Cancel Verzion By Moving to Cambodia

UPDATE: We don’t mean to say that you should actually lie to your cellphone provider and do this. In the interest of following up on advice we previously posted, which also appeared in Wired, we wanted to see if this worked. So we gave it a shot.

One way to cancel your cellphone account without incurring a termination fee is to tell them you’re moving out of the service area. We told Verizon we were taking up residence at the US Embassy. In Phnom Penh.

Verizon didn’t take us at face value. We need to send a copy of our utility bill, or a driver’s license with our new address, or a copy of our mortgage, or a letter from our employer. We have 30 days to fax that to 425-603-5366 or mail it to

Verizon Wireless
PO Box 96082
Bellevue, WA 98009

Guess we gotta look for some US embassy letterhead now… (Parts not affecting the outcome of the call have been edited out.)


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Transcript inside.


(Verizon machine plays in bg)

CONSUMERIST: This is Ben Popken, calling Verizon wireless, I’m going to try and cancel my account by telling them I’m moving to Cambodia… and therefore avoid (to machine) Will you shutup?! Their $175 termination fee.

VERIZON: Your call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.

CONSUMERIST: You bet your ass.

VERIZON: Please hold while we transfer your call.

(sound of clicks)

CONSUMERIST: Ow…what was that click?

VERIZON ERIC: Um, real quick before I transfer you over, can I get uh, can I get that new address that you’re moving to?

CONSUMERIST: Yeah, hold on a sec. Um, alright. Number 27. Street 240. Um, Phnom Penh.

ERIC: How do you spell that?

CONSUMERIST: P-h-n-o-m, P-e-n-h.

ERIC: Ok.

CONSUMERIST: And that’s in Cambodia.

ERIC: Oh, ok, that’s definitely out of the service area. Just give me a moment and I’ll get you transferred on over.

(musical hold)

VERIZON KEVIN: Hi Benjamin?

CONSUMERIST: Yes.

VERIZON KEVIN: Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m in Verizon Wireless customer service. I understand you’re moving out of the country.

CONSUMERIST: Yes.

KEVIN: Ok. Sorry to hear that, is this going to be…

CONSUMERIST: No, it’s going to be great! You don’t have to be sorry.

KEVIN: (chuckles) Well I don’t mean sorry that uh, that uh, I don’t mean to imply that’s a bad thing for you. (chuckle) Uhm…

CONSUMERIST: Yes.

KEVIN: Well let’s see now. Is this a permanent move for you or is this temporary?

CONSUMERIST: Permanent.

KEVIN: Ok…and I understand you’re moving to Cambodia?

CONSUMERIST: Yup.

KEVIN: Andddd, when will you be leaving the country.

CONSUMERIST: Well, ummmm in a week.

KEVIN: Would you like the service to remain active through, until your departure?

CONSUMERIST: No, I don’t really use it anymore so..

KEVIN: Ok, alright, so want make the disconnect as soon as possible. Well actually, since do, because we bill a month in advance, we do disconnect on the last day of your bill cycle. I do see you’re not using your phone here. Um but the disconnect will set to happen on the last day of your bill cycle. This will be on August 10th. So you will have usage through that.

KEVIN: The final bill will have residual charges, residual service charges and fees from the service that will apply to you, two or three dollars.

CONSUMERIST: Okay…

KEVIN: It’s also going to charge the early termination fee of $175. As long as we have proof of the residency outside of the country within 30 days of that, we will credit that back. Ok.

CONSUMERIST: What’s the address that you need to receive documentation?

KEVIN: I’ll, I’ll get that here in one sec. Did Eric tell you what documentation is required, what is valid documentation?

CONSUMERIST: Yup.

KEVIN: Ok. Is there any more family or friends who want to take over your service and avoid an activation fee if they’re not already Verizon Wireless members?

CONSUMERIST: No.

KEVIN: Setting up the disconnect for you right now…That’s a big move, leaving the country like that.

CONSUMERIST: Yeah.

KEVIN: Work taking you out of the country?

CONSUMERIST: Yup. I’m gonna go work at the embassy over there.

KEVIN: Wow, that’s exciting.

CONSUMERIST: Yeah.

KEVIN: Have you worked at an embassy before?

CONSUMERIST: Not exactly, this is my first full on embathy, embassy position.

KEVIN: Have you ever been to Cambodia?

CONSUMERIST: No.

KEVIN: So this will be a whole new adventure for you.

CONSUMERIST: Yup. I’m looking forward to it.

