Verizon Erases, Then Restores, Dead Wife's Lost Voice

Verizon snipped one of the few remaining threads connecting Charles Whiting to his dead wife when they upgrade the 80-year-old man’s phone system. The update erased his wife saying, “The Whitings aren’t home,” a message Mr. Whiting listened to every day for the comfort it gave him. When Whiting called to complain, he was left on hold for an hour and was then disconnected. Then he waited on hold for another 90 minutes, only to be told that his wife’s voice was lost forever. Whiting said, “It was like she was still with me when I heard that. Now they took her voice away.” After his story hit the news circuit, Verizon restored the previously “irretrievable” message. Amazing how a little bad press works to get good customer service.

New York Man Loses Dead Wife’s Voice Message in Phone Service Upgrade [FOXnews] (Thanks to Ed!)
Phone Company Retrieves Voice From Past [AP]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. sled_dog says:

    Verizon probably got it from Homeland Security, as they are recording everything.

  2. TechnoDestructo says:

    See, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Now they’ve saved the day and they’re heroes!

    This doesn’t sound like malice or overwhelming stupidity on Verizon’s part, regardless. Though you would think that they would make porting old messages part of their upgrade procedure.

  3. Shannon says:

    Hey… GOOD point. Why didn’t I think of that.

  4. Aphex242 says:

    This is precisely why I bitch and moan at “Applebee’s doesn’t supply birthday candles on the cake I’m not paying for” stories… stories like this keep it all in perspective.

    Bad form Verizon, I’m just glad the guy finally got it restored.

    @TechnoDestructo: Agreed, it’s weird that they didn’t do that automatically. Worse was the response sans publicity.

  5. ClayS says:

    He ought to consider recording that voicemail greeting onto some other device as a backup.

  6. SaveMeJeebus says:

    In the interest of bashing the OP, he should have just bought a tape-based answering machine.

  7. homerjay says:

    Ed? I sent that in! In the immortal words of Mr. Burns: “Where are my kudos!?”

    :)

  8. oakie says:

    it would have been more beneficial for verizon to continue their lie than to admit to lying.

    but of course the general public will gloss over that part and call them “heroes”.

  9. Techguy1138 says:

    This was never bad on Verizons part. I don’t like them but what they did was perfectly valid.

    I would guess that they restored this mans message with a great deal of effort and time put in by many employees.

    This is an above and beyond story, even if this is Verizon.

  10. ChuckECheese says:

    @aphex: Cake is so delicious and moist. It deserves a candle. It’s great this guy got his wife’s voice back, but a few months ago when I called a friend, I heard her 3-years-dead mother’s voice on the recording, and I was a bit freaked out.

  11. Buran says:

    @ChuckECheese: The cake is a lie.

  12. Aphex242 says:

    @ChuckECheese: Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pro-candle kinda guy, I just don’t rely on other entities to provide me with my candle-cake synergistic moments.

    And yeah, I totally think it’s a little creepy too, but hey, more power to the guy.

    @Techguy1138: It’s really hard for me to call this above and beyond when they:

    1. Broke it.
    2. Had two chances by phone to fix it, a total of which was 2.5 hours, resulting in one hangup and one apparently incorrect answer.

    -aaaanddd-

    3. Only got off their asses when the negative publicity kicked in.

    You may call that a positive, I’m calling that callousness on many, MANY levels.

  13. humphrmi says:

    @ClayS: The guy’s 80. I doubt he knows what a “backup” is.

    @TechnoDestructo:

    This doesn’t sound like malice or overwhelming stupidity on Verizon’s part, regardless.

    No, I think it’s overwhelming laziness on Verizon’s part. And other carriers, for that matter. Every time I’ve changed one iota of my service contract, I’ve always lost all my old voicemails. They always tell me “It’s the system, we can’t avoid it, we can’t retrieve them, blah blah blah.” Yeah, now we know – they’re just too lazy to provide what would be a slightly-higher-than-mediocre level of service.

  14. dotcomrade says:

    humphrmi…Yeah, now we know – they’re just too lazy to provide what would be a slightly-higher-than-mediocre level of service.

    Amen!
    Here’s the video [abclocal.go.com]

  15. tmed says:

    I can’t fault Verizon for the problem except that there should have been warning ahead of time. It is probably not sensible cost-wise to port those messages. Most people would not want Verizon to bother if it meant any possible increase in fee – It’s an outgoing phone message after all. doesn’t rank as precious to most.

    I am sure the front-line rep was told that it was impossible to recover lost messages, then when faced with the realities of someone who found his phone message precious, and for good reason, they took the time and effort to make this right.

  16. GenXCub says:

    Mental Note, make friends with people @ fox news so I can shame companies into doing what they should have done without nationwide humiliation. Hmmm…. step 1, blame everything bad on illegals.

  17. ChuckECheese says:

    @aphex242: Do you dip your own candles? LOL

  18. Amelie says:

    @humphrmi: If four year olds should know better than to swallow lead charms, then of course 80 year olds should know how to back up this voice
    recording.

    @SaveMeJeebus:
    Uh, they don’t make them anymore. My grandmother tried replacing hers over five years ago, and couldn’t find one.

  19. ChuckECheese says:

    @Buran: lol

  20. Buran says:

    @ChuckECheese: *bow* (the comment seems to have vanished though)

  21. Techguy1138 says:

    @aphex242:
    It doesn’t seem like they “broke it” as much as they installed a new voice mail system.

    I doubt that this could have been fixed by phone. The old system was off line. The disconnects especially from the phone company are uncalled for.

    I have a feeling that the negative press did influence this one but I’m guessing this was still a lot of effort. Best guess is that they loaded up the backup tapes of the old systems somewhere and managed to locate that man single voice mail record then convert it to work with the new system.

