Verizon Will Waive Late Fee Only If You Pay Through The Automated Phone System

Verizon was willing to refund the late fee on reader Steve’s bill, but only if he paid through Verizon’s automated phone system. Steve instead offered to give his billing information to the Verizon CSR to whom he was speaking, an offer that was refused. Steve writes:

I used to work at a call center for a certain mobile provider. I understand exactly what reps deal with. I’ve had my manager tell me I need to cut back on bathroom time. I’ve had them tell me I need to get my calls shorter. I’ve had them tell me I can’ waive reconnection fees. I’ve been there. I know.

So, typically, when I call someone about my bill, be it for mobile phone, or otherwise, I’m pretty understanding of their predicament. I try to be quick and to the point. One fell swoop if you will.

This brings me to last night. I get my Verizon mobile phone bill and whoops, somehow I forgot to pay last month. So instead of the typical $45 or so I owe $95. I also notice that I had a 5 dollar late fee assessed. Knowing that I haven’t missed a payment in Lord knows how long, I decide to use this as leverage when I call. I know how important it is for a call center reps, especially in a Receivables Management department, to get the balance in full. I figure, I’ll mention I haven’t missed a payment in a long time and that if they waive the fee I’ll pay in full.

I dial the 611 and play the waiting game. First I had to go through the annoying voice recognition menu system. I said “Bill” three times and it finally figured out I was calling about “Billing.” Next menu I decided to try hitting zero to see if I could skip right through and get to a person. Bingo, it worked.

Then I encounter the long drawn out message about call volume being higher than expected. I’ve always found this message amazing. Having worked at a call center we know what the call volumes are going to be every day. The only times there are truly “higher than expected” call volumes are when there is a storm or natural disaster that takes one of the other call centers down, or prevents them from taking calls. Otherwise it’s just managed delay.

At any rate, I get through to “Crystal” and let her know my predicament and ask about the late fee being waved and paying in full. She checks my billing history, says Verizon wishes we had more customers who had a payment history like me (excluding my current lapse natch), and then says before she can credit my account she needs to put me on hold for two minutes or so. She’s back in like 30 seconds.

Now this is where things start go wrong. She says she’ll waive the fee if I pay the bill by going through the automated phone system. I said, “No, it’s annoying, I want to pay by a human.” She says, “I’ll only waive it if you go through the phone bill pay system.” I said, “I don’t want to. I have to type in all the numbers, verifying it and all that jazz, its annoying and takes too long. I just want to pay with you.” She again refuses and says she “will only waive the fee if I use the system.” I said,” I’d rather just pay online. I just think its ridiculous that the only way I can pay my bill is through the phone system or computer.” She asked if there was anything else she could do for me, I said no and she moved into the regular thanks for calling schpeil.

At this point I’m miffed but not angry. There is a reason Verizon doesn’t do so hot on customer service rankings. I just experienced it first hand. Regardless, I still thought I’d accomplished my goal of getting the fee waived. So, as I said on the phone, I log into my account to pay my bill.

Sure enough, the fee is still there. Okay, not a big deal, maybe it takes time for the credit to show up online. I pay everything but the fee and decide to check back in the morning.

I get into work today, look online, and sure enough the fee is still there.

I mean COME ON! Was she really only willing to waive the fee if I used the phone bill pay system? Using the net wasn’t good enough? I’m I just being an ass to expect them to still credit my account after refusing to use the phone pay system?

Now you tell me, should I really have to call back at this point to follow up on them waiving a fee?

I know one thing, I’m not getting a new contract. I don’t need a new phone. The phone I already have with all the cool features locked out by Verizon works fine. Heck, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get an iPhone. But then, would I be getting into bed with an even worse mobile carrier?

Ah the dilemmas that a middle class man in developed country has to deal with on a regular basis.

Steve was willing to immediately pay in full; the payment method should not matter. If the slight is enough to make you cancel your service, just be aware that the requests are not any less imbecilic with other carriers.

(Photo: samwilkinson)


Edit Your Comment

  1. catcherintheeye says:

    I dunno – it’s a $5 fee – why not be happy they were willing to waive it and take the extra 3 minutes to just use the automated system?

    I can’t imagine that your time to use the automated system is worth more than $5 to you, because you probably used the same amount of time to make the call in the first place. By the time you were done arguing, you could have probably used the automated system.

  2. The Kapil says:

    What a whiny F’ing baby. Unless you make minimum wage, the time you spend arguing was probably worth more than the $5 late fee.

    I’m all for siding with the consumer, seeing as how I am one and all…but really, you forgot to pay your bill and they charged you a late fee…seems pretty cut and dry to me.

    Sure, most companies will waive late fees if you ask nicely and don’t make a habit of it…but they don’t have to according to the agreement you skipped by when making the initial purchase.

    This is exactly what’s wrong with this country…no personal responsibility at all. I didn’t pay MY bill but I want it to be YOUR fault. Jesus!

