Verizon Talks Elderly Parents Into Pricey Phones They Can't Use

A fast-talking Verizon rep talked Joanna’s septuagenarian parents into buying expensive Blackberry Storm 2’s, but after they got them, they found that when it came to using the devices, they were all thumbs. Her dad has large fingers and rheumatoid arthritis, and the gadgets were overall too complex for her parents.

The reps at two Verizon stores Joanna went to to swap for easier phones heartily agreed, and said Verizon should have no problem exchanging them, even if the folks were a few days past their first 30-days. But when Joanna called, Verizon wasn’t “hearing her now” one bit.

Joanna writes:

My parents are smart older people, but, despite my dads love of gadgets, electronics still elude them to some degree. A while ago, I recommended my parents switch to Verizon or Tmobile and my dad, specifically, get a Blackberry. He usually uses an old school HP PDA, but it was failing and was nearly 5 years old. Plus he had never figured out how to sync it with the computer, so all the data was at risk.

This summer it nearly failed and I told them that when we got back to the States (we were overseas) I would help them find phones and a new carrier. My 73 year old father, who always makes panicky decisions, called Verizon and spoke to a woman. He told her I had recommended Blackberries and she immediately told him to buy the most expensive one they had, the Storm 2.

My father has rheumatoid arthritis and large fingers. My mother can’t work the camera in a NON-smartphone. I come to visit and see these two news phones. My father admits he cannot use it and my mother won’t even answer hers.

I take them to the Verizon store where the sales guy immediately say to me, “why do they have these phones?” I explain the problem and he says that he recommends my dad get a curve (which is MUCH easier for him to use already) and my mother get the LG ally for the screen, but it also has a keypad. We play around with them, I make my parents touch the screen, type phone numbers, etc. The Curve is a MUCH less complex Blackberry and my mom can handle the ally.

Ooops! My mother is ONE day past her 30 day trial and my dad is 4 days past. The nice Verizon guy says to not worry, just call Verizon and he can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t trade in the phones.

He was wrong. TWO HOURS with Verizon customer service has an associate accuse me of lying, tells me my parents were at fault, that he would do nothing. A supervisor comes on and is JUST AS RUDE, and when I explain that my dad can’t even really USE the touchscreen he tells me that it isn’t his problem. That they bought the phones, they can buy new ones but that Verizon has RULES AND GUIDELINES for this. I ask him if he is abiding by a RULE or following a GUIDELINE as those are two VERY different words. I point out to him that the woman who first advised my dad did not ask him ANY pertinent questions about his use of the phone and just sold him the most expensive stuff they had. She didn’t care to know if he could juse the phone.

After I came back to NYC, my parents went in and talked to a DIFFERENT guy…all the sales people say the same thing: Verizon had NO BUSINESS selling my parents Storms. They are WAY to complex and beyond their capacity.

I am going to have my parents break their contract, NOT pay the fee, and sign up with someone else. I, honestly, have never been so outraged in my life.

You can try calling up and asking for retentions and see if Verizon would rather bend the rules and let you swap the phones or lose them entirely as customers.


Edit Your Comment

  1. danmac says:

    I am going to have my parents break their contract, NOT pay the fee, and sign up with someone else. I, honestly, have never been so outraged in my life.

    A bit cavalier with your parents’ credit, aren’t you?

    • RvLeshrac says:

      I’m pretty sure that 70-somethings don’t really much need to give a damn about credit scores.

      • Julia789 says:

        My mom’s around that age, and when my dad died, she suddenly found her credit score mattering very much as she had to move across the country and get a mortgage on a smaller house near her children. She also had to get everything that was in my dad’s name canceled, and put new accounts in her name. She sold Dad’s big SUV and bought something smaller and better on gas. Credit score mattered quite a bit.

    • backinpgh says:

      when I’m that old I’m gonna be SUPER cavalier with my credit.

    • stock2mal says:

      She’s absolutely right, she needs to cancel the account and tell Verizon to fuck off. Then when their credit score takes a hit, she needs to start making phone calls and emails left and right and skewer Verizon. This is a matter of principle, and companies using people’s fear of damaging their credit score to fuck them in the ass is getting ridiculous. Credit scores are now just another excuse for businesses to act unethically when they can get away with it. ETFs have their place, this is not one of them.

      • Chaosium says:

        “Then when their credit score takes a hit, she needs to start making phone calls and emails left and right and skewer Verizon.”

        That won’t fix their credit score, though.

  2. sven.kirk says:

    *(Insert ANY phone company) SALES REP Talks Elderly Parents Into Pricey Phones They Can’t Use.
    Fixed the headline for you.

