# Verizon Doesn’t Know Difference Between Dollars And Cents

Verizon doesn’t know the difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars.

Before George went to Canada, he asked Verizon the rate for data and voice transfer. They told him, “Point zero zero two cents per kilobyte.”

He was surprised then to receive a bill for Point zero zero two dollars per kilobyte.

Instead of getting charged \$.7141, Verizon is charging him \$71.41.

This is his call as he tries to explain to Verizon the difference between \$.002 and \$.00002.

Here’s a nice FCC online complaint form he could fill out.

Verizon doesn’t know Dollars from Cents [VerizonMath] (Thanks to George & Jason!)

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1. RumorsDaily says:

This would be a nightmare to try to explain over the phone.

2. Sudonum says:

Verizon is just rounding like that restaurant in Brooklyn

3. Jeff says:

I like how the rep says “We’re in canada” while he’s trying to figure this out, as if he thought afterwards “so this is in canadian cents…”.

“I’ve been working here for 2 years, sir, and I’ve been a supervisor for a year and a half”. And I never passed high school math.

This is so painful to listen to. I’m impressed at how calm this guy acts, because after the first or second time of explaining the difference between cents and dollars, I would have lost it.

4. RumorsDaily says:

I’ve been listening to this for twenty minutes and he’s moved on to a second person and they KEEP citing .002 cents as the charge. Nobody understands that there’s a difference between cents and dollars. I can’t imagine how infuriating this must be. God, I hope somebody at Verizon hears this and realizes how stupid their people are.

5. RumorsDaily says:

Ha, she just called it a difference of opinion!

6. Wow…George has the patience of a god…

This isn’t even high school math, it’s grammar school. Units and division is basic arithmetic.

Great phone recording by the way, they should play this in 4th grade math classes.

7. Hoss says:

If .002 in currency is .002 dollars (as suggested) — then what is \$1.002? One dollar and .002 dollars? No, we would say one dollar and .002 cents (or one dollar and 2 tenths of a cent). I don’t blame the Verizon Rep for this issue — the computer programmer that was representing a currency figure should have represented the number as .2 (or .200 if it’s usually in tenths of a cent).

No?

8. RumorsDaily says:

Hossofcourse – in the recording the problem is that Verizon repeatedly refers to the price as .002 CENTS which would be akin to .00002 DOLLARS.

In your example, 1.002 DOLLARS would be just that, \$1.002 (one dollar and .2 cents). The problem is that Verizon was saying .002 CENTS when they actually meant .002 DOLLARS. It’s not that they were giving the number without context, its that they repeatedly and without understanding incorrectly referred to .002 DOLLARS (or \$0.002) as .002 CENTS (or \$0.00002).

God, this is hard to explain. George did a really good job of doing it on the phone actually.

9. RumorsDaily says:

Oh, sorry, I misunderstood your point Hoss, what you would say is One Point Zero Zero Two Dollars.

10. Ben Popken says:

Who wants to transcribe this for us please?

11. Hoss says:

Ingen, I just listened to the call (didnt see it at first), and I now take back my point. The call states the math perfectly

12. Sheik says:

this is hard to believe…people can actually function with so little math skills? George should just tell him that he is converting between dollars and cents in his head. You cant just change the units, just like 1/12 foot is not 1/12 inch.

13. Mike_ says:

That was painful to listen to. Here’s the short version:

Q: Is \$1.00 the same as 1¢?
A: No, of course not.

Q: Is \$0.50 the same as 0.5¢?
A: No, don’t be silly.

Q: Okay, so is \$0.002 the same as 0.002¢?
A: Why, yes. Yes it is.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

14. RumorsDaily says:

Ben, this is one you should call Verizon on. Find an executive who understands basic, grade school level math and play an excerpt of the tape for them. I’d love LOVE to hear an executive who understands math’s response to this.

15. tmweber says:
16. RandomHookup says:

Reminds me of trying to explain to someone the difference between EDT and EST. It can make a big difference, but the concept is just too vague for most people to get.

17. tmweber says:

This is the most absurd thing I’ve EVER heard. I’m literally tearing my hair out.

18. MeOhMy says:

My wife complains about this kind of thing all the time! It’s a very tough concept.

