A Misunderstanding With Verizon Cost Me 3 Hours of My Life, My $, And My Sanity
Even smart people are sometimes foxed by complicated phone contracts. Make sure that you know what you're signing up for.
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.
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.
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 begpay-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.
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.
“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?