14 March 2013

Verizon Wireless !@#$%^&* (now with updates)

Cell phone service has never been perfect at my house, but for most of my 8 years here, it has worked just fine...up until the last few months where we've seen a steady decline.

After months of dealing with poor service at home with my phone, and failing GPS signals elsewhere, I finally called Verizon requesting an early upgrade for my phone. Keep in mind, Chad's 4 year old Casio waterproof flip phone never drops calls at the house. My phone was also starting to drop more calls elsewhere. I figured there was, perhaps, an issue with service in my neighborhood, but that the phone's poor performance was making it worse.

After much haggling, they agreed. New phone, early upgrade, 2 year extended contract. I loose my unlimited data, but otherwise, fine.

One day later than promised, my new Samsung Galaxy S3 arrives. I don't fault Verizon for this, since we did have a bit of snow so it's possible FedEx was behind. I chose the 32gig because I was told that it is the same price as the 16gig, because they're not making it anymore and are phasing them out.

Thank you, Craig, from the customer relations call center in California, whose number is 916-206-1010.

Out of the box, set up, and the phone is beautiful and the call clarity is beautiful...until it drops the call. And the next one. And the next one. I didn't think there could possibly be a phone that works worse at my house, but here it was. Many updates later, and the phone still wasn't working properly. I can get a good signal in the cities (where everyone has great coverage), but as soon as I drive back to the sticks, it craps out.

Another call to Verizon to complain. They told me to try a Network Extender. After much haggling, I talk them down from $250 to $150. Further, they promised that they would overnight it to me so that I would have time to test it with my phone before having to return the phone under the 14 day "Worry-free" guarantee. Since it's still early in California, I'm told it will go out today (Monday), and I'd have it on Tuesday, March 12th.

Instead, they wait until Tuesday and send it 2 day. Furious, I call Verizon again. I speak to three different people. I am told, among other things:

1. They cannot extend the 14 day worry free guarantee
2. The 32gig costs more than the 16gig. I can return the phone to the store and get another one, but it will cost me more.
3. Network extenders only helps with the signal inside my house. Even after explaining that the phone drops calls just as frequently outside my door than inside of it, he insists it will help.
4. Ultimately, I'm SOL.

Much heated discussion ensues. I find out that the techs aren't actually addressing the trouble tickets for my neighborhood as promised. They never actually drove down my road as I was told they would, and they certainly never bothered to call me back to give me an update. Third dude refuses to hand me over to his manager, but eventually puts me on hold for 20 minutes (cooling off period?). When he comes back, he tells me
1. They can give me until the 19th to return my phone under the "Worry-Free Guarantee".
2. I can return the Network Extender for a full refund if it doesn't help.

So, the Network Extender arrives today, Thursday, March 14th. I'm not all that hopeful, but I really want to see if it works. I take it out of the box, follow the directions, hook it up and...the GPS light is magenta and the system light is red - they are supposed to be blue. I download the manual, and find out:

Why is the System light red?
"Is the GPS LED illuminating blue? If it is not, the Network Extender
might not be receiving a GPS signal. Inability to receive a GPS signal
can result in the Network Extender failing to validate your account
information and network timing, which then prevents usage and
reroutes you back to the nearest compatible cell tower."

Well, my GPS LED is magenta. So what does that mean?
"The interface to the GPS receiver has failed. The Network Extender
should be returned."

So after all that, they send me a defective product! Again I call Verizon, and they offer to troubleshoot. Ha, that's funny. Verizon has lied to me several times during the last 2 weeks, and now they want me to disregard the devise manufacturer's statement that my product is defective?

So the thing is going back, and on Friday I'm returning the phone as well. Apparently you're only allowed "one exchange". You can bet I'll be asking for more. I'll go through every phone if I have to in order to find one that works.

I'm just super, super frustrated!!!


Update 3/16/13
1. Made it to FedEx to return the devices, and informed Verizon. The tech guy was surprisingly helpful, promising to note my account. He also researched phones and their ratio signals, and concluded that the Razr Maxx HD would actually be a good option for me. He was also surprised that Craig (the original agent who sold me the Galaxy S3) didn't warn me that the phone wasn't likely to work, given my home address. Interesting...


Update 4/4/13
I called to follow-up, and learned the following:
1. It's not actually a "worry free" guarantee, since they charge you a $35 restocking fee. I do not recall being informed of such a fee! They claimed they could wave it on the network extender, but not the phone. Bah!
2. They promised they credited my account properly, so I ordered a Razr Maxx HD. Hopefully, this phone works better.


Update 4/6/13
1. We receive a text message stating we have a $400 bill. Wah?! When I call, the supremely unhelpful customer service agent proceeds to talk in circles about my bills for the last few months, without actually explaining how they came to this number. Twice I am put on hold while she "researches" the charges. The first time, she tells me that they forgot to credit me for the phone. The second time, she comes back and tells me that - oh yes - they did actually credit me.
2. Another hidden fee: apparently whenever you extend your contract by purchasing a new device at the extended contract price, they charge you a $30 (+ tax) upgrade fee. Gee, thanks Verizon! Yet another fee I swear they conveniently forgot to mention.
3. I still think they calculated my bill incorrectly and that I don't owe them this money, but they're not backing down. I am incredibly frustrated and so tempted to just give up on Verizon entirely. There has GOT to be something better than this out there.

Side note: Apparently, Verizon now charges a $2 "convenience" fee to pay your bill on-line. This doesn't apply to be, since my bill is on auto-pay through my credit card, but still...lame!


Update 4/25/13
1. While researching a totally unrelated matter, I discovered that you can file complaints at http://www.fcc.gov/complaints. I entered one for Verizon Wireless, never expecting anything to come of it.
2. Less than 2 weeks later, someone important sounding from Verizon called to discuss the matter with me. She told me that, actually, had I returned my phone within 3 days, I wouldn't have been charged a restocking fee. I'm guessing that's why the one guy was so quick to refund the fee for the Network Extender, since I had it out of the box for less than 2 hours. Funny, though, that no one bothered to mention it previously  In any event, the Ms. Important Sounding Person from Verizon ended up crediting me back the restocking fee for the phone as well to "close the matter". I am still shocked that anything came from that FCC complaint.
3. For what it's worth, I did end up getting a Razr Maxx HD. The phone works about as good as the old Bionic did in the house, except thus far I haven't had any issues with the GPS. I think the screen is a little odd, but overall I am pleased with it.

Morals of the story:
- Write everything down.
- Read the fine print.
- Don't back down!
- The FCC can actually be helpful.

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