Not Even Verizon Knows Exactly Why It Charges $5/Month To Keep Your Number Unpublished

Most telecom companies have pat, scripted explanations for each of their many, many monthly fees and surcharges, but when one man tried to find out why Verizon charges a $5 fee to keep his number unpublished, he got two very distinct reasons — or rather, one reason and one description of the service.

Network World’s Paul McNamara thought he would ask Verizon’s media relations people about the reasoning behind this fee and got the following explanation in reply:

“The cost charged to offer unlisted phone numbers is chiefly systems and IT based. Specifically, the costs we incur and factor into the monthly charge involve three things: quality control, data integrity and the interface we have with other carriers and directory publishers. These activities help us protect the feed of customer information we have, and must protect, when customers request that their telephone number remains private when requested.”

So it’s all for your own good — the price you pay for guaranteed privacy. That doesn’t really explain why all of this would possibly cost $60/year for each person, but it’s at least a sort of explanation.

Certainly much better than when McNamara sent off the identical question to Verizon customer service, which churned out the following robotic response:

Thank you for choosing Verizon. I have received your email dated 08/05/2012 regarding Verizon service I know how this can be important. I apologize for any frustration or inconvenience this has caused. My name is R[***], and I will be happy to assist you and also review the account to make sure you are getting the best value.

A non-published number will not be printed in telephone directories and Directory Assistance operators will not provide the number to callers requesting it.

If a caller requests a number from Directory Assistance and the number is non-published, the caller will receive the message, “The number requested is non-published.”

It is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate to notify you that if you have chosen non-listed or non-published service, your billing name and address will be shared with your chosen long distance provider for billing purposes.

However, Non-Published customers have the right to request that their billing name and address not be disclosed to other companies (other than your long distance company) for Verizon calling card, collect or bill-to-third number calls.

Thank you for using Verizon. We appreciate your business.

Great… So instead of explaining why Verizon charges the fee, the CSR just hoped that by bashing the customer into submission with an overly detailed run-down of the various facets of the service he would be discouraged from following up.

Of course, the real reason Verizon charges this $5 fee is because they can and people like me will pay. It’s that simple, although not according to Verizon.

This disparity highlight a major problem with customer service, especially customer service in the telecom/cable/satellite industry. The customer service systems at these businesses lives and dies by the FAQ sheet, assuming customers are all utter morons who will get glassy-eyed and hang up when presented with detailed non-answers. This is especially true when it comes to issues that CSRs can not help you with and which the company knows will annoy customers.

McNamara sums it up bittersweetly: “Of course, the real reason Verizon charges this $5 fee is because they can and people like me will pay. It’s that simple, although not according to Verizon.”

Thanks to Maxwell for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. gb944 says:

    Verizon used to charge $1 per month for an unpublished number.

    Instead, I listed the number in the name of my stepdaughter, with a first initial and her (different than mine) last name. No charge. from Verizon.

    When a telemarketer would call asking for “Mr. So-and-so”, I would simply say, “Oh, he died last week.” That would tend to take the wind out of their sales-pitch.

    I suppose that would still work today…

    • kc2idf says:

      My father and stepmother do the same thing. Their phone is listed under her name from her previous marriage.

  2. Jimmy37 says:

    “Because they can” is an excellent answer. “Because they will” explains why people do dumb stuff.

  3. samonela says:

    Why not have us opt IN to having our number published?

    Too much work or not enough money to be made?

  4. KhaiJB says:

    maybe it’s you pay to replace the income they would have gotten from selling your number ;)

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Good theory. When I was attending school at [redacted], and moved into a new room,
      usually within 3 days I had tele-marketers calling me and knowing my last name.

  5. LogicalOne says:

    Wow! Your explanation as to why Verizon charges the fee matches the OP’s explanation exactly!

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    “Not Even Verizon Knows Exactly Why It Charges $5/Month To Keep Your Number Unpublished”

    Ever since JP Morgans takeover of Verizon. . .

  7. HenryES says:

    This got me thinking, if you port your number to VOIP other than Verizon’s do they remove your listing?

    • nybiker says:

      By porting the number to a VOIP carrier, Verizon would no longer have control over your number. You would have to tell your VOIP carrier to include it or not. I tell the folks at Packet8 not to include it.
      I gave up the non-published fee at VZ when I lost my job and at that point about 3 1/2 years ago, the fee was $2.50 per month. $5 now, geez, that’s just obscene.

