Friday, August 10, 2007

Verizon Sucks

But you already knew that.

Google the phrase "Verizon sucks" and have fun reading the results.

This month marks our second anniversary of severed ties with Verizon, and we have no regrets. They do not maintain their equipment or infrastructure in our neighborhood -- it's apparent by the state of the wires and poles here, as well as complaints we've heard from other residents who lose service regularly. And a couple of Verizon repairmen told us so! We currently have a pair of cell phones and are big fans of the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone service, Skype. Just note, with Skype, there is a free version that lets you connect with other computers with Skype (sort of like IM), and a pay version (very reasonable, by the way, especially when you have family in Canada), that allows you to call phone numbers. And the cool thing about it is if your computer has a camera attached, you can video conference.

Our history with Verizon is long and unhappy, though I know we're in a better place now. Here's our story:

I called Verizon and spoke with Ms. Kern on August 20, 2004 to have my phone and DSL services transferred from my old address in Merchantville, NJ, to the new address in Trenton. Because I had trouble moving my service in 2002 (Verizon actually left the phone service on at my old apartment and sent me the bill at my new house!), I asked Ms. Kern to please verify that everything would be okay: that my Merchantville phone service would indeed be disconnected; that my DSL email address - which I use for my home business - would not be terminated; and that both my phone and internet services would not be interrupted as I moved from the old place to the new. Ms. Kern assured me that everything would go as I needed: my new phone and DSL service would start on August 30 in the Trenton house, and the services would terminate in Merchantville on September 2.

On August 23, I was disconnected from DSL in Merchantville, one week before I had scheduled the turn-off; it was one week before our move. I am a graphic artist working from home, so the inability to conveniently meet my deadlines is a huge problem. I called Verizon several times to try to rectify the situation: I spoke with Brent, Paul, Tina, and Laverne; all of them gave me the impression that my DSL service would simply be switched on in the Trenton location immediately. Believing that they were telling the truth, and because I was very close to deadline on a number of my projects, I moved my home office a week ahead of schedule. After these efforts, DSL was NOT on in Trenton.

Two more days went by, and we still did not have DSL. I started to panic, so I began burning my proofs to CD, and Glen sent them out to my clients for me from his office in Philadelphia. He is extremely busy at his own job, but we were in the middle of a move, and I was in the thick of deadlines, so it was our best option. Because he, too, was worried about whether I could retain my clients without the ability to email them directly, he did some research from work and found some high-ranking contacts at Verizon. A few days later, Vera Gonzalez called him back and told him that she would cancel the existing DSL order, and resubmit an expedited order. By August 31, we still hadn't heard anything back, and we still had no internet connection. We called the order status number, and it told us our DSL was scheduled to turn on September 1, 9 days after my Merchantville connection was erroneously disconnected by Verizon; and two days after the original verified start date of 8/30.

I spoke with Vera several times on August 31, and each time she told me that a technician would call me shortly. I never received a phone call from a tech; and around mid-day, when we checked our order status, the recorded message said that my service would start on September 9. I was floored, exasperated, very worried for my job. The person who was "helping" me, screwed me over horribly. I'm not sure why Vera didn't check our order status: I'm certain she cancelled our order the day the service was FINALLY scheduled to commence.

By this point, I had received numerous calls from my frustrated clients, and Glen is busy enough at work without taking care of my job as well. I tried to get Vera back on the phone, calling both her office number and her voice mail number, but she didn't return my calls. I called the general Verizon DSL number and wound up sobbing to a sympathetic man named Terry. The sobbing is not normal for me, and even though he works for a company as lame as Verizon, I think it was not normal for Terry to be on the receiving end of such a call. He stayed on the line while he transferred me to Mr. LaGuerra in consumer relations. Mr. LaGuerra told me that I should have kept my dial-up modem (Why? I've been a DSL customer for 2 full years), that I never should have placed the terminate and the transfer order in the same phone call (what?!?), that I should take my work to the local library (come on! Do you think a library is going to a. have Adobe Photoshop and Quark Xpress for me to use and, b. allow me to bring in my own disks and CDs? I worked in a library once, and because of the concern about viruses, that's not a reality). Does he tell distressed phone customers to string some line and some soup cans between locations? I simply want the service I ordered. He transferred me to Betty White, who is in a department above him. She said she would place an expedite message on my order, which would still take 3-4 business days; she noted that because of my circumstances and because it was Verizon's error, that I may have service sooner, but she could make no guarantees.