  3. Alvis says:

    “the gadgets were overall too complex for her parents” seems more like WON’T use than CAN’T use. It’s not like they sold them phones that only work on European cell frequencies or something.

    • mobiuschic42 says:

      “My father has rheumatoid arthritis and large fingers.”

      • Alvis says:

        Did, thanks. *dismissive wanking motion*

        Mom seems physically fine – she just doesn’t want to learn a new system. Hence, WON’T.

        • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

          Believe it or not, not everyone understands these devices, or CAN. Some people who simply didn’t grow up with anything remotely approaching the level of technology we have now simply cannot cross that divide in order to understand the workings of a very advanced phone, PDA, PC, etc. There is a point where it becomes very hard to learn more complex things, too, and the brain is simply not capable of changing to handle it. Not everyone is capable of endlessly learning an adapting at the rate many of us under 50 had to, and some things can simply be too complex for some people, no matter how intelligent they are in general.

          • qbubbles says:

            I’m more willing to believe “wont” in the case of the mother. The father has the same issues as my Father in Law, so I can understand the giant fingers and arthritis. But the mother is just being a twat.

            • nbs2 says:

              It sounds like she just goes into a state of panic when confronted with the phone. It may be a fear that we think is a bit silly, but it’s still a fear.

            • BeFrugalNotCheap says:

              Wait, did you just call the mother a “twat”? How dick-ish of you. Asshole.

            • Conformist138 says:

              I have a 50 year old roommate who has these problems. She really CAN’T understand. She won’t try anymore because for so long she tried and technology got more complex far faster than she could keep up. Now, she’s just shut down to the whole idea. So, sometimes WONT and CAN’T are very much linked.

  4. Geekybiker says:

    Take their phones and sell them on ebay. Practically new phones should cover the ETF when sold.

  5. Snoofin says:

    While it is totally wrong for Verizon to over sell someone on a phone, why is it, in general, that the elderly people who are supposed to be the smartest people on the earth due to their life experiences can never figure out how to read a manual and learn how to use something with more than 1 button and always fall for obvious scams. Just because you get older doesnt mean you cant learn how to do new things. It doesnt matter if its a PC, a smartphone, switching a TV over to a DVD player, using a remote, using a stove or washing machine with LCD display, installing something simple like a digital converter box, even driving a new car, they always say its too complicated and they dont even bother trying to learn it.

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      Two possibilities –
      1) Maybe older people have a different sense of what’s important in life and what isn’t, and figuring out some overly complicated piece of electronic crap isn’t all that important to them.


      2) Tiny print in owner’s manuals, tiny displays, tiny buttons, and bad eyesight, bad hearing, arthritis in the hands, etc. I’m not the age of the OP’s parents, yet, but I am old enough to know that most of that stuff is designed by someone who isn’t old enough to wear reading glasses.

      • Snoofin says:

        I have to disagree with #1 because if it wasnt important to them they wouldnt have bought it in the first place

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        Likely it is designed by someone who does have to wear glasses to see including to read. Maybe not reading specific glasses but many Americans and many people globally wear glasses. Especially in an industry used to dealing with tiny parts or eyestrain from staring at computers designing fancy gizmos all day long.

        There is no excuse for not learning about everything you have to personally deal with to at least the degree necessary to have it function for you. My grandfather grew up in the 1910s and early 20s and he built planes later in life and managed to figure out how to program a VCR before he died. The verizon guy sucks but being old is not an excuse to purchase something you have no full intent of learning how to use. Same reason I don’t want to buy complicated tech gear and I’m only 28.

      • shepd says:

        3) Being stubborn against something new. The Curve and the Storm 2 both run the same core OS and should operate in similar fashions. The only major difference being that the curve (obviously) uses a more difficult to understand trackball instead of just pointing at stuff, although the curve has the (smaller than the visual keyboard on the storm) keyboard as a separate item. It’s about the same level of difference between windows on a tablet vs. windows on a netbook.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        I think you’re right on except:

        1) Maybe older people have a different sense of what’s important in life and what isn’t, and figuring out some overly complicated piece of electronic crap isn’t all that important to them.

        could be:

        1) Maybe older people have a different sense of what’s important in life and what isn’t, and figuring out some overly complicated piece of electronic crap isn’t all that important.

        becuase we really don’t need all these things no matter our age. Do we want them, yes. Can they be usefull, yes. Do we need them, no.

      • Geekybiker says:

        Meh. Older people ignore that “new electronic crap” while its young and simple. Honestly it’s not all that useful and can be ignored. The trouble is that when it matures and become indispensable the learned curve has become alot steeper. Then they just get frustrated try to learn concepts all at once that most people learn in pieces over the course of years.

        Plus there are studies that say it really is harder to learn new stuff as you get older.

