Or how about their legendary idea requiring all pet cats to be leashed…?
Best Bureaucracy Ever: Verizon
Everybody has been stuck in the only check-out line at the store when there are another 9 cash registers that are closed. We’ve all had to wait too long to be served at a restaurant. We’ve all been put on hold by a customer service rep in the Philippines who barely understands you as you repeat your customer ID over and over. We’ve all paid for a car repair, to have the same problem pop up only days after leaving the shop.
When you’re faced with these frustrations, you start to wonder: what is the worst company in America?
Is it the companies politicians love to bash: say, Exxon?
How about a car company? Or a coal company?
Maybe even Koch Industries, Halliburton, or Walmart…?
No. Without a doubt, it is—Verizon.
When you call for customer service, you get a robot who asks you the same questions over and over.
When you finally get a rep on the phone, they lie. And lie. And lie. If they’re not lying, they’re making stuff up to get you off the phone.
My phone service from Verizon is called “Freedom Essentials” on the monthly bill. It includes phone and internet. I don’t watch TV much, so I’ve never paid for it.
In early March, I received a call from Verizon informing me that my account was past due. If I paid $57 right now, my service would not be interrupted. In a panic, I pulled out my credit card, read its numbers to the rep, and paid the bill. That evening when I got home, I received an email receipt of my payment.
One March 18th, I received another call from Verizon telling me my service would be interrupted if I didn’t pay another $114 immediately. I explained that I had paid my bill a week earlier, but they insisted I was two months behind on my payment, and needed to get up to date or service would be terminated. Since I was at work and couldn’t check, I again pulled out my credit card and paid another two months. The rep thanked me and explained that I was now paid through March 18th, and the next bill would reflect that my account was up to date.
When I got home from work that evening, a new email from Verizon showed that I was now paid through May 18th. I shook my head, sighed and accepted the fact that once again, Verizon doesn’t know what is what. But I was relieved that I was paid up two months in advance, and wouldn’t have to pay that bill for a while.
Ten days later, my internet service stopped working. It was around 10 in the morning, so I figured I’d wait a couple hours, clear the Fios modem, and try again. At noon, it still wasn’t working. At 3pm it still wasn’t working, so I called Verizon’s customer service number.
After the usual 15 minutes of Verizon’s robot-automatic-answering-service asking for my account number, my phone number, my name, address, and whether I had a cell number I’d like to have listed as a back-up security question, I finally got through to a live person. After reciting my account number, my phone number, my name and address again, she paused while she looked up my account.
After a few minutes, she informed me that I didn’t have internet service on my account.
Stunned, I asked why I had been receiving it since 2009, and why I had paid for it every month since then. I reminded her that in January of this year, my internet service was interrupted, and that two Verizon Service Techs had visited my home over a three day period to replace my Fios modem because the first one had gone bad; the second one was defective; and the third one finally worked.
She told me there was no record of that service in my account log. She told me to hold, and after ten minutes, transferred me to someone in Tech Support. After another lengthy period on hold, the tech came on and checked through my account log. He explained that the previous Verizon person didn’t know what she was talking about, and that he would have service back on the next morning—he simply had to order a service call to my home.
The next morning no rep showed up. I called Verizon and they said they had cancelled the Service Tech’s request. I asked why and they said that the Tech who spoke to me the previous evening had noted in my account log that the problem was fixed.
From that point I started getting mad.
On that Tuesday, I spent three hours on the phone, being transferred from Customer Service, to Financial Services, to Tech Support, and back to Customer Service in some sort of round-robin. I talked to Verizon people in Delaware, Arizona, New Jersey, Tijuana Mexico… And in all that time, every person I spoke to seemed completely clueless as to how such a problem could exist.
And so it went for 15 days, including a Saturday morning and Sunday evening on the phone with Verizon.
My son works in IT, and kept telling me I was doing something wrong. He came over to my house and called Verizon, confident that with his background he could speak the same language as Verizon’s tech guys, would have the confusion cleared and the problem solved within 15 minutes. I lauded him for his confidence, and handed him all my notes from the past week, my previous Verizon invoices and emails, and gave him the phone.
