Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Can You Hear Me Now?"

Yesterday was pretty much a "lost" day for me. About the only thing I did get accomplished in a reasonable time span was fixing supper. Otherwise, I'm not all that sure what I DID do with the rest of the hours at my disposal -with one minor exception - and I KNOW I wasn't on the phone all THAT long!

My day began its downward descent when my telephone bill for the past month appeared in my inbox here. I opted a few months back to receive my phone bill via e-mail and then, pay it online too. No big deal, right?

Except that because of some changes I made to my account back in August, I received no bill that month but in September, the bill was a two-month total. Ok, not really a problem with that either except that I felt it was not in line with what I'd been expecting in the amount due column. But then, my phone bills have NEVER been of an amount of what I was expecting to have to pay but rather of amounts I really DIDN'T WANT to have to pay. I intended to contact the phone company and ask for some explanations about the bill but well, because I do procrastinate a lot - also forget about a lot too - I never got around to doing that. But, because I thought I had a good idea of what my phone bill was supposed to run now each month -after having made these changes back in August - the amount due now (on the bill I received yesterday) was not quite in line with what I had anticipated - not at all!

So, that set my course for the day.

I pulled up my bill, nosed around all over the place with it and finally, managed to find where I could view my previous bills in full online but to do that, I had to print out a copy of each bill I wanted to see and compare. No problem there, you're thinking I suppose. Oh, but I beg to differ with you on that one. The speed of maneuvering through the online maze that is Verizon's website is more of a snail's pace - and add to that my dial-up service slowing everything down even more - well, this was a lengthy, time-consuming project, to say the least.

Then, once I got the last three month's bills printed out, it is really frustrating, very, very confusing to try to figure out what the heck one is actually being charged for by the olde phone company too. You really do need a degree - advanced one at that - in accounting I think to interpret all the phone companies various little charges here and there.

What started all this in the first place came about via a phone call back in July to a cousin of mine. She lives about 100 miles from me so obviously, this meant a long distance phone call for me. The set-up I had on the phone prior to August was a "deal" (that's what Verizon had told me it was back a few years ago when I enrolled in that particular plan anyway - a "deal" - as in "such a deal we're giving you!") That "deal" was their $29.95 plan that gave me caller id, star 69 and some other capacity which I don't rightly recollect now but was something I didn't use either - obviously -plus the 5 cents a call for long distance junk. Yadda, yadda. All guaranteed to help me actually lower the cost of my phone service. Believe that one and I've got a bridge for you too up for sale!

Because I didn't have a long distance carrier, in order to dial long distance on my phone I had to first plug in a series of numbers - code for a l.d. carrier ya know - then the "1", the area code, and the number I wanted to call. Anyway, the phone company told me - erroneously I must add - that this method would create many savings for me on my phone bills but the bills which prior to that sign-up had been averaging between $30 and $34 a month then increased up to on average, around $48-52 a month and often between $62-$70 a month. I know, pocket change to some, right? Well, not on my budget but every doggone time the phone company made me an offer they said I shouldn't refuse, I should know by now it is going to be full of empty money savings devices and full of extra charges to my bill.

I was disgressing a bit there. Ok, ranting is more accurate. Whatever!

Anyway, back to calling my cousin - she informed me in the course of our conversation that she had switched her phone over to what Verizon calls a "Freedom" plan and it gave them unlimited long distance dialing and also set there bill at a rate that was consistent then month after month. Now that idea I liked and also, when she told me this plan ran just under $40 a month, before taxes of course, but with that added in, their total bill she thought ran them around $46-48 a month. Gee, I thought then, I could live with that as that was less than what my phone was running me with us trying to keep the long distance calls down to a bare minimum, essential calls ONLY. (Of course, my idea of "essential long distance" and my daughter's visions there have NEVER corresponded so that was a problem area right from the get-go ya know.)

But nevertheless, I decided to contact the phone company, find out more about this great cost savings plan, etc., which I did and they did a bang up job of convincing me that yes indeedy, this was the Godsend I was looking for, most certainly, for sure! So, I signed up for it.

Of course, to qualify for the actual "savings" I had to relinquish my "star 69" service, the caller id too and the other item whatever that may have been. No problem! I lived many a year with a phone and no caller id so I could easily go without that convenience all over again.

Well, imagine my surprise then last month when my bill came in and there were long distance calls listed on it! But, at that time, I couldn't locate the page on their website to pull up a full copy of my bill to see exactly what those long distance calls were either so I was doubly confused. (And yes, I know - confusion is a constant state of mind for me most of the time. I know that, you know that too by now I'm sure.) But even so, my total two month bill for the first two months of this free long distance plan came to almost $119 - a far cry from the bill I had anticipated getting which I thought for two months would run me in the neighborhood of oh, maybe $92-$100.

Well, imagine my shock then yesterday when the newest bill was tacked on to the previous two-month bill - adding almost $66 more to the amount I owed Verizon for three months services. I was really ticked off then.

Finally, by about 2:30 in the afternoon, I called Verizon and spoke to a rep. I was polite - strangely enough - didn't rant at all. I did tell him though I was just very confused, very frustrated with their billing process and why did every package I opt for that they guaranteed would lower my bill always seem to increase it by at least $12-15?

