Monday, September 23, 2013

My Dearest Verizon, I Am Not An Unreasonable Person, Which Is Why...

UPDATE: At about 2 p.m. my time, Verizon (without other comment) emailed me a bill that said (in part): "RECOVER ROUTER- CNCL SERVC $0.00"

So, you know, if you're willing to stand up for your rights and also write a 13-page letter dripping with sarcasm truth, you can get what you want? But we'll see, as I haven't heard whether they picked up their router yer.

My Dearest Verizon,

I am not an unreasonable person, which is why I have given you, today, not only the opportunity to start my week off in a horrible fashion, but also 24 hours to pick up your equipment.

I am also not, generally, an angry or unbalanced person.  I have with almost zen-like calmness spoken with a teacher who dropped my son onto a monkey bars, causing him to lose two teeth, and have been polite when, shortly after my mother died, my siblings hired a lawyer to phone me and suggest that perhaps I was crazed with grief and wanted to give my brothers some money to avoid them suing me.

I was very calm throughout those, and many more episodes, so when I tell you that the frustration you caused me in just under 168 hours made me feel like lighting your equipment on fire and throwing it through my own front windows -- windows I just spent yesterday cleaning, and which would surely be the worse for the wear if I gave in to the baser impulses you caused me to feel this otherwise brilliant, sunny September morning, you can imagine how betrayed, angry, and litigious my mindset is right now.

I will explain, but first, as is customary for these matters, let me set out the demands I am making of you.  I made these demands several times this morning on the phone; mostly, when I did so, your customer "service" representatives said my phone was cutting out.  HA HA I saw that episode of "Seinfeld," too, where Elaine used the blow-dryer to make someone think she had to get off the phone with them. But I didn't use it as a training resource for my staff.

Here are my demands, which can no longer politely be termed "requests":

1. I am demanding that you cancel the "Cantenna 4G" "service" that was added to my bill last week, and
2. I am demanding that you not charge me so much as a penny for any portion of the "Cantenna 4G" "service" that was not provided and
3. I am demanding that you restore my billing status to whatever it was, in terms of services, charges, and itemized costs, as of 9:00 a.m. CDST 9/16/13 and
4. I am demanding that you, using YOUR time and YOUR effort, come pick up your equipment before the close of business (5:00 p.m. CDST) on Tuesday 9/24/13.

Now, with that out of the way, allow me to explain my version -- that is to say, the correct version -- of what has led us to this (im)pass(e).

Last Monday, September 16, 2013, I was frustrated with the level of (non)service I was getting through my mobile phone's "Hotspot" (TM!).  This service, which I have on my phone and my wife's phone, was sold to us nearly two years ago (as I recall) as a great in-home Internet solution, and for about 23 months of those two years it was just that.

Then in August 2013, the Mobile Hotspot (TM!) started working (as some kids say) "for crap", which caused us some significant concerns.  Those concerns were, in no particular order:

-- that my wife relies on her mobile hotspot to use her computer at home, period, and could not use her computer at home reliably.
-- that I use my mobile hotspot when I am on the road for business, and to read on my Kindle (TM!) and also could not use this product-- for which I pay $720 per year-- reliably, and
-- our two youngest, who like to watch videos on their iPad, could not reliably use our home hotspot network and so had to watch their videos using the data connection, which, as I am sure you know, is not 'unlimited,' as the Mobile Hotspot (TM!) is, the result being that we had a cellphone bill for August that was $150 higher than expected.

Because they like videos, you see.  A LOT. And we had to pay for those videos, an overpayment that was as unexpected as it was large.

So last Monday I finally resolved to fix the problem with the Mobile Hotspot (TM!), and to that end I called your customer "service" department, which over the course of about 40 minutes, as I stood in my office not getting anything productive (i.e. what they pay me for at my job) accomplished, walked me through the usual steps that are employed whenever a high-tech company wants to force someone to involuntarily become their tech support person (i.e. all the time).

