Tag Archives: Verizon

Lost Verizon

Some companies succeed by offering outstanding products; Apple, Sony, and Honda come to mind.  Some may succeed based on excellent service – like, say, Nordstrom’s or Amazon.  Still others, such as Walmart and Target, succeed on the strength of great prices.

Some companies seem to succeed in spite of themselves.  McDonald’s, for example, serves mostly swill yet is wildly successful; US Airways hates its customers and treats them with utter contempt yet has managed to survive despite this – okay, and also despite two bankruptcies caused largely by the incompetence of its leaders.  Years ago The Curmudgeon read an article in a financial magazine recommending the purchase of stock in Michaels Stores – the crafts shops – based on reports from analysts who visited the stores, found them incredibly poorly managed, and argued that if the company could make money despite incompetent leadership, Michaels could become even more successful if it ever got some decent management.  (Note:  The Curmudgeon has no idea how Michaels’ stock has fared over the years but can tell you from personal experience that the poor store management remains unchanged.)

And then there’s Verizon – or, more specifically, Verizon Wireless.  This company may be in a class by itself.

As noted in previous posts, The Curmudgeon doesn’t have much use for a cell phone.  He’s single and has no children and works at home.  That means he’s easy to reach and doesn’t have young’uns for whom he always needs to be accessible.  When he’s out he really doesn’t want people trying to reach him; unless it’s an emergency, he wants folks to leave voice mail messages on his home line, which he very promptly returns.  Texting?  Please.

Prepaid wireless plans are perfect for The Curmudgeon, and he’s had one for about four years.  The sound on the cheap phones – one of his co-workers calls it a “drug dealer’s phone” – is as good as the sound on the high-end devices that do everything but iron your shirts, and at ten dollars a month, you can’t beat that deal with a stick.

Despite his satisfaction with the status quo, The Curmudgeon recently found himself in the market for a new phone when he concluded that his Palm was on its last legs and he would soon need a new device to keep his entire address book as well as his work schedule, which is extensive and detailed.  His criteria for a new phone were simple:  he wanted to keep his prepaid plan, he wanted the phone to be able to replace his Palm and house his address book and his calendar, and he wanted to be able to back up all this data so if something happened to the device he would still have access to all of his stored information.

So determined, he visited the Verizon Wireless web site and had pretty much zeroed in on the phone he thought he would purchase when his browsing was interrupted by an instant message from a Verizon service representative.  After a brief exchange, the representative confirmed that The Curmudgeon had indeed selected the phone best suited to meeting his needs and wanted to take his order.  He was not quite ready to buy, so he thanked the representative for her time and logged off.

A few days later The Curmudgeon visited a Verizon Wireless store because he wanted to see the phone in person before buying it; if he liked it, he would get it immediately.  He also wanted to confirm whether the phone could be backed up to protect the data it held.

If you’ve ever visited a Verizon store, you’ve seen the face of retail arrogance.  Too few sales people have to serve a store full of customers, who are required to sign in and wait – often for a half-hour or more, only they won’t tell you how long – until their turn arrives.  Who runs a retail business like this?  Who looks at customers who come into their establishment prepared to spend a hundred dollars or more for a device, along with hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of service, and routinely expects them to wait a long but indeterminate amount of time for the privilege of turning over their money?

The Curmudgeon had no intention of signing in and waiting but had a stroke of good luck:  the store had an expeditor – a young woman whose job was to ring up off-the-shelf purchases and direct customers to the assistance they sought.  She saw The Curmudgeon looking at the object of his interest and, thinking she could close a quick sale, asked if she could help.  The Curmudgeon still had that one question:  can you back up the data stored on the phone?  The woman disappeared into the back, returning a few minutes later with the (non) answer:  “I don’t know.  I can’t find anyone who knows.”

After thanking her for attempting to help The Curmudgeon left, returned home, and immediately went to the Verizon Wireless web site to check out the phone once more.  He found it, found a statement that the phone can indeed be backed up, and attempted to purchase the phone.

The site wouldn’t let him.  For some reason – he still doesn’t know why – the site would not let him put the phone in a cart.  Because The Curmudgeon spent several minutes attempting to do this, another helpful service representative appeared, deus ex machina, via instant message, offering to help.  When The Curmudgeon explained the problem the representative had no solution but recommended calling Verizon’s “customer care” line to order the phone directly; he even provided the customer care phone number.  The Curmudgeon thanked the representative for his help and immediately called Verizon – whereupon, after a five-minute wait in hold hell, he was informed that customer care representatives cannot take orders; customers must order directly from the site.

Customer care, it turns out, is apparently a Verizon Wireless euphemism for “customer we-don’t-give-a-damn.”

The Curmudgeon sighed and said he guessed that meant a return trip to the store, where the “help” had not been terribly helpful.  The telephone representative had another suggestion.

“Don’t go to the store,” he said.  “The people there work on commission and aren’t interested in spending their time selling a $100 phone and no service contract.  Go to Walmart.  They sell the same phone, it’s cheaper, they won’t try to push you into a contract, and they know the phones just as well as Verizon people.”

And that’s exactly what The Curmudgeon did.

By the way – that phone?  You can only back up telephone numbers, not the calendar, which makes it utterly useless for the purpose for which The Curmudgeon purchased it.

The Curmudgeon’s conclusion:  the people at Verizon Wireless are idiots – arrogant, incompetent, and self-satisfied.  They believe they’re entitled to your business and that customer service is something to be provided only grudgingly, and certainly not well.  Verizon Wireless is clearly one of those companies that succeeds in spite of itself, and The Curmudgeon is confident that his next pre-paid plan will be with another company.