Of course my wife also is a school teacher.

Of third graders.

With learning disabilities.

19. homerjay says:

I CAN’T believe I listed to 22 minutes of that and STILL didn’t hear the happy ending I was SO pulling for.

Unbelievable. This is a big deal because a LOT of people are getting screwed and not realizing it.

I agree with Ingen. It would be cool to hear a recording of Ben talking to someone smart over there and getting a reaction.

20. Sam Glover says:

I think George did a fantastic job of explaining the difference, but I guess the only real issue here is whether Verizon will honor the mistaken quote by the rep he talked to in the first place.

Seriously, though, listening to this call just makes me want to staple my ears shut.

21. Sam Glover says:

I should have stopped listening. The rep’s thickheadedness is driving me crazy.

22. I’d love LOVE to hear an executive who understands math’s response to this.

An executive that understands math…that’s an oxy moron, isn’t it? This whole conversation is almost like a Dilbert strip. Especially when the reps try to refute logic and fact with subjective qualifications, “everyone knows what it means, it’s a difference of opinion, etc.)

I think Mike summed it up really well by the way.

23. notlazyjustdontcare says:

…the only real issue here is whether Verizon will honor the mistaken quote by the rep he talked to in the first place.

No, no. Every single person he talked to repeated the first rep’s quote. Nobody ever told him the rate he was actually billed. I hope this guy’s the next Vincent Ferrari.

24. cudthecrud says:

zero zero zero zero cents cents cents

25. gertrudeyorkes says:

I can’t hear this here or on the original posting. Hopefully someone’s doing a transcript…

26. Michael says:

This was George’s mistake: He should have asked to speak to the manager’s grade school child rather than the manager herself.

27. Michael says:

Or, as a user over on Digg pointed out, direct the manager to Google Calculator:

28. joelion says:

is there any follow up to this? when did the actual call occur?
Once you get to someone who understands the concepts, it should be an open-and-shut case. If there is documentation that states the reps confirmed that the rate was .002cents, but he is being charged .002dollars, then the charges should be rolled back.
unless somewhere in his user agreement it actually does state that the rate is \$0.002, then that documentation probably overrides anything the reps may have told him.

i wonder if this could be solved by going into a Verizon store and explaining it to a manager there with pencil and paper. It would (should) be easier for them to understand having seen it rather than over the phone.

29. RumorsDaily says:

Showing them on paper would be relatively easy, you just throw down a BIG cents sign and don’t let them get rid of it when they’re doing the math.

30. @joelion

The call was yesterday about 4:00PM Eastern.

There is no follow up yet. That was it. I’m not sure I can stand to call again after all that.

I called customer service since I was on the road and didnt have my agreement handy. As noted in my blog, I called, and then verified the rate, and then had her note it in my account notes – not that I even need that at this point as every single rep (5) I spoke to quoted me .002 cents/KB.

Your idea about a store with pencil and paper might work better – but I’m not sure after all this…

I’ll answer any questions anyone else has, but I think the mp3 pretty much speaks for itself :).

31. Law-Vol says:

“Ok…we’re in Canada….”

I guess that decimal-point thingy works different up north?

32. DF says:

Wow, as someone who still remembers elementary-school math, that was truly painful to listen to. Best of luck to you, George.

33. bandit says:

George, they want to charge you in DOLLARS on the bill, so you should get them to convert it to DOLLARS as a first step. Ask:

So .002 cents is HOW MUCH IN DOLLARS?

The correct answer is that a cent is 1/100 of a dollar, so they ought to divide by 100.

THEN let them do the resulting math with your kilobytes.

34. homerjay says:

See, this is why we can’t handle the metric system.

35. BeerMan5000 says:

Any man with the patience that George displays here deserves a medal. After a few minutes of that call, I would have degenerated into a screaming furious phone berzerker and everybody on my block would recieve an impromptu math lesson by proxy of my enraged screams into the phone and subsequent stratosphere.

36. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

Wow, I’m 22 minutes into the clip, and I can’t believe the first three sales reps and/or managers can’t understand the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents. There doesn’t seem to be anything that George can say to convince to convince any of these people that .002 dollars is 100 times more than .002 cents.

