When we got up on Thursday morning, we had no internet. To us, this is a problem. Thus began a quest to restore internet. This might seem relatively simple in the highly technical world I live in. That was not to be the case.
This is a story of 3 hours, 15 minutes on the phone: Sixteen phone calls, trips to 2 different stores, talking with at least 10 different people, tears, frustration, anger, disbelief, shock, laughter, and awe. After a day and a half to recover, I’m ready to honestly consider my failings in this whole bizarre process, and to help make sure no one else ever has to stumble through the field of land mines such as I did.
It all started about 2 weeks ago. We received a Stern Notice Letter in the mail indicating that our account with Verizon FIOS internet service was in arrears. I quickly realized this was due to the stolen, but not actually stolen, wallet incident. I had had to cancel all our credit cards, and didn’t realize that the Verizon bill was directly charged to our credit card.
Lesson #1: Keep an up-to-date list of what bills are directly charged to your credit cards. I’ve done a good job of knowing what cards I have in my wallet, and have all the necessary information to be able to cancel those cards quickly and efficiently. I had no record, other than online, of what charges show up on those cards month after month.
With the Stern Notice Letter in hand, I gave Verizon a call to update our credit card information. I talked with a very kind woman named Michelle. I explained the Lost Wallet Incident to her, and she was very understanding. She updated the credit card information, and even put a note in our file indicating that if we were charged a $5 late fee, I could call in to have that waived since the stolen wallet wasn’t our fault.
Problem solved, incident over…I truly believed.
Being me, and here’s a little trip into my brain: Once paper is no longer needed, out it goes. I am the opposite of a pack rat, whatever that is. A purge rat, I guess. A week or so after the call to Michelle, I shredded the Stern Notice Letter. It was, in fact, the day before the internet disappeared from our home computers.
Lesson #2: If a product you use has an account #, always have at least one piece of actual paper that has that account # on it.
My goal is to be a paperless home. I have great filing methods online for tracking everything. It has always worked for me. Until, the day I shredded the last and only piece of paper in our home that had the account # for our Verizon FIOS internet service.
I believed that my phone call to Michelle was the end of the incident. Verizon had our new, accurate credit card information. Surely they would just charge the necessary amount to bring us up to date, continue charging the correct monthly amount to that credit card, and all would be well. That assumption, it turns out, was a mistake that would cost me a very large part of my day.
Lesson #3: Large companies do not think like a normal person. They are not a normal person, hence, unless someone normal inside the company ensures that it thinks like one, it doesn’t.
It turns out that I spoke with Michelle in the Verizon FIOS Billing Department. The Verizon FIOS Billing Department can update my account information, but, apparently, it cannot actually bring my bill up to date. I believe, based on my now greater-than-I-wish-it-was knowledge of the internal workings of Verizon FIOS internet service, after Michelle updated my account, she should have forwarded me to the Verizon FIOS Financial Services Department.
She didn’t, and I didn’t know to ask.
Lesson #4: No matter how small you think the problem is, once you have a person on the phone in the Large Company, you do not let them off the phone until you have said some version of the following:
- Does this take care of the issue?
- Is there anything else I need to do?
- What should I do if this is still a problem?
- Is there any other department I need to talk to?
I don’t know if Michelle even realized she wasn’t solving my problem. She was truly wonderfully helpful, and I believe she meant to solve my problem, but, for those who are inside the Borg, they can’t always remember what it is like for those outside the Borg.
The morning the internet died, in my usual, optimistic way, I called up Verizon on the toll free number that now showed on our computer. “Due to an account issue, your internet service has been disconnected. To resolve this issue: blah, blah, blah.”
I felt I had resolved the issue, so I wanted to talk to a human at Verizon FIOS internet services, who would realize the mistake was Verizon’s, not mine, apologize in an appropriately chastised voice, and restore our internet. I called the phone number.
