Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Pitch To Verizon

My life is mainly free of any significant contention. I work out, apply for jobs, look into various graduate programs, and pay bills.

I pay bills. Ahem.

Let me qualify that last sentence. I pay bills whose account numbers are operational. That leaves out Verizon broadband, a division of the telecommunications giant.

When paying a bill over the phone, one enters the account number and one's credit or debit card number, followed by the pound sign. Following from this, one enters the amount to be paid, receives a confirmation number, and closes the transaction within two minutes. One doesn't spend an hour and forty-five minutes, each month, engaged in hand to hand combat with the phone company in some grandiose effort to martyr one's way through honoring a debt.

Unless, of course, one is dealing with Verizon.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I've been duking it out with the phone company since, um, July 2009. Specifically, Verizon assigned a faulty account number for my broadband bill. That's why I now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Each month, when attempting to pay the bill, the automated attendant shares "I'm sorry. I did not recognize that number. Please try again." The next step includes contacting a real, live human being in the billing department -something even Marlin Perkins would have found challenging. "How can I help you today?" is soon followed with "apparently something is wrong with your account number", as I'm reminded of the adage that "misery loves company". The billing department representative asks for my social security number in order to access the account, the bill is finally paid via much struggle by the representative, and I begin to wonder if people are driving bubble top cars by the time I've paid the bill. Still, all is right with the world; the bill is paid, and I have peace of mind.

Until today. I received a bill from "can you hear me now" claiming that I owe the company $366.20 for an "unpaid broadband bill extending back to February". Wait a minute.

First of all, if my bill had been unpaid during that entire time frame, my service would have been cut off like Daffy Duck in a gin joint. In fact, I'm still accessing the internet precisely because my bill has been paid. So agrees my bank, which is only too happy to provide evidence detailing each and every payment. Why, then has Verizon refused to correct the issue?

First of all, the account number itself isn't recognized by the very business which created it. If Verizon can't recognize it, why should I be expected to? "Your call may be monitored and/or recorded for quality purposes" is played into my ear while I'm placed on hold en route to asking that very profound question. (What quality, I ask myself, bemusedly, while being informed that my expected wait time is less than two minutes.)

"I'm sorry you're having so much trouble, sir" doesn't successfully quell my rage, as I'm balling up socks and hurting them at imaginary heads of Verizon executives who are very likely imaginary themselves. "According to our records, you owe us the money. How would you like to pay?"

What an excellent question: it further provides me with motivation both necessary and sufficient to develop a wicked fast ball. "My bank says you were paid for each month I've used your service, except for the past month", I begin, "and -"

I'm cut off by the twenty-nothing year old who's doing her best to practice her professional bearing in a vain attempt to cover her utter incompetence. "Sir, you'd have to take that up with your bank" is followed by changing my tactics to throwing sliders. Calmly, I promise to speak slowly so she'll have a better chance to grasp the concept of paying a bill, having evidence that the bill was paid, and that the issue should, logically, be resolved by now.

Linguists would be proud of my slow, if precise, enunciation of the syllables now pouring off of my lips and sugarcoated with sarcasm not unlike arsenic mixed with maple syrup. "I paid the bill. I have a statement from the bank attesting to that fact. Therefore, I don't owe Verizon the money. Wasn't that easy?"

I begin my curve ball when her "no, sir" response is issued.

About the time I mentioned something about referring the matter to both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, she decided to transfer my call to her supervisor. Hooray. I get to start the entire process over again -just as I had to do with the resolution center, the billing department, the retention department, the financial department, and the cafeteria, first explaining the situation to the representative and then to his or her supervisor.

The issue remains unresolved. Verizon's stance is that it couldn't possibly have committed an error. If that were true, then criminal fraud is the only thing which Verizon could have committed. Along those lines, I mentioned something about RICO law, and asked the representative if orange is a flattering color for her.

Thank you, Verizon, for motivating me to practice my baseball pitches. I haven't thrown a baseball in decades, and when I did I was a first baseman in Little League. Maybe the Orioles can use a closer.

At least then I could afford to be ripped off by your utter incompetence.


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