How can these people at Verizon be such completely morons? Maybe Verizon should send all of their customer service reps and managers back to 3rd grade math class.

37. alhypo says:

Would somebody please get some Verizon email addresses we can flood with explanations of dimensional analysis and how numbers stay in the same units until you convert them to another. One of our explanations will get through to somebody… eventually… maybe.

I can’t remember the last time I was so angry. How can these people even have jobs?

38. kidford says:

Good god.
I have a headache now from banging my head on my keyboard.

Good luck to those supervisors. Hopefully they can find some line of work where no numbers are involved, because they are obviously too dense to understand basic, basic concepts that everyone who does ANYTHING with money (even use it) needs to grasp. And it’s not just that they don’t grasp it, it’s that when the concept is very carefully and tediously explained to them they refuse to try to understand.

39. winger says:

Oh my god.. the system is clearly messed up – probably the are reading off a screen which looks like this 0.002 but means this: 0(\$s).0(tens of cents) 0(cents) 2(tenths of a cent).. but for some reason they say ‘point zero zero two cents’ Man these people are morons..

Please can we get an update??? did take up there offer of compensation for \$38 even though they say again – it was your mistake in the email!!??

40. rjyanco says:

The google idea is a great one, but google can also handle unit conversion. If you enter

35893 kilobytes times 0.002 cents per kilobyte

Google correctly reports

0.71786 U.S. dollars

41. crispballs says:

I know that sometimes explaining things the long, seemingly-slow way around, actually gets you to the end faster. For example, there are 15 steps below, each only taking a few seconds for anyone with a calculator to figure out (even a clueless tech support person), and going through all 15 steps could’ve taken mere minutes instead of over an hour. It seems like a lot of work, but you’re done so much sooner.

.002 cents per KB. Let’s double this, both sides.

Step 1.) .004 cents per 2 KB.

Step 2.) .008 cents per 4 KB.

Step 3.) .016 cents per 8 KB.

Step 4.) .032 cents per 16 KB.

Step 5.) .064 cents per 32 KB.

Step 6.) .128 cents per 64 KB.

Step 7.) .256 cents per 128 KB.

Step 8.) .512 cents per 256 KB.

Step 9.) 1.024 cents per 512 KB.

Step 10.) 2.048 cents per 1024 KB.

Step 11.) 4.096 cents per 2048 KB.

Step 12.) 8.192 cents per 4096 KB.

Step 13.) 16.384 cents per 8192 KB.

Step 14.) 32.768 cents per 16384 KB.

Step 15.) 65.536 cents per 32768 KB.

The billed usage was for 35893 KB, and we’re very close to that. It should be obvious to anyone by this point that the billed money should’ve been closer to 65 cents than 65 dollars.

42. CassandraLeo says:

“It is very difficult to get a man to understand a thing when his salary depends on not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair

And thus one can explain this phone call.

43. Jon says:

Man…it’s all just units, and the units gets people every time. Don’t see how hard it is to understand that if you multiply by a number in cents, then the output will also be in cents.

44. jgiarratano says:

He should have said, “Let’s change the word “cents” to “apples.” Now my charge is .002 APPLES per kilobyte. So when we multiply .002 times 35,500 kilobytes we find that I owe 71 APPLES. NOW lets change the word “apples” back to “cents.” This gives us a bill of 71 CENTS!!

NAW, they still wouldn’t have gotten it.

45. Angiol says:

\$1 = 100c (I don’t feel like making the cents sign)
\$1 = 10^2 c (that’s supposed to be 10 squared)
\$1 = (10 c)^2
\$1 = \$0.1^2
\$1 = \$0.01

So you see, one dollar IS the same as one cent. Dimensional analysis is fun, isn’t it?

46. El Guano says:

1. They’re getting screwed up because the number in the calculator “looks” so much like a dollar amount: 71.79

2. It’s just a matter of opinion anyways.

47. winger says:

The problem is you are dealing with business and accounts (where the rules of maths are blured!). In accounts montries values are -always- written as \$ 00.00 etc with more decimal places if required. The demical is -always- the dollar decimal. In an accounts sheet 0.99 means 99 cents not 0.99 of a cent. I know this differes from every other use of units under the sun – but hey what other type of unit symbon goes in front of the value?? ie 20 buck is written \$ 20.00 not 20.00 \$.

