Customer Service

Alan Zendell, July 26, 2019

As we watch our treasured institutions – truth, civility, respect for law – continue to recede in the rear view mirror of the Trump presidency and we cling to what remains, it’s easy to become cynical. Especially today, as every Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee when faced with genuine integrity, turned into a simpering sycophant .

The spectacle of the Mueller hearing was so unpleasant, even a trip to the Verizon store seemed preferable. I’d put it off for days after the WIFI extender I purchased from Verizon, (the house I lived in until last year wasn’t WIFI friendly) failed. I’d hard-wired it directly into a smart TV, and voila! We could stream Netflix and Amazon Prime again.

When we changed houses, the movers cabled the extender back to the TV, and streaming continued until the extender gave up the ghost. I bit the bullet and called Verizon Customer Service, then put the phone on speaker as their robot call system cheerfully informed me that due to the unusually high call volume…in Verizon-speak, that translates to “we keep laying off customer service staff because their salaries and benefits cut into our profits.”

My expected wait time was between 47 and 116 minutes, or I could ask them to call me back at my convenience. That is, I could pick a time for them to call and clear my calendar for the ensuing four hours in case their convenience didn’t coincide with mine. The price of my $75 extender was now $120, but at least I reviewed an entire manuscript while listening to the godawful music they play for customers waiting on hold.

I finally placed the order, but since I was about to leave on vacation, they shipped it to my friendly neighborhood Verizon store, where I could pick it up when I got back. Last night, I called Verizon to verify that the store had my extender but their call volume had grown so unusually large, the call robot could only offer me a next day call back.

I had no desire to sit around waiting for Verizon to call while I watched the Mueller hearing, interspersed with Trump Tweets. Instead, I went to the store, where I was greeted by a tablet instructing me to sign in and take a seat, while various Verizon employees called out greetings, reading from their welcoming scripts. Over by the seating wall, nine customers were already waiting. I counted eight Verizon employees and six customer service work stations, no more than three of which were active at any time. Over the next hour, four customers were served.

The entire setup screamed a single arrogant message: “You need us more than we need you, and we couldn’t care less about how much of your time we waste.” In contrast, the average time it took to service a customer who finally reached a live workstation was nearly fifty minutes, as the staff happily conversed about how the kids were doing, how hot the weather was…indulging every whim of the people they had just been pointedly ignoring. They were in suck-up mode trying to convince customers to commit to spend $5,000 over the next two years.

During the ninety minutes I waited, two customers left, angrily informing the staff that they were never coming back. A third, who was sitting next to me said, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m canceling all my Verizon services and switching to Sling TV.” There were still three customers ahead of me and I’d had enough. I collared one of the Verizon people whose job was to wander around looking not very busy and explained that I was only there to replace my WIFI extender which was waiting in their stockroom.

He said he couldn’t give me one without an order number and the one I received on the phone had expired. He expected me to start the process again by phone. The damn thing was sitting in the next room with my name on it and after all the crap they’d put me through he wouldn’t sell it to me. With his Verizon façade withering, he said he couldn’t sell it to me. Only customer service phone staff could and I needed a new order number.

Looking conflicted, he went into their storeroom and came out with a box. “Here, you can have this, but you still have to call Customer Service to get it activated and pay for it.” I went home, realizing along the way that this guy had been selling phones too long. There was no reason a simple amplifier had to be activated. All I had to do was attach the cables and it would work.

But first, (why not?) I switched the TV’s WIFI setting from Wired to Wireless and brought up Netflix. Everything worked fine. It turned out that my new house doesn’t need my free, unactivated extender after all.

I’m going to take it back and ask for a refund.

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2 Responses to Customer Service

  1. A. L. Kaplan says:

    Wow. I had a similar experience with that Verizon store. Won’t go back there.

  2. A. L. Kaplan says:

    Reblogged this on Maryland Dream Weavers and commented:
    Customer service? What’s that?

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