Adventures with Verizon

Subtitled: Did Verizon design the ObamaCare websites?

I upgraded my phone this weekend. Normally, this wouldn’t be enough to fill a tweet, let alone a blog post, but Verizon is filled with sadists.  (I only keep using them because of their amazing network.)

Task #1 was to buy a new phone online. This took an hour and a half, even though I knew exactly which phone I wanted and did not change my plan. First, I had to go through the inane login process: my phone number, followed by a password that is different from my voicemail PIN and my online billing password, followed by a “security picture” and another password. Oh, and I had to answer a secret question.

Then I went to purchase the phone. I clicked on the new Blackberry (just call me Miss 2005). Then it came up with a bunch of options to change my data plan, pick up the phone in-store, etc. The “cart” did not show any type of data plan included, which you kind of need for a smartphone. Then I couldn’t pay with a gift card, even though the gift card explicitly stated that I could make online purchases of merchandise with it.

At that point, I logged off my iPad and went to my laptop, hoping that the full site would be easier. Again through the sadistic login process, again with some “security picture.” (Apparently, you’re supposed to remember that Verizon has a security photo, and not enter your information if they don’t show you a photo at all. I kid you not.) Then they wouldn’t let me use my gift card on the full site, either, so back to the iPad.

Next up: “Verified by Visa.”  Verizon asks that I verify that I am who I say I am by inputting my SSN and other details, which is supposed to deter hackers.  (Crucial mistake at this point: not opening up a bottle of Malbec.)  Problematically, neither “Verified by Visa” nor the “Cancel” button work on Safari, so back to my laptop, through the login process again, pick out the phone I want again, buy the plan again, try to figure out why I now have two phones in my cart and how to delete one (hint: you don’t just click on it – your only option is to delete the entire cart or to go to a totally different screen to delete one item), and buy the damn phone.  I had it shipped to a nearby store.

At the end of this debacle, I filled out the website survey form.  My comment was that Verizon’s online presence is the Hurricane Katrina of websites.  I deleted the part about wanting the designers of said website to be tributes in the Hunger Games.

Task #2: drive to store and fetch phone.

The nearby Verizon store is a “smart store,” which means that it’s the brick-and-mortar equivalent of the ObamaCare exchanges.  Just as a datum point: back in November of 2011, I bought another Blackberry at a regular Verizon store and sent less than fifteen minutes in there.

The first hint of trouble came immediately after my name was called and the customer service representative (“Steve”) disappeared for ten minutes.  He returned sans telephone, but with a charger (that I had not asked for and already owned) and a case (that I had not asked for). After I politely refused the upsell, Steve deigned to find my phone.  That took at least another five minutes and discussions with two colleagues.

Fifteen minutes into this adventure, Steve fiddled with his tablet, had me sign the contract, and was (thankfully) able to use my gift card to pay for the phone. The victory was short-lived: Steve promptly disappeared for another ten minutes to figure out where my mail-in rebate went.  Too bad he didn’t ask me that question: since I bought the phone online, the rebate was automatically applied to my purchase.

Finally, Steve focused in to the task at hand: setting up my phone. He opened the box, found out that I needed a SIM card, and then disappeared to fetch a SIM card.  Inexplicably, he couldn’t have found a SIM card while he was rummaging around for items for an upsell.

Then it was on to the set-up process (elapsed time from when my name was called: over a half hour).  As Steve actively tries to avoid selling Blackberries, he had no idea how to set up my new phone.  More chaos ensued.

The total time that it took me to make an online purchase of a phone that I knew I wanted, without changing my plan, and to wait around the store for them to hand me the in-stock phone I had purchased: over two hours.


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