  3. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @The Kapil: Why let them get away with poor cutomer service? Remember that for every person who complains, there are 10 more people who just let the big ol’ profit machine plow right over them. If you disagree with a fee and don;t speak up, how is the company going to get any feedback on how customers prefer to be treated? Protesting something you think is unfair isn’t just a good idea… it helps everyone.

  4. fluiddruid says:

    Frankly, I don’t believe that it’s “poor customer service” to not waive a fee that the user incurred by his own negligence, particularly when they offered to waive it if they follow their procedures. The only way the rep would know if the bill was paid online was by checking back later, adding cost to the transaction. Why couldn’t he just pay the way they asked if he wanted a special break from the fees that he agreed to?

  5. ObtuseGoose says:

    So they didn’t explain why they couldn’t waive the fee right then and there? That doesn’t sound kosher. In any case, you were late in paying so you owe a late fee. Isn’t that funny how that works? *snark*

  6. ncboxer says:

    I agree with most of the comments here, he is whining about nothing. They were willing to waive the late fee and is complaining about the method to pay. Obviously, he was upset enough to spend all that time getting to a human to try to get the late fee waived- he couldn’t spend a little more time following her directions to go through with it? That is ridiculous. I honestly stopped reading (and started skimming through) when he started arguing about how to pay. Is that how you are supposed to say “thank you” for waiving the fee?

  7. WhoMee says:

    CUSTOMER SERVICE, has anyone really looked at those two words lately? The CSR should have had the ability to receive payments (via phone) and give credits. Verizon happy and customer happy. So the next time you are asked in a survey if you would recommend Verizon to your friends or relatives keep this in mind.

  8. ry81984 says:

    People like this guy are what makes everyone else have to wait on hold for 30 minutes.

    They fixed your problem. Is it really that hard to use the automated system to allow another customer time to get their problem fixed?

  9. csdiego says:

    The automated billing system charges a fee–something like a $2 service charge–for putting the payment through. That must have been why they wanted him to use it.

  10. catcherintheeye says:

    @csdiego: That’s crappy, but at least you’re still up 3 bucks.

  11. floofy says:

    They require you pay it with them at that time so they can verify you actually paid it. Sounds fair enough to me. He is lucky they were even offering to waive the fee. If I pay my mortagage payment late, do you think me whining to the bank will make them remove the 20 late fee? Me thinks not.

  12. SuffolkHouse says:

    Best option? Cell phones and internet phones have increased competition so much among phone carriers, that I got rid of my cell phone and only use a land-line (which is the reverse of what I was doing the previous year). I save bundles of money. And, i don’t deal with the cell carrier schmucks any more.

  13. Cowboys_fan says:

    I think its lame to make someone jump through hoops for something. Either waive the fee, or don’t.

  14. XTC46 says:

    @Cowboys_fan: “jump through hoops”? are you kidding? asking somone to use the standard automated payment method is not jumping through hoops.

    Hell my credit card company charges a fee if you call in and speak with a rep to make a payment, but it’s free if do it online or the phone system.

    the guy is being a little baby. He asked for a favor, then refused to do his part of it. pay the 5 dollars, and don’t be late paying your bill again.

  15. ThEjOkErIsWiLd says:

    ok, so they’re doing him a favour by waiving the late charge, a measly 5 bucks, but when they ask him to do them a favour by using the automated thingie, he whines 3 times that he doesn’t want to? bullshit i say, especially since HE’S in the wrong by forgetting to pay his bill.

  16. Cowboys_fan says:

    @xtc46: Some people don’t like auto systems, others simply cannot understand how to use them. Maybe this person is not one but to penalize somebody who wouldn’t want to do that is lame.
    I agree that he shoulda’ paid the $5 and forgot about it.

  17. DirectAnon says:

    I don’t know where you worked, but in most call centers when you forward the call to the Automated Phone System you don’t know what’s gonna happen, you just forward it and receive the next call.

    I would bet something that if you say, “Yes, thank you, I’ll pay in the APS” and then wait some seconds and hang up, the fee would be waived…

  18. Catperson says:

    I’m guessing that the person this blowhard talked to wasn’t actually able to take payment because she wasn’t in the right customer service division. I’ve worked in a few call centers and my husband has worked in a few more, and if there’s one thing we can say for certain about these places, it’s that everything is way too divided, so agents are never able to help people with their problems from start to finish. In this case, they’re probably allowed to wave the fee if they are able to transfer the customer to the automated line, assuming they’ll pay. If the customer refuses, they probably won’t wave the fee because they’re not sure the guy who forgot to pay once already will really remember.

  19. agb says:

    Wait, so why is the Consumerist reporting this again?

  20. Nate128 says:

    @csdiego: Incorrect. Verizon Wireless (I’m assuming, he used “Verizon” and “mobile phone”) does not charge for using their automated payment system.

    To the person whining in this story, who said, “I figure, I’ll mention I haven’t missed a payment in a long time and that if they waive the fee I’ll pay in full.”

