Verizon Refunds Snowpocalypse Mobile Overages

Here are two nuggets of delicious customer service in one e-mail. Brock spent hours on the phone during one of America’s recent massive snowstorms trying to straighten out his air travel plans. This made him use up cell phone minutes and rack up huge overage charges, which Verizon partially refunded. Oh, and JetBlue was extremely helpful too–once he got through.

I opened my Verizon bill this month and was shocked by $82 in overage charges. I got caught up in the holiday travel snowpocalypse and spent a couple of hours on hold with JetBlue to get canceled flights sorted out. It turns out calling toll free numbers on a cell phone still costs you minutes. Who knew? Not me!

To make a short story short, I called Verizon and plead my ignorance and they quickly offered me a $50 credit to help with the unexpected bill. Good enough for me and another reason I love Verizon for my cell phone.

To tell the JetBlue story, they refunded my canceled flights in full (including my even more legroom fees and taxes) and helped me find flights on another airline connecting through Phoenix instead of JFK so I still got to spend New Years with my girlfriend.

So there you have it, two stories of great customer service in one!

Your public service announcement for the day: yes, calling toll-free numbers counts against your cell phone minutes.


Edit Your Comment

  1. SiD says:

    AT&T has rollover minutes, great for those months of sudden increased usage.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      And Cricket has no rollover minutes, because its (in Chicago) $45.00 for unlimited calling / data / text.

      People still pay for minutes?

    • JonathanR says:

      This is exactly why I like AT&T. I have the lowest possible minutes 450 a month. Since I do everything in txt and email I have accumulated 3861 roll over minutes, that gives me an additional 64 hours of phone usage in case I get stuck in situations like this.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Agreed. I have the family plan. I was averaging really close to 1400 minutes (I was turning early nights and weekends on and off month to go over/under… Rollover minutes expire after one year).

      Once they added a-list my usage dropped to about 950 so I no longer use early nights and weekends. Still too much to drop to the lower plan (which also looses a-list) so I now keep a bank of over 3000 minutes, a few expire each month.

  2. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    Your public service announcement for the day: yes, calling toll-free numbers counts against your cell phone minutes.

    Small wonder Verizon was willing to refund it then. It’s not “toll-free”, it’s “toll paid by someone else”.

    Oh, and why is it consumers tolerate this? Oh yeah, no real choice on the matter. But we couldn’t have a law about that, no, that would be teh SOCIALISMS! *froth*

    • rambo76098 says:

      Because you are paying the cell phone company to place your call over the air. Even if you call a toll free number that pays for any ground based charges, your call is still going over the air to your company’s cell tower. You are receiving the service that you are paying for even when calling a toll free number.

      Don’t like it? Drop the cell and get a landline. Most of those are unlimited anyway, but hey, calling a toll free number will surely be free!

  3. Yankees368 says:

    Wow, I have not gone over my minutes in years. People still do that?

    • pastthemission says:

      You do realize that waiting times were somewhere near 1-2 hours once you go through to a person which itself took about 1-2 hours right? This isn’t someone who was just yapping on the phone. They were sitting listening to wait music on the phone for hours.

    • One-Eyed Jack says:

      Yes, it happened to me when my father was hospitalized for nearly a month. I thought I had free nights & weekends. It turns out I only had free weekends. Whoops. Even the T-Mobile rep was shocked. They offered to retro-upgrade me to free nights, but by the time my bill came the crisis had passed and I declined. But now I know not to call someone and spend an hour on the phone unless it’s the weekend.

  4. Tim says:

    Grr, get your own “snow” words, New Yorkers! Snowpocalypse refers to the December 2009 blizzard, which walloped DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Snowmageddon refers to the early February 2010 blizzard, which hit a similar area. Snowverkill was the blizzard shortly after Snowmageddon.

  5. Nick says:

    Where have cell phone users been in the past 10+ years? If you not in your “Night/Weekend” airtime window, you’re going to pay for ANY of the airtime you’re using. Toll Free numbers are no exception.

  6. GMurnane says:

    On one hand how is it fair that calling toll free numbers counts against your minutes? Doesn’t “toll-free” mean the party being called pays for all charges? But, at least Verizon agreed to credit his account–although in my opinion, he never should have been using up minutes for a toll free call.

    • BigRobot says:

      Toll free numbers means that the recipient takes care of *long distance* charges. Remember, the 800 system is an artifact from before everyone had cell phones. Since most cell phone plans include long distance these days, there is no benefit to calling an 800 number from your cell.

      However, you’re still using the radio of the cell phone to connect between your device and the cell towers, which is pretty much the definition of airtime, hence the overage charges. Used to work for a couple different carriers, so I know their lines of reasoning when it comes down to airtime use. Hope that helps!

      • GMurnane says:

        That makes sense, thanks for the explanation. But could billing the owner of the toll-free number and not counting toll free calls against your minutes be possible? or is that too far out?

