Sunday, January 27, 2008


An especially tricky people

A couple of years ago, after having had lots of problems with Verizon’s telephone lines — problems that they couldn’t seem to fix, that took my phone service out for a day or two at a time, and that caused me to wait on hold on my mobile phone (running down my allocation of airtime) — I happily switched my telephone service to my TV-cable provider. I’ve been happy with that since, and have never looked back. Nevertheless, Verizon, of course, keeps trying to herd me back into the pen.

Their latest attempt arrived in the mail a few days ago. Here’s the letter, in its entirety (phone number redacted):

Dear Barry Leiba,

Why come back to Verizon today? Because we’ve got what your current provider doesn’t, starting with the network that gives you more speed, security and reliability. Sign up now and get our Verizon Triple FreedomSM package for just $94.99 a month* (plus taxes and fees) for a year.

DIRECTV® service available through Verizon.
Enjoy an entertainment experience like no other with the 100% digital DIRECTV CHOICETM package available through Verizon. You’ll get over 150 channels of sports, movies, local channels** and more. Plus, DIRECTV offers the best in HD programming with access to 85 national HD channels available.† (Number of HD channels received varies by package selection.)

Experience the Internet the way it’s meant to be.
With speeds up to 53 times faster than dial-up (3.0 Mbps vs. 56 Kbps), Verizon High Speed Internet helps simplify what you have to do, and enhances what you love to do. Check e-mail and send large photos in a flash. Talk on the phone and go online at the same time, on the same line. With more security and like, 24/7 tech support, it’s no wonder more and more people are choosing Verizon for high speed Internet.

Talk all you want on Verizon’s 99.9% reliable voice network.
You’ll also get crystal-clear, unlimited calling to anywhere in the U.S., including Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Plus, Home Voice Mail (where available), Caller ID and Call Waiting are included.

Upgrade your TV, Internet and phone to Verizon Triple FreedomSM today and get a FREE 19" LCD HDTV. Get it all on one bill for just $94.99 a month, when you sign up. Just call 1-888-×××-×××× (Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 9am-5pm) and we’ll take care of everything.


Doug Smith
Director, National Marketing


P.S. Come back to Verizon today. Call 1-888-×××-×××× to sign up for Verizon Triple Freedom by 2/16/08, and get a FREE 19" LCD HDTV.



* Price includes the CHOICE package with bill credit for 12 mos. plus $6/mo. bill credit and based on one room DIRECTV® System. Offer ends 2/16/08 and is available on approved credit. New customers only. Credit card required. Hardware lease [$4.99/mo. for second and each additional receiver] required and available separately. CHOICE pricing and bill credit amounts subject to change at any time.

Here’s the prominent “sidebar”:
Upgrade to Verizon Triple FreedomSM.
Get a FREE 19" LCD HDTV.

Get TV, Internet and phone together for $94.99 a month (plus taxes and fees).

  • Over 150 crystal-clear, all-digital TV channels
  • Ultrafast Internet connection speeds of up to 3.0 Mbps
  • Unlimited calling to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada
  • Live, 24/7 tech support
  • FREE 19" LCD HDTV, when you sign up by 2/16/08
And here’s the “fine print” on the back side of the letter (missing spaces are as printed on the letter; URL redacted):
† To access DIRECTV® HD programming, DIRECTV HD Access fee ($9.99/mo.), HD equipment, qualifying programming package and HDtelevision are requiredand available separately.

TV gift promotion ends 2/16/08 and requires Verison Freedom EssentialsSM, 3.0 Mbps DSL and DIRECTV service. Services must be installed by 3/15/08. TV will be sent 6-10 weeks after service is installed and customer registers to claim gift. Installation appointment availability is first come, first served. Cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions. One TV set per customer. Limited-time offer requires one year service commitment. Rates subject to change after first year. Verizon one-time charges of up to $44.98. Calling plan includes residential direct-dialed calls only. Additional charges, taxes, and terms apply. Service availability, speed and uninterrupted service not guaranteed. DIRECTV: TV service provided by DIRECTV. Credit card required except in PA and MA. CHOICE package bill credit will automatically discontinue after 12th credit. Bill credits/savings based on DIRECTV account remaining in “good standing” with qualifying DIRECTV programming subscription and qualifying Verizon services. Term commitment of 18 consecutive months (24 months for advanced receivers) required. Programming, pricing, terms and conditions subject to change at any time. Pricing residential. CHOICE pricing and bill credit amounts subject to change at any time. Receipt of DIRECTV programming is subject to the terms of the DIRECTV Customer Agreement; copy provided at ××××××××.com/legal and mailed tocustomers in the first month. DIRECTV, the Cyclone Design logoand CHOICE are trademarks of DIRECTV, Inc.