    Oh, so you’ll only pay in full if they waive the fee? Haha, okay, so DON’T pay in full, then, and you can laugh all the way to the collections agency. Where is the sense of responsibility in this country anymore? You’re the one who forgot to pay your bill. You were charged a $5 late fee for not paying it on time. Gee!

    The reason Verizon tries to “push” the automated payment system is that by people using the self-service options, it will greatly reduce hold times for people with ACTUAL problems, not this schmuck who acts like a baby over a $5 late fee he caused. If every single person insisted on paying their bill “with a real person” that wait times would greatly increase; more people would need to be in the call centers, and in the end, your bill would go up. Maybe by more than $5!

    “I know one thing, I’m not getting a new contract. I don’t need a new phone. The phone I already have with all the cool features locked out by Verizon works fine. Heck, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get an iPhone.”

    Ooh. Harsh words. Trust me, Verizon won’t miss you and your baseless complaints. Oh, and if you can afford an iPhone, what the hell are you doing whining about $5?

  21. csdiego says:

    @Nate128: I remember paying a fee at one point to pay my Verizon bill on the phone (I almost always mail the payment in), but I guess it could have been for my landline, back when I had it.

  22. EmilyBeth says:

    I don’t get this person’s whining over $5. He was late, so pay it. In any event, he must have misunderstood the CSR (or just misrepresented what she said) because when I tried to pay my Verizon landline bill over the phone last week, I was told that reps no longer take payments, Ok, no big deal. There are other options. I didn’t think once to send my complaint to Consumerist.

  23. VoxPopuli says:

    Yeah, seriously, just pay the $5. If he wasn’t late, then I could see disputing it. Or, if it was a $30-$40 fee like for a credit card, I could see making a case with his strong payment history that he should get a one-time break.

    Consider it a (literally) small price to pay for forgetting. At least they didn’t shut off the phone.

  24. gingerCE says:

    It’s not the amount. It’s the principle. I use T-Mobile and switched to a family plan. I always paid my bill online though I still receive paper bills. After the switch, I tried to pay my bill online but there was no bill online and no total. I did not receive a paper bill. I figured because of the plan switch my billing date must’ve changed. I finally get a bill (paper) that says I owe two payments and a $5 late fee. I go online and there is no bill for me to pay. I call customer service–turns out though the bill was in my name and I told them to put my number as the main number for billing purposes, they never did so, and that’s why my online bill never showed up. Fine, but I told them I wasn’t paying the $5 fee. They would not waive it. I spoke to a manager. It took me hassling with them forever (basically I kept saying there’s no way I’m paying this late fee) vefore they finally waived it but they were so rude about it.

  25. Nate128 says:

    @gingerCE: Except what’s different with your story is that Verizon Wireless actually offered to waive the late fee without a hassle unlike T-Mobile, so long as he took a few minutes of his precious time to use the automated payment system.

    “It’s the principle.”

    The principle is: He didn’t pay his bill, he gets a late fee. THAT’S the principle. He’s lucky his phones didn’t get shut off.

  26. eblack says:

    I frequently tell people that they should place an order through our web site instead of over the phone. Somtimes they get whiny about it, like this guy. The thing is, it’s a waste of MY time to take a phone order, and I’ve got other things to do than talk to people who weren’t bright enough to go to the web site in the first place.

    Newegg has a similar policy, and they seem to be doing pretty well.

  27. notyourmom says:

    How comfortable are you giving a stranger your financial information over the phone? Access to your banking, checking or credit card information? Do they not already have access to your social security # and/or date of birth? Your place of residence and employment? I am sure Verizon wireless reps have the same security policy in place as the landline reps – for your protection! It’s 2007 my friend; otherwise known as the Year of Identity Fraud. I will send you the 5 bucks myself if you’ve learned anything from this experience.

  28. Cera says:

    I’ve noticed that for many of my bills that I pay over the phone system, there’s a fee if you pay with a card. If you pay with an electronic check, then there’s no fee. I just go with an electronic check. There was only one time where using the automated phone system annoyed me. I called Sprint to pay my cell phone bill, and was told by the system that Sprint’s billing system has changed and I would need to call a different number to get to the phone payment system. Because I wasn’t expecting to have to write down a number, I didn’t catch it. I had to call back, listen through the options again, and then get the number. I called the new number, went through the steps, and basically hit a wall when the system asked for either a passcode or a PIN number (I believe). I had to guess what my passcode or PIN number was, since the old system never asked for one. I kept guessing wrong, so the system finally transferred me to a representative who, after confirming who I was, gave me my “passcode.” This turned out to be my password for my online account. I couldn’t figure out why I would need to enter my password from my online account to pay over the phone, but I didn’t say anything. The representative went ahead and took my payment by electronic check (sorry, Steve). The only thing that irked me a little was that the representative asked for a check number. I just thought, why would you need a check number? I’m not actually giving you a check and I’m sure as heck not wasting one of my checks by having to void it when I’m paying over the phone. I asked the representative why she needed a check number and she just took the payment without it. I’ve never been asked for a check number before, as the payment goes through as an electronic debit, something like a debit card. Go figure.