Can I get reimbursed for being put on hold?
September 11, 2006 8:18 PM   Subscribe

What do I do to contest an unfair cell phone bill?

I don't have my own home phone, and I just moved into a new apartment where the phone jack wiring is very messed up. I decided to get DSL anyway (from Verizon). It didn't work at all, and I spent hours being put on hold by Verizon DSL's technical support (a supposedly toll-free number).

Now, I just got my cell phone bill, and it's $250, about $150 more than I expected. I checked the number log and, sure enough, my hours on hold constitute $120 of that number. The trick is, Verizon is my wireless provider as well. Is there any way to get them to remove the charges, or send me a check for the amount?
posted by nasreddin to Work & Money (17 answers total)
Maybe, maybe not. Please realize that the two branches may have the same name and owners but probably have totally different accounting policies. I would at the very least call and explain the situation to Verizon, they may or may not be sympathetic. Make sure you go as high as possible (the first line people are basically paid not to make sure you pay your bill), try to get to a manager or someone higher. Threatening to cancel service for both is a good way to get such things rolling but do not come out swinging. Be polite and explain the situation. If they keep stalling ask nicely for a manager until they give you one. I do not have experience with Verizon but I have been in similar situations at work and usually enough bitching will get you to someone with the power to change the bill and acknowledge that whatever written policy the rank and file monkeys repeat to you is rather inane.
posted by geoff. at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2006

Toll free doesn't mean you aren't charged for airtime. I'm not sure the bill is unfair.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:33 PM on September 11, 2006

Geoff.'s thoughts are wise: definitely try to stay very polite and positive. I like to say something like "I know you, personally, aren't responsible for this..."

But, along thirteenkiller's line of thought, 1800 numbers aren't generally free on cells (in the sense of airtime). If you need to call Verizon's cellular customer service they likely have a number you call that IS airtime free (maybe not the same as billing inquiries, though). It's a minor but important point, and it's why you need to be polite when you call -- because you're probably looking for a favor more than you are to right a wrong. Unless it's in your terms of service that 1800 numbers are airtime free.
posted by handful of rain at 8:40 PM on September 11, 2006

1)I would focus on dealing with the non-wireless company (the DSL guys). Rather than asking for them to cut you a check, shoot for getting a couple of months free DSL to compensate you for your loss due to their crappy tech support and such. Verizon is trying hard to compete with the cable company internet providers like Road Runner. I think that Verizon will be willing to deal. I know folks that inquired about getting Road Runner cable internet here in NY and when they hesitated about signing up they were offered all kinds of enticements in terms of months of service free. I bet Verizon can do the same -- if they want to keep you as a customer. Let them know politely that you're thinking about switching. :)

2)And thirteenkiller raises my next question. Did you exceed your plan minutes or something spending all that time on hold? I think the extra cost may be a function of the nature of your particular plan. And I do believe that even if a number is toll free (hence it's treated as a local call), you still are using airtime as you sit and wait. So I'm not sure that you have much to dicker over with your wireless compnay.
posted by bim at 8:47 PM on September 11, 2006

You're fucked.

Don't get me wrong: You should definitely try. The rule is, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," and sometimes it works. Make a polite pest of yourself, keep climbing the ladder, and you might get lucky. You might get a fee waived, or part of the bill reduced, or some concession. If it bothers you, or if you can't afford the expense, then it's worth your trouble to try — because you might get lucky. It does happen.

But in the spirit of being helpful, let me join the chorus in trying to recalibrate your expectations so as to avoid disappointment: The likely ending to this story will be your signature on a $250 check.
posted by cribcage at 8:57 PM on September 11, 2006

Definitely try, but you're not really entitled to anything here.

That said, I've had some luck in these situations.

My suggested tactic would involve being extremely polite, and never, ever admitting that Verizon Wireless is different than Verizon DSL. If they tried to explain this, I'd repeatedly, and politely, request escalation, and explain that there shouldn't be a charge for calling Verizon (dsl) from a Verizon line.