Hm, where to start?

They tout speed and reliability, and then in the fine print they say, “Service availability, speed and uninterrupted service not guaranteed.” The speed is “up to” 3 Mbps. Well, if you happen to see only, say, 0.5 Mbps... too bad — you’re still committed to a one-year contract. Your service goes down three days a week? Yes, you’re still committed to a one-year contract. All they’ll do is give you credit for the downtime. And, of course, it’s rather disingenuous to tell you that it’s “up to 53 times faster than dial-up,” since it’s not dial-up service they’re competing against.

They say, twice, that you get “more security,” but they give not a clue what that means. Empty marketing junk.

Note that the letter makes it appear that the DIRECTV service, with 85 HD channels, is part of the offer. It’s not; read the fine print. It’s “available”, but not included. There’s an extra charge. And, according to the fine print, if you opt for that, you have to commit to at least 18 months... but remember that the $94.99 price for the rest of it is only good for 12.

On top of that, check this in the fine print: “Programming, pricing, terms and conditions subject to change at any time.” At any time. Your contract commitment, though, is not subject to change, at least not at your option.

If you choose DIRECTV, they’ll send you the Customer Agreement, which you’re bound to, only after you’ve committed to it. Better go look at it on the web first, assuming that you have Internet service already.

Canada now appears to be part of the U.S., but Guam, which is part of the U.S., appears not to be. Curious. Well, we’ll give them a break on that one — probably most people would rather be able to call Canada than Guam anyway.

I find it pretty much impossible to decipher, with all the mess that’s there and all the other “charges” that “apply”, just how much the whole thing would wind up costing, in the end. More, I expect, than my current cable service. (To be fair, my cable company also doesn’t “guarantee” speed or availability — no one does, any more.)

Oh, and the double-asterisk next to “local channels” is never explained. I wonder what the catch there is.

It’s also possible that you can order this service and not get installation scheduled, on their “first come, first served” basis, until after the ides of March. Note that you only get the TV if the installation is done by 3/15/08, and you have no control over the installation date. Hm.

And that is a real problem: a friend just got this service package, and her order was “lost” twice, resulting in a month’s delay in getting it installed. The monthly credits weren’t included in the bill; she had to call their customer service department to get that fixed. And it turns out that it took them six weeks to send the paperwork that tells you how to sign up for the TV, which you won’t get, according to my letter, for six to ten weeks after that.

OK, that’s the end of my Verizon rant. No, they won’t be getting me back. But, really, I have no illusion that any other company would do any better. Sigh.

P.S. Don’t you love the way all these solicitations use that bogus “P.S.” technique to summarize what it is that they want you to do?


Miss Profe said...

Reading the letter only brings us back to the reason why you switched your service in the first place: Verizon's inability to solve the connectivity problem.

And, a "free" television? I guess that's cheaper than fixing the problem.

Anonymous said...

I initiated contact with Verizon several months ago about changing phone providers - We have to switch providers, our carrier is no longer operating in our area. My effort involved waiting on hold for 18minutes to speak with a human who could not tell me if the service was analog or VOIP. The pricing was outrageously high and the installation (!!) would cost us $60.00.

Flash forward to this morning - We received a switch-your-service letter from Verizon, so I call again - It only took 9minutes to get a human, the offer (limited time) for phone service is a mere fraction of the regular price and now it seems the install is only $42.10. Again, no answer to the analog or VOIP question (we want analog service).

I'm not paying anyone an install fee for the privilege of having us as customers, I have never paid an installation fee for phone, internet, cable or satellite service EVER. I assume the call hold time is SOP for Verizon, it is not SOP for me. I further assume by the generous limited time offer that regular customers are subsidizing these introductory services and paying for the gift cards and tv's offered to lure new customers.

It's phone service. It not high technology, it is not cutting edge, it's been around for more than 100years - It is that simple. If they want make it complicated they can, but with me.

I feel we have avoided conducting business with a below-board, nasty corporation and saved ourselves from a rats nest of regret waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

One reason I quit Verizon was that I asked to change the account name from my husband's to mine since I was paying the bill. They said the only way to change is to start a new account because of government regulations. Well, I now get mail addressed to my husband asking us to return. (Is that a government regualtion, too?) Maybe when they get the name right I will consider it.

Barry Leiba said...

Yes... the name thing makes me think of this blog entry, where the writer complains about a similar thing with charity solicitations.