Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Verizon's Stores Suck: How I Lost 3 Hours of My Life to Incompetency, Laziness and Greed

 Let me be very clear about a couple of things. The following rant is meant to prevent you from losing three hours of your life to Verizon stores. Verizon stores are a horrible way to waste any of your precious time. However, I am delighted with Verizon's online service and customer service over the phone. They've been great. And I am not disparaging the independent Verizon stores, either: only their corporate-owned physical store locations suck like nobody's business. Avoid them like the plague. Unfortunately, corporate entities often feel entitled to treating their customers like dirt in this day and age, especially if you are signed in for a multiple-year contract. There. Disclaimer finished. Enjoy the rant, and thanks for indulging me, loyal readers.

So, when Tweenie tripped over my phone cord, loosening the port so it couldn't charge, I knew I'd have to get a new phone and watch my old Blackberry die a slow death. We're almost to the upgrade date, and we have the loss and damage coverage, so how hard could this be, right? Or so I thought last Wednesday when I entered the Verizon corporate store here in Ventura.

The first visit to the store was greeted with the traditional "we can do nothing for you" response.  I was told to go file a report with my loss/breakage policy online. Well, after putting in all the info, the site told me that my damage didn't qualify for a new phone, and that I've been paying monthly all this time for diddly-squat. This was already feeling like I was getting the runaround.

I picked up the phone and called Verizon. The guy was nice, patient, and said I'd been advised badly in the store. Why should I get a replacement of my old phone with an equally old one through the breakage policy? I'd get the same model I'd had. He suggested that since my contract was up in two months, I just move my renewal up 2 months and get a new model, and he'd credit me the $50 I'd pay for the replacement through the breakage policy.But why didn't someone tell me I could do this in the first place??? A new model, and wouldn't have to wait to replace with an upgrade in 2 months. Great! I decided to get the new Blackberry Storm 2, with the proviso that if I couldn't get the tap-touch technology down pat, I could walk into any store and get it replaced within 30 days. Love it - friendly, smart service.

When the phone came, I had trouble with the tap-touch thing. It's not like the iPhone, with heat sensitive keys. It's a royal pain in the butt. I tried it for two weeks, giving myself a chance to get the hang of it, and finally said, "This has got to go." I walked into the Verizon store here in town, with my phone gear packed up in the box it came in, ready to exchange.

I walked in the door, and two girls told me the only way to get a new phone is to send it back to Texas with the return label. They proceeded to seal the box shut with the label. Then I mentioned that the phone is still on, and maybe we should shut it off before we seal it up. They looked at the box. They turned it around. They looked at each other. They got wrinkly brows. I then asked, "Do you have clear packing tape?" and proceeded to explain to them that they could slice open the bottom of the box and reseal it from there without destroying the label on top. Apparently, this was quite a revelation. They were on it.

While they set out to tag-team this project, I asked if maybe I should call the company and let them know my phone is coming back to be switched out for a different model. They looked confused, but I convinced them it was a good idea, and they told me to use one of the demo phones on the wall to call.

I don't know if you've ever used one of the phones attached to the wall by the self-retracting cable. After a matter of time, your arm begins to get sore from pulling the phone out of the wall far enough to get it to your ear. It's like talking to a bungee cord. I was balancing the re-taped box and trying to explain to the woman on the phone my predicament. Thankfully, she was understanding and ststed it should be a simple thing to do. She was in complete disbelief that I hadn't been given a straight across exchange, since the phones are of exactly the same value. She asked to speak to the store manager.

I balanced the phone box on my hip, used both hands to continue to pull the phone from the wall, and asked for a manager. Finally, "Richard" came over. The woman from Verizon had quite a heated discussion with "Richard." He stated that it would cost me at least another $75, with a $35 mandatory restocking fee, taxes and the difference between the online vs. the store price. He finally handed the phone back to me, without ceding any ground. My Verizon friend on the phone said she'd be right back, and not to hang up.

So, my arms are now sore from the tug-o-war with the store demo phone and from holding the box with my phone. It's getting heavy, as I've been standing there with both for about 45 minutes at this point. Meanwhile, since I am on hold, "Richard" is now speaking to me in monosyllabic words and with condescending "stupid woman" tones - the kind you hear at the mechanics, or when you go alone to buy a car. He explains that the restocking fee is set in stone, and it's all soooo out of his control. If there's anything I hate, it's being treated like a dumb blond! By this point, I want to smack him with the phone I am holding, but the friggin' stretchy cable won't allow me to reach. I want to wrap it around his neck while explaining my multiple degrees and credentials, many of which were earned before he had hair one between his legs. But, I need a phone, as soon as possible. I need to be able to keep my schedule with me, I need to be able to contact my kids and hubby, I need my damn phone replaced, so I maintain a modicum of calm. For now.