KEVIN: Alright, getting all set up for the disconnect and…

CONSUMERIST: (grunts)

KEVIN: Here you go, you can mail your documentation to either Verizon Wireless PO Box 96082, and that’s in Bellevue, Washington. B-e-l-l-e-v-u-e, 98009, or you can send a fax to area code 425, 603-5366 and… just remember that again, let’s see here, looking at the account, proper documentation mumble, driver’s license for the area that you will be living with your address on it, a utility statement, or a letter from your employer stating the address where you will be working, that will probably be the easiest for you to obtain before you head over there, and that needs to be within 30 days after the disconnect which is August 10th.

CONSUMERIST: Ok.

KEVIN: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

CONSUMERIST: Um, I mean, ‘m pretty busy here this last week and I don’t happen to get that document, and I’m adjusting over there, I mean (laughs) do you guys just not believe me that I’m moving there? Like, why, Why do I have to provide documentation to that effect?

KEVIN: Because of that. If If if uh, we didn’t have documentation stating that fact, then that would definitely get out to the public and well jeez all you have to do is tell them you’re living another country and they’ll disconnect and waive the fee for you. The fees are there for a purpose and there are conditions that allow for those fees to be waived but we need supporting documentation for that. I do understand that it’s a busy time for you but we have to have our documentation. If we didn’t require it of you, then we couldn’t require it of everyone else.

CONSUMERIST: I see.

KEVIN: Ok.

CONSUMERIST: Alright, well, um, I’ll try and get that letter for you guys and say a-rivah-dirchee.

KEVIN: Alright well good luck to you over there in the embassy, I thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless and being a valued customer. You have a great day now.

CONSUMERIST: Thanks, you too.

KEVIN: Is there anything else I can assist you with today, Benjamin?

CONSUMERIST: Mmm, unless you’re going to cancel my account and waive the termination fee.

KEVIN: I don’t I don’t have a way of doing that.

CONSUMERIST: You don’t?

KEVIN: I don’t. You have a great day now.

KEVIN: Benjamin?

(click.)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. RandomHookup says:

    What, can’t find a bill from Phnom Penh Power & Light? Perhaps a Khmer speaking Consumerista can help you out.

  2. Vinny says:

    Does the US even have a Cambodian embassy?

  3. Ben says:

    My favorite line:

    CONSUMERIST: (grunts)

    Heh.

  4. RandomHookup says:

    Here you go — go old fashioned US Embassy stationary, Cambodian style:

    http://phnompenh.usembassy.gov/uploads/images/EDiuBB8SYiv0

  5. Ben Popken says:

    Fuck yeah! Thanks Random, I will give that stuff a shot.

  6. thatabbygirl says:

    Forging US Embassy stationary sounds like a great idea! That way, next
    time someone really has to go to Cambodia or somewhere for work,
    Verizon will have stopped accepting these letters and will require an
    Executive Order assigning you to Cambodia before it will waive the fee.
    All thanks to the Consumerist.

    New motto: Making already burdensome verification requirements even more of a pain in the ass!!

  7. The_Truth says:

    My favorite line:

    “The fees are there for a purpose”

    It would be intresting to know what the companies position on why these fees are there and what purpose they are supposed to serve (Other than screwing the customer even more.

  8. MrEleganza says:

    Thatabbygirl, I have it on good authority that all Phnom Penh US Embassy candidates are currently T-Mobile subscribers.

    Seriously…come on. They put it out there that they will accept a letter from an employer, and forging such a letter is not some great, original, novel idea. Easily thought up, easily accomplished. If you’re reading The Consumerist, you’re probably smart enough to dream up your own employer rather than just using this one, let alone that happening to the point where Verizon makes policy changes.

  9. Ben Popken says:

    George writes:

    “I might just be on Verizon’s side here, unless you actually are moving to Cambodia, it seems a perfectly reasonable thing for Verizon to want extra documentation.

    While it would be nice if mobile phone companies would try to retain customers with their stellar service rather than those silly contracts, it does not surprise me that they would try to enforce those contracts that they have. After all, they subsidized the price of that locked phone you probably use.

    But regardless, I find it hard to empathize with someone being deliberately dishonest and manipulative over a company (albeit a big one) that is simply adhering to published policy… Isn’t the next step to advocate pricetag-swapping on overpriced dishes at Williams-Sonoma?

    If you want to best represent justifiable consumer outrage, please keep your outrage justifiable.

    Of course, if you ARE moving to Cambodia, then you have my condolences in the overcomplicated hoops they are forcing you to jump through. “

  10. droppedD says:

    committing fraud to get out of a contract is a great idea, ben!

    you know, if you don’t want to be stuck in a two-year contract… don’t sign up for one. Don’t get me wrong, i jumped ship from verizon nearly a year ago… but lying and/or faking government documents to do it just seems like a dick thing to do.

    /still pretty funny, though.