If they didn't waive the charge on the phone, I'd write a quick round of letters (none of which would admit that I understand the difference between Verizon DSL and Verizon Wireless.)
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:10 PM on September 11, 2006

(oh, and my expectation is that you'll pay a large portion of the $250, but that they might waive a little something for you.)
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:11 PM on September 11, 2006

But you used your minutes? That's how it works. I don't see how you have a recourse here. 800 numbers have never been free from cell minute usage.
posted by xmutex at 9:11 PM on September 11, 2006

If the Verizon rep you are trying to charm claims that VZ Cellular and VZ DSL are not the same company, ask her if the shareholders are the same. They are. It is all Verizon. Profits flow to the same folks (I am not referring to the first line of profit skimmers, the management), the stockholders.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:56 PM on September 11, 2006

Uh, maybe your first instinct should be to call THEM, not post HERE.
posted by mkultra at 9:20 AM on September 12, 2006

JohnnyGunn, you're quite wrong. Verizon, the phone and DSL company, has a quite distinct ownership from Verizon Wireless. Verizon owns the majority of Verizon Wireless, but a very significant minority stake is owned by Vodafone, and the management and accounting is entirely distinct.
posted by MattD at 9:27 AM on September 12, 2006

Best answer: Whether VZ Cellular and VZ DSL are the same company or not, the issue is rather that you expected airtime minutes on a 1800 number to be free. It's an unfortunate mistake, and odds are that you'll have to live and learn from it. But having worked as customer service at Cingular (similar but different), allow me to share a little something.

Don't elevate your call until it's obvious you have to. Seriously, those "rank-and-file-monkeys" as have been termed before have some fairly hefty powers to weild about if you're kind to them. When I worked for Cingular, I could drop a $100 credit onto an account with the push of a button, as a "courtesy credit", if "I felt it would help keep the customer".

So charm the hell out of that first-line rep. If you're a guy, make sure you get another guy, because (as I've had told repeatedly to me), nothing is creepier than guys trying to charm a credit out of you over the line. If you're a girl, also try to get a guy, as most of the guys I worked with would get all twitterpated if a female acted all charming over the phone with them. If you get someone who sounds like they're having a bad day, excuse yourself with a minor emergency. ("Oh, there's a stove fire, I'll call right back, sorry!")

NEVER threaten to cancel. That will get you nowhere. You likely have a $150 cancellation fee built into your contract (or more in some cases), and so few people will actually spend that money to get out that the threat no longer has any weight. Rather, it's just seen as clueless blustering, and will anger the rep you're trying to charm.

Remember, you're likely not going to get anything. You may get some free bonus minutes next month. But be as polite as possible, be charming, be nice, and when you end the call, thank the hell out of that representative. The good ones are so far and few between that the ones you find need to be encouraged.

(Also, I loved bim's suggestion to try VZ DSL and see if they'll throw you a month or two free as compensation. Free months or minutes are way easier to get than money. Remember though, be charming, not angry. More flies with honey and all that.)
posted by Imperfect at 9:37 AM on September 12, 2006

Best answer: My experience with cell phone companies, is that the CSRs have a fair amount of discretion in altering charges - it's like the inexpensive phones that they sell (or give away) with a plan - their money making is in the long term contract. Polite requests followed by hints of changing service providers work extremely well in this hugely competetive market
posted by Neiltupper at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2006

Best answer: Verizon Wireless and Verizon DSL are separate.

The best that you can do is call them and explain the situation and politely but firmly ask if they can whack off the extra charges. If you've been a decent customer and usually pay your bill on time, they'll probably do it.
Back when I worked for AT&T Wireless, I had no problem removing extra charges for customers.
posted by drstein at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2006

I agree with drstein, etc above. I have had money credited to my account (unfairly!) after calling and complaining about a small clerical error. Call both Verizon Cell and Verizon DSL (on N&W minutes or landline!), be polite, don't raise your voice or sound exasperated, and see what they can do.
posted by muddgirl at 10:56 AM on September 12, 2006

Also, if you're calling Verizon Cell from your Verizon cell, use 611 or whatever it is to get in touch with your service provider's customer service. If you go that route, it doesn't cost minutes.

(Well, double check that. It never cost minutes at Cingular.)
posted by Imperfect at 12:02 PM on September 12, 2006

I hate Verizon, it took over two months for them to complete my DSL installation, and now I'm thinking I should take a look at my cell phone bill to see if I got charged exorbitantly for what seemed like several days spent on hold with their incompetent tech department. I'm thinking about creating a stencil that says "verizon eats babies" or some such thing and tagging up their big ugly buildings that are all over brooklyn, but I'm too lazy to take proper revenge, so i'll likely never get around to it... I hope you get those bastards somehow though, nasreddin!
posted by jrb223 at 12:11 PM on September 12, 2006

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