Reader Forces Verizon To Sell Her Phone At Advertised Price

Kim just wanted to buy a Samsung i730 smartphone for $199 with $100 rebate, just like Verizon advertised.

When she tried to do this in various Manhattan stores, she ran into all sorts of cockamamie, from reps telling her Verizon discontinued the phone, to reps telling her she had to buy an unlimited data package to get it, to reps telling her she had to pay the full retail of $299.

She exhausted the in-store help, got nowhere online or on the phone, until finally Kim left a message with one of the Verizon executives, using the phone numbers we published.

And Shazam! She gets an apologetic call back and Verizon FedExs her the desired phone at the desired price.

It’s a really good thing they did too, because otherwise Verizon could get into trouble for false advertising and Kim’s next step would’ve been to file complaints with the BBB, AG, and the PUC.

Kim’s quest, inside…

(Photo: Ben Popken)

Kim writes:

Thought I’d share this story with you guys not only because it’s more data for the poor, poor people who have to deal with Verizon Wireless but also because, without your site, I’d still be screaming uselessly into the wind.

I’m on my father’s cell family plan because it’s cheaper for all of us to have the one plan even though I live in NYC and my parents live in Ohio. We’ve had Verizon Wireless for two years and recently were faced with the decision to either renew or find other service. Because he couldn’t find a carrier that had the coverage, phones, or price he wanted, my dad decided to sign up with Verizon again. Since it’s a renew, we’re all eligible for new phones at the 2 year contract discount. (And yes, I know we should have only signed up for one year, but my dad didn’t want to have to think about this stuff again for another long while.) Anyway, when I went to upgrade to the phone I wanted, we ran into problems.

I wanted the Samsung i730 smartphone. It’s listed online as $199.99 with a $100 online rebate. So an awesome phone for $100 – sweet. My dad tried to buy the phone in the store since it was listed as being $99 there, too, but one Verizon rep told him that we had to buy an Unlimited data package with it – which I didn’t want – another rep said we didn’t have to buy that package but it would be easier for me to buy the phone in a store in NYC.

When I went into Verizon stores here, I got craziness. Each rep literally told me a different thing. From ‘Yes, we have the phone in the store but the primary account holder has to be here to buy it.’ to ‘No, no one has that phone in the store because it’s discontinued.’ Some reps told me that they could order the phone at the store for me so i could activate it at home. But two of the three reps who told me that gave me different stories on price. ‘You can get it for $99 but only with an Unlimited Data Package’ and ‘I can order it for you, but you have to pay full retail of $299.’

I’m an avid Consumerist reader, so I am well aware of what Verizon reps can and cannot do. I went in armed and they STILL came with the bullshit. At the store on 81st and Broadway a rep and a manager both told me that they could not give me the online discount/rebate in the store. That ‘Customer Service’ doesn’t allow them to discount phones (lie). The rep in the Verizon area inside the Circuit City down the street was even more hilarious. He said they had the phone in stock. I asked for him to give me the online discount and he said he ‘couldn’t’.

When I said, “That’s a lie, I know you can,” he said something like: ‘It’s not a lie, it’s just in the way I say it to you.’ WTF? Then later he said, “I could discount any of these phones down to zero if I wanted to, but I won’t do it for you or him or her or anyone.” I told him not to try and convince me he was full of integrity, he did work for Verizon, after all.

Finally, a rep in the store on 42nd and 6th told me that it was indeed true, no store had those phones anymore (though they have them on display…) and really the best way to get it was to go online or call customer service and order. That did not end my troubles.

When I clicked “Upgrade Your Phone” online and saw the list of phones to choose from, every one of them showed the ‘online discount’ price except the one I wanted. (I really started to wonder if Mercury was in retrograde.) I called customer service, they had no idea why the online price wasn’t showing up for me but couldn’t do anything about it and, if I wanted to order through them, I couldn’t get the online discount. i tried chatting with the online customer service person, she/he was equally unhelpful and lame. Really, really lame.

It also didn’t help that I wasn’t the primary account holder and thus wasn’t able to properly yell at people because I don’t know my stepmother’s social security number (which is wrong in the system, anyway, and caused a whole other problem earlier).

Completely at the end of my rope, I remembered that you guys had a list of Verizon Exec phone numbers and went looking for them. i forget which one I called – i think it was the VP in charge of service? – but I talked to an assistant named Robin. She was super nice and when I explained what had been going on she said “Oh geez, you shouldn’t have to deal with all that,” and was convincingly disgusted with everyone I had dealt with. Today we got a call from Executive Customer Service (Stuart, who is also very nice) who talked to my dad, was apparently really apologetic, and said he would FedEx me the phone and it would indeed only cost $99.99 like it should. When I get my phone, I will be truly happy. But considering that other people here say that Exec CS actually does help and is competent, I am tentatively counting this as a success.

So thanks for all the work you guys do getting information out there for consumers. And yes, Virginia, Executive Customer Service exists and is pretty awesome. It’s just sad one has to go all the way to the top to get really, really simple stuff done.

We really like this story. Kim followed the perfect ladder of escalation.

• Did her research and found a deal she wanted.
• Rebuffed sales people’s lies and attempts to upsell her on an unnecessary data package
• When one store didn’t work, she went to another.
• Failing the in-store, she tried online.
• Failing online, she tried customer service.
• Failing regular customer service, she turboed to executive customer service, where she was finally successful.


Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.