Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Short term smart, long term foolish

After patiently waiting, Verizon finally has refurbished iPhones for sale on their website, just in time for me to renew my contract.

But Verizon has just started charging an "Upgrade fee" of thirty dollars to people who want to renew their contract and/or buy a new phone.  Which would basically mean that the money I was going to save on the phone would go to them anyway.

This rankled me.  So I chose to speak to their Customer Service department, who have usually been very good at sorting out problems with billing and service.

Until today, alas.

The CS rep and his supervisor were both positively adamant about not being able to do anything about reversing, waiving or refunding the fee.  Their explanation was that these new smart phones were much more expensive than older phones, so this was a way to attempt to keep up with the added expense of the phone.

"Then why," I asked, "would you not just simply increase the price of the more powerful smart phones by that thirty dollars?  You say it's to cover the cost of the smart phones, but you'd charge me the same fee if I bought a simple feature phone, or even basic clamshell, wouldn't you?"

Yes they would, they admitted.

"So then," I continued, "you're not just charging the smartphone users more, you're asking ALL your customers to subsidize your supposed increased expenses."

They admitted that this was indeed so.

I marched onward.  "And to you grasp that by not being willing to waive this fee, which you only just started to charge, I will choose not to purchase a new phone, or ANY new equipment, and will NOT renew my contract, giving me the right to part ways with your company at any time, resulting in you LOSING far more than thirty dollars in business?"

They understood that.

"And you're certain that you, as a supervisor, can't find a way to keep me from paying that fee, be it a waive, a reversal, or simply a customer service credit?"

They were certain.

So I said thank you, bought nothing, and hung up.

The first person I spoke to told me he had spoken to at least fifty people that day alone who were also upset with this new fee. 

Huh.  Fifty people.  That's just one guy, and the day isn't even half over yet.

Can you see the problem?

So now I'm thinking about what I use my phone for.  Save the odd text from the folks at work, the main thing I use the smart aspects of my phone for is to stream music via Pandora and XM Radio, and quite literally, the only thing I listen to on XM is Opie and Anthony, and even that is only the two days I drive to work.  Well, I HAVE an XM radio that I could be using instead of the phone app, and an iPod that I can listen to music with.  Everything else; the apps, the games, the various social networking apps I upload the occasional photo with, I can do with my iPod Touch. 

So much like so many did when they saw what Netflix was doing to their fees, I'm now considering dropping my smartphone (and its thirty dollar data package) altogether, which will save me a GREAT deal of money, all because Verizon wouldn't waive a SINGLE thirty dollar fee.

But here's the irony.  If I re-up with them, and buy a simple feature phone...they'll STILL charge me the goddam upgrade fee.

But it'll be the LAST thirty dollars.

So that seems pretty damn fair.


  1. Long ago, Starlog Magazine made a special offer to new subscribers: a sheet of Robby the Robot blueprints. Note this was an offer only being made to new subscribers. People who were renewing their subscription (as Denise and I were doing) would've had to buy the blueprints if we wanted a copy.

    Anyway, congratulations Vinnie. You're proving you're smarter than a telephone.

  2. Why not just go with one of the prepaid carriers like Metro PCS? Cheaper, and sends a message to the Big Four. Competition is the only thing that keeps companies honest.

    1. For one thing, The wife's still got a year on her contract, and when you buy two phones (Metro doesn't have family packages that I can see) the price comes out to about what I'm paying now.

      And as I said before, Verizon's customer service is quite good - I'm still waiting to talk to someone for MetroPCS to pick up the phone.

      I've not had a negative thing to say about Verizon till today, but this was annoying enough to respond. They went from me looking FORWARD to giving them seventy bucks, to me changing my plan so I'll save 360 bucks a year.

  3. I felt your pain on upgrading my sisters phone for her on the family plan. She wanted just a basic phone, and after the 2 yr contract the phone was free. I went through the online hoops of purchasing, but on the review order page I noticed the new $30 fee as well.
    I called and had a very similar conversation as you did, and complained that loyal long term customers get the shaft while upgrading vs new customers. New customers get the activation fee waived if we ask. Its a way to get someone locked in.
    After 10 minutes and her talking to her super, she still said she could not waive the fee, but could give a two months credit on the account. Albeit that was only 9.99 per month since she was not the primary number, that offset the activation to 10.00.
    That wasn't the last though. They didn't process the order and I had to call back 5 days later and ask why the phone had not arrived. After another rant from me about changing my carrier, they gave me the 10.00 credit to my plan, which offset the fee totally, and we got the phone two days later.
    No I am not satisfied, but at least appeased. I do feel like unless we as consumers make a voice for ourselves the cell companies will continue to add fees to us at will.
    Thanks for the post. You are definitely not alone.

  4. Depending on your usage and how much data you consume, consider going with an MVNO, like Pageplus which runs on the Verizon Network.

    You can even use your own Verizon Phone so long as its not a prepaid model sold by verizon, the Iphone, or a Blackberry. Many android users are up and running on Pageplus.

    There is a pretty good plan for $55 with Unlimited Talk, Text, Picture Messages and 1gb of Data use included.

    There are also many other plans to choose from. I formerly worked for VZW, and this is my current carrier.