  7. Rose says:

    It turns out calling toll free numbers on a cell phone still costs you minutes. Who knew? Not me!

    Then you’re an idiot and you didn’t RTFContract.

    • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

      Do Not Feed The “Read Every Fine Print In Every Contract Or You Suck” Troll.

      It was a crappy, specific situation and I’m glad that Verizon came through.

      • Rose says:

        Call cost minutes. This is common knowledge, not a fine print situation.

        I’m glad they came through, also.

  8. Rebecca K-S says:

    While it’s cool and totally reasonable that Verizon gave a partial refund, I didn’t realize anyone DIDN’T know that 800-numbers still use minutes. Cell phones aren’t like home phones. If you use minutes when you receive a call (depending on your plan), why wouldn’t 800-numbers be the same?

    • kc2idf says:

      Ding ding ding! As usual, Rebecca posts a winner.

      With toll-free numbers, the phone call is free, but the airtime is not.

      Truthfully, aside from professional image, 800 numbers don’t serve much of a purpose any more, as most telephone services are flat-rate or involve an allotment of usage anyway. It makes the phone call cost the same to the caller either way, but costs the business some money (though admittedly a small amount).

      OTOH, as the owner of two 888 numbers, I can say there is an advantage. Toll-free calls do an end-run around caller-id blocking, by using a different infrastructure called ANI, which can’t (theoretically) be blocked. My toll-free provider delivers the ANI data through the same mechanism usually used for call ID, so I see pretty much the same data, in the same manner, and am completely unaware of any attempts to block or mangle it. That might arguably be worth the very small amount of money that they charge me.

  9. coren says:

    The OP should have realized that toll free doesn’t translate to free minutes. For local calls (which are also essentially, toll free) you use minutes, for incoming calls you use minutes (unless your plan specifies otherwise) so 800 numbers use minutes too. Toll free refers to paying long distance versus not (I think). It was a good move by Verizon refunding the overage, but an 82 dollar lesson is far less than what he could have faced in other circumstances

  10. Donathius says:

    My father-in-law works for AT&T. We just leech on his family plan. Unlimited everything and we just pay him for the extra cost incurred by our two iPhones. Since he gets the employee discount we’re only paying $40/month for two iPhones with unlimited everything. Oh…and my dad works for Apple so it’s win-win for us all around.

  11. TooManyHobbies says:

    Seriously, who DOESN’T know that minutes are minutes, regardless of whether you’re paying tolls on the call or not? Last time I heard of someone who didn’t understand this, it was in the 80s when mobile phones were new, rare, and not well understood.

    You get charged airtime when you’re calling local numbers where you don’t get charged tolls, why would this be any different?

  12. larrycl says:

    It turns out calling toll free numbers on a cell phone still costs you minutes. Who knew? Not me!
    Um, every cell phone plan I’ve had in the last 10-15 years works this way.

    All toll-free means is there is no long-distance (toll) charge associated with the call. If your cell phone plan normally charged you for long distance in addition to airtime, then these calls would not accrue long distance changes. But the airtime still costs you.

    I think it’s great that Verizon refunded the person, but really, this supposed-problem was entirely on the user’s side.

  13. hmburgers says:

    “It turns out calling toll free numbers on a cell phone still costs you minutes. Who knew? Not me! “

    This is where I stopped reading, because the OP is clearly clueless is now getting money back not because the company did something wrong, but because he’s pissing and moaning about not realizing some plainly obvious to just about every other cell phone user.

    If it was 2002 I might have cut you some slack OP, but seriously, there is no excuse in 2011 for thinking that a toll free number does not use cell phone minutes.

  14. psm321 says:

    It annoys me when companies don’t post non-toll-free numbers. I only have my cell phone so I’m burning minutes anyways. Why won’t you let me call you on a number where you don’t have to be paying toll charges too? (Smaller companies often have this in the form of a “in-state” number)

  15. AllanG54 says:

    People still don’t realize that they’re paying for minutes of AIR TIME not talk time though the phone companies don’t advertise it that way. I guess they’ll learn eventually.

  16. dourdan says:

    “To make a short story short, I called Verizon and plead my ignorance and they quickly offered me a $50 credit to help with the unexpected bill. Good enough for me”

    i am happy to read about someone who is greatful for what they recieved. there have been too many articles where the “victim” would be pissed to only get 50.

  17. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    News flash: you also use minutes for INCOMING calls, ZOMG srsly!!!1! This is a cell phone, not a land line.

  18. mikells43 says:

    know your cell phone plan you dumbass, also you are causing others like myself to not get so good service by using it all up on stupiditiy like this. read your contract that you signed, it tells u all about ur cell service, ur paying for something monthly, and signed for a 2 year deal, and not read it? wow. good consumer skills.