While I was one the phone we turned my phone on and off and unplugged the battery and plugged it in and cleared "caches" and restored this and rebootted that and otherwise did a variety of very uninteresting things that ultimately led to my phone working worse that it had been (i.e. it would no longer operate as a Mobile Hotspot (TM!) or a phone, either).

With that, your customer "service" representative told me I would have to go into the local store to have my phone entirely re-set to a factory condition.

I was not pleased about this, as I have to work during the day and have a family at night and one of my least-favorite things in the entire world to do is stand and make small talk with customer "service" representatives when I could be doing my job, or relaxing with my family, or writing fanfiction about Luke Skywalker, which I've never actually done but might have used that time to do, had I not decided instead to try and let Verizon actually fix their equipment so it would supply the goods and services for which I pay several thousand dollars per year.

And so I ventured to the local Middleton Verizon (TM!) store, where I was greeted by a man who told me he would "be right with me."

That was a euphemism, obviously, as he was not "with me" in any sense of the word "right", which I had taken to mean "right away" or at least "once I'm done with whatever other customer I am helping," although that latter one was confusing, at best, as there were four or five employees in the store and only three visible customers, one of which was me.  I assume the other customers were each being 'represented' in their service by an average of 2.5 employees, which must be why it took 20 minutes for me to actually be helped with the problem I had been directed to the store for help with.

I didn't just waste that 20 minutes looking at newer, bigger cellphones that would fail to live up to even the most minimal of promises Verizon wants to make; no, I also looked at home internet services, finding the "Cantenna" Package that promised "lightning fast 4G" speeds at home, for up to ten computers, which seemed like a lot: I could practically have an entire fanfiction sweatshop set up, if I were inclined to do so (but I'm not.)

When I was helped (right eventually) I inquired about the "Cantenna" (TM!) package and discussed it with your sales rep or manager or whoever he was.  He was clean-cut, like  Mormon, and I mean that in the best way and also because it's all I remember of him.  I have a generally high opinion of Mormons, so please do not take that in the wrong way.  Of all the things I disliked about Mitt Romney, for example, 0% of them were his Mormonism, which I found unobjectionable.

Anyway, after discussing whether the Cantenna (TM!) was right for me or not, I decided it was not, in fact, right for me, and moved on to having all of the stored information on my phone wiped off in some mockery of customer service restoring my phone to factory condition.

This took about 30 minutes.

On top of the time I'd already spent.

But it was time well-spent... where is that sarcasm emoticon I'm always wanting? If I wasn't an involuntary employee of Verizon (TM!) Tech Support, I might have time to do all these side projects.  Anyway, it was time "well-spent" in that during the time I saw an old acquaintance of mine and also I got to watch a guy stand behind a counter and press buttons. That certainly was better than how I had planned to spend that time, wasting it by eating lunch and reading a good book.  (I was at the time working on Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut.  I know it's an old book but I was enjoying it.  Ironically, one of the themes of that book is the dehumanizing way machines can take over society, resulting in people feeling as though their lives have no purpose or meaning; the book also suggests that this is inevitable, as we are so in love with our gadgets.  I finished it the next day, rather than on Monday).

It was also time well-spent in that the sales clerk was able to discuss with me the merits of the "Cantenna" (TM!) set-up, as I was going over with him what the problems we'd been having were.

The problems, I told him, were that it was difficult to get good Internet service, that our iPad could not hook onto a wifi network through our phones and that it was spotty at best, and weak, and that as a result we could not use the iPad over wifi much at home, and that we also had troubles when two laptops or other devices used the same "Mobile Hotspot" (TM!).

The clerk said, and I quote:

"This would fix all that."

"This" in that sentence refers to the "Cantenna 4G" setup.  You were not there and I was, so you could not know that the clerk was waving his hand at the "Canberra" ad in the store, but trust me, he was.

"This would fix all that," he said, and I was intrigued by the idea that a service could be provided that would actually do what I was paying for it to do, and so we discussed the idea further, my main goals being:

1. Get Internet service that actually allowed me to use the Internet and
2. Get that type of service in a manner which would allow others in my household to be on the Internet at the same time as me, and
3. Not spend zillions of dollars.

