Vonage Sends 14 New Modems To Replace Customer's Broken One

My Linh’s Vonage modem stopped working, so she called to request a replacement under the terms of her service agreement. Vonage was happy to oblige. So happy, in fact, that they sent her 14 modems instead of one via UPS—but then couldn’t figure out how to get UPS to come pick them up again. Hey, they do VOIP, not logistics.

Here’s the first half of My Linh’s story:

October 15, 2009

So the other day, my Vonage phone stopped working, and I was forced to call India. A very nice customer service rep in India named “Susie” declared that my Vonage device (modem) was no longer working and said she would issue me a new one that I would receive in a few days. Mind you, the Vonage device looks exactly like your typical modem in that it’s about the size of a large old-school discman/walkman. Today UPS dropped off a box from Vonage about the size an office printer. It weighed a ton. I was a bit confused until I opened the box and found it contained 14 (fourteen) Vonage devices. I only have 1 phone.

The Vonage people were so perplexed they actually transferred me to a Vonage rep in the United States. Yippee! I spoke to an American, but even he was perplexed. I have no idea how many times I said, “Yes, you heard me right. I received 14 boxes!” He has to call me back later to tell me how to send everything back. I feel that if they sent UPS to my door to drop off this mess, they should send UPS back to my house to pick it up.

If that doesn’t work out, I have alternative plans. One of my co-workers suggested I sell the remaining modems on eBay. Another suggested I buy a big trench coat with lots of inside pockets and sell the modems while standing outside the Metro stations next time I’m in DC. I could sell modems and fake Rolexes.

Normally, this would be the end of the funny shipping mistake story. But Vonage doesn’t want to pay the $4 fee to have UPS come pick up the extra modems; they want My Linh to drive them to UPS instead. They’re offering her $20 to cover her time, printer ink, and scotch tape, but why should she have to deal with the problem at all?

October 20, 2009

So it’s Part Deux of my Vonage saga. When we last left off, boys and girls, I had been inadvertently sent 14 Vonage devices instead of the one device she needed to replace her faulty device. The devices are “free” for the duration of your contract. The package arrived in a large cardboard carton with a shipping label that said 20.3 pounds. Inside were 14 individual boxes. Remember, I only have one phone, and thus need just one device.

After speaking to no fewer than 3 Vonage support technicians and repeating the words, “Yes, you heard me correctly. I received 14.” over and over again, I finally received a call from a nice young woman who said she would issue me a (note the singular) return label for UPS and would call me the next day once she figured out how to arrange UPS pickup at my house. I repeatedly stressed that:

a) I do not want to be charged for shipping; and

b) I do not want to lug a 20 pound box of equipment to my nearest UPS drop site.

So what did they do? They emailed 14 return labels. And never called me again.

Well that was last Thursday. Today is Tuesday. And I still have 13 unwanted Vonage devices in a box in my living room. So once again, I did the right thing and called Vonage. A new customer support specialist as appalled, appalled! that I had received 14 devices. So she conference called UPS to see about pick up. And after an hour on the phone, here is what we learned:

1) Each of the 14 return labels that Vonage sent me is marked “3 pounds.” But because the carton actually weighs closer to 20 pounds, I cannot send the modems back in the original carton using any of the return labels.

2) Vonage is “unable” to reissue me a return label that says “20 pounds” because they have never had a customer have to return 13 modems at once (14 – 1 = 13). This despite the fact that they were able to issue an original shipping label that said 20 pounds when they sent it to my house in the first place.

3) I now have to print out 13 individual labels and tape them to the 13 individual modem boxes to ship back via UPS.

4) Vonage has “no way” of paying a $4 corporate pick up charge to have UPS come to my house.

5) Instead, Vonage is only able to issue me a $20 credit to my account. And I have to fork over my credit card number so that UPS can bill me $10.50 for a residential pick up charge. That $20 credit is expected to cover the cost of the pick up charge as well as my “inconvenience” and scotch tape (I admit I got snarky with the Vonage woman and complained about the low levels of scotch tape in my home). I have not yet authorized payment to UPS on my credit card.

6) When I said UPS can pick it up at any time; I’ll leave the devices outside my door if I go out, the Vonage woman flipped out and said, “You can’t do that! Each one is worth $80!” Oh really? Maybe you should have thought about that when you sent me 13 that I don’t need! (13 x $80 = $1,040). I have more than a $1,000 worth of their equipment and they can’t figure out how to pay $4 to UPS for pick-up???

7) Vonage doesn’t have a record of what they sent to me. But for the fact that I called them, they have no idea they sent me 13 extra devices, and they don’t know which ones I have (each device has a tracking code). I could so easily give up and sell them on eBay. Heck, at half price, I’d still make $520.

So they have worn me down. I have now printed out 13 labels and am about to tape them on each individual small box. I am seriously contemplating just driving to my nearest UPS drop site and handing them over. I just don’t feel like going to battle any more. I’m weak. I’m tired. And I keep tripping over that box in my living room. But this is my last-ditch effort. Maybe if I can somehow publicly shame Vonage into paying UPS $4 to come to my house, then I’ll feel justice is served… even if I do have to scotch tape return labels on 13 individual boxes.

Update: There’s now a Part 3 to My Linh’s story! She wrote back to us this afternoon:

After I sent the story to you, I found a page on Vonage’s website where you can send comments to the Board. So I did. W/in 30 minutes (I swear) I received a phone call from the VP of Carrier Operations. His first words were, “You have my attention.” He called me again this morning and said I could go ahead and tape one of the old return labels marked “3 pounds” on my carton and leave it outside the front door. He would ask UPS to adjust the weight on the label when they pick it up. He knew I was leaving for a doctor’s appointment and said he would call UPS immediately and the box would be gone by the time I got home. Well, I’m home now (2 1/2 hours later) and the box is still there. But at least I got someone’s attention over there.

(Photo: Valerie Everett)