so I ignored it. A week after that, I got a phone call from a collections agency! I googled the number and found many people had complained about Comcast "arranging" for this collections agency.

I called up Comcast to complain. I started out by saying "I have the receipt." The fellow I spoke to asked me to fax the receipt "to help in my investigation." I told him that first of all, I had no fax machine and secondly, Comcast should not ask me to to do their work for them. If Comcast has such a crappy record-keeping system, it's not my responsibility to make up for it. He backed down and suggested it might be sufficient if I could just tell him the number on the receipt. Sure, I could do that - if only there was a number on the receipt! That's right - there's no receipt number. There's no way for Comcast to authenticate their own receipt! So Comcast can not tell if a person just made up their own! (And it doesn't help that the signature on the receipt is completely illegible.)

So at this point Comcast owes me a refund (based on my last prepayment - since Comcast bills in advance) while at the same time asserting that I owe them $500 or their equipment.

At the end of this most recent phone call to Comcast, a company with which I have chosen not to continue service, I was amused to hear the representative end the call with the customary "Thank you for choosing Comcast!"

Verizon (Again)

Now about that line laying on the lawn. I reported the line to Verizon and the representative said It's been laying on the ground for a month? That should never happen. He said he would file an emergency request to get it removed. I pointed out that it was not an emergency per se - they didn't need to come fix it on the weekend, it had already been out there for a month so I could live with it over the weekend. But he said it's illegal to leave cables laying on the ground. Plus he said his screen gave him no other way to report the problem but as an emergency and I would get a call back the following morning (i.e., Saturday) prior to someone coming out to fix it.

In the meantime he suggested I receive a credit for all my trouble. That sounded good so I said "Great!" but then he transferred me to the billing department. So I had to wait on the phone for another 10 minutes - and then re-authenticate myself to yet another person. (In contrast, Comcast representatives can resolve technical issues and issue credits themselves. What? Is it possible that I miss Comcast?)

So I had to explain the problem yet again to the representative in the billing department. He didn't argue. With no hesitation he issued me a credit for the entire amount of my first month's bill. The way he took my story in stride made me wonder: Was he just a very generous person or just tired of hearing similar stories?

The following morning, I waited for the call promised by the previous representative. No call. No call the remainder of the day or the following day. In fact, it's now been five days since Verizon asserted my line to be illegal and its removal an emergency. And five weeks total that the line has lain across my lawn and my neighbor's lawn.

I am left to conclude that this last rep, like the others that I mentioned, is just making stuff up. All of these statements from the various Verizon reps give me an idea for a new TV show. Coming over your FiOS TV connection soon:
Shit Verizon Reps Say