After Your House Burns Down, Verizon Wants You To Use Your Melted Phone To Forward Your Calls

Whoever or whatever they’ve got working the phones at Verizon doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “fire.” As in, “my house burned down and everything inside it is melted and charred.” It’s not a difficult concept, but James’s father in-law was unable to explain it to Verizon.

My in-laws lost their house to a fire in January. Rebuilding went down to the bricks in some places, and wall studs in others. Complete loss, complete rebuild.

When they tried to move their phone number to their temporary apartment abode during home reconstruction, Verizon wouldn’t do it. This was a Verizon land line they’d had for maybe 25 years or so int two different homes. The Verizon rep told them they only thing they could do was forward the old number to the new number.

OK, said my father-in-law, accepting that he’d have to pay for two phone lines for the duration. Forward that number.

We can’t do it, said the Verizon reps, only you can do it. Get this: they were told to call from their old phone to request the forwarding service. Yes, the phone in a house that burned down. Yes, calling on phones that had turned into lumps of melted plastic with metal bits sticking out.

Maybe it’s time to write a “What To Say To People Whose House Burned Down” script?

Sadly, the story doesn’t end there. The in-laws are now having trouble getting Verizon to hook up the phones in their rebuilt house.

Verizon Sucks [Technology is Broken via Networkworld] (Thanks, Charlie!)
(Photo: The Joy Of The Mundane )


Edit Your Comment

  1. Fujikopez says:

    Maybe a blessing in disguise?

  2. MikeF74 says:

    You got a stupid CSR, it happens all the time. Call back and deal with a brighter bulk.

    I had a situation 5 years ago where a family member was hospitalized. I called Verizon and asked them to forward all home calls to my cell phone until further notice.

    No fuss, worked fine.

  3. ptkdude says:

    I’m curious to know if the house fire was a result of a FIOS installation.

  4. JN2 says:

    They weren’t still paying rent for that ol’ rotary dialer were they? :D

  5. jefino says:

    Same thing happened to me when i had verizon wireless. My phone took a bath in a beverage and stopped working completly. I did not want to miss some calls, so i called Verizon Wireless on a different phone. They told me to call from my non working cell phone to setup the forwarding. After some escalation, and pointing out how what they wanted me to do was impossible, they finally forwarded my calls for me without me having to call in on that line.

  6. Torley says:

    @MikeF74: “Brighter bulk” would make a fine domain name. I hope that catches on!

  7. stang says:

    *gurgle* Can you *gurgle, gurgle* hear *gurgle* me now?

  8. FLConsumer says:

    Doesn’t surprise me…Verizon refused to move my phone # when I moved…and I moved down the same street, same zip code. The irony–I ported the # to a VoIP carrier in a totally different state with no issue. Go figure.

  9. stang says:

    “Brighter bulk” – Awesome…

    Quite possibly the person on the other end has no clue and doesn’t even realize that the little light bulb over his/her head has blown out.

  10. B says:

    At least Verizon didn’t burn their house down first, then tell them to call from the melted phones. Gotta look on the bright side.

  11. sir_pantsalot says:

    I’m not surprised that there are a few support people out there that don’t understand the concept of fire. What is surprising is it that I always seem to get these people when I first call in with a question or a problem.

  12. Pasketti says:

    Change to a different company, and use the number portability rules to keep the existing number.

  13. emis says:

    I call bullshit on this!

    I’ve left my cell phone at home a dozen times in the last 5 years and EVERYTIME I’ve called Verizon Wireless they have had no issue in forwarding my calls based on a request that did NOT originate from my cell phone (or a landline in my name).

    My mother had a fire in her condo building, her unit was spared, but the telephone wiring to her unit was not… fire was on a Fri night, Saturday AM we called Verizon (her LL provider) from my cell phone and they had no issue forwarding her landline to her cell phone immediately (for an additional monthly fee of course).

    So I have many personal experiences dealing w/ VZ (both landline and wireless) and they have been more then accommodating w/o hassle.

  14. knyghtryda says:

    I think this speaks less about verizon and more about the sheer stupidity of some of the people working on the other side. Any sane person would have said “let me see what i can do” but apparently the monkey on the other side couldn’t be bothered. Stupidity is everywhere people, and it seems to be especially thick with the CSR crowd. Be warned.

  15. timmus says:

    It’s not the reps’ fault, it’s the fault of Verizon insisting their tech people discard common sense and embrace scripts. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s script-oriented companies.

  16. timmus says:

    (and I’m sure once you depart from the script, your job is on the line)

  17. Nighthawke says:

    That CSR wins idiot of the week. There’s a little known gadget called Remote Call Forwarding. You dial an assigned number and coupled with your phone # and a PIN assigned to you when you sign up for the feature, can control where it’s forwarded to from any location you can call out from.

    We used it when one of our lines bit the dirt, not ringing and disrupting the 3 line hunt group we had set up. We forwarded the screwed line to line 2 and waited on the tech to clear out the headache.

  18. jwlukens says:

    I want to get a CSR job it sounds like lots of fun. I could basically just act like the village idiot and get rewarded for it!