48. humboldtsquid says:

Oh, come on, people – everyone knows that Americans are utterly math-illiterate. Did George really think that the use of his phone in Canada was going to cost him less than a one dollar? Oh, yeah, that’s worth spending hours on the horn for!
Why in the world would George waste so much time on the phone – except in order to make this recording for You Tube.

49. meehawl says:

I listened to this whole, amazing conversation between a person who was quoted a price in cents/kilobyte, and several Verizon representatives, all of whom are so addled by reliance on their computer screens that they are unable to grasp that they are mis-quoting a price by one hundredfold by failing to convert between dollars and cents. Then it got me thinking about why they should find it so difficult to multiply and divide by 100. It’s not that that can’t perform the arithmetical calculation, it’s just that they are experience a disconnect linking this operation with their intuition about how much something should cost. What we call “numbers” are in fact two different things: symbols that we manipulate using mechanical and representative operations, and sensations that we intuitively experience and comprehend.

Why should it be so difficult for these Verizon people, all apparently USians, to handle such a simple operation as taking powers of ten? I think it’s to do with a lack of basic Metric education in the US. It seems obvious to me that in a culture where Metric conversion techniques are not routinely taught to schoolchildren, then the casual manipulation of powers of ten and powers of a hundred must become (when compared to other cultures) significantly less easy, common and apparently mind-numbingly abstruse and esoteric for a significant proportion of adults.

The unusual resistance of the U.S. to Metrication is both a symptom of and a driver of adult innumeracy.

Metric instills a basic intuition about powers of ten and orders of magnitude. Or at least, it will tend to, relative to indifferently scaled arbitrary measurements. Once you build this mental framework, it can be easily integrated into novel experiential learning.

I am unfortunately old enough to have begun primary school in a country using Imperial measurements that then switched to Metric. I can still recall being taught arithmetic as a young child, and being shown how to convert between ounces and pounds, and pounds and stone. That sucked, and made no sense.

Being indoctrinated into Metric within a few years reduced my cognitive load apppreciably, while enlarging my ability to estimate weights and measures. By exposing children to tanglible object weights such as 1g, 10g, 100g, 500g, 1kg, 5 kg and so on, one forms a consistent appreciation of mass. The same is true of learning distance.

I had to re-take basic physics and chemistry in a US university recently. I was quite shocked at how a significant proportion of the students had little conception of how much 1 ml was, or 10g, or 1m. It makes them even less able to relate the scientific measurements they read about and note down in lab to their own experience. Seriously, it’s a problem. Many of them had less cognitive ability to deal with weights and measures than a typical 10-year-old European child. USians now have the worst of both worlds: thanks to globalisation, pretty much all their commodities now carry measurements in grams and litres, but they are not really taught how to think Metric in school and so have little idea of how to work with them.

Powers of ten make life easier. I now saying that being taught Metric would have avoided this Verizon arithmetic abortion, but I think it might have increased the probability of finding a rep who got it.

Some might say that the basic reason for the communication disconnect is that dollars and cents are “different”, but I think comment in and of itself betrays a lack of Metric education.

I think the problem is that the Verizon people were incapable of intuiting on a fundamental level that the two are in fact the same thing, currency, but that the \$ sign is a 100x multiplier of the Â¢ unit. Or that the Â¢ sign is a 100 divider of the \$ unit.

As a pedagogy, Metric is based on the idea of as few fundamental units as possible, and everything else being created through powers of ten. It simplifies peoples’ cognitive grasp of the physical basis of their commoditised world, of how things are sliced and diced. I feel that is why, in the Verizon conversation, when the caller attempts to extend through analogy dollars and cents to metres and centimetres, it seems as if he may as well have been talking Etruscan to the representative.

As a measurement system, Metric helps people intuitively grasp that a centimetre is 100th of a metre. That a millimetre is 1000th of a metre. That a mL is 1000th of a litre. That 1 cube of water, 1mL each side, is 1 gram. That a half-litre (a common unit of beer) is 500 mLs. Volume, length, and mass become inter-related linearly. A cent of something becomes immediately understandable as a 100th fraction of that something. Children are not taught to perform the same arithmetic with Imperial, so they do not gain early cognitive maps of powers of ten, and linear/log scaling.