    • pop top says:

      I think it’s more of a case of they didn’t grow up with technology like most Consumerist readers did (those of us in our 20s and 30s), so they didn’t use it daily and didn’t see a need to. Cell phones, computers and other technological devices have only recently become de rigueur for everyone. A lot of elderly people have embraced technology and can use it just fine, but I think some just get overwhelmed with the whole thing (which a lot of people do, no matter the age).

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        And it does depend on the person. Although I came to computers rather late (mid-1990s), I’m in my forties and use a computer, cell phone, Internet, etc. with no trouble. I have a dear friend a couple of years younger than me who won’t TOUCH computers. She is not online and is terrified of the whole thing. She has teenage children; I keep telling her they can help her through any difficulties! I wish she’d do it. She does have a cell but it would be nice to be able to send her pictures and stuff like that.

        Hopefully she’ll become assimilated. Resistance is futile.

    • Chaosium says:

      “why is it, in general, that the elderly people who are supposed to be the smartest people on the earth”

      It’s all that “greatest generation” nonsense.

  6. BrianneG says:

    So was the sales rep supposed to help them decide which phones they needed or could handle over the phone? I don’t completely understand how Verizon is at fault here with exception of the guy in the store assuming they would be able to return/exchange them.

    Any phone is too complex for my mother and she’s only 58. I recently discovered that she didn’t know the phone she’s had for 5 years has volume buttons.

    • Kibit says:

      I agree. I don’t blame the sales rep who sold them phones that the father had mentioned, Blackberries. Her parents shouldn’t have purchased phones over the phone that they could not test out.

      • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

        Part of a salesperson’s JOB is to act in the interests of their customer. Sure, this isn’t what the companies want, but this falls under “being a fucking human”. As a salesperson, if the customer will let you do so, your job is to find out what the customer needs, review their options with them, and help them find a product that does what they want and need (sometimes very different things, and they may not know some of what they need). Not a product that is beyond their level. Selling someone something that is too much for them or will make them unhappy is NOT in their interests, your interests, or the company’s interests in reality.

        Considering the age of the customer in regards to possible problems, and even asking if there are accessibility issues the product needs to meet, is rather to be expected of a good salesperson.

    • coloradogray says:

      Well… yes.

    • teke367 says:

      It’s hard to determine if the original sales rep tricked the parents or not, since we don’t have that information, but I think Verizon should be a little more empathetic about exchanging the phones, when they are just a day or two over the 30 day limit.

  7. PhineasNanerpuss says:

    Apparently something wasn’t available with a rotary dial?
    While its a crummy set of circumstances, the parents purchased phones without ever putting hands on a unit, their fault.
    While Big Red could cut you a break here, they are by no means obliged to do so, talk to retentions or look into selling the phones on ebay/buying used versions of the units they liked off ebay and activating them.

    • Blueberry Scone says:

      I think the parents should have tried out the phones before buying them as well. It’s one thing to see the phone – but if you actually have it in your hands, you can find out if the keys are too small/your fingers are too big for it.

  8. Nighthawke says:

    Once they dump Verizon and the phones, go and get Jitterbugs for them. Large keypads + displays, hearing aid compatible, and nationwide service.

    Simple, no frills, services and accessories oriented towards the 50+.

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      Dad wanted a replacement for his PDA, hence the smartphone.

    • FaustianSlip says:

      Jitterbug is a complete rip-off of a service that completely takes advantage of elderly people who don’t know enough to realize that it’s outrageously expensive for what you’re getting and look elsewhere. Their plans nickle and dime people for every last cent (unless things have changed, they charge you an extra fee for voicemail services, for God’s sake), the cost per minute isn’t great, and when I worked in retail, we constantly had people coming back with the phones because they were having issues getting them set up. The concept is a good one, but the execution is crap. A pay as you go phone may not be a bad idea here, depending on their usage, but there are plenty of very simple phones out there that will run them about ten bucks a pop and pay as you go schemes that won’t try and scam them out of three bucks a month for voicemail services.

      Also, if her dad has rheumatoid arthritis, I wonder whether an ADA complaint (or the threat of one) might have some kind of an impact on the situation.

    • DirectMailFan says:

      Verizon Wireless used to have 65+ Plans & phone called the Coupe that was somewhat like the Jitterbug; maybe they could have offered a discount & plan switch?

  9. Ilo says:

    Last I checked, 31 days is longer than 30 days. Come on, man-up (? woman-up ?) and honor your contract. It is fine to ask for a favor, and the cell phone companies are evil incarnate, but at this point you should just shrug your shoulders and say “oops, we dropped that ball, didn’t we?”

