Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Customer Service Hits New Low At Verizon

There are certain institutions we avoid like the plague – Department of Motor Vehicles, IRS, dealing with the cable company, and buying a cell phone through a phone company. I have found negotiating with a car dealer to be less frustrating than dealing with a phone company.

I was reminded of this recently when I went to Verizon. We switched a number of years ago to Verizon because supposedly they had the best wireless service in the area. Six months ago I would have gone a mile from my house to the Verizon wireless store but it has since shuttered. The second closest one – about seven minutes from my house – just boarded up. I live in one of the towns where per capita ownership of a cell phone is probably near the highest it can be but Verizon, for whatever reason, is shrinking its presence here.

While at the store that I finally made it to, I didn’t intend to buy a phone. My wife’s phone – a Droid (Incredible) – was stuck. It simply was not responding to touch or working at all. We thought maybe the battery was shot. It turned out we never got a full diagnosis but it acted in a way that indicated it wasn’t just the battery that was failing. It sounded like it was trying to reboot and start up even though it was on. Time for a new phone.

Just like that. A phone that was considered cutting edge not all that long ago and still was not technologically obsolete, died before my two-year contract even expired. It was not worth fixing but even if we fixed it, I was shocked to hear that they no longer make the battery for it. We live in a disposable society, with no distinction between a 70-cent shaver and a five-hundred-dollar phone.

What the f **k?

I didn’t pull up in a 1973 Buick asking them to replace a part for a car model that was discontinued long ago. No, I asked for a battery – one that would have cost 40-something bucks – and they said they could not find a place to order it from. They suggested I look on ebay. Yeah, that is how to treat a customer. Death by battery.

Instead of Verizon convincing the customer, on the merits, that they need to catch up to the newest smartphone because the latest model is so great, it is forcing me to make a switch simply by not supplying the thing that makes all tech gadgets run. Imagine if this happened in other areas of your life? How about not being able to wear your dress from two summers ago because you can no longer dry clean it? Or that your refrigerator has to be dumped because the little light bulb in it cannot be replaced? Or maybe your dog needs to be replaced because the dog food you used to feed it is no longer available? I mean how stupid is this?

Let this be a lesson to every Kindle and Nook owner – their model of e-reader will eventually expire or the battery will be discontinued. It’s a safe bet that all tech devices will not only get replaced by faster and more gadget-filled versions, but that eventually your capacity to turn on last year’s model will end ugly.

I was livid to hear that the phone was worthless. Actually, I take that back. They said they would buy it back for 17 dollars. I couldn’t even buy an accessory from their store for that. And what will they do with the phone they just forced to become unusable? I thought, for a second, that $17 is better than nothing, but then I grew concerned that they would not properly scrub my data and information and then I would end up having to deal with identity theft.

Once we committed to buying a phone, it became two phones. My wife and I were on a joint plan and it would be only a matter of time that my battery would die. It was almost a year past their prediction of shelf-life of one year.

Now the fun begins. Nothing is really priced clearly. And then there are rebates, deals, discounts, and whatever the salesman chooses to offer.

We eventually heard $150 for the pair of iPhones (not the latest version), but the final total was $350. Add in taxes, fees, and accessories and that is what you get. We bought a car charger for the 50th time because it seems every new phone comes with the need for its own charger. Then you need a protective case because no one case seems to fit more than one phone model. You need screen protectors, too. It is a nickel and dime city. This is what frustrates me about the entire experience – you need to tune out everything and wait to hear a final number. It is never as good as you thought it would be.

One of the charges was a $30 upgrade fee. I didn’t get rewarded for renewing my long contract with them nor did I get thanked for buying new phones and the forced accessories. No, they showed customer loyalty a bill. “Sir, there is an upgrade fee when you get a new phone.” What a slap in the face.

I am waiting for a consumer agency to crack down on this shit but it has been going on for years.

Then my customer disservice rep told me I have up to 14 days to return the phones, but there is a $35 restocking fee per phone. They have worked it out so you need to buy a new phone every other year and that if you make a bad phone selection you have to stay with it.

Verizon’s 4G stands 4 greed!

The thing is, it is unnecessary. Just treat me like a person. Be upfront and honest and don’t make me feel angry or confused during the process. If it is inevitable that I will buy a new phone every 700 days, at least make it a pleasant experience. I would call to complain to customer service but I fear my phone is programmed to shut down.

And there is no doubt an extra fee is attached to that.

Interview With Author Mary Janice Davidson

1.      What type of books do you write? Mostly paranormal romance, or romantic suspense.  They've all got a humorous bent, by which I mean, my rampant immaturity shines on every page.  I like laughing, and I like nookie.  So there you go.

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? I just finished UNDEAD AND UNDERWATER, a paranormal anthology about a superhero who's an HR rep by day and a beleaguered do-gooder by night, and by lunch, and by Sunday mornings, etc. There's a team-up story about my grumpy mermaid, Fredrika Bimm, and the queen of the vampires, Betsy Taylor (to paraphrase comic god Stan Lee, "Because no one demanded it!"). And there's a story that takes place 25 years in future, after the Kardashian riots and the US adopting the metric system (which sounds more fantastically weird?), where the heroine is a werewolf.  Because that's how awesome my life is: I get paid to write weird stuff.

3.      What inspired you to write it? I love the novella length--100 manuscript pages so you've got to get busy quick--and had been toying with writing about a superhero.  My editor obliged me with a contract and I was off to the races.  See above: my awesome life.

4.      What did you do before you became an author? What didn't I do?  I was everything from a runway model to a medical test subject.  A lot of office jobs (most of which let me sneak in some writing).  One of the best days of my life was the day I quit my last day job.  For someone who grew up in Air Force housing and trailer parks, and didn't go to college, that meant a lot to me.

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? Unreal.  The way finding out thAatyou've won the lottery feels unreal.  "But it's so great and it's gonna change my life and I just...sat here."   Being published is exactly like winning the lottery.  Every month.

6.      Any advice for aspiring writers? Don't ever EVER quit.  I had over a decade's worth of rejection slips before my first sale, a novella to a small-press publisher.  My twenties were all about rejection.  (In multiple ways, now that I think about it.)  Hang in there, because nobody is going to keep polishing your drafts and re-submitting them and re-writing and doing it all over again and again except YOU.  Trust me.  No one else will do this for you.  Not even your mom.  And if you quit, what are the chances of even seeing a book contract, much less signing one?

7.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Everywhere!  Ten years ago e-books were frowned upon by many; they were considered no better than vanity press.  Or people used them as a stepping-stone to get experience writing so they could move on to the big boys in New York.  But Kindle and other tech changed that completely.  Just this spring at the Romantic Times Convention, there was a workshop on how to market your Kindle releases and why you might not want to even bother with a traditional hardcover contract.  Now people use them as the end itself as opposed to a means to an end.  It's a complete 180 and I couldn't be happier.  I think the more book options there are for readers, the better.  I want people to be able to find my books in any language they want and/or any format they want (trade paperback, mass market paperback, e-book, hardcover, etc.).  And I love that publishers all over the world are making that happen

For more information, please consult: www.maryjanicedavidson.net

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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