He started his call with Tech Support at 4pm that Sunday afternoon. He stayed on the phone with me by his side, and we listened on the speaker-phone to the ricochet of tech people and customer service people from across America, Mexico and the Philippines go back and forth, changing stories and explanations for how to fix the problem. As the sun faded out the window behind him, my son sat there diligently waiting, and calmly retelling the story of our problem to each succeeding Verizon person who came on the line.
3-1/2 hours later it was dark outside, and they promised that phone service would be restored at 8 o’clock the next morning.
Well, believe it or not, 8 o’clock came and went, and we had no internet service. My son’s marathon call from the evening before had no more impact on Verizon’s bureaucracy than did mine.
I got back on the phone and spent another two hours on the phone with Verizon that day. I got the same run-around, and each new Customer Service Rep had to be told my entire story from the previous week. Even though they had my account log on a computer screen in front of them, they had no idea what I was saying.
This went on through Day 8, Day 9, and Day 10. My fury with Verizon was broiling. With every person I spoke to, I explained that my bill was paid through May. Every Rep would acknowledge that it was. But at that point, they would shut down and act like they had no idea how to flip a switch to turn my internet service back on. I also noticed that when I asked the Rep’s name, they would say simply their first name. I would follow that up with, “And where are YOU?”
“In Richmond, Virginia,” would be the timid response.
“Can I get your ID number?” I got used to asking.
“No sir, we’re not allowed to give that out,” would be the firm response.
“Of course not,” I always answered cynically.
And then, on Day 10, it happened.
Somehow, a Verizon rep actually acted like she knew what was going on. Almost on auto-pilot, I explained what had happened, that my bill was paid up for the next two months, and about the dozens of people I had spoken to. She looked at my account log on screen and said “Oh My God!”
“What now?” I asked, afrad to hear the next twist in my ordeal.
I heard her tapping away at her computer, so took the opportunity to ask her name.
“Mallory” she said vacantly.
“And where are YOU?” I asked.
“I’m in Massachusetts,” she answered, still vacantly.
“Can I get your ID Number?” I asked automatically.
“Sure,” she said, “It’s ———” and she gave it to me.
I was shocked—I got a real ID number from a Verizon Rep! I was so stunned, I was almost speechless.
She interrupted my stupor and said, “I know what has been happening with your account.”
“Every time you called in, a new Work Order was assigned to your account to correct this issue. The problem is that you have 1, 2, 3, oh my God, at least 9 overlapping work orders here, so the system didn’t know what to do.”
“How could that happen?” I asked.
“Well, every time you called in, a new work order was assigned to your account, and—“
“So wait a minute,” I interrupted. “If that’s the case, why didn’t ANY of the people I’ve spoken to over the last week and a half figure this out?”
“I’m not saying they didn’t, but some people here are trained a lot better than others,” she explained, sounding guilty about my problem.
She told me that she needed to call a Tech and have all the other work orders cleared in order to start a new work order to solve the problem.
I scoffed in disbelief. She heard me too, because she said, “I’m sure you don’t believe me after all this time, but I will call you back to let you know about my progress. I have a few friends in different departments who will help me fix this.”
Surprised by this new candor, I agreed, gave her my number, and hung up.
The next morning she actually called me! I was so surprised, I know I didn’t properly thank her. She told me she had her friend Lynne from Tech Support on the line in a conference call, and that she was going to help us. Lynne reiterated Mallory’s observation about the multiple work orders and about all the confusion it caused. While she was explaining this, she gasped and said, “Look at all these work orders—how many times have you called in?”
I explained that with all the disconnections, second calls on most days, I must have called at least 15 times.
“Well that explains that!” she said. “There are 13 different work orders in here for service on your account since last Monday.”
“Now you can understand his anger,” Mallory piped in.
“This will take a few hours, and some calls to our field office, but we’ll clear it up,” Lynne said.
Mallory told me, “You see, it’s all in knowing the right people. I will call you back at 1 o’clock and give you an update to see if we can get your service up today or not.”
I thanked her, hung up, and for the first time in 12 days, started to feel hopeful. Perhaps I would finally have my internet service back by the weekend.
At 1pm she promptly called me back to explain that it was so messed up that it would be Monday before all the orders could be cleared properly. She apologized, but promised to call me at 8am Monday morning to confirm that service would be restored that morning.