  10. CuriousGeorge113 says:


    They are trying to do their job, weather it’s cellular sales, car, mattresses, whatever. They are going to do whatever they need to do to put food on the table.

    It’s almost like you expect the sales rep to profile your parents to be too stupid to use the phones? I’ve seen elderly people using touchscreen phones, blackberries, ect. If your parents agree to purchase the phones, it’s not the sales reps fault.

    Accept responsibility for crying out loud.

    • georgi55 says:

      Wow you must be a car sales man yourself. Scum of the earth.

    • Gizmosmonster says:

      Sales reps put themselves out there as experts on the vast array of phones available for the particular carrier.

      Taking these phones back likely would have ensured that this family would be customers for a long time. Her parents sound like people who will not upgrade every chance they can, so Verizon won’t have to eat the cost of subsidized new phones every 2 years. Short term thinking sucks.

      People like me look at this and say, “see, ATT is not that bad.” and stay put rather than switching (something I had been thinking about.)

      • HighontheHill says:

        I disagree completely, putting food on the table does not equal upselling to the most expensive blindly, a true sales person fleshes out the particular needs of the customer and matches them with the product that best meets their needs. Period. And then there is your methodology; that of the scumbag used car variety.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          What about the consumer? Where is the consumer’s responsibility in it? Don’t we have an obligation to decide what we need and can use? Sales people are not in control of our minds and actions.

          • Drew5764 says:

            See, you’ve got it all wrong. Sales people are there to make suggestions and steer you towards what’s best for you. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need sales people. Just a scanner to ring up merchandise, and a person to smile as you walk past them and refuse to show your receipt would suffice.

            Being a good sales person involves looking out for your customer, so that they recommend you to others. Unfortunately, I doubt Verizon values their sales reps much at all, and compensates them equally poorly.

            • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

              So I’m wrong in that sales people don’t have control over our brains? Do they have a machine that forces people to make dumb choices?? They wanted Blackberries and got them. Most people want the latest and greatest, so they were sold the latest and greatest. They chose to buy the product without seeing it.

              And sales people are there to make sure the company makes as much money as possible. They aren’t there to help. Quit fooling yourself.

    • c!tizen says:

      SInce when did putting food on the table = take advantage of people? It is possible to be a salesman without being a creep. They were calling to buy a phone, the “work” was pretty much already done for him. The whole reason this salesman has a job is to sell people phones they need, explain features, services, pros and cons, explain return policies, cost of ownership, etc. It’s not out of the realm of reasonability to ask questions like, “what type of phone do you currently have?” and “how is it or is it not meeting your needs?” Then take time to explain the features and services of the phone and make an effort to get them something that they can use and that isn’t overkill. I’m going to blame the salesman here, for not doing his job correctly. Any jack-ass without a conscience or an education can oversell something and take advantage of at least a few people; a real salesman sells the right thing the right way the first time.

      It’s also possible to be effective at customer service without throwing “company policy and guidelines” in people’s faces.

  11. Hoss says:

    It sounds like her dad didn’t realize there was more than one BB model so he went ahead and took his daughter’s advice. So why is everyone beating up on him? These things are expensive, and no one wants to feel like a sucker for not understanding

  12. Anita says:

    “Plus he had never figured out how to sync it with the computer, so all the data was at risk. “

    If he loves gadgets so much, then why doesn’t he know how to hook it up to a computer?

  13. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Dad likes gadgets but can’t really use them efficiently. Mom doesn’t really seem to know how to use a cell phone at all. Daughter recommends a BlackBerry, but neglects to accompany her parents who are decidedly NOT tech savvy. Come on, Dad is using a 5 year old PDA that fails and hasn’t figured out how to sync his data and you think that he’s going to be perfectly OKAY to pick out his own phone?

    The rep is a scumbag for not realizing that maybe these aren’t the most savvy of people. We make assumptions about old people but sometimes they can be accurate. These parents may be very smart, but clearly they are not when it comes to technology, common sense, and dealing with sales reps.

    I blame the rep for being a scumbag, but I blame the daughter for pointing out all of her parents’ problems and not actually being the responsible one and helping them, thereby avoiding the situation in the first place.

    • whylime says:

      She didn’t her dad was “perfectly OKAY [picking] out his own phone.” From the post:

      “This summer it nearly failed and I told them that when we got back to the States (we were overseas) I would help them find phones and a new carrier. My 73 year old father, who always makes panicky decisions, called Verizon and spoke to a woman.”

      She was planning on taking her parents to buy cell phones, but her dad jumped the gun and got the phones himself before she got the chance to take him.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      How is the rep a scumbag? The rep talked to them over the phone. Most people usually want the latest and greatest, which the Storm is. The rep probably did not know about the arthritis and that the parents were not techno savy. Not the reps fault.