My Verizon phone gal comes back on the line, and asks me to ask the manager his name. You know, "Richard." Why have I been putting this idiot's name in quotes? It's not to protect the innocent. His name's "Richard," all right. When I ask for his name, he says, get this: "Richard The Store Manager."  When I ask for a last name, he says, "It's 'Richard The Store Manager.' If she wants it, she can look it up," to which the Verizon phone lady says, "Did he just say what I think he said? Did he really say what I think he said???" "Oh, yes, he did." You could hear the steam coming out her ears from here. She was as dumbstruck as I was, but now she was pissed, too - she said the whole thing is ridiculous, and asked me to remain on hold for one more moment while she spoke to a supervisor. "What the hell," I figured, "I have at least an hour in this already..." Meanwhile, "Richard" retreats to get me a list of what the cost difference is between my phone, this one in my hand I have already paid for and own, and what it would cost to exchange it: "let me tell you the kind of deal we can give you in-store." In layman's terms, I believe the translation is, "Let me find out how much of a commission or profit I can make if  I can sucker this stupid woman into giving me the brand new phone and getting her to buy a new one from me!" Nothing like being a captive audience.

The nice Verizon lady comes back on the phone, and tells me she has arranged for me to go to a nearby store, walk in, and exchange my phone for what I want. No muss, no fuss. "Richard," henceforth known as "Dick," for obvious reasons, continues to yammer at me how he can do what I want if I pay another $75 to him, right here, right now. This is after the Verizon phone lady told Dick that she'd credit the $35 restocking fee, but he's not having any of that, by God. The Verizon lady is talking on the other end of the phone, saying how ridiculous all this is, and that I don't have to listen to Dick anymore. (Okay, I'm calling him Dick, she said "Richard The Store Manager," but we all know she wanted to call him Dick, too!) She tells me that all I have to do is take the phone, and head to the nearby store and they're expecting me. My new Blackberry Tour, with real buttons and a keyboard, awaits. I thank her, get off the phone, and Dick wants to know what's up. I look at him and the Bobsey Twins, who still look entirely bewildered by the whole situation, and tell him I have a phone waiting at a nearby store, and thanks. For nothing.

I take my arm cramps and my phone box out to my car. I realize that there is no way to get the kids picked up, get the phone and get to the science fair. I also realize that I have now wasted 2 full hours today on this nonsense, and an hour the day before on the breakage nonsense. I pick up the kids, drive to my mom's to use the phone, and call the local store, to see how late they're open. I ask for the manager, who says, "Yeah, I heard about that, and we can't do it. We don't do that." Are you kidding me? Are you frigging kidding me??? I hang up the phone, vow to blog and tweet my experience. I feed the kids and go to the science fair, dropping off my phone and its return labeled box at FedEx on the way.

I love Little Man's school. We had a blast, saw a great science assembly on bubbles, and checked out all the exhibits. It was a great evening, and I felt less prone to verbally emasculating "Richard The Store Manager" and his nearby corporate crony at the neighboring store.  So when we got home, I explained the situation to yet another wonderful Verizon person on the phone - their phone service and on-line services are the only way to go, by the way. She was wonderful: she called the Ventura store, allowing me to listen in, and got the last name of the store manager. She gave me the name of the district manager, and where I could email my experiences. She gave me her email address so I could check with her to make sure my phone had been received and order a new one. I ordered the phone yesterday and it is here, charging up, today. Finally. After a solid week without a phone, three hours of my life gone, and all the stress I went through just to get my phone replaced, as I was told I had 30 days to do.

Look, I get that retail operations are there to make a profit. I understand that there are rules. But I also worked retail for a long time myself, and know certain things are just non-negotiables: a) when it's a matter of losing a customer for life, and all four of her phones/full plans, you make concessions to keep that business, b) when corporate says to do something, you do it, c) it's just plain stupid and ball-less to refuse to give your name to a customer, and d) treat all of your customers with respect. If you don't you're a "Dick," just like "Richard The Store Manager."

See Dick. Dick is an idiot. Dick just lost his store four customers. Dick just had his greed and ignorance acknowledged on the internet. Dumb, Dick, dumb. Dick is just dumb.

Thanks for reading my rant. A break from politics, but sometimes a wrong needs to be made right. What's the point of having a blog and twitter followers if you can't spread the word? And if I can help one person avoid the toxic, belittling crap that goes on in a Verizon corporate store, then, by God, I've done something to make this world a better place! By the way, when you Google "Verizon sucks," it's amazing the number of hits you'll see - it 'aint just me, Kids...

Have any Verizon horror stories? Any phone traumas? Feel free to join the rant session, here on Momma Politico. More politics coming up, I promise!