  11. droppedD says:

    thetruth:


    It would be intresting to know what the companies position on why these fees are there and what purpose they are supposed to serve (Other than screwing the customer even more.

    that’s easy… they gave you the discount on a phone because they’re counting on your paying them 24 months worth of $40+ phone bills. That’s why you sign the contract, and why they give you the discount. If you break your contract early, they lose money on you because they already gave you $100-200 credit on a phone. If they let anyone who wanted to leave just leave… well, it’s not much of a contract, then, is it? Then they wouldn’t be offering 2-year-contract discounts, and we’d all be paying full price for phones. Which might not be so bad, since then phone companies would actually have to compete for your business with better service and support…

    In any case, have you ever had a lease on an apartment?
    Ever tried to tell your landlord, “oh, by the way… i’m moving to a new apartment tomorrow. You won’t mind if i leave and break the lease without finding you a subletter, will you? Oh, and can i have my deposit back, while we’re at it?”

  12. Jimmy M says:

    Good job Ben. I think cell phone contracts are hooey. They make money on the phone, and the service. The early term fees are rediculous. Maybe a month or two of service fees, but arbitrarily high numbers? Rediculous.

  13. ikes says:

    “In any case, have you ever had a lease on an apartment?
    Ever tried to tell your landlord, “oh, by the way… i’m moving to a new apartment tomorrow. You won’t mind if i leave and break the lease without finding you a subletter, will you? Oh, and can i have my deposit back, while we’re at it?”

    in fact, yes. given more than 30 days notice my landlord was happy to let me out of the lease AND return my deposit. of course, leaving an nyc apartment which could rent for hundreds more than i was paying didn’t hurt my case.

  14. Ben Popken says:

    Jonathan writes:

    “Reading this article made me mad.

    I am a major Consumerist fan 99 times out of 100 because I agree with the principle of demanding 100 percent honesty and decency from the businesses that receive our money. I’m overjoyed that the web is enabling a much-needed shift in power back to the consumers, helping hold companies accountable by exposing bad companies’ trickery, sliminess, and stupidity. I don’t even care whether good companies are celebrated all that frequently … what, a company deserves a cookie just for upholding its half of the you give me money, I treat you fairly equation? … but I enjoy the celebrations when you run them, too.

    But a how-to-lie-to-Verizon-to-get-out-of-your-contract ditty violates the spirit of Consumerist as I’ve understood it: now the mission has shifted from “demand integrity and shame the companies that cut corners” to “wage war on big business using the very tactics we so oppose.” The former is principled; the latter is childish anarchism.

    Even if you don’t buy into my self-righteous moralism, consider the tactical damage this article has done, too. Formerly, honest companies could regard Consumerist as an ally – helping to out the bad guys is good for the good guys… – but now they can regard you as a threat, since you’re advocating dishonesty in the evasion of a contractual obligation. This would seem to jeopardize your chances of working with any of these companies in the future to fairly resolve a dispute on behalf of a reader. This probably doesn’t improve your standing with better business bureaus or attorneys general, either.

    I really hope this represented a momentary lapse of judgment, not a shift in strategy, else you’ll be losing my readership and my respect.”

  15. This reads more like a prank call from http://www.zug.com than a consumerist article…

    I think cell phone contracts are dubious at best like the rest of the folks with IQ’s above 100 out there, but you signed it…forging US embassy documents and committing fraud to terminate a contract may end up costing you more than $175 in the end…don’t do it…or at least don’t do it now that you’ve created a public record of your efforts on the internet.

  16. nels.anderson says:

    @droppedD: The phone subsidy offered by the the carrier is a pittance, if one is offered at all.

    I just picked a phone off Rogers’ website, the SE W810i. With a one year contact, it’s $269.99 CAD, which is $240.57 USD. (http://tinyurl.com/2fudoo)

    Yet, I can buy that exact same phone from NewEgg (and plenty of other places) for *less*. NewEgg offers it for $199 USD (http://tinyurl.com/3ywzrr)

    Aside: And the phone you purchase from the carrier isn’t even necessarily guaranteed to function as well as one you get at cost. For example, the SE W810i is branded to Rogers, which means that any functionality it has that competes with a Rogers service (like .mp3 ringtones) is disabled and cannot be enabled without voiding the warranty. My girlfriend recently purchased a similar phone, and we couldn’t understand why .mp3s she copied onto the phone couldn’t be used as ringtones. It took a protracted call to customer service to discover that only ringtones *purchased* from Rogers website will work (and I believe those “expire” after three months and must be purchased again). Any .mp3 file, even one you created yourself using Rebirth, can not be set as a ringtone.

    The subsidy on phones purchases does not justify the carriers’ absurd contracts. These horrible contracts are necessitated by the fact that nobody would continue to pay for such terrible service otherwise.