  19. MameDennis says:

    After my Two Weeks Of Phonelessness last year, I have no doubt that Verizon was no help at all. (Verizon didn’t bother to, y’know, send a tech when I made and confirmed a service appointment with them. After this happened 4 or 5 times, I got digital voice through Comcast. Comcast, while evil, at least has always sent a tech when one is scheduled to arrive.)

    As pissed as I was to use up five vacation days on the nonexistent Verizon repair guys, that’s nothing compared to what the people in the original post went through. I’m so sorry that the trauma of their house fire was compounded by the inaction of a company that is completely unconcerned with the most basic customer service.

  20. mike says:

    I have my calls forwarded all the time from my Verizon phone. I do it on the phone and by calling. Never had a problem.

  21. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @Torley: I agree!

    @timmus: It’s a wonder there isn’t more workplace violence* with bosses insisting that their employees act like idiots.

    *(I’m not saying they should be violent, I’m just surprised it doesn’t make more people go nuts.)

  22. bilge says:

    When I moved last month, I called Verizon to transfer my phone and DSL service and was told that there was a $40 fee to do that. I asked if the fee could be waived and was told that I wasn’t subscribed to the right bundle which would allow that fee to be waived. I finally told the CSR: “Look, I’m kind of lazy. If you’re willing to waive the transfer fee, then I’ll stick with Verizon. Otherwise, I might as well shop around.”

    She still wouldn’t waive the fee, I shopped around and got a much better deal and faster DSL with Cavalier Telephone.

  23. dopplerd says:

    While I agree that the CSR is a moron. Land line phones are pretty low tech and if the outside of the house didn’t burn (I sounds like it didn’t) and there is still a service box you can open it up and plug in a phone there. With a little knowledge you can also just hardwire a phone into the drop from the pole.

  24. JasonR says:

    Call Verizon and request a change of the existing service, and indicate that you’d like to change the service to “Remote Call Forwarding”. Give them the number you’d like to forward the old line to, and if they’re in different area codes make sure to express it as 1+10-digit-number. Get a confirmation number and cross your fingers.

    I use Verizon remote call forwarding service frequently when helping customers migrate their telephony service to a new location, new provider, new pbx, etc. It’s costly as you’ll pay for each forwarded call at their toll rates, but it’s ideal for a temporary situation such as this.

  25. ohiomensch says:

    Don’t laugh, I just had a friend who did this not even 6 months ago. The phone in their house died, and they called their phone company to replace it. The CSR said, just buy a new one and plug it in.

    “Plug… whats a plug?”

  26. jtheletter says:

    @emis: And so your theory of why the people “made up” this story and had it reported is what exactly? What do they gain by making this story up?

    Oh, that’s right, it never happened to you so it’s clearly false. I see now that bear attacks, human lightning strikes, and perfect bowling scores are also fabrications since you haven’t experienced any of those things either.

    Bad CSRs exist, some of them defy not only logic but normal brain function. Lucky you for not running into one yet, the rest of us aren’t as lucky apparently.

  27. scoosdad says:

    @emis: I agree. When I lost my dialtone for twelve days last December due to some ineptitute by Verizon in activating my DSL, Verizon was easily able to forward all calls to that number to a different Verizon number while they worked on the problem.

    The issue of not being able to temporarily move the original number to a new location/apartment may be something to do with the location of the apartment relative to the switching office their original house phone came out of, and that I’m not surprised at.

    If I wanted to move my current Verizon number to a different town with a different switching office, of course I’d expect to not keep my current local number.

  28. scoosdad says:

    @scoosdad: And to finish the thought, when I moved from one end of my city to the other, I couldn’t keep my original Verizon number because that exchange prefix wasn’t available in the different switching office that handled the line to my new house. Even within the same smallish city in MA.

  29. huginn says:

    Exact same thing has happened to my family a month ago. Lightning stuck our home and caused a fire. We had to send our phone forwarding to a vacation’s home. Comcast doesn’t understand this concept at all. They sent a tech over to install a new phone and leave the old number to the old home.

    Consumerist, how about a ‘what to do when you’ve experienced a fire’ guide? Who to call, what to do, ect

  30. LOUWEEZY says:

    I worked for IL Bell, etc.. for 20+ years, many of those as a rep. We dealt with fire orders once in a while. We would offer 2 options. Temporarily suspend the service with a referral to an alternate#, or we offered a free round trip transfer if the move was temporary & they were moving back to the original loc. even if the # changed because of the new location. When I worked cust. service we did anything we could to help the customer out.
    I would not have accepted that ridiculous solution, & if a supervisor refused to help me I would have called the Executive appeals office. Shame on Verizon.

  31. LOUWEEZY says:

    Sorry to say, but because of the way Central offices are set up, you could have moved across the street & had to have changed your#. It sucks, but with a land line there’s no way around it except for remote call forwarding, which used to be very $$$$$.

  32. doireallyneedausername says:

    Just wanted to point out: Verizon Wireless is NOT the same as Verizon (Local).