      I hate how when an elderly person makes a dumb decisions, everyone acts like they are victims. Again, if they have a cognitive issue, someone needs to take over their finances.

    • El_Red says:

      Not a scam bag. They said they wanted a Blackberry. I owned several Blackberries and you know what? Software is pretty similar from one model to another.

      If they cannot figure out Storm 2, then they would NEVER figure out Pearl, Curve, etc.
      And most Blackberry users want the latest gadget on the market.

      In this case, he should have never recommended a Blackberry in the first place.

  14. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Sell the Storms and use the money to buy the phones they want.

  15. RenegadePlatypus says:

    Wait a minute. BIG problem with “Joanna” and her issues with Verizon.

    1) She felt the salesperson should have assumed her father was too incompetent to use a Blackberry or incapable of making a purchasing decision over the phone.

    2) She felt her father was too incompetent to call customer service on his own behalf.

    3) Her father simply took her advice and the salesman gave her father what he asked for.

    I wonder how Joanna would have felt if the salesperson had tried to talk her father out of the phone, especially considering her assertion that he loves gadgets and uses a PDA.
    “Yes sir I understand that you love technology and use a PDA regularly, but to be honest I think you’re probably too old to be able to comprehend this particular machine”. ??

    If I walk onto a car lot and say I love fast cars and new auto technologies, I would expect the salesman to accommodate, not assume that I have a hard time driving a fast car or am unable to operate power seats.

    I wonder why Verizon was even willing to speak to Joanna over the phone regarding her parents’ account. Why would she, instead of her parents, call Verizon or deal w/ cust svc?

    I have the strongest feeling “Joanna” has no children of her own, and has resorted to babying her parents to feel “needed”, and apparently believes they are too incompetent to deal with salespeople or customer service. Lawd knows why she would think this is the salesman’s fault.

    She should stop interfering, she caused the whole problem from the start.

  16. Puddy Tat says:


    You should be ashamed of yourself and your agents for pulling this type of cr@p on the elderly!

    Simply Horrible,

    • Gulliver says:

      YES, because elderly does equal incompetent to people like you. New rules, old people can only buy Buicks, Jitterbug phones, can not go out to eat after 7 pm, All old people are incapable of taking care off their own business. We MUST treat them like children. There should be a law. Sorry but that aint reality. If her dad is too incompetent to take the phone back as soon as he realizes it is not the phone for him, then it is completely HIS fault. HE paid for it (not the daughter). If he can not handle these types of transactions, Joanna as a responsible daughter must declare dad incapable of handling his own finances and take it all over. Let’s see how that works out for the family.

  17. Emily says:

    I too take issue with the idea that the sales rep should have profiled the customers based on their age and “had no business” selling advanced gadgetry to old people. There are plenty of tech-savvy old folks now, who have spent much of their lives as full participants in the computer era.

  18. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I don’t see the story here. Two adults bought phones, they didn’t return them within the exchange period. If they can’t be trusted with or are mentally incapable of managing their money, someone needs to take over their finances; that would be a family issue and is not Verizon’s problem.

    I don’t want to sound cold, but being older doesn’t make them retarded.

    • Chaosium says:

      ” don’t see the story here. Two adults bought phones, they didn’t return them within the exchange period. If they can’t be trusted with or are mentally incapable of managing their money, someone needs to take over their finances; that would be a family issue and is not Verizon’s problem.

      I don’t want to sound cold, but being older doesn’t make them retarded.”

      Yup. The son did his best, and they didn’t listen to the son. They didn’t trust what he had to say.

      I effing HATED it when my grandparents disregarded my tech advice for some other moron because he “seemed bright” and what does that make me? Oh no, I’ve only been a software and hardware engineer, surely that other idiot matters more.

      The son really needs to stop making excuses for his parents, who disregarded everything he had to say.

  19. haoshufu says:

    If the parents could not use the phones, why did they not return the phones within the 30 days? Did they not tell the problem to the son for the whole 30 days? Did the OP not tell them to return the phone within the 30 days limit?

  20. BrownEyes says:

    Ah Jeez. How hard would have been for Verizon to exchange the phones? I can understand rules and guidelines, but most everything can be fixed if the company really wants to. I figure the daughter probably pissed them off by trying to bully Verizon into exchanging the phones and now they won’t do anything.

  21. thisistobehelpful says:

    Sep-tu-a-cen-ten-ee-uhl cake… in a cup!

  22. Tzvi says:

    What did the salesperson do wrong?

    Person calls up on phone and asks for a Blackberry. She sells them a Blackberry.

    Did the salesperson know the caller was 73? Did the caller mention his arthritis?