This kind of linearity is how people experience matter in their daily lives: acceleration, momentum/inertia, impulse, etc. When experienced daily, Metric becomes not just an isolated abstraction as it is in the US (a slightly exotic measurement system used in specialised disciplines and for large soda containers), but instead woven into the fabric of experience through body and hand knowledge. It builds a communicative bridge between people in similar and even distant cultures.

Try interconverting between ounces and pounds, through a volume measurement, into lengths. Most people have very little idea. I know I couldn’t do it without a calculator. My wife, an American, even seems to have trouble occasionally identifying how many ounces are in a pound. 14 or 16? It all gets a little hazy even between people speaking “Imperial”.

In terms of communication, as well as being forced to learn a new language, USians now increasingly have to learn to speak different measurement languages anywhere outside the US. Even in former English-speaking Imperial holdouts such as Ireland and the UK, with all road signs being replaced as km, and all measurements (except, for now, the sacred pint) replaced as litres, communication has become slightly more complex. I recall reading a National Geographic with my little nephew (8), when he had to stop me to ask what the “strange numbers” were (F and lb).

Because of the external push of globalisation and standardised measures, and the internal push of people anxious to understand what the hell a “Celsius” is anyway, the US will eventually go Metric. But just as we see today, it will happen slowly, haltingly, and in a piecemeal and arbitrary fashion… creating anxiety and mis-communication as it progresses.

As a side note, upon reading the message on reddit, I immediately called the supervisor. The number was “not in service”.

50. Endejas says:

I think he should’ve focused more on the conversion.

That you’re multiplying the kilobytes by cents, so your product is still in cents. So that 71.79 is rounded to 72 CENTS (=.72 DOLLARS).

Say that the cent is 1/100 of a dollar (or .001 OF A DOLLAR). To get the cent amount into a dollar you have to multiply it by 100. Now, tell them to round that 71.79 CENTS to 72 CENTS. Ask them to write 72 CENTS in dollar form, which they should end up writing as .72 DOLLARS.

Show them that if they want to arrive at the 72 DOLLARS they would have had to make the product 100x bigger, which is the difference between DOLLARS and CENTS.

Instead of using the .002 cents/dollars, try using the end product (72 cents/dollars). Have them write it down. Stuff like the conversion rate (100 cents = 1 dollar, .01 dollars = 1 cent, etc). You did well in starting from a familiar number and bringing them down, but unfortunately you lost them, I think, with the decimals. Show them the conversion rate and use the product as your example. It’s beter to have your plan written down, especially how you expect them to write it down.

51. YodaYid says:

Haha – “Dimensional Analysis” – I’m sure that would have cleared everything up in a flash ;-)

Assuming I would have the presence of mind, I would have asked what the field where they enter the rate on the computer is called. I have a very strong feeling it says “dollars per KB”.

52. zoan says:

I agree with those who are suggesting that you use Google calculator to make your case. Perhaps the Verizon representatives will believe Google even if they don’t believe you. It also helps to have it all spelled out in front of them.

0.002 cents per kilobyte:

0.002 dollars per kilobyte:

53. jwissick says:

The verizon reps need to retake basic grade school math.

i bet they went to pubic schools too.

54. Derek, IN says:

It’s like bouncing a ball against a wall. It comes back to you, but the wall didn’t put any new spin on it.

55. doctorknow says:

The root of the problem is that the Verizon reps are looking at the rate sheet that says “\$0.015” and quoting it as cents when in fact it should be quoted in dollars. You’d think that the dollar sign was the dead giveaway.

George’s error is that he’s not simplifying the mathematical equation for them: cents per kilobyte time number of kilobytes equals number of cents. He should be asking why they are conveting the answer from cents to dollars.

56. garret2600 says:

George has the patience of a saint…. Isn’t there a pain and suffering case in there somewhere for having to deal with such sheer stupidity????

57. paul71401 says:

You’re dimensional analysis is wrong.

Let me show you what actually happens.