I thanked her for being the only person out of three dozen who had been honest and consistent with me. We wished each other a happy weekend, and hung up.
At 8:05 on Monday morning, my phone rang. It was Lynne, not Mallory. She explained that Mallory had to rush her husband to the hospital, but called her on the way to make sure that I was updated on the progress of my internet service. I was speechless from her commitment to solving my problem, and told Lynne to thank her for me.
Lynne explained that the backlog of orders had been cleared, gave me the new Work Order Number, and assured me that internet service would be restored by 2pm. I was so thankful, and told her so. She told me to be home between 2 and 4pm to accept a call and to reactivate the service through an email I would be sent.
I was home around 3:30, clicked open my email, and was happy to receive an email from Verizon asking me to click a specific button to restart my Fios internet service. I did so, and sat back in my chair with a long sigh. 2 weeks, I thought. Two whole weeks wasted. Two weeks of service I paid for, and didn’t get. At least 24 hours of work time squandered over these two weeks. I sighed again.
I waited a few minutes for my Fios modem to go through its start-up cycle, and then clicked on the internet icon on my computer screen.
That feeling of Verizon Doom flooded over me once again.
I called 1-800-Verizon once again. After the first 7 minutes of telling the Verizon-robot all my account information once more, I waited for a customer service rep. When one finally came on the line, I asked to speak to Mallory in Massachusetts, and recited her ID Number.
“We have no way of calling another representative in a different office,” she explained in a disinterested tone.
“Wait a minute: you’re a phone company, and you can’t talk to another employee in your company?” I asked incredulously.
“Only email,” she said with an over-the-phone-shrug.
I swallowed hard, and started to explain my entire 2 week ordeal yet once more.
She said “hmmm ,” out loud and looked at my account on screen. “It appears that there is a power outage near your home. If service doesn’t come up within the next 3 hours, then we can’t guarantee that you’ll have internet for the next 24 hours.”
“So are you telling me that we won’t have internet until Wednesday now?!” I exploded.” We are able to receive emails from Verizon, because I received an email a half hour ago telling me that my service was restored, and now—“
“We have no record of that here,” she said.
I recited the Confirmation Number right off the email from 4pm back to her.
“Well, why don’t you do it again, so we can be sure,” she said.
So I went back to the email, and clicked the button once more to accept my fios service. Almost immediately, I got another “Congratulations!” message, with a different series of numbers to confirm our service. I recited them to her.
“Let’s see,” she said again cheerfully. “Yep, looks like you’ll have to wait another three hours until that power outage clears up. If not, it’ll be another 24 hours for ya.”
I was so mad, I’m sure there was smoke spewing from my ears, but I tried to remain calm. “Let me speak to a supervisor. Please.”
“There aren’t any on the work floor at this time. Can I take a message and have one call you?” she said in a tone as if there was not a problem.
“No, I want to talk to a supervisor right now. This is Day 15 of dealing with you all, and I was promised that service would be restored today.”
“I can put you on hold and see if one will be available soon,” she offered.
“I don’t want to be put on hold, because you’ll hang up on me. Get me a supervisor. Now.”
“Please h—“ she clicked me on hold so fast, she didn’t even get the rest of “hold” out.
I listened to verizon’s insipid “On Hold Music” for the umpteenth time. I waited for another 20 minutes. Finally a male came on the line. Once again I had to explain my two week trek through Verizon’s bureaucracy to this guy too.
He hummed and hawed, and then told me there was a power outage. I told him I already knew that. He said, “I can have an Outage Repair Ticket set up, and we can take a look at it tomorrow…?”
“Now why didn’t she suggest that when we discussed this earlier?” I asked frustrated.
“Oh well,” he chuckled, “I told her not to write one until you and I discussed the issue and decided on what the best course of action was to take.”
That did it. I exploded: “I have not had internet service I paid for in advance for 15 days. What do YOU think the best course of action would be?!”
“Sir,” he said, trying to use his customer-calming-skills he learned in Call-Center-Training-Class, “if you’re going to be rude, then I cannot help you. Do you want me to write an Outage Repair Ticket or not…?”
Still furious, I asked to be transferred to Mallory, and gave her ID number to him.
