Everyone Knows How To Handle A Stolen Checkbook Except For Verizon

Yesterday I was musing that Time Warner Cable was passing the cost of customer care off to other businesses, by requiring customers to take half-days or full days off of work just to wait for a cable repairman. Today I think I stumbled upon another hidden economic impact of bad customer service: it’s responsible for generating a lot of the “free” content online. The next time you’re reading an IMDB entry about “Damages” or “Big Love” for example, you can thank Verizon’s collection of angry, confused, and possibly insane employees, and all the idle time they create for a customer who has to deal with them.

Hariette’s story is long, but you’ll alternately laugh and cringe as she shares what happened to her after her checkbook was stolen this past December. Hariette worked with her bank to quickly patch up any security holes from the theft, and soon she was set up with a new account.

Changing her billing info with Verizon was not so easy, however. Apparently Verizon’s “e-center” has never been seen by any humans working at Verizon, but it’s where you have to go to get anything done. Here’s probably the most telling exchange Hariette has with any Verizon employee in the whole story:

As the 20th minute approached, the rep fearfully told me, “Ms. Surovell, I am only allowed to spend 20 minutes helping each customer. From this point on, you will have to hold for the e-center yourself.”

“So, what was the point of your being involved at all, if you can’t do anything for me?” I asked.

“Ma’am, I’d like to help you, I would, but I’ll get in trouble if I don’t get off the line now.”

He was becoming frantic.

I stayed on the line, holding for the e-center until I got the announcement. It was 6 p.m., and the e-center was officially closed. I was welcome to phone back the next day between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

There you have it: a Verizon employee admitting that he has to not help solve your problem or his job will be at stake.

Our favorite person at Verizon now is officialy “T,” the relocated Texan who is some sort of security agent for Verizon, and who used to work in Tampa, and who won’t stop calling Harriette a “ticket” whenever she amuses him. Oh, also he keeps calling her from his Verizon cell phone, which goes in and out of range, and he suffers from road rage.

“Well, I gotta be honest here, Ma’am, and tell you that it’s not looking good. Now, let me warn you, we’re going into a zone, and my cell may go out, so…”

“I didn’t hear the last thing you said. You’re fading out.”

“What? What did you say?”

“I said I can’t hear you! I’m hanging up.”

“What was that, Ma’am?”

A few minutes later, he called back.

“‘T’, I can’t stay on the phone with you like this every day. These calls are taking a lot of time, and I need to use my time to be writing my articles. “

“Ma’am, you are a ticket! Hey, can you hold on there a minute, some people should not be allowed on the road (screaming out the window…) ‘Lady, you fucking idiot, you goddamned moron, who the fuck taught you how to drive?!’ (Without skipping a beat…) Pardon my language there, Ma’am, I hope I didn’t offend you, but some people driving out there can really rile you up.”

“I’m a New Yorker, it takes more than the f-word to shock me.” I lied. “T’s” segues from extreme formality (I was being “Ma’am’ed” more than Judge Judy) into gross obscenity unnerved me.

“Well you are a ticket, I tell you, that’s what you are!”

Sure, that part of the story sounds like it’s ready to be optioned for a movie, but there’s no happy ending when Verizon is involved. In fact, if customer service is a priority for you, remember this response from Verizon when Hariette asked them to at least apologize for wasting her time for six months on what was supposed to be a simple account edit: “No, we will not.”

Verizon Customer Diss-Service” [Matahariette]