Archive for January 31st, 2023|Daily archive page


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Social commentary on January 31, 2023 at 12:10 am

It’s hardly a national security secret: Corporations don’t want to talk to their customers.        

Their love is reserved exclusively for their customers’ wallets.            

Don’t believe it? 

In mid-January I called Verizon Communications to report a disgraceful experience at one of its stores. Fifteen minutes later, with no one deigning to pick up the phone, I hung up.

I decided that Verizon’s CEO, Hans Vestberg, should know how irresponsibly his company was operating. So I sought an email address for him on Verizon’s website.

Naturally, the website refused to provide such an address.

Fortunately, its corporate headquarters address was available.

Hans Vestberg 2018.jpg

Hans Vestberg 

Pombo Photography, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

So that’s where I sent my letter. Its contents:

On January 13, I had a thoroughly despicable experience while visiting your store at [EXCISED].

I currently have an Alcotel flip-phone provided by your company and wanted to upgrade this to a better-quality one. Through Verizon’s Instant Messaging service on Twitter, one of your customer service reps had recommended the Kyocera DuraXV Estreme Prepaid phone.

But when I entered your store one of your representatives told me:

  1. That phone had been discontinued; and
  2. I should get the latest model of this.

The rep said one of these was available. But when I asked to see it, he held up a box with a picture of the phone on it and said he couldn’t open the box until I bought it.

I told him I wouldn’t pay for something I couldn’t even see before I bought it. When I’m thinking of buying a book I want to see how well-written it is before I make a purchase.

I said: “If I just wanted to look at a photo I could have done this on my computer.”

He said that I might be able to see one at Best Buy because the Verizon store I was visiting doesn’t have a display model of the kind of phone I wanted. But they had plenty of iPhones—which of course cost far more—on display.

The rep then tried to pressure me into buying an iPhone, saying it would be cheaper than the one I was interested in.

I told him I wanted a simple phone, without a lot of needless bells and whistles. In addition, the size of a flip phone better fits my hand than does an iPhone.

Verizon Building (8156005279).jpg

Verizon’s headquarters in New York City 

Eden, Janine and Jim from New York City, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

He told me that the phone I wanted could be bought for about $7 a month, which would stretch to about 36 months. I  asked him if I could pay it off in larger sums, so I could get the purchase out of the way more quickly.

He said no, and to my surprise explained why: It was Verizon’s way to ensure the customer stayed with the company for at least that length of time.

In short: Verizon doesn’t count on its superior technology and service to retain consumer loyalty.

The rep said I should have phoned the office before coming in, so someone could tell me they didn’t have on display any phones I wanted to see.

I replied that in the past I had phoned that office—and found they didn’t deign to answer their phones.

Again to my surprise, he admitted that that was actually the store’s policy.

To which I replied: “So you sell phones—but you don’t deign to answer your own phones.”

Needless to say, I left without buying anything.

On January 25, I got a call from a secretary at Verizon.

She wanted to let me know that CEO Vestberg had gotten my letter.

First, she apologized for the difficulties I had encountered.

Then she sympathized with my desire to see an expensive cell phone before I actually bought it. She said that her mother felt exactly the same way when she wanted to buy something.

But when I asked her what Verizon intended to do to correct these outrages, she offered nothing

Clearly she expected me to be fully satisfied with a pro-forma apology—and nothing else.

I explained that an apology is an admission of failure—and without an effort to correct that failure, the “apology” means nothing.

The secretary simply offered her original apology on behalf of Verizon.

“Thank you for calling,” I said, and hung up.  

That same week, a friend of mine named Dave had a similar disappointing encounter with Comcast. He wanted to file a change of address with the company.

Comcast Logo.svg

And, like me, he found it impossible to reach anyone by phone.

So he got onto Comcast’s website on Twitter—and left a message: “Why is it so hard to get someone at your stores to answer the phone? Have you considered hiring a few operators?”

About five minutes later, Dave got a call—from Comcast. 

Apparently the company monitors Twitter 24/7, but doesn’t feel the need to hire enough operators to man its phone banks.

So Dave finally got to make his change-of-address. 

Moral: If you can embarrass a company on Twitter, Yelp! or other social media website, chances are it will treat you with the respect it should have shown in the first place.

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