After a very lengthy discussion - all pleasant though as this guy actually displayed a sense of humor and I could make wisecracks to him about the phone company, my problems with my bills, etc., and he didn't get ticked off at me - I ended up getting a commitment from him that henceforth, my bill will run me $48.63 per month, guaranteed. Ok, money wise, I'm happy with that figure. In the process I do get the free long distance calling plan - which is nice in that the ex lives in Nevada and my daughter does call him frequently -and it is long distance for us to call the older daughter too so we can do that "freely" too now. And, it is still less that what my bill previously had been running, on average, so yes, I do see some savings annually then with this plan.

During the course of our conversation though, I did get a bit of the bitch-fest I had on my mind out and aired to the phone rep.

Do you know if you pull your Verizon bill up online and opt to print it out, it will use a minimum of nine - yes nine (9) sheets of paper to print out and in some cases, will require eleven (11) sheets of paper? That is ridiculous! Ok, your bill, if you receive it via the regular postal service is usually about 6-8 pages, printed on both side - in print so small too you need a damned magnifying glass at times to read it too -but that's another issue. I pointed this out to the rep though - although I know he had no control over the way the bills are set up but, my logic is that perhaps Verizon has suggestion boxes and maybe he or other employees could suggest that instead of Verizon listing every single little line item out on their bills they could simplify them a bit, thus saving paper. My theory there was that by doing that - it would work kind of like the airline that eliminated one little olive per salad served to their customers in flight and thus had saved that airline hundreds of thousands of dollars per year by eliminating that one lowly little olive. And, by cutting back on the amount of paper used by Verizon in printing up our phone bills, they too could save kazillions in the cost of paper, to say nothing of it being a major conservation effort - can you say "Save a tree?" -ya know. Just my wonderful logical brain at work there, folks -for whatever that is worth.

But seriously, why do they have to list two separate lines of federal taxes, two separate lines of state taxes too - when by simply combining these tax totals (use the computer to add them together is my theory there too - why do I have to know that there are two separate federal taxes and two separate state taxes that apply to my bill anyway), then to lump these other charges under a "Basic fee" -not line item them cause what the hell do I know about what each of these fees is actually meaning anyway - it would save more space on the printed form there too - plus be less confusing to the recipient then of said bill as well. I could go on and on there about other things they print out - in duplicate it seems or maybe it is triplicate - on the phone bill, but it is repetitive, suffice it to say, and a simple print-out showing the phone company has billed me "x" amount for basic services, x amount for this additional plan, x amount for fed taxes, state taxes and the total amount due this month is this figure and it could all fit on one piece of paper, two at maximum and still serve the correct purpose. Furthermore, by saving all that money on paper/printing costs, it would free up more money for Verizon to give higher wages to their employees - I told that to the rep to keep his attention focused that this was really a GOOD PLAN I was presenting to HIM - and maybe too, they would have the funds necessary to complete the installation of the VERIZON's DSL they've been promising will be available where I live for over two years now.

At the moment, the DSL is within 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from my home - been that way for two years - but for some reason or other, they don't seem to want to make it available to ALL their customers. I would jump on their current offer of $14.95 for verizon DSL internet for life just by signing a two-year contract now with them if it were available to me! I'd be on that like flies on you know what, don't 'cha now!

I might even someday consider getting a cellphone too - that is provided I could actually get reception from where I live to dial out - or to receive calls here too on a cellphone. Kind of does go with customer expectations there don't 'cha think?

So, with all that in mind - my question to Verizon is their question to their customers - "Can you hear me now?"


Sylvia said...

You seemed to do better "reading" you telephone bill than I ever did. Most of the time, I just paid it and never questioned anything because the few times I did, all I got was a "run around" from AT&T.

Paige said...

Cell phones are sometime more trouble then they are worth.

Oh by the way...

Tag you're it

david mcmahon said...

You deserve a PhD for the effort. Believe me, thatis intense research - definitely not a ``lost day''.

You're our Ralph Nader, with a touch of Einstein as well!

Minnesotablue said...

Jeni: Just read your previous post regarding Maya and Kurtis. How true it is that early intervention and education along with parental and family support is the key to seeing these wonderful kids survive and grow I remember my grandson getting on a bus to go to preschool, seemed so tiny and vulnerable but what a blessing all these wonder programs are and how much he has benefited from them

terri said...

My husband would pay you money to make a similar inquiry on several of our bills. I just pay them without question.

SnoopMurph said...

I always try to interpret what the phone bill charges are and I considered getting the online version too.

My mom has the same trouble with DSL not being available in her area. She is fit to be tied.

Kudos for your persistence in trying to figure Verizon out.

Saedel said...

This post reminds me of my latest cellphone bill experience which was about the hidden charges I incurred. A 3rd party insurance (Azurion) for my phone was billed to me and I was paying for it. I don't check my bills in details so I only discovered it after 3 months.

The T-Mobile rep was nice. I was able to cancel it because I didn't even order it in the first place. Since they can't give me my money back, the rep just gave me a deal which I think was pretty good and usable: free text for two months! :)

dr sardonicus said...

A lot of that stuff on the bills is required to be there by various state and federal laws. I don't understand it all myself...

One thing I found out in my quest for DSL is that you have to be within 14,000 feet of a phone company switching station in order to get it. My problem is simply that I'm too far from one of those hubs. They say they're working on the technology, but can't make any promises as to when I might finally get DSL.