  8. Stella says:

    When I had a land line I used Verizon. They once wanted to charge me a fee for eliminating a service. “You don’t want to pay for that service you’re not using? Well, here’s how much we charge you to remove it.”


  9. cybrczch says:

    Ernestine: A gracious hello. Here at the Phone Company, we handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth. So, we realize that, every so often, you can’t get an operator, or for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn’t make. We don’t care!

    Watch this… [ she hits buttons maniacally ] We just lost Peoria.

    You see, this phone system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated — [ she hits buttons with her elbows ] even we can’t handle it. But that’s your problem, isn’t it? So, the next time you complain about your phone service, why don’t you try using two Dixie cups with a string? We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.

  10. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    And an unpublished number won’t stop the robo callers.

    212-555-0000, no answer…so
    212-555-0001, answering machine, so onto
    212-555-0002, bingo!

    The only thing an unlisted number does is keep people who might need to get in touch with you, but don’t know your number right off hand, from contacting you, like maybe your township needs to talk to you about the pipe they’re going to dig up next to your driveway, and they’d like to warn you so when you go out to go to work tomorrow, you’re not trapped. You know, stuff like that.

    Just ditch the unlisted number, and list it under another bogus name, like Clem Kadiddlehopper. Problem solved.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Greetings, friend. Do you wish to look as happy as me? Well, you’ve got the power inside you right now. So use it. And send one dollar to Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. Don’t delay! Eternal happiness is just a dollar away.

    • nybiker says:

      That’s true. A number of years ago, when I still had an unpublished #, the good folks at Arbitron (the Nielsens of the radio industry for those that might not know ’em) called me and asked me to keep a diary of my radio listening for the week. I asked them how they got my # and while he didn’t the robo term, that’s exactly what they did. Ok, so he’s got my #, but they had to mail the form to me. Well, I told ’em no, so I had them mail it to my mom. Sure enough a few days later the diary arrived at her house. Oh, for the record, and way O/T, I checked the ‘did not listen to any radio’ box every day for those 7 days. Too many commercials and they cut off the songs.

      • Murph1908 says:

        Heh. I was asked to do this once. The 80’s being my teen years, I love 80’s music. A local high-school had a radio broadcast, and would do 80’s music every day from 5-8. They must have shot up the ratings board that week, because I listened to it every day and reported as such.

        It also made me wonder about the accuracy of such methods. The office that I worked at had a guy who loved the Jim Rome sports radio show, and turned it to that every day. I refused to add that idiot to my diary.

    • Willow16 says:

      This is true to an extent but, a few years ago, I listed our phone number to save money. Almost immediately we started getting many more marketing calls. I unlisted it and the calls went back down to just the robo calls. It’s been unlisted ever since. I wish I didn’t have to pay but we get enough calls we don’t want.

  11. alexwade says:

    I know why! Because it is VERIZON! They may have the best customer service and best quality cell phones, but they nickel-and-dime you to death.

  12. Blue Moonlight says:

    You’ve got the quote from McNamara in there twice – the final, attributed paragraph, and an unattributed paragraph two paragraphs above it.

    • Stiv says:

      No kidding. For a second, I didn’t know if McNamara was plagiarizing Consumerist, or the other way round. I even wondered if they both had come to the exact same conclusion independently. Then, my 4th beer finally kicked in, and I got too tired to care….

  13. nandhp says:

    They could just rename it Marketing Partner Cost Recovery Fee (noun, the amount of money they would otherwise get from their Marketing Partners in exchange for your name and address).

  14. ericfate says:

    I used to pay to be unlisted, then I realized that they’ll list you under any name you see fit to give them. Last time I moved, just tell them you want to appear in the directory as ‘Joe Smith’ or ‘Jennifer Smith’.

  15. Lucky225 says:

    Except that, verizon does NOT protect your information for paying the $5. Case and point we specifically lied to Verizon landline service ONLY and told them that our house was a 2 story flat renovated into 2 units and that one landline was “Apartment A” and the other was “Apartment B” and put 2 lines in at each “apartment” in different names. Surprise, Surprise mail NOT FROM VERIZON started showing up at “apartment a” and “apartment b” in the name associated with the line for those ‘apartments’ when we specifically requested unpublished AND unlisted(yes there is a difference, unpublished just means they don’t publish it in the phone book, unlisted means 411 won’t give out the number), and we also requested to opt out of any data sharing. Using these type of methods you can find out what companies actually honor their privacy policies, and which ones try to share it without getting caught, I’m looking at you big V