"Zillions" is an exaggeration, but I didn't want to spend even hundreds of dollars.

So we struck a deal: The clerk again told me that with the "Cantenna 4G" we would be able to hook up multiple devices, we would get the "lightning fast" internet, and the problems I had been experiencing would be solved.  He was going to adjust the way our bill was done to make this switchover as minimal as possible.

And so, dearest Verizon, I agreed.

Last Monday, then, September 16, 2013, was the day chosen for installation of this phenomenal game-changer.  As befits the corporate image Verizon stands for, the installer appeared at our house in a rusty, nondescript car of the sort that might be chosen by a vagrant 'casing the joint', but he made up for that by having neither a uniform, nor a badge, nor any identifying insignia of any sort, beyond an unkempt experience.

"Mr. Hobo," as I have come to think of him, immediately inspired confidence in my wife; his mere appearance prompted her to have our 21-year-old son remain in the house while he installed the "Cantenna 4G" (TM!), something he offered to do by first suggesting that he drill a hole from our garage into the living room, a plan she nixed as not being rational in any sense.  Mr. Hobo then chose a location down in our family room, against the back wall, where the router 'blended in' to the paneling and easy-chair it sat nearby in the same way the Space Shuttle might blend into a jazzercise class.

However, with the promise of "lightning fast" internet I was willing to have a collection of cables jutting out of a wall just above the Hot Wheels (TM!) playset my youngest son uses on that wall, and so I left it there, and for a week everything worked fine, in the sense that we didn't really try to use the "Cantenna 4G" at all.

The past week, from Monday to Monday, we continued life the way we had been, mostly -- I continued to use my "Mobile Hotspot" (TM!) for my own Internet use, because that data plan is unlimited and I like unlimited things, whether that be Internet or refills of soda at McDonalds. (TM!).

My boys, meanwhile, continued to use the iPad on its data plan, which, I confess, was simply because I was too lazy to take the time to set up the wifi connection to hook on to the "Cantenna" (TM!) and my wife leaves these kind of high-tech things to me. (As does Verizon, I now know, but that wasn't told me up front.)

You may not recognize this
as the satellite "Soho".

(That is called foreshadowing and it is a valid literary technique made famous by such literary luminaries as Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, and James Franco, who I am sure I heard was writing a book and that book will no doubt feature foreshadowing.)

My wife, meanwhile, continued (apparently) to mostly use her old Wifi hotspot, which had also been reset.

I had not yet switched all our devices onto the "lightning fast" new Cantenna, mostly because I spent most of last week slowly recreating all the apps on my phone and restoring my passwords, notes, and permissions on the phone that had been 'reset' so it would work the way I was paying several thousand dollars per year for it to work.

Anyway, we were blissfully unaware of any problems, mostly because we weren't actually using the "Cantenna" (TM!) until this morning.

See, last night, when my sons had gone to bed, the second-youngest had wanted to watch a video online.  He'd had a rough day: we had moved some furniture around, slightly, and this had upset him quite out of proportion to the minimal moving of furniture, but, then, he has autism, so that kind of thing happens.  That's one reason we like the "lightning fast" Internet and freedom to hook several devices onto one hotspot: our two youngest both have autism and frequently they want to watch different shows and videos, over and over.  This is a thing they do.  And so it works really, really, well if we can have a laptop, say, to put beside one boy's bed and he can watch his videos, quietly, when he is upset and can't sleep.  The alternative is that he will get so agitated that he will bang his head repeatedly, usually just with plastic spoons that cause little physical damage (but they do hurt!).  Sometimes he uses the wall.

With him upset last night, I had hooked the laptop onto the "Cantenna" with its promise of lightning fast internet, as I planned to use my own Mobile Hotspot (TM!) -- and here's a (TM!) for that Cantenna mention back there in that sentence -- to watch a show on Netflix and didn't want his laptop to cut out for lack of service.  The head-banging and all, etc etc.

