How to Destroy a 15-year Customer Relationship

January 10, 2010

I have used Verizon Wireless since before it had that name — signing on back when it was called Air Touch. But, over the last several months, Verizon’s poor customer service and fraudulent billing practices have sent me looking for another wireless provider.

I gave up my land line in 2003. Because my only telephone is a cell phone, I need a reliable provider. But I also expect decent customer service and I will not tolerate blatant corporate rip offs.

The problems began a year ago when I realized a few days before it ended, that I would go over my plan minutes for the month of January. I contacted Verizon and was told if I signed on for another year, I could get 100 additional bonus minutes. Sounded reasonable. After almost fifteen years, I had no expectation of going anywhere else. Unfortunately, when I got my bill, I was charged for 35 minutes with no credit given for the bonus minutes. I called, got an adjustment, and thought that was the end of it.

In May, when my submissive, Patrick, joined my household, I added another phone and upgraded my plan, increasing it by an additional 300 minutes. Since then, every attempt to utilize my 100 “bonus” minutes has resulted in overcharges. Even worse, I repeatedly have had customer service and supervisory personnel promise that they will take care of problems and that they will call me back, only to never hear from them again.

The scam Verizon runs works like this: the company claims that because I acquired the bonus minutes before I increased the amount of money I give them every month, the minutes are not shared between the two phones. They contend this, despite the fact that every month my online account “overview” shows those extra minutes in the total available for both phones to use. Verizon refuses to credit any of the 100 minutes to calls made by my phone. Instead, they put all the overage minutes on the second line so they can charge 45 cents a minute for them.

Under this fraudulent bookkeeping scheme, in order to use my “bonus” minutes, I would have to not use the second line for an entire month and put 800 minutes on one phone. Essentially, when I added a second line and additional minutes, Verizon stole the 100 minutes from me.

Unlike many consumers, however, I will not accept fraudulent practices on the part of a mega corporation without a fight. I have already filed complaints against Verizon with the Oregon Attorney General’s office of Consumer Fraud and the Federal Communications Commission. As soon as I can escape their contractual clutches without incurring outrageous “termination” fees, I intend to find another provider. And, of course, I will berate them online for abusing their customers as a warning to others who might consider using their services.

As I search for an alternative to Verizon, I am interested in learning more about others’ experiences with their cell phone providers. Feel free to comment here or contact me via e-mail to share your experience.