There has to be a Better Way

There has to be a Better Way

© David Burton 2005

The Constituion

There has to be a better way to get service from some of our larger companies. My complaint arises from a recent episode with my telephone provider (Verizon) and my internet provider (AOL). Let me recount the events that have led me to figuratively put pen to paper.

At the beginning of May, my wife and I decided to switch (“flip-flop”) the two telephone numbers on the two phone lines in our house. Since we use a single DSL line for internet access for our two computers, we also needed to make sure that the DSL service continued with the same new phone number. To make things easy to follow, I’ll call one phone line/number ‘1’ and the second ‘2’. Our DSL service (which is provided by Verizon for AOL) was on line/number ‘2’. The reason for the switch in numbers is irrelevant to the following story.

On Friday, May 5th, I called Verizon. Verizon has a great new automated telephone system that asks a number of irrelevant questions and offers you a number of choices, none of which met my needs. After 5 or 10 minutes of conversing with a computer that could not take care of my problem, I finally reached a human voice that I will call ‘A’. I told ‘A’ that I wanted to switch my phone numbers and I asked that the DSL service remain with the ‘2’ number. At first, ‘A’ said that the switch could not be done without having a service person come to the house to physically swap the lines. After thinking about the request some more, ‘A’ then said that Verizon could indeed have the numbers switched without the necessity of physically swapping lines at our house. However, she said that the DSL switch in phone lines would have to go through first. I asked when the swaps would be completed. ‘A’ assured me that the DSL swap would occur the same day (by 8 pm on May 5th) and that the phone number switch would be completed by the end of the following Monday (May 8th).

On Monday, May 8th, I talked to ‘B’ at Verizon, again after a 5 or 10 minute contest with the automated answering system at Verizon, because the DSL line had not been switched and neither had the phone numbers. Instead, calls into the ‘1’ number were told that service to the ‘1’ number had been discontinued. We could call out, but not receive calls at the ‘1’ number. ‘B’ said the problem had arisen because” it was the end of the billing cycle” and everything would be “resolved in the next day or two.”

On Thursday, May 11th, the problems remained and I called into Verizon at 10:30 in the morning. This time I got ‘C’ at Verizon (again, after the standard 5 or 10 minutes contest with the computerized answering system). I again explained the problem. ‘C’ assured me that the problems would be corrected by 3 pm that day. By 4 pm, the ‘2’ phone could be accessed by calling in to the ‘1’ number. However, now calls into the ‘2’ number were told that service to the ‘2’ number had been discontinued. We could call out, but not receive calls at the ‘2’ number. Also, we lost our DSL service. So, once more I called the computer at Verizon and eventually fought my way through to ‘D’. ‘D’ promised that Verizon would fix the problem by the following Monday, May 15th. The supposed 2 day turn around had now turned into one week.

On Monday, May 15th, the same problem remained, i.e., the ‘2’ phone could be accessed by calling in to the ‘1’ number, but calls into the ‘2’ number were still being told that service to the ‘2’ number had been discontinued. Also, we still had no DSL service.

On Wednesday, May 17th, I called into Verizon once more. Again, after going around in circles with the Verizon computer, I was put in touch with ‘E’. I asked ‘E’ if there was any way I could contact the same service person when I called in on the same problem. I was told that this was not possible at Verizon. Each time I called in, I would get the next available service person. There was no way to direct dial a service person at Verizon. I asked ‘E’ how I could get my DSL service restored. ‘E ‘ now told me that Verizon could not do anything about that and I would have to contact AOL (see all the previous inputs from service persons ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ over the previous week and a half).

Now I called AOL. Thank the Lord! The call goes directly to a real live person instead of a computer. At AOL, I first talked to ‘F’ in “Billing” who told me I needed to talk to Technical. In “Technical”, I talked to ‘G’ who told me that I needed to talk to “DSL-Save”. In “DSL-Save”, I got ‘H’ who told me that he could take care of the problem by starting a new AOL/Verizon DSL account with me. I told ‘H’ that I already had an AOL/Verizon DSL account and just needed AOL and/or Verizon to turn it back on. ‘H’ insisted that turning it back on was not possible and I would have to get a fresh new account. To get me up and running he would send me a DSL hardware and software kit at no cost. I explained that I already had all the DSL hardware and software and just needed the DSL line activated. Again, ‘H’ said that couldn’t be done and I needed to get the new DSL hardware and software kit. I told ‘H’ that my current DSL modem included a wireless router that I was using with my second computer and I asked whether the new DSL modem would include a wireless router. He didn’t know. He told me the new hardware and software could take as long as 14 days to reach me and that Verizon would be ready to activate the DSL service in 5 days. I agreed to the new DSL service and was provided with a case number and an order number if I needed to call back in about the same problem. (much different than my dealings with Verizon where I had to fight my way through the automated call answering system each time and where there was no case number and no way to talk to the same person). The only problem in dealing with AOL was the time it took, because ‘H’ had to read every word of the new agreement to me twice, including all relevant disclaimers.

On Thursday, May 19th, I received a recorded telephone message from Verizon, informing me that the DSL service would be activated on Thursday, May 25th.

On Monday, May 22nd, both the ‘1’ and ‘2’ lines and numbers finally worked properly.

On Tuesday, May 23rd, the hardware and software package arrived from Verizon and, sure enough, the DSL modem did not have a wireless router built in. According to the instruction booklet accompanying the hardware and software, DSL activation could be performed in 3 simple steps that would take only a few minutes.

On Thursday, May 25th, I received a recorded telephone message from Verizon, informing me that the DSL service was ready for activation and that all I needed to do was to install all the new hardware and software before the activation process could be performed.

I did not install any of the new hardware, but loaded the new software. After two unsuccessful tries to get the DSL running, I called the Verizon Online service number, and talked to ‘I’, who told me to uninstall the new software and that he would walk me through the activation. After 1 hour of step-by-step instructions from the Verizon Service person, the DSL line was finally up and running. I can assure you that there is no way that any competent person could get the Verizon DSL service up and running on his or her own in a few minutes. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree from MIT and I’m moderately competent with computers, but it still took 1 full hour of hand holding by the Verizon service person to get my DSL up and running.

Well, the 2 to 3 days needed to change my phone numbers along with my DSL really took 20 days. Verizon, AOL and I wasted hours of time on the phone. In the process, I had to make about 10 or more separate phone calls. Now, I have a complete set of unnecessary DSL hardware and software that is of no use to me and which Verizon had to buy and pay for shipping to me. Along with my new service, I have also received two Verizon Calling Cards which I didn’t request and which I immediately cut up and threw into the trash. I handle all my Verizon billing over the internet. Since I started the number switching process, I have been unable to access my Verizon billing statements. At this time, I have no idea what my recent telephone and DSL charges are and whether I have been charged correctly.

After this experience, all I have to say is, “There has to be a better way!”

Postscript. (4 July 2006)

Well, I received my bills from Verizon (4 of them) this month. First, I found that I had been charged $13.50 (plus taxes) 4 times for "Central Office Work (one time charge)". A few phone calls to Verizon billing resulted in their promising to remove 3 of these charges. Next, I found a charge of $99.00 (plus taxes) for "DSL EARLY TERMINATION FEE". I made another phone call to Verizon billing and explained that I had not terminated my DSL service, but Verizon had incorrectly done so. As a result, Verizon billing said that they would remove the charge. If all goes as promised, all my Verizon problems should be over. I'll find out with my next month's Verizon bills, since I still cannot access my Verizon accounts online.

  30 May 2006/4 July 2006 {Article 16; Whatever_04}    
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