    Also, why is there a difference in the 30 days? One is 4 days over and the other is 1 day. Was there a delay in shipping one or were the ordered at different times?

    Too many questions to point blame at the Verizon salesperson.

  23. Razor512 says:

    While it does such that it happens, it is a sales persons job to upsell.

    My neighbor who is in her late 80’s and knows next to nothing about technology got talked into getting a $2000 gaming laptop by bestbuy workers.

    If you show little understanding, they will take advantage and up sell as much as possible. The up selling tactics used by many companies look to trick people who know little about the topic at hand. and I feel that both sides were wrong and that verizon should swap the phones to a simple basic one, it will save a lot of trouble and allow them to keep a paying customer.

    I have betatested cellphones like this in the past and for devices that end up with a $500 price tag, why do the companies only take out shipping insurance of $40-50 for the items? (when you make something in bulk, it becomes very cheap and the companies like verizon that end up getting them don’t pay much more than that. they then sell them at a huge profit margin.

    Take the phones back and give them a dirt cheap/ basic phone that will be as simple as possible for them, it is not worth loosing a customer over.

    • broncobiker says:

      You are wrong about the shipping insurance thing. Its more a cost effective medium. They only lose a small portion of shipped phones and therefore the loss of tens among tens of thousands gets absorbed easily. smaller amounts of shipping insurance save cost and recoop a portion easing the load. (50 recoop on 500$ device, spread the remaining amount over income from other lines and its cheaper)

      If you ship your single xbox to someone and it breaks, and you dont have insurance you have no other padding to recover the lost money into, since you only had once source and your screwed.

  24. Kibit says:

    Many people are saying that the sales rep shouldn’t have sold them these phones. However the sales rep sold them the phone that the father asked for. (Blackberry)
    If the parents could not or would not use the phones then they should have returned them.

    The OP states that her parents are “smart older people” it sounds like they made a decision that they now regret. This happens to many people, but this is not the work of an evil, demonic sales rep.

  25. SG-Cleve says:

    My parents and my wife need a very simple phone with big buttons and big text on the screen.

    They need to make phone calls and receive phone calls.

    No camera, no text messaging etc.

    I would think this is a very common need, why don’t they have a phone for this?

    • Gulliver says:

      They have tons of them. Go to the telephone aisle at any electronics store and there are phones there. Of course, the world does not revolve around you and your wife or mother, so manufacturers sell what makes money and what people buy. Do you really think companies are sitting around saying, we could make a fortune of we just had a phone that appealed to SG-Cleve and his family.
      Get over yourself

      • LadyTL says:

        The world does not only revolve around people who want gadget filled cellphones either. What if someone doesn’t want to pay a ton of money for a cellphone with does of feature they will never use?

        • wrjohnston91283 says:

          There’s more people who demand (are willing to pay money) gadget filled phones than they are people who demand (again, are willing to pay over $100) a simple phone Go into a phone store and look at the prices on phones. The ones with extra features are the ones that cost the most money, hence they’re the ones that are going to get made and sold.

          Even the Pantech Breeze II (AT&T) costs $70 before rebates, and it’s sold as a “simple” phone. Big buttons, not a lot of features.

  26. Scoobatz says:

    Come on. I think we’re stretching the truth just a bit. I don’t see any evidence of a salesperson deceptively pushing an elderly couple into purchasing a phone they couldn’t use.

    Instead, the OP’s father bought something, sight unseen, based on a vague recommendation from his daughter. Knowing that he has arthritis and large fingers, it probably wasn’t the best decision to purchase a phone without trying it out first. I can’t fault the Verizon rep for selling the guy a phone he asked for.

    • Drew5764 says:

      He asked for “A Blackberry”, not “the top of the line Blackberry X”. Remember, Blackberry is a brand. It’s like going into an Apple store, telling the Apple person you only want to write/read email, and look at some non-flash websites and play crossword puzzles, and leaving with a $2500 Mac Pro, because well, you said you needed a Mac.

      I have a feeling a bunch of the comments are from poor sales people, at best. While you may think it’s about gaming the customer, when you’re in a high-stakes sales environment with large contracts, engendering bad feelings from *anyone* will not win you contracts. Looking out for your customer, every step of the way, will.

      • FaustianSlip says:

        So it’s Verizon’s fault that neither the parents nor the daughter could muster up the time or motivation to get into a Verizon store within thirty days to try and swap out the phones? That’s a pretty standard return policy. I actually agree that it’s easier and better customer service to just swap out the phones, but we as consumers expect companies to follow their contracts and such if it benefits us; I think that does place an obligation on us to be responsible consumers and realize that by holding people to the contract that’s signed, we’re also accountable to the same contract.

