Hot, humid, and cranky -- 07/09/10

This has been the hottest week of summer thus far (and, it seems to me, a longer and hotter stretch of days than we had during last summer). Providence set a record high of 102 degrees one day (that's almost 39 Celsius) -- and it hit the upper nineties in our town. Most days this past week around here have been in the eighties but they have been very humid. Right now (a bit past six p.m.) it is 78 (about 24.5 C) but around 90% humidity.

So... perhaps that has made me a bit cranky and disgruntled.

But perhaps it is the idiocy of Verizon Wireless that is annoying me.

I had a multi-line family plan package with Verizon since sometime in the fall of 2002, a good (and profitable) customer for almost eight years. We had five phones (me, Nancy, Jill, Jeremy, and Nancy's mother). Jill's and Jeremy's lines had extended text and picture plans. This was costing a lot of money. It had good features -- nationwide "free" long distance with no roaming charges -- but Nancy and I were using our phones less and less -- this is partly because Verizon's coverage (and that of all other carriers) is particularly weak in our neighborhood so we almost never use our cell phones from home and partly because we never seem to have any reason to use a cell phone except when traveling. (Most of my mobile calls tend to be "Hi, I'm stopping at the supermarket. Is there anything you'd like me to get?)

The truly annoying thing about Verizon (or probably any of the other major mobile companies) is that -- despite all those years of being a customer -- they are always attempting to push options that will cause the two year contract period to start over again, which would mean paying a very high punitive fee for leaving before the end of that contract period. "
Hi, this is Verizon Wireless. Our newest version of your plan offers an extra 100 minutes a month. Would you like to upgrade?" No, not really... "Hi, this is Verizon wireless. You've had your phone for a long time. You can get a new one free!" Etc.

So finally I just avoided doing anything that would reset my contract. This past fall, as my contract expiration date neared, almost weekly I would get a call from them trying to get me to start a new contract. I would say "Oh, you mean Verizon doesn't want my business? Once the contract expires they won't want me?" They would hasten to assure me that Verizon was very happy to have my business. The contract expired. They continued to call.

Nancy left first. We ended her Verizon line and she then she got a phone from Tracfone. (Note to non-U.S. residents: Tracfone is one of those companies without contracts. They charge a few bucks a month service charge and sell you blocks of pre-paid minutes.)

Then Jill left. (She and Eli have their own mobile account.) Then Jeremy left, getting his own mobile account. Then, this spring, Nancy's mother left (going to Tracfone).

I bought a phone from Tracfone and a big block of minutes late in April but kept putting off activating the phone because I wanted to transfer my existing number to the new phone (after all, I'd had it for almost eight years) but they cautioned that it might take a couple of days for the old phone carrier to complete the transfer to the new carrier. But, finally, in the middle of May, closed out my Verizon account and transferred my number. (Of course then I didn't use my new phone for two or three weeks and then discovered there was a software problem with the phone and when I contacted Tracfone tech support they downloaded new stuff to the phone... so it now works fine... but it has a new phone number. Which I didn't discover until a week or two later when I made one of those do-we-need-milk calls from a supermarket and Nancy let me roll over into voice mail because she didn't recognize the number on caller ID.)

So I've got $120 invested in the Tracfone -- that's for the physical phone, more than a year of service, and a pile of minutes, probably far more minutes than I will use -- right now I have 374 days of service and 799 minutes left. I'd started with 810 minutes so that means I've used eleven minutes in the past month or so (and that includes some test calls).

Ah... but what about being hot, humid, and cranky?

Well, I got an email from Verizon telling me that my latest bill is available for me to view online. Nancy said that the bill covering through the end-of-service came early in June and she paid it. So, she goes online to view the bill, but she can't get access to it. Today she told me she still couldn't get access. So I went to the Verizon web site and everything seemed fine... so I entered account name and password and it told me it couldn't access my data.

Call the Verizon 800 number -- go through the stupid robot answering system -- "
Enter your ten digit Verizon telephone number" -- type the number in -- "That is not a valid Verizon telephone number" -- many additional steps through the menu to be connected to a service rep -- and after ten minutes or so I actually get to talk to a human being.

The reason I could access my bill online is because once an account is closed, you can no longer access it online.

Okay, so why am I getting a bill for a closed account?

There is still an active number. Well, not actually active, but not closed.


It seems Verizon transferred authority/ownership for my mother-in-laws number to her -- because, technically, all of the numbers on the account belonged to me, so they had to transfer ownership of the number to her so she could have it moved to a new carrier. However, since she didn't really care about keeping the same number, she just accepted a new number from Tracfone. The trouble is, when I transferred what I thought was the last line to Tracfone, her number was still sitting with Verizon so they were going to keep on charging me sixty bucks a month for it until told to stop.

So I told the service rep to terminate that number.

Well, what I actually said was something like "Yes, terminate that damned number. Wack it, kill it, end it, shoot it, stomp on it, hit it with an ax, set on fire, throw it out back, dig a hole and bury it." (Nancy was cracking up at my suggestion to take it out back and bury it.) I then went on to express my opinion of Verizon's miserable business ethics and their shoddy totally anti-customer predatory business practices. I may also have indicated that it was entirely possible that Verizon had forfeited any hope of ever doing business with me ever again and that I hoped they would soon sink into a cesspool of bankruptcy as soon as possible. Or words to that effect.

Thank you for calling Verizon."

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