  33. Kajj says:

    If I never read “I call bullshit” on Consumerist again it’ll be too soon.

  34. Dobernala says:

    @LOUWEEZY: Apparently you haven’t heard of number portability.

  35. mmejanvier says:

    I think this is less about technical specifics and more about a lack of humanity. Being compassionate isn’t going the extra mile. It sounds like the CSR just wanted them off of the phone as quick as possible.

  36. puka_pai says:


    I want to get a CSR job it sounds like lots of fun. I could basically just act like the village idiot and get rewarded for it!

    You know, they probably keep these moron CSRs on payroll because most of them work for free. They’re too stupid to know how to cash a paycheck!

  37. emis says:


    You said: “What do they gain by making this story up?”

    They get to piss and moan… you’d be surprised how many people make a second career out of this.

    You said: “Oh, that’s right, it never happened to you so it’s clearly false. I see now that bear attacks, human lightning strikes, and perfect bowling scores are also fabrications since you haven’t experienced any of those things either.”

    I certainly have experienced a similar situation (loss of Verizon land line due to fire), and I wrote it about it in my post.

    Regarding a bad CSR… we’ve ALL had to deal with them and only the most naive person would just assume that if you try to do something that seems like common sense and are told “NO” that you should just accept that and quit without calling back, or asking to speak to a manager… but that is apparently exactly what this family did–

    FTFA: “My in-laws were so shell shocked with their loss they didn’t fight, and wouldn’t let me do it for them. They expected to live with the problem until moving back to their rebuilt house.”

    So my calling bullshit is on the way that this article/blog/post/whatever is biased to make Verizon seem like they refuse to perform this function without you doing the impossible (dialing a non-existent phone) when it is clear from my own experience and the experience of others who have posted here, that is NOT the case… Verizon WILL forward your number without having you initiate the forward from your own line.

    …and for the record I have been attacked by a bear… a canned air horn is your best friend when you’re in the woods, bears and most other animals hate them, it also can help you signal for help.

  38. celloperson says:

    people should stop whining about not being able to take their phone numbers with them. chances are, this person moved outside of the ratecenter their phone number belongs in. this isn’t verizon’s fault, it’s the fcc’s fault. btw, i dont work for verizon… i work for their evil enemy. To the person who ported their phone number to a VOIP provider: people like vonage dont care where you live. seriously. they dont use the same 911 everyone else uses, and that’s how they get away with it.

  39. baristabrawl says:


    Also, there is a psychological phenomenon called the “Aunt Edna” phenomenon, where no matter how good your statistics are, there is one person in every crowd that has a story that defies logic and completely proves your statistics wrong. As in, “everyone who is diagnosed with stage 5 cancer dies within the first year.” Some yahoo raises their hand and says, “My friend’s mom had stage 7 cancer in 1984 and she’s still alive!”

    *The above example is exaggerated for effect.

  40. primechuck says:


    Depending on the market RCF (Remote Call Forwarding) may not be allowed by the tarrif in place for service by the PUC/PUB. There are lots of markets where it is simply not allowed. You’d be surprised how many things teleco’s do and charge for are covered by the tarrif set by the local government that never gets changed to protect the status quo.

  41. ageshin says:

    I had a similar problem with Comcast. Our phone number came from the house of my wife’s father and mother. My wife, and later I moved into the house to take care of my wife’s mother after her husband died. This lasted for several years until she too died, and we moved out. We had Comcast for both the inernet, cable, and phone. My wife tried to change the name on the acount to our name, but to no availe. Comcast doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of death, so five years after the death of the mother, our Comcast acount is still under the name of her father. Sometimes when Comcast calls, or I call them, they ask for the name on the acount, and I informe them that the person is dead. This seems to confuse them for a bit, but undeturded, they accept me as the son in law and plow on. Sometimes I feel sorry for them and claim I am my father in law. I think that it is a kind of imortality, and imagine that my father in law will live for centuries with the acount passed from father to son.

  42. EdnaLegume says:

    i hope my stupid isn’t showing, but, their house and phone burned, not the phone lines. In our area, the phone lines are buried. Granted I realize a phone jack is likely quite difficult to come by at this point, but if there’s one not burnt to a crisp wouldn’t this be resolved by buying a $10 phone and plugging it in?

    Hell even I know how to rewire a phone jack.

  43. Nighthawke says:

    @primechuck: It’s marketed in Texas as per PUC Tariffs.
    Of course, Verizon would give away call waiting to users, but would charge them to ability to DISABLE it! I don’t think they ever corrected that little stunt.

  44. Nighthawke says:

    @ageshin: Get copies of their death certificates that have the seal of a public notary. Tell them out and out that your loved one(s) has passed away and I have their death certificates, where do I need to fax it to?

    If they want to hem and haw around on this, they are meddling with Legal Procedure and might be in violation. Escalate it to their super. Failing that, cook’em with a EECB.

  45. @emis: You said: “What do they gain by making this story up?”

    They get to piss and moan… you’d be surprised how many people make a second career out of this.

    Hello, Pot. Meet Kettle.