        Also, you do realize that with the exception of the Storm, virtually all Blackberries have tiny buttons, right? I’ve never seen one that didn’t (again, except the Storm, which has a touch screen, which I would actually think might be easier for the gentleman in this story). I can’t imagine why the OP recommended that her father purchase a Blackberry given his issues, and it wasn’t very bright of him to go off half-cocked and buy an expensive phone over the phone without trying it out. That’s the part where they lose me here, and that’s something that was totally beyond Verizon’s control. If he called up insistent that he wanted a Blackberry because that’s what his daughter told him he should get, they can’t very well refuse to sell him one.

        Again, I think the wise move would have been for Verizon to swap out the phones as a one-time courtesy, but ultimately, the OP and her parents dropped the ball several times here.

      • Scoobatz says:

        Yes, Blackberry is a brand. More proof that the OP’s father demonstrated poor judgement in buying a product for which he had little knowledge. And, he needs to be take personal responsibility for the consequences of that decision. Stop blaming Verizon. Nobody has a transcript of that conversation. For all we know, the father could have requested the Curve because he remembers seeing a commercial about it. Nowhere in this post did the OP indicate the father called Verizon and said he needed a phone with specific features and nothing more.

        Truth is, I don’t understand why he’s even buying a Blackberry. If he needs a phone only to make a few calls now and then and send the occasional text, he bought the wrong line of phones to begin with. The daughter should have suggested something more practical.

  27. The Marionette says:

    Honestly the parents are to blame. Had they at least done some simple research on the phones before getting them then they would know how they function and there’s actually size comparisons on various sites on the phones, so they could’ve easily saw how big the keys are, the father couldn’t bitch about something or another and the mom could’ve got a rotary phone instead.

  28. ma1234 says:

    Why is this an article? Verizon did nothing wrong!

    You are past the 30 days. Tough. Live and learn. It’s obnoxious, self righteous consumers like you that make things more expensive for the rest of us. Shame on you.

  29. sendbillmoney says:

    “I, honestly, have never been so outraged in my life.”

    Ever? Seriously? With all of man’s inhumanity to man since the dawn of civilization to choose from, her elderly parents supposedly getting screwed on a phone purchase is the main outrage this person has ever had?

    Let’s flip this and look at it from the business’s perspective. You’re selling widgets. An adult consumer calls you and wants to buy some widgets. You offer to sell the adult two of your most expensive widgets, and the adult accepts. There’s a 30-day trial period.

    After the trial period has expired, the adult wants to give back his widgets. Why should the you allow this? You met your part of the bargain, which included a generous trial period. Why shouldn’t the adult consumer be required to meet his own part of the bargain?

    We’re always quick to zing companies that don’t live up to their end of the deal. This company did. It had no duty to run through a checklist of questions and inquire about whether the adult consumer who bought these phones was able to handle them. That’s what the trial period was for!

  30. balthisar says:

    I love how in our society nothing is ever our fault any more. Can’t bother yourself to read a contract? Drive too fast with low air pressure in your tires? Stick that Q-Tip too far up your ear? That’s okay, because corporate America is evil and everything that can possibly go wrong is their damned, bloody fault.

  31. fmatthew5876 says:

    Verizon is a scumbag company. One time when I called to order a second tv box they automatically signed me up and tried to charge me for 2 services without asking. I had to fight next month to get the services remove and get credits refunded.

    When I signed up I was offered free HBO for 3 months and I was told by the sales rep that it would be automatically removed from my plan once the free offer expired. Next bill comes and theres the charge for HBO. Verizon says theres nothing they can do about it.

    Verizon is a company of liars and cheats. They will do anything to get your money. The only reason I am still with them is because I don’t have any better option for internet service. If a decent competitor came along I would be first to jump ship.

  32. dragonvpm says:

    The comments on articles like this are really starting to make me dislike coming to the Consumerist. We seem to be moving further and further away from looking out for consumers (even if that means “oh hey you made this mistake, other people should take note and avoid doing that”) and moving firmly into the smug land of “you deserve to be screwed over because you were not perfect like me”

    Salesmen at the Verizon store said that the company should be able to take the phones back after the 30 days, most likely because they’ve seen it happen. Verizon may not be obligated to do so, but given that these folks signed up for a two year plan and they were still going to buy new phones, there’s no good reason to deny them the exchange. A company like Verizon can and does take phones after the initial 30 day period and iirc that 30 day period is meant to let you out of your contract entirely. They weren’t asking to drop their service just to switch phones to some that they felt more comfortable using. That sounds like a perfect opportunity to impress them at the beginning of a long term business relationship.