“How did you get that information?” he asked suspiciously.
“Transfer me to Mallory right now so I can leave a message on her voicemail,” I reiterated, still broiling.
“Tell you what, let me contact the Tech Department, and see what we can do for you..” and pushed the Hold Button as fast as he got that last word out.
On hold for another 12 minutes, I listened to the same Verizon On Hold Music. I’m a music lover, but even Helen Keller would cringe if she was stuck listening to this tripe.
A Tech Rep finally came on the line, “Hello, I understand you’re having a little glitch with your internet service?”
“A little glitch?!” I said sarcastically.
Before I could open up my floodgates of rage, he interrupted me: “Have you cleared the cache on your computer?”
“Cleared the what?” I asked, “How do I do that?”
He had me go onto my computer screen, showed me how to click to buttons in the preference menu, and then told me to wait 30 seconds.
And what do you know?
I suddenly had internet service.
I sighed out loud and asked the guy, “Why didn’t anybody tell me to do this 45 minutes ago?”
He chuckled and said, “Customer Service People. What do they know? Heh heh heh!”
I thanked him, and hung up.
So after 15 full days of paid but unavailable service, shifting explanations and excuses, I finally got my internet service back on.
This problem began on March 28th at 10am, and trudged along until 6:30pm on April 11th.
The following morning, on Day 16, I received the most polite email from Mallory I have every received from a Customer Service Person. She was thoughtful, apologetic, considerate, and reiterated how frustrated many of her colleagues are with Verizon’s Bureaucracy.
It was refreshing to know that out of the 37 people we spoke to over our 15 day ordeal, there was one honest person who cared enough to bend over backwards to help me.
Ten days later, I was surprised to see an email from Verizon asking me to “Take a Quick Survey!” about their service. I did so with relish. After giving them Zeros for their responsiveness and if I would recommend them to a friend, they asked these two questions.
Please tell us why you chose these ratings or what we can do to improve our service:
Although we were paid up through May 18th, 2016, for 2 months in advance, Verizon disconnected our service on March 28th.
It took 15 days, 26 hours on the phone, and speaking to 37 different customer service, tech, and financial services people in Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, the Philippines and Mexico to straighten it out. Amusingly, 6 of your customer service reps proudly announced they were “taking ownership of this problem, and will not hang up until your problem is solved.” Yet to top it off, all 6 transferred me elsewhere. We were transferred dozens of times, and also hung up on 4 times over that 15 day period.
Over that period, we were often on the phone for 3-hour periods: We spoke to you all at 8 in the morning, at noontime, at 3 in the afternoon, on a Sunday evening, and even at 11:15 one night. And yet at every turn we were treated like the IRS treats American citizens: with excuses and indifference.
Except for the last person, Mallory in Massachusetts, EVERY SINGLE Verizon employee gave us a different explanation and promise to solve the problem.
People complain about how horrid it is to deal with the Post Office, the local MVA, or with Comcast.
But I have NEVER been treated so dishonestly and with so many over-the-phone-shrugs for such a lengthy period of time.
And just in case you believe my experience is frivolous, I do Customer Service for a living. If a single person on my staff treated a customer in such a way, I would have him fired that day.
Since we were put on hold for about 22 of the 26 hours we were on the phone with Verizon, both my wife and I were forced to memorize your “On Hold” music, which, by the way, is horrid. We are convinced it was composed by the son of some Verizon Top Executive and recorded in his garage. You all REALLY need to invest in some music.
And how many times, during that hold music did Verizon’s robotic-female-voice pipe in and remind us that “if you are having trouble with your service, you can log onto verizon.com for assistance.” Even though we had no internet service!
I never truly understood why Americans hate a monopoly; but now it is crystal clear.
Over those 15 days of NO SERVICE from Verizon, we decided there is only one word to describe Verizon: “Excruciating”.
What can we do to make it easier for you to do business with us?
Have your Overpaid Lobbyists go to Congress to have a law passed to allow other companies to compete in the Washington DC region.
I have yet to hear back from them, but am still exhausted from the experience and feel like I have the domestic form of PTSD.
If there was an alternative to Verizon, I would sign up for it without blinking.
–The Beltway Bandit