NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc
reported on Monday a higher quarterly profit on stronger-than-expected growth in wireless subscribers, showing resilience in the face of a U.S. economic slowdown.
"Wireless was the star," said Craig Moffett, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
First, a bit of consumer advice. Stay away, repeat, STAY AWAY from the Verizon store on E. 86th Street.
Listen to this one, and get a cup of coffee - or something stronger if you can get away with it – it's a doozy.
As noted previously, I recently got a new phone. My contract was up, my New Every Two had kicked in, and it was time to get rid of the beloved Motorola Q, which had seen better days.
I had been looking at the LG Voyager, and went into the 86th Street store to get it. A salesman slithered (and I use the word deliberately) up to me, and I told him what I was wanting, but he immediately started pitching me a BlackBerry Pearl.
As I was listening to him, I actually thought, “Wow, an honest salesguy.” He pointed out the BB cost a lot less than the Voyager, he would make less of a commission, and he said it would be best for my needs.
And I know the BlackBerry is obviously famous for how well it handles emails, so I decided to go for it instead.
(Of course, I should have realized that this was the third Verizon salesman who had done a hard sell on the BB in the last several weeks I had been stopping into the store to play with various phones in preparation for the purchase. They must have been told to move them. Hmm, is the BlackBerry company faltering?)
As he was processing the purchase and activating the phone, he's putting boxes into the shopping bag and my head is spinning - he's throwing out all the different price and data plans available and I had to choose one, I'm worried about making sure all my contacts get transferred over to the new phone – and worst of all – the damn receipt Verizon gives you is longer than the fucking Magna Carta. It's literally about three feet long, and has all the details of your pricing plan, the features on the phone, insurance, contract end date, etc. Oy.
So when I get home, I discover that Mr. Honest, in addition to selling me the phone, had also sold me a carrying case, headphones and charger – none of which I had asked for.
Then, when I open the BB box, inside is – of course – a carrying case, headphones and a charger.
$59.57 worth of items I didn't want or need.
So next day I bring them back to return them, and as I walk in there's the snake oil salesman right by the door. His face dropped when he saw me carrying that see-through Verizon bag and asks if something is wrong with the phone. I tell him the phone is working, but he had sold me this shit that I clearly didn't need or ask for.
Direct quote: “Oh, I thought you wanted a complete package.”
Complete package? As I pointed out to him, he had sold me a complete package – and then three unnecessary items on top of it.
No comeback for that.
So I go to customer service and tell the surly girl there what was up, and I wanted to return these items and get a refund on my credit card. She clearly could care less about the shady sales practice, but she takes the items and begins to process a refund. And of course this is a whole production in itself that takes some time. And as I'm standing there, I suddenly see on the four-foot long receipt a $20 “line initialization” fee I hadn't noticed before.
I ask her what that is and she shrugs and says it's a new fee they had just started charging, it had come from corporate and they couldn't do anything about it. Well, now I'm fuming – not happy with having to deal with the returned items, not to mention I have been with Verizon for years and had never seen this fee before. So I ask her nicely can she get rid of that too, but she goes into robot mode: “Nothing I can do about it”
So I ask, very nicely, if I can speak with the manager.
“I'm telling you, we can't remove it, our system can't even process a removal of that fee.”
“Ok, well, I'd like to have the manager tell me that.”
So she sighs and goes storming off to find him, comes back after a few minutes and says, and I quote, “The manager has agreed to see you, he'll be a few minutes.”
He's agreed to see me? How fucking magnanimous of him.
So after a few minutes, this officious little twerp comes over and I go through the kvetch about this fee, prefacing it by pointing out his salesman's shady practice of selling me unnecessary goods. He apologizes for that, but gives me the same answer that the girl had – out of their hands, a new fee, yadda yadda. Then he throws out this classic:
“All the other carriers are doing it. We're just staying competitive.”
Me: “Competitive? If you wanted to be competitive, you WOULDN'T charge it. Not charging it would be competitive. What you're doing is being as greedy as them. That's a more honest way of saying it than saying you're being competitive.”
Manager: Nothing I can do.”
So as I'm leaving, I throw out this bon mot: “And if all the other carriers jumped off the Empire State Building, would Verizon jump off the Empire State Building.” But he just stared blankly. I guess his mother had never said that to him if he was caught doing something wrong and justified it by saying his friends were doing it too.
Ok, now I've got steam coming out of my ears, so I call the Verizon customer service number. And, I have to say, these people are usually pretty helpful and competent and try to resolve your problem. It's always better dealing with them that the retail stores.
So I complain about this strange fee I had never seen before – and, for good measure, of course, tell him about the shady sales practice with the unnecessary items that had been sold to me. (Trust me, Verizon will rue the day that happened. I will be kvetching about that every time I have to deal with them.)
He apologizes profusely over that and says he will refund the 20 bucks, and while he can't take it off my credit card as he doesn't deal with them, he can instead give me a $20 credit on my phone bill. Perfect.
Now the kicker of this saga: after all this, I wasn't thrilled with the Blackberry. I lived with it for a few days but just didn't like the keyboard or the browser, so I decide to take advantage of their 30-day trial period, return the phone, and get the Voyager I had been eying all along.
I go back to the store (did I mention - BOYCOTT the 86th Street store!) and go to customer service, where I tell the girl, a nice one this time, what was up and that I wanted to exchange the BB for the Voyager. Fine, no problem. She brings out a beautiful new Voyager, starts the activation and the address book transfer, goes through the plans, I get the $15 a month V-Pak unlimited data plan. Another 5-foot long receipt. Ugh.
BUT AVOID THE VERIZON STORE ON 86TH STREET BETWEEN 3RD AND LEX! Just horrible, horrendous people.