    The salesman on the phone absolutely did not do his job when he sold them the most expensive Blackberries that Verizon carried. I’ve played around with all the different Blackberries out there and I can see how an older person might have trouble using a phone that’s mostly touchscreen. Buttons, even small ones, can be a big help to someone whose hands aren’t as fully functional as they once were. By the same token you might want to sterr them away from a clamshell phone (they can be hard to open) and towards and candybar or smartphone. That’s not a statement about elderly as much as a statement about folks who have some degree of physical disability. My folks are also in their 70s and I always take into account things like eyesight, hearing, manual dexterity and that doesn’t really take much time at all. A salesman could easily ask a few questions to see what they might need or want and in the process he’s got a chance to make a customer for life by doing his best to make them happy instead of making them feel inadequate and bad for not being able to get comfortable with those phones. Heck, I’m young and I’ve had a few phones that just don’t make me happy over the years and I try really hard to shop around and really dig into what I’m buying, sometimes phones just don’t live up to your expectations or your needs.

    So yeah, the OP and her parents made a few mistakes that we can all learn from:

    a) if you have a personal “tech support” person in your life and they say they’ll go with you to buy something wait for them, don’t charge in by yourself if you’re not comfortable with the technology in question

    b) if you are buying something by phone be aware of your needs/wants and make sure you make them clear to the agent on the phone, better yet, get online or go to the store and make sure you’re really happy with what you’re going to buy

    c) if you do buy something and you’re not happy with it keep track of your return dates and make sure you do something about it before that time is up.

    but at the end of the day Verizon is being needlessly useless and they’re doing a great job of losing a couple of new customers and thanks to this article possibly scaring away many more.

  33. Cicadymn says:

    I fear for my parents when they reach that age. My Grandmother got ripped off by a door to door salesman who sold her a $500 vacuum that wasn’t very good.

    My dads not the sharpest tool in the shed and my moms a people pleaser. I have a feeling that I’m going to be coughing up some dough in their twilight years.

  34. wellfleet says:

    I take huge exception to the “got talked into” phrasing here. If your parents are too feeble-minded to agree to a contract, they should not be out shopping by themselves without an able companion. If, on the other hand, your parents are perfectly lucid and able to make decisions, then they made an error in judgment when they bought phones without fully trying them out in a physical store. Would they buy a car online without test driving the vehicle? Being in your seventies is completely tangential unless your parents mention this on the phone with the rep and say: “hey we’re in our 70s and have difficulty using small buttons, please keep that in mind when you suggest phones for us.”

    My mother in law is in her late seventies and as sharp and strong as anyone half her age, but she isn’t that comfortable with technology and thus has a simple phone as opposed to an EVO. She would never say “I got talked into…”

  35. RubyRedJess says:

    Once again, I have to agree. I was a sales rep (on the phones). Supervisors and Managers there did not care about the age or needs of customers. You are expected to sell EVERYONE the highest priced plan and phone you can – PERIOD. This is one of the reasons I had to leave the company.

  36. perfectly_cromulent says:

    normally if customer service has a stick up their butts like this, a manager would just do an exception and do the exchange in store. i’m glad the store was at least willing to help them, half the customer care people have no idea what they are talking about.

  37. ellemdee says:

    Legal? Yeah. Unethical? I think so. I was looking at laptops once and I overheard the salesperson trying to tell an elderly woman that she needed a $1000+ computer to email her grandkids and view photos. He left to go get something and I helped her find something more reasonable. The salesguy probably didn’t like it, but I couldn’t stand there and let her get taken advantage of.

    I try to get my parents to let me help them with technical purchases/decisions, but my dad’s into panic buying the first thing he sees and usually pays way to much. He panics whenever his AT&T contract is about to expire and rushes down to the store to renew it again. I tried to explain to him that he doesn’t have to renew his contract to keep his service active but, once the panic sets in, there’s no reasoning with him. He could save a lot of money by switching to T-Mobile (the rest of the family is on T-Mobile), but he refuses to believe that number porting exists and works, so he wants the rest of the family to switch to AT&T instead. When he initially signed his contract, he wanted free phones, and they gave him the absolute cheapest, oldest ones in the store when he could have got much nicer phones for free, but he won’t ask *any* questions and accepts whatever they give him.

  38. mesa says:

    Same thing happened to me. Here’s what I did. Verizon allows you to transfer contract liability to someone elses account. I put my Brother on as a second line for $10 month, bought a phone off ebay, sold his on ebay. and took responsibilty for the contract. A few hoops to jump through, but all in all saves everyone hundreds of dollars and Verizon gets minimal. It actually cost them quite a bit.

  39. Chaosium says:

    This is true of pretty much every electronics store (or other service!) Sales agents prey on the elderly, who are too trusting because someone “seems nice”. Sure works in politics!