\$1 = 100c
\$1 = 10^2 c
\$1 = (10 c)^2 (WRONG, SEE BELOW)
\$1 = (10 c)^2 / (c) (CORRECT FORM)
\$1 = (\$0.1)^2 / (\$0.01)
\$1 = ((\$)^2)*0.01 / \$(0.01)
\$1 = (\$ * 0.01 / 0.01) ( one dollar sign from top and bottom cancel out)
\$1 = \$1

Basically, if you move (c) into the squared value, it becomes squared so you have to balance that.

(10c)^2 = 100 (c^2) (this is an abstract idea since c^2 doesn’t exist in monetary world, but that is correct dimensional analysis)

and 100 (c^2) != 100 (c)

58. mrrobotanger says:

Holy sweet mother of crap, towards the end, when he says, “yeah”, oh, man, I feel that pain.

59. genevieveyorke says:

oh man. the sighs are absolutely comic. i feel so bad for you, george. you seriously need to get justice on this, at least so that other people don’t have to go through this again.

60. dtdj says:

hi george!

with your patience, you will probably get to live 100yrs or smth :)

we wanted to suggest something: ask them if you can pay your bill in cents :) you give them one cent for every 500 kilobyte of your airtime :)

best luck!

dtdj, your support from europe

61. fourthnen says:

this is so ridiculous. the exact same thing happened to me. buying a motorola Q, they told me it would be ‘like a hundredth of a cent per kilobyte.’ then the guy proceeded to calculate out how much an average image would cost to send at that rate, and it was ‘maybe a couple of cents, tops.’ it seems like this must be a deliberate strategy of ignorance–doesn’t surprise me. how is it that american telecoms can be such flagrants criminals in so many ways, and nothing happens to punish or correct it?

62. Xenodox says:

@fourthnen…

Explain to me how the Motorola guy was being ignorant? Most .JPG and .GIF images I’ve seen, obviously excluding specifically super-high-resolution photos, are somewhere between 50-450 kilobytes of data. Divide that by a hundred.

As in, 1/100th of a cent.

You come out with .5 to 4.5 cents.

“Maybe a couple of cents, tops,” seems like a fairly reasonable answer, based on the information you’ve given.

Being American, and therefore clearly unable to understand incredibly difficult concepts like “that, only times ten,” and “that, only divided by 100,” maybe I’ve gotten all confused.

But I don’t actually think so.

@ practically everyone else so far…
The more than likely answer lies in a simple business dynamic.

Telcos hire the cheapest possible labor to work in their so-called “customer service” centers. This is because, for the overwhelming majority of customers, the responses the reps need can be heavily scripted and very simple, so there’s no need to hire brain surgeons and rocket scientists to man the phones.

I agree, totally, that this particular crop of reps seem to be afflicted with a massive case of math incapacity. The only thing about this that surprises me, frankly, is that it surprises anyone else.

Remember that in recent years, companies in the U.S. have been fanatically cost-cutting to such silly extents that they’ve outsourced “customer service” in many cases to contractors whose reps don’t even speak English.

The fact that undereducated, poorly paid and trained, call center employees are unable to think outside the rules on their computer screen is sad, and depressing, but not surprising.

I am, however, more than a little disappointed that so many people seem so eager to use this story as a reason to loudly proclaim all Americans to be math-retarded jacklegs.

People – in any society, not just America – tend to rise to the level of their mediocrity. Granted that Verizon seems to have mediocrity down to a science, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the entire country is incapable of using the metric system.

63. shdwsclan says:

.02 cents = 2/10 cents …
Either they are not using math correctly or they are do not speak english properly…….

Probably .02 cents and 2 cents….

64. shdwsclan says:

Just sue them in court…..
You DONT even need a lawyer…!!!!!!!!!

Just request a whiteboard and some felt tipped markers to draw it on the board….

HAHAHAH

65. HITMAN05312 says:

I work for a customer service company, and unlike these jokers, we don’t guess when we don’t know the answer to something. These guys are blatantly telling you the wrong numbers. I stand corrected – not the wrong numbers, they are doing the math wrong.

Being a major in mathetmatics, I can, like you, see the difference with ease.

I guess that’s why they are working at a call center!

Good luck bud, hopefully they’ll charge you the correct amount :)

P.S. – Amazing patience, I’m impressed.