    Depending on how they system was set up, or not, this was either quite a bit of work or a LOT of work to recover a single persons voice mail message.

    Pulling stuff from backup is not typically simple. Even more so if the system is off line.

  22. majortom1981 says:

    Techguy I run the phone system here and its not that hard. Just involves turning on the old voicemail system and going to the guys voicemail box and copying the message. I do it all the time at work.

    Its not hard work. Especially for a phone company .

    Verizon was just being extremely lazy.

  23. XTC46 says:

    @majortom1981: I agree, pulling anything from a backup is supposed to be simple. Any well designed backup system can have files located and retrieved in a matter of minutes, certainly not days. The only thing they may have taken time was finding somone to do it, as most employees of any company dont have access to backups.

  24. lemur says:

    @Buran: Yes, but the intent to bake you is quite real.

  25. Michael Belisle says:

    I lost MacInTalk 2’s Marvin saying “You have reached Michael Belisle” when T-Mobile upgraded their system. Marvin was the voice of the first machine I loved [sniff] and he’s dead now too, resting peacefully in the 68040 graveyard. I wonder if T-Mobile still has that backup?

    (Good work on Verizon’s part here, just to be clear.)

  26. KingCool says:

    @Buran: lurk moar it’s still there… just like the guy’s dead wife’s zombie voice.

    i tend to agree with the comment that verizon should have stuck to the lie tho. They just look bad by changing their story like that.

    having said that, i swear i didn’t eat the delicious cake.

  27. Buran says:

    @KingCool: There it is. Must have been a glitch. Eh.

  28. synergy says:

    Maybe the gentleman should have a grandchild record the recording to a tape which can then be recorded to an 8-track which can maybe then be transferred to a record.

  29. dweebster says:

    It seems that all this proves is that Verizon will not correct their fuckups unless you can get news media to go against their advertising department and write something negative about one of their usual advertisers. 80-year old man and a dead wife’s voice is a pretty easy sell. For those of us a little younger I guess we have the executive email campaigns to get us by for now.

  30. ElizabethD says:

    Aside from Verizon’s weird tapdance about this, I think someone might suggest to this gentleman that he have his wife’s answering message transferred to a tape or disc so he can listen to it without creeping out callers who knew the woman.

    My former boss lost his wife at a fairly young age to a cardiac “event.” For years afterward, we would hear to her ghostly voice when we called him at home and got the machine. He couldn’t bear to erase it. But I know it was very hard for their mutual friends and their daughter to hear the deceased’s voice on the phone over and over.

  31. realist.com says:

    @majortom1981:

    LAZY? Sorry that a major corp doesn’t want to waste the time and/or resources to recover a voicemail greeting (somthing that takes all the 10 seconds to do)

    You really think they care that this ONE of probally hundreds of thousands was really worth sifting through an old system just because it had some meaning to one customer? Give me a break, if it meant so much to the old man he probably should of recorded and burnt it to a goldplated CD-R or something. And don’t give the age excuse, it doesn’t give you a reason to be oblivious to how the world operates around you (my 75 year old grandfather uses a computer, internet, email, cellphone, and voicemail ably every single day).

  32. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @realist.com: Well is it a waste of time and resources or does it only take 10 seconds? It can’t be both a huge hassle and be something that takes only 10 seconds.

  33. Ass_Cobra says:

    See what Verizon should have done is said, “hey, we can do it, but it’s going to be a big pain in the ass so we’re going to charge you $50 for our trouble”. That would have gotten all the cards on the table and probably would have gotten Verizon an extra $50 with no bad publicity. See…I’m executive material!!!

  34. taka2k7 says:

    @sled_dog: lol :)

  35. Aphex242 says:

    @Techguy1138: When you ‘upgrade’ a system, and a result of that ‘upgrade’ is to make your customers do work, who is it an ‘upgrade’ for, anyway?

    It’s just crazy to update people’s voicemail and not transfer over existing settings and messages.

  36. realist.com says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    do you work for verizon? you are absolutely sure that it would only take 10 seconds, you are 100% sure? I don’t know about you, but when i take apart a system for a upgrade, i either throw away or zero out the old parts for redeployment

    the guy is damn lucky verizion’s PR guy pushed them to find his meaningless junk.

  37. adam33777 says:

    I am sure this something VZ does not normally do. More than likely the guy answering the phone did not have any power to get things done.

    @realist.com Word up. glad to see everyone on this post is not retarded. This obviously was something that someone high enough up had to push for. The CSR rep has no button to click that could have fixed this.

  38. There is no way this was verizon’s fault. I remember a few weeks ago seeing a story that verizon had told all their customers in the NYC area that they were upgrading their voicemail system and that any messages the customers wanted to save should be backed up. Therefore, verizon did absolutely nothing wrong.

    As far as you people saying “it only took 10 seconds, they should have just done it” extrapolate that out. First off, it doesnt take 10 seconds, they have to load up the old system, dig through and find the one guy’s account, pull that up, record the message, then put it back on his new voicemail box on the new system. Yes, they did it because of the bad publicity, but do you really think they should go through all that trouble for EVERY customer across the whole system? Obviously, not. They did was a responsible company should have done: given the customers warning to back up any messages they might want to.

    99% of their customers just recorded a new voicemail greeting and didn’t give it another thought.

  39. Wow, it actually SAYS IN THE STORY that they sent notices out:

    “Verizon spokesman John Bonomo told the News that notices were mailed out to customers announcing the upgrade and explaining how to handle resetting voicemail messages. Whiting’s predicament, he said, is unusual.”

    I sympathize with the guy, really I do, but there is absolutely no friggin’ way this is verizons fault.