Lesson #5: If you want to prove you are right, get your friend or partner to tell you, “You’re right!” before you get the Large Company on the phone. Then, don’t expect to hear, “You’re right!” from anyone else.
The people who work for the Large Company, don’t care if you are right or not. Their job is to get you off their phone. Going in with a self-righteous attitude can be so quickly quashed, it isn’t even funny. Want to know how you get squashed out of your self-righteous indignation?
Lesson #6: “May I have your account number, please?”
In Verizon FIOS internet company’s brain, they are protecting me by making it virtually impossible to access my account if I do not have the specific pieces of information that they believe I ought to have if I am who I say I am. The impression I got was that for most of the people with whom I spoke, they truly have no control. Or, at least, they don’t believe they have any control, and that’s the same thing, isn’t it. I didn’t have an account number and it did not matter that I was offering to give them social security numbers, mothers’ maiden names, length of the contract, etc. An additional problem was that the phone number Verizon had associated with the account was not any phone number I could recall. I would learn, many phone calls later, from one of the kinder souls I spoke with that day, that the number linked to the account was a (656) number, which, thanks to the Internet, I now know is in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. Hence, not a number we have ever “owned.”
Lesson #7: When you get someone helpful, even if they aren’t in the best department to help you, quiz them for any and all information you can glean.
It turns out there are many little quirks to the internal workings of a company the size of Verizon. They provide home phone, television, and internet service, as well as cell phone service, and, in their mind, all these are individual, small companies: regardless that to the customer, Verizon is simply Verizon. Because we only had internet service with Verizon FIOS, we could not be helped by the same department that dealt with people who had television or phone service with Verizon, nor could I be helped by a department who dealt with people who had “bundled” services with Verizon. We were in a separate category from people who had FIOS and home telephone or FIOS and television with Verizon. Again, I’m sure to Verizon, this is some sort of customer privacy issue. For me, it was a hugely confusing, tremendous pain in the keister.
That same helpful person should be able to give you the extra pieces of jargon that are going to help you get to the correct department. For example, finally figuring out that I didn’t want the Billing Department, but that I actually wanted the Financial Services Department was a great leap forward. Learning that the problem with not having an account number, nor the phone number they had connected to the account was that it meant Verizon couldn’t “secure” our account allowed me to sound more knowledgeable to the reps I spoke with.
Lesson #8: Always get the phone number to the department that you are being transferred to.
Verizon is a phone company. I was disconnected three different times in the midst of my 16 phone calls. I’m not sure how that happens. Luckily, the reps I spoke with must have been used to it happening because several of them gave me the phone number without me asking. Often times it was one of the phone numbers I had already been connected to so I didn’t even need to write it down again.
Lesson #9: If something seems screwy, trust your instincts.
I managed to stumble upon a voice mail message that informed me, “As of July 1, 2010, your services are being provided by Frontier Communication. To reach Frontier, dial 1-877-462-8188.” Having been lulled into a near coma by the stupidity of the whole situation, I dialed the number. While I waited for someone to answer, my brain finally whirred into gear. I KNEW I wasn’t a Frontier customer, so I hung up the phone.
Lesson #10: There truly is a human somewhere on the other end of the line.
I was moved to both tears and laughter on my phone death march to restore Verizon FIOS internet service to our home. All while talking with one representative. Her name was Ms. Chaet, or something like that. (She wasn’t keen on giving me her name, possibly because I sounded half-crazed at this point.) I began to cry while on the phone with her because I truly began to wonder if I was ever going to resolve this issue. I knew it was silly. It was only internet service, after all, but I had been on the phone for over 2 hours…time not spent hanging out with my kids or accomplishing anything…and I was tired of it.
When I began to cry, after telling my sob story, she asked me to hold for a few minutes, I suspect to talk to her supervisor about what to do with the crazy lady on the phone. She came back and asked me if I knew the amount of the last bill I had paid. I knew the amount we needed to pay was $173, but that was all I knew. The following conversation ensued:
“Not the amount you need to pay, but the last bill you actually paid.”
