On the eve of my last day at my corporate job, I realized I forgot a detail: I needed to set up a new cell phone plan. Since I ported over my old phone number to the company phone, I wanted to get it back.

A Misunderstanding With Verizon Cost Me 3 Hours of My Life

I scanned the corporate website to figure out how to get my old phone number back. I thought it would be a task that I could do online, but I found the directions, “Call Verizon [Wireless]. Ask for assumption of liability.” I did.

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On the phone, I explained that I would be turning in my phone the next day, and that I would set up my new phone in the next few days. I used the term, “assumption of liability” a few times. The agent seemed confused at first, but after a few tries, I thought we were on the same page.

I gave her my address and my social security number so that she could send me the final bill for $75.49. This seemed like a reasonable fee to me. I thought I was paying for Verizon to hold onto my phone number for the few days between returning my phone to the corporate offices and starting a new plan with a different company.

Twelve hours later, I walked into the office for the last time. I turned in my computer, my badge, and my cell phone.

I closed a six-year chapter of my life.

A few days later, I bought a new phone, and I began a pay-as-you-go plan. At the end of the month, I paid the $75.49 bill that Verizon sent.

That's where I thought this story ended, but I was wrong.

A month later, I opened up the mail and saw another bill from Verizon. A sum of $195.43 glared at me. It was an early termination fee.

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That night, I called Verizon and explained the situation to the customer service representative.

The customer service representative pulled up my account and explained the charges. She told me that I had agreed to start a new contract and that I had terminated the contract 10 days later. I started my new Ting plan exactly 10 days after I first called Verizon.

So the timeline made sense, and yet it didn't.

During my first conversation with Verizon, the CSR never mentioned the word “contract” at all. Certainly not a 12-month contract, and not a contract for $75 per month.

“That doesn’t make sense,” I said, “Why would I start a new contract and terminate it a few days later?” We talked in more circles.

Trying to keep my cool, I said, “The previous representative quoted the price to me. She told me $75.49.”

“It was $75.49 for the first month of service. $195.43 is for terminating the contract,” the representative said.

He went on to explain that “assumption of liability” meant that I wanted to take control of the contract. We continued to talk in circles. I asked to be transferred to a manager.

I walked him through the story; I asked for Verizon to waive the fee. After that, I made a little traction, and asked to be transferred to someone even higher. Then I did it again, and again.

I rode the customer service Merry-Go-Round for three hours.

I reached the highest level of customer support, and I finally got someone to negotiate with me. He would not waive the fee. He would not credit the $75.49 towards a cancellation fee. But he would give me a discounted rate if I completed my original contract.

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“Fine. I’ll do it,” I replied. I signed up for 2.5 months of service and cancelled Ting, which was a pay as you go scheme, anyway. My contract ends on October 24th.

At the end of this fiasco, I've lost $135, three hours of my life, and my sanity.

I felt like a loser, but I gained a valuable lesson:

“Assumption of liability” means that I wanted to start a new contract with Verizon. It means I was taking on the liability of paying for my contract. That’s not what I wanted. All I wanted was my phone number back.

In the future, I’ll read my contracts and take the time to understand them. Will you?