I again left a number of messages for Vera Gonzalez, believing she had some power to undo her cancel request, but again, did not hear back from her. Please note, she uses an old "I'm sorry, the number you've reached is an invalid BellAtlantic number..." message for her answering machine. She gives that number out to people, and does, in fact, periodically, answer that phone, and also, to the best of my knowledge, BellAtlantic has been gone (at least from this region) for three years, as of 2004.

I waited about an hour for someone to call me back, and when that didn't happen, and at my absolute wit's end, I called the State Board of Utilities to see if they might be able to help in this situation. The woman was very nice, but said that her agency only handles phone -- not internet -- complaints for Verizon. Despite the inability to get involved, she said she'd call Verizon to see if anything could be done for me.

Vera Gonzalez called back about a half an hour later to tell me that I should have service within 3-4 business days, but since the State Board was involved, she could no longer follow-up with me. I explained that the State Board called Verizon as a simple courtesy for me, since they couldn't get involved with internet complaints. Vera said, "Oh they're involved, okay? Have a good day, goodbye."

Turns out, during that 3-4 business days (right before the Labor Day holiday weekend), I received ANOTHER DSL modem from Verizon (our third), despite the fact that we've told them we had all of our hardware.

My service was finally available to me on Friday, September 3. No courtesy follow-up call from anyone at Verizon. Just flipped the switch for me. Why the F couldn't they have done that earlier?!

During my two week hell with Verizon, I talked to so many Verizon reps: many of whom are very kind and helpful, but unfortunately, no one has any accountability; none of the employees is able to see the big picture of any particular account because of lack of access to all of the information. Despite this, many of Verizon's employees assured me that my DSL would be on "tomorrow" or "any time now." Why on earth would they give such blatantly erroneous information? And WHY on earth does NO ONE in that company (with the exception of "Betty White") ever give his/her full name?

Note: The contact info for the State Board of Public Utilities is in the front pages of your phone book; In NJ, dial 1-800-624-0241.
You can also write to them at:
New Jersey Board of Public Utilities
Two Gateway Center
Newark, NJ 07102

They seem to have some pull with Verizon.

Because of our headache, we received 3 free months of DSL service, which, really, I thought was decent of Verizon. However, during that time, we were disconnected AGAIN because someone in accounting thought we were delinquent. Thus began the phone calls all over again, and days without service before the DSL was finally turned back on. During that time, we ordered Comcast internet (they hooked us up in one day), and we kept the Verizon DSL as a back-up in case the cable went out. I figured because of my business, I needed some insurance.

By July of 2005, I was sick and tired of the outages (some of the weather-related ones were understandable, but usually, the weather's pretty good here) with the Verizon DSL, so I began using the cable connection exclusively. And at that time, we lost our Verizon service (phone and internet) for SEVENTEEN DAYS, during which time it seemed that an incredible amount of criminal activity was taking place on our block, which made it particularly sucky to not have a house phone. We called Verizon incessantly, and they kept telling us the problem was inside the house. After two weeks, a couple of techs meandered into my backyard, flipped open the "Phone Company Use Only" half of the box on the side of the house, and replaced a blown fuse, and we our phone service was restored. But by that point, we had had enough. We canceled Verizon all together -- phone and internet (though, oddly, my Verizon email address still works, nearly two years later). Since then, we tried Vonage for awhile (we liked the online voice mail mother has a tendency to leave insane phone messages and it's amusing to have them saved in .wav format so I can email them to family members and burn them to CDs and so forth), but they use Comcast's lines, and Comcast was just starting its own phone service at the time, and we think they may have added noise or something to the line to make it difficult for Vonage customers. Frustrating, but it was fairly new technology at the time, so we knew their might be kinks. Maybe the Vonage technology wasn't entirely compatible with the Comcast lines, at least at the time; we don't know.

I know there are people out there who have had no problem with Verizon; I hear their cell phone service is pretty good. And I know people in the area are even employed by the telecommunications giant. This is just our personal story, and I'm glad to live in a Verizon-free home.

In case you are interested in trying Skype, the only thing I'd recommend is a set of headphones. Otherwise, the sound of your friend's voice comes through the computer's speakers, and it's picked up by the computer's microphone and y'all get a nasty echo.

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