“I don’t know,” I said in an exhausted voice. “$87?”
She sounded slightly exasperated. “You only have internet with Verizon, not internet and phone, or internet and tv. It’s less than $87.”
“It is more than $45.” She didn’t say it, but her voice did: Moron.
I had an insane urge to laugh because this is a game the children and I love to play.
“Mom, I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 1000. What is it?”
Or, if you’ve ever watched The Price Is Right, you recognize this game, too.
It didn’t feel like I should laugh, though, because Ms. Chaet held my future in her hands.
“I just don’t know,” I repeated a couple times. I feared that she’d only let me guess three times, or that there was some other secret Verizon FIOS rule I didn’t know about.
“$59?” I asked very tentatively.
“$59 is close enough. I’m going to give it to you.”
I couldn’t have been happier if I’d just won $1000 on The Price Is Right.
So, do you want to know what I won? My account number.
Lesson #11: Repeat back every number you are given, and if it is a really important number, repeat it again. Then ask if there are any other numbers you might need to have.
Ms. Chaet explained that she couldn’t help me pay my bill. I either had to go to a Verizon store, or use the automatic phone bill pay system. (Which cost an additional $3.50) I repeated the account number as she gave it to me, but in the process of me repeating it, she repeated numbers as well, so I ended up with 2 additional zeroes in the number. (As you might guess, this hindered me later.)
She also gave me something called a Ban#. I have no idea what this is, but she told me I might need it, so I wrote it down. Later, it saved me because, since I was trying to use an inaccurate account #, I was able to pop up with the Ban#, which allowed the person I was talking with to access my account.
After talking with Ms. Chaet, I tried to use the automatic phone bill pay system. I couldn’t get it to work (thanks to the 2 extra zeroes.)
Lesson #12: Take a break.
After my attempt to use the automatic phone bill pay system failed, I took a break. It did me a world of good. Then, I bundled the children into the car and we drove to the Verizon Wireless Store.
Not surprisingly, the man at the Verizon Wireless Store (which got horrendous reviews on Yelp, by the way,) told me, since I didn’t have any service with Verizon besides internet, he couldn’t help me, but the Shoppers Grocery Store about 3 miles away could. Apparently Verizon has a contract with Shoppers so that customers can pay their bill there.
It didn’t seem likely to me that, after spending 2 1/2 hours on the phone with Verizon FIOS internet customer services representatives that a Shoppers Customer Service employee would be able to do something amazingly different, but I chose to ignore rule #9, and we drove over there.
The very kind woman behind the counter couldn’t help me because I didn’t have an actual bill.
Back home to throw myself into the swirling morass of Verizon FIOS phone numbers again, and, because I now had an almost accurate phone number, I was able to finally get to the bottom of things. Laticia was able to help me learn that:
- I had two extra zeroes in my 18 digit account number.
- When I was using the automatic phone bill pay system, it was going to ask for a number, and the number it wanted was from #7-#16 of my 18 digit account number. It didn’t want the first 6 numbers, nor the last 2. This was a game I could never have won.
To prove that I am not making this fiasco up, here is a list of the phone numbers I called, in no particular order:
- 410-265-0577 (This was a non-working number, given to me by a Verizon employee.)
Lesson #13: Be grateful you don’t have to do this every day, and laugh when it is all over.
In addition to following my own lessons learned from above, the next time I enter a morass such as this, I will take copious notes, in order, of each number dialed, and the names of people talked to. One of my mistakes was allowing myself to drift from department to department. If a person can transfer your call, that same person can stay on the line until you are sure you’ve gotten the right place. I should have made someone take ownership of my problem with me.
Lesson #14: The internet isn’t so important.
Except for the Buster’s general refrain of, “Mom, I’m bored.” it was a really great day without the internet.
And that is a lesson worth learning.