It seemed to all work just fine last night, by which I mean we all fell asleep before any problems could start and so the night passed.  This morning, then, I retrieved my laptop and was doing some things on it before getting ready for work.

About 7 a.m., my wife said "Are you on the Internet?"

I said "I was," because I suddenly was not: my Internet had stopped working, and as I clicked on the little box to see what was wrong with my connection, I realized that the laptop was still on the "Cantenna".

Or not on the "Cantenna," as it may be, because it said I was connected but I clearly was not, unless every single page on the Internet had been replaced by a blank screen telling me the page could not be found. Which, I mean, is improbable.

My wife tried to hook on to the "Cantenna," too, and then I tried to hook on to it, and then my wife suggested that I go "re-set" the Cantenna downstairs and see if that helped.  That was what Mr Hobo had suggested when he installed it, just last week.

FUNNY STORY: Before I got my Internet through Verizon, I got it from Charter Cable, and it never worked and I always had to go downstairs and reset the box and I hated that so much that I cancelled Charter's cable and demanded a refund of my money!

They gave it to me!

Because they didn't want to get sued!

But I suppressed the rage that instantly formed at the thought that in order to read Dilbert every morning I would have to go downstairs and manually re-set the Internet, and tried that, going downstairs and clicking the one switch on the "Cantenna" box next to the Hot Wheels set.


That didn't work, and so I called Verizon's tech support -- HA! -- and got "Vicki," who helpfully mumbled to me while not actually doing anything.  Vicki -- you probably have the phone call taped and I am insisting that you keep that tape recording because I'm going to use it as evidence if I have to go to court so do not erase that tape, Verizon Lawyer Reading This Letter -- asked me a few questions and then told me she would try to reset the "Cantenna" and then made me many times tell her what kinds of lights I saw on the "Cantenna" and what they were doing and read her the designation of the lights, all of this further interrupting my attempts to finish up what I'd been doing on the Internet (which was at that time posting an ad for a book sale I am having today -- I don't just write fanfiction) and get ready for work and also, because I was busy with Vicki, I could not help my youngest son build a robot, quick, before school, and THAT is on YOUR heads, because it would have made him very happy and would not have taken very long but Vicki was making me tell her that the "4G" light was "yellow and blinking" and then Vicki was hemming and hawing and saying it didn't work and finally Vicki said something about having to do something or other and I said:

"I get a credit for this, right?"

And Vicki suggested that "this," in my sentence must refer to some impossible event that had not happened, because Vicki said that my "Cantenna" service was working "perfectly."

(Lights at that time: RED. And a yellow one.  Internet connectivity at the EXACT MOMENT Vicki said the "Cantenna" was working perfectly: ZERO. NADA. ZIP. "It's like how much lower can this service go, and the answer is none.  None lower."-- Nigel Tufnel, misquoted.)

That began a debate between me and Vicki about whether I could get any credit, at all, for a service that had not worked the very first time we tried to use its advertised features, Vicki's position being "it worked perfectly all week because you didn't call in with any complaints," and my position being "this is the first time we tried it and in 24 minutes on the phone you still haven't gotten it to work" and finally I told Vicki that I wanted to cancel the service entirely, and have Verizon come get its "Cantenna."

THAT in turn prompted Vicki to tell me I really wanted a supervisor, which I did not.  I asked Vicki, repeatedly, for her identification number and an address at which I could, in writing, describe this problem, and Vicki rather comically pretended that my phone was cutting out.


When I said "What is your identification number?" and pointed out that I was certain that Verizon would employ more than one "Vicki," Vicki for the first time in our then-30-minute call said "Are you on a speaker phone? Because I can't quite hear you."

TO RECAP: Vicki had heard me just fine up until the part where I said "I need to know how I can avoid being charged for a hunk of junk you sold to me on fradulent premises." (PARAPHRASING.)

So I insisted on being given an address to write to and Vicki put me on hold, at which point I put Verizon on hold so I could shower and get ready for work.

