Saturday, June 18, 2011

Verizon Wireless Customer "Service" - Can You Hear Me Now?

Before sounding like a bitter consumer, hiding behind an outdated blog, let me say a few positive things about Verizon Wireless. First, I've been with Verizon for 7 years. I'm ok paying a bit extra for their plans since their coverage seems to be better than the competition. I have a $60 / month call plan plus some limited texting and the mandatory $30 / month data plan. I figure I've paid upwards of $10,000 since 2004 to Verizon. I probably get a new phone every two years and continue to autopay around $100 a month. Again, I'm alright paying a bit more per month when the service is worth paying for. Verizon is expensive. And that's been alright with me. Until now.

I bought my first smart phone about 18 months ago. The original Droid. In recent days the battery meter had a question mark in it. As a result, the battery won't hold a charge, but is alright if it stays plugged in. I was as resourceful as I knew how and looked up the problem online. As usual, I'm not the only one.

I went to the closest Verizon Wireless store on Thursday. The girl behind the counter doesn't really know what to do and suggests upgrading my phone and committing to a 2-year contract. This is my biggest problem with Verizon. They don't want to fix problems. They want you to commit to a 2-year contract. At $100 a month, that's $2400 plus the cost of the new phone. Yes, that's business. I understand. Just realize, Verizon, that I've shown over 7 years, that I'll upgrade my phone and re-up my contract in another 6 months or so anyways. Why won't you spend a few minutes getting to the root of the problem?

Her other suggestion is to try a new battery. I say, "Great. I'll buy a battery." They don't have batteries. I ask where the closest Verizon store is so that I can buy a battery for the phone. She tells me to order one online. Thanks, Verizon. I don't blame the girl. She's new. I blame Verizon. Why don't you hire people who can do anything more than repeat the company line?

I go home and order a battery online. They have free 2-day shipping. The battery comes a day early. The Fedex guy acted surprised at the fact when he delivered it. I do everything suggested online. I clean the battery contacts, I replace the battery. And, still, the question mark in the battery meter and the phone won't work when not charging.

Now it's Saturday. I decide to go to another Verizon Wireless store. It's bigger and I figure there's a better shot and getting something figured out.

I walk in and an older gentlemen mumbles something. I politely let him know I couldn't understand. He repeats to me, in an insulting manner, "How. Can. I. Help. You. Today?" Well, great. I see where this is going. I explain the battery situation, how it doesn't hold a change. He asks me two idiotic questions. First, he asks me what phone I have. Listen, if you work at Verizon and don't know that you're holding a Droid, something is severely wrong. He then asks if he's pressing the correct power button, wondering why it won't turn on. I calmly explain again that the phone will not hold a charge. You know, the whole reason I came to the store in the first place.

He plugs it in and upgrades roaming capabilities by dialing *228. Awesome. Roaming. Without trying to sound insulting, I ask if there's a technical expert in the store. There were at least 10 people working and only 5 customers. He gets offended and tells me he's the technical expert. When his brilliant *228 doesn't miraculously cure my battery issue, he sends me to a young guy behind the counter.

Young guy behind the counter immediately tells me to upgrade my phone by doing the 2-year contract. I want to know if he'll look into the current problem on my current phone. "Sorry sir, your phone is out of warranty." I know. I understand. There's a one year warranty. I'm fine with that. But can't we spend a few minutes looking into the battery issue? Perhaps it's an easy fix? Or is your only goal to get another $2400 contract + $200 phone purchase from me? Clearly, it's about the money.

He refuses to even look into the problem. My option is to buy a new phone with a 2 year contract or leave. I left. But before I did, I insisted on getting a refund on the battery. I got my $43.99 back.

Again, I'm not upset with the people at the store. They all seem woefully inexperienced and underpaid. It's the long term business model of Verizon. I've been happy to pay you $1200 a year for your better than average coverage. Just help me a bit during a time like this. If it's going to cost me a couple hundred dollars to break my contract with you, it may be worth it. Five years ago, I was always given the benefit of the doubt when I had cell phone issues. Now we've been reduced to the company line - Upgrade your phone. You've failed, Verizon. And when thousands of people read this and begin making decisions to go elsewhere, perhaps you'll hear me then.

Side note: If I could get a mobile device with data only (no call plan), I'd do it in a second. With Google Voice and Skype, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't miss voice or text. I think that's where we'll be in a few years anyways.