I got the phone back from my wife, who took over on the call for me, once I was out of the shower and there was a supervisor on the phone, one who first told my wife he couldn't discuss the account without being given the secret passcode I'd given at the start of the same exact call, but who then proceeded to discuss the account with her, anyway, until I took the phone back.

I then kept insisting to this man that I simply wanted an address to write to, and that I needed the three demands at the outset of this letter

(They are, again,
1. I am demanding that you cancel the "Cantenna 4G" "service" that was added to my bill last week, and
2. I am demanding that you not charge me so much as a penny for any portion of the "Cantenna 4G" "service" that was not provided and
3. I am demanding that you restore my billing status to whatever it was, in terms of services, charges, and itemized costs, as of 9:00 a.m. CDST 9/16/13 and
4. I am demanding that you, using YOUR time and YOUR effort, come pick up your equipment before the close of business (5:00 p.m. CDST) on Tuesday 9/24/13.)
to be acknowledged, and met.

In between trying to talk me into keeping the "Cantenna" service, and trying to tell me that I wasn't going to get my money back, this 'supervisor' insisted that I would have to bring the equipment back myself.

As Patrick Star once said: That was not the deal, Squarepants.

He also said this.

When I agreed to purchase the services, nothing was told me before I signed off on it about what would happen if I cancelled within the 2-week grace period.  The nice young cleancut man at the store, as he had wiped out my phone's memory, had simply said that I could cancel within 2 weeks if I didn't like the service.

No reasons were necessary, no requirements were given, and I certainly wasn't told that if I decided I did not want to manually re-set my internet connection by walking down to the basement every time I clicked on a link, I would have to deliver the equipment myself.

As I began to explain that to the supervisor, he (about 10 minutes into our talk) began to complain that my phone was not working and asked that I be taken off of speakerphone.  I am not sure why my speakerphone only fails when I demand that Verizon do something it promised to do, but this is something you should look into.

I then explained to Mr. Supervisor that someone had come to our house to put in the equipment, and that there was a store not a few miles from my house where Verizon people worked, and that they could come pick up the equipment and that I wanted him to simply confirm that I would have my service restored to what it was last Monday morning, and that he would have someone come pick up the equipment by tomorrow.

He said, in response "This is how it's going to work," and began talking about shipping and how I would be charged for the equipment and whatnot, as I explained that I was not interested in his viewpoints and that I had to take my children out to get the bus and go to work myself.  He kept talking louder and louder attempting to drown me out until I hung up.

And came to my office, where I have now spent considerable time recapping these events for your consumption.

HERE is the kicker, as they say:

I am a consumer lawyer.  I am familiar with Wisconsin statutes section 100.18:

No person, firm, corporation or association, or agent or employee thereof, with intent to sell, distribute, increase the consumption of or in any wise dispose of any real estate, merchandise, securities, employment, service, or anything offered by such person, firm, corporation or association, or agent or employee thereof, directly or indirectly, to the public for sale, hire, use or other distribution, or with intent to induce the public in any manner to enter into any contract or obligation relating to the purchase, sale, hire, use or lease of any real estate, merchandise, securities, employment or service, shall make, publish, disseminate, circulate, or place before the public, or cause, directly or indirectly, to be made, published, disseminated, circulated, or placed before the public, in this state, in a newspaper, magazine or other publication, or in the form of a book, notice, handbill, poster, bill, circular, pamphlet, letter, sign, placard, card, label, or over any radio or television station, or in any other way similar or dissimilar to the foregoing, an advertisement, announcement, statement or representation of any kind to the public relating to such purchase, sale, hire, use or lease of such real estate, merchandise, securities, service or employment or to the terms or conditions thereof, which advertisement, announcement, statement or representation contains any assertion, representation or statement of fact which is untrue, deceptive or misleading.
A law which means that when you tell someone "If you don't like it you can cancel it in 2 weeks" with no charges or problems, you have to do that.  (A similar concept of law is something called "fraud in the inducement," which can be summarized as "if you fraudulently lead me into signing a contract is voidable."  I mention that so that if you attempt to point to some as-yet-unread contract provision that would, you imagine, free you from following my requests, I will point you back to fraud in the inducement, and say this: I am voiding the contract.  It's not binding on me anymore, now.)

I am also familiar with a related Wisconsin statute:

100.207(2)Advertising and sales representations. A person may not make in any manner any statement or representation with regard to the provision of telecommunications service, including the rates, terms or conditions for telecommunications service, which is false, misleading or deceptive, or which omits to state material information with respect to the provision of telecommunications service that is necessary to make the statement not false, misleading or deceptive.

The remedies for violations of these statutes are that I can seek injunctive AND monetary relief, including attorney's fees.

So here is how I suggest that we resolve this situation:

1. You cancel the "Cantenna 4G" "service" that was added to my bill last week, and
2. You not charge me so much as a penny for any portion of the "Cantenna 4G" "service" that was not provided and
3. You restore my billing status to whatever it was, in terms of services, charges, and itemized costs, as of 9:00 a.m. CDST 9/16/13 and
4. You, using YOUR time and YOUR effort, come pick up your equipment before the close of business (5:00 p.m. CDST) on Tuesday 9/24/13.

I also suggest that you respond to this in writing.  And it would be nice if someone other than Mr Hobo made the pickup, but I won't insist on that.  However, any attempt to bill me for services or possession of equipment I am tendering back to you is simply going to result in a lawsuit.  Not by me; I will hire a lawyer to do so because while this is my job, I also am not interested in being my own client.

You may wonder about the pictures which appear throughout this letter.  They are there because I have found that Internet readers are a fickle lot and like pictures in their posts.  So because I posted this on my website, "Thinking The Lions," and will repost it to Reddit and anywhere else I can think of, I have included pictures, because I am concerned about providing quality to my readers.  I think of them as customers, and I only want the best for them.  You might want to try that yourself, someday.


Briane F. Pagel, Jr.

"Make your optimism come true..." by not dealing with Verizon's customer "service." 


I have tried to look up fax numbers for Verizon.  In frustration, I finally called the local store where the Nice Young Man originally sold me the Cantenna.  I was patched through to Seattle, where they disclaimed any knowledge of this issue and called the local store back for me, where I got "Andrew." Andrew gave me HIS fax number, but when I asked for a corporate fax number, Andrew sighed.


and said

"Sir, I'm currently with a customer and do not have time for this.  I have given you our fax number and we will escalate it."

I then told Andrew that I did not appreciate his tone, and that I had not asked to talk to him, his corporation  had put him through, and that I would let him go back to his customer, even though I, too, am a customer.


Pat Dilloway said...

That's the good thing of being a lawyer; you know all those statute thingies. My sisters have Charter and are frequently frustrated with it, so apparently they stink all over the place.

Briane P said...

They are the worst.

It is useful; I try not to overuse my powers.

Andrew Leon said...

I have had similar problems with AT&T (in fact, I may be having one, right now, but I haven't verified it, yet), and, at one point, I spent about 8 days on the phone with Dell trying to get them to fix a problem. (I'm serious about the 8 days thing. I literally spent well over 100 hours on the phone with Dell over an issue, most of that time being on hold.)

Liz A. said...

One day I'll tell you my Charter horror story. And they keep sending me offers. As if I'll ever let those idiots back into my house.

Rusty Webb said...

Wow. I feel a great amount of angst on your behalf. You know, I think all legal stuff should be written in Esperanto, so then I can quit reading it and thinking it's supposed to make sense. It's all the English words that are being used that throw me off. It's like someone threw a dictionary into a blender and what came out was legal statutes.

Briane P said...


That's why we use Latin.


Charter at one point was my archenemy.


Dell actually is on my list, too: we just bought a new computer that took TWO weeks, and a special trip to replace the entire motherboard before it worked.

Andrew Leon said...

The scary thing is that DELL is WAAAY better these days than they used to be. They've had a complete turnaround in their ideas of customer service. 10 years ago, that computer would probably have been a paperweight for a year like mine was.