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Verizon Can't Do Math 639

Blogger George Vaccaro recently had a problem with his Verizon based on an unfortunate miscommunication of currency. The crux of the matter was that he was quoted .002 cents per kilobyte for data during a trip to Canada but was charged .002 dollars. Normally this would have been an easy fix, however several humorous calls later the Verizon reps still were unable to discern between the difference between the two rates. You really have to hear it to believe it. Kudos George, you have the patience of a saint.
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Verizon Can't Do Math

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  • Morons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kilonad ( 157396 ) * on Saturday December 09, 2006 @03:08AM (#17171626)
    Looks like decimal numbers just don't make any cents to their customer service reps.

    On a more serious note, it also looks like they can't read or spell, since the rep read "$0.002/KB Sent" as "0.002 cents/KB," as evidenced in the call.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @03:35AM (#17171776)
    What I want to know is whether this is intentional on behalf of Verizon. There's speculation on Dude Who Got Screwed's blog that the reps are trained to quote the wrong rate and that now everyone will be checking their Verizon bills, hence their offer to settle for half the amount.

    I wouldn't put it past them. They sent the guy an email with the offer that said, "Please respond to this email if you would like to accept this offer."

    Now that I think of it, I think I'll be sending out a new round of "Let's go out together!" emails with the aforementioned phrase attached.
  • Re:Morons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @04:21AM (#17171988)
    Had a similar situation with a major commercial bank a few years ago when I electronically transfered euros. This was payed with U.S. dollars. This was when a dollar was worth more than a euro.

    When I received my statement, I was charged more dollars than euros. And so started hours of phone calls working my way up the bank's food chain.

    I said $1 = 1.16 (euros - as Slashdot doesn't accept the euro symbol), so we therefore we can set up a proportion, cross multiple and solve for x. That was way too confusing, but thought almost everyone at least knew this by the 7th grade. A sample matrix got people confused.

    When I spoke to the vice-president for international currency transaction, she was also confused and like many said their computer didn't make mistakes. I of course said it was not the computer, but the operator.

    I said, remember when you took elementry algebra, you hated it, but your instructor said one day you would need to know it? She laughed and said she remembered. I said, now is that day. No longer laughing, she said they must do math differently in Europe. I was transfered to one of the banks currency traders.

    The currency trader nearly laughed his head off. He corrected the transaction and noted this is why he makes the big dollars.

    Ah, the dumbing of America. It's truly sad.
  • Re:updates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @04:43AM (#17172084)
    I had a similar experience with Orange lately, they broke our ADSL for 20 days when they reassigned us a fixed IP (which took 6 months of calling and fighting for to get)

    We called to verify the rates if we plugged our mobile (also Orange) in and used it as a modem. We were told(several times during the month) 50 cents per 10Mb or connection (additional 50 per additional 10Mb) 2 weeks later (thankfully we only used our phones a few times) they called my wife to say her bill was over 300 euros and until she paid it her phone was frozen. Turns out she had used up around 30mb of data (checking email mainly) which we discovered that they were billing us at 1cent per Kb (10 euros per Mb for the mathematically challenged)

    My data consumption was also similar and by the end of the month we called and had them double check, to which both of us received a refund of 300+ euros each after a lot of calling and arguing with "customer support"

    In the end, they gave us the rate of the best data package deal, which is 24 euros for unlimited data transfer or something along those lines. Still wrong, but a hell of difference.
  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @04:56AM (#17172144) Homepage
    These guys work in an environment where *every word* they say on the phone is scripted and approved by management. So of course it's deliberate.
  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@got . n et> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:35AM (#17172584) Journal
    This isn't about a failure in math. This isn't about someone who didn't know the difference between $0.002 and $0.00002. If you think this is a math problem then you are not clearly following the money. This is a larceny problem. This is about a problem regarding a profound lack of honesty. This is about a company with an apparent policy of lying, cheating, and stealing from their customers.

    This is not mysterious. This is not even funnny. Unless Verizon can clearly show me that they've chosen to staff their support teams from tech to top supervisors with the mentally handicapped, then the only sane conclusion is that their customer service (forgive the ephemism), is expressly designed to bludgeon, exhaust, and abuse customers into accepting that they've been lied to and cheated. This is not ignorance. This is not stupidity. This is an utter vacuum of integrity. This is a den of thieves. Let the buyer beware.

    By the way, just sharing my own personal experience, yours may vary, but I traded with Verizon a few years back... I received several outrageous charges. I tried to get some service. I called dozens of times, attempted access through all of their phone and online resources. I never achieved a single meaningful interaction with a single employee of Verizon, and to this day would rather french kiss a wall outlet, or spend long hours sitting on a CuisinArt with the frape' button depressed, than do business with them again. Isn't somehow nice to see some things never change :-)

  • by jack_csk ( 644290 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:26AM (#17172812)
    Honestly speaking, everyone around me left VZW dissatisfied. I was lured to VZW by their coverage, but then found out their customer services is worse than shit.

    They sold me this phone protection plan, just said the plan would replace my phone in case it is damage. However, when I came back with an accidently dropped and damanaged phone, they said I had to copay... I was never told about the copay part, and the customer service had never provide me with the leaflet (even though they claimed they did, but I kept all the receipt and leaflet into one place).
  • by tjcrowder ( 899845 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:35AM (#17172866) Homepage
    The problem with them admitting defeat and actually charging the rate they've been speaking is that it makes them liable to charge the quoted rate to everyone else.

    Not at all. They can credit him the full use of data in Canada on his recent trip (generously declining his offer to pay the correct $0.71) purely as a customer retention move. They can also choose to "clarify" how they express the rate in future (I've given them several suggestions in a comment [] on his blog) to avoid customers "misunderstanding" the rate. Neither of which (IANAL) means they have to refund everyone else who claims they called in and got that rate quoted to them. And indeed, that's my prediction of how this will turn out.

  • by kingbyu ( 682024 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:58AM (#17172958) Homepage Journal
    I think this guy has Verizon somewhat scared. I mean, the audio he has is pretty condemning, and seems to make it clear that point zero zero two cents is the standard quote that they give all their customers. That is why they've emailed him with an offer to take half off his bill. They're giving him a settlement where he agrees that Verizon is right. If he pays half, which agrees that Verizon is right, then none of the audio or other evidence he's collected could really be used it court. In no way does Verizon want to make any appearances that they were wrong, or they would leave themselves wide open to a class action lawsuit.

    I think the Google calculator [] really makes things very clear.

    Also, I can't help but ask what the average math completion level is for call center people in that particular industry.
  • Re:SI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by swissfondue ( 819240 ) <> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @08:40AM (#17173148)
    "A case in point: in 1999 the Mars Climate Orbiter mission failed due to metric system data entered into software that was designed for English system units. As a result, the satellite crashed into Mars. The total money lost in the failed mission, including development, launch, and mission operations, was $327.6 million!" Article on Introductory Chemistry [].
  • That's nothing. I'm currently in collections with Telus Mobility (ironically it's majority owned by Verizon) for $9500+. Why you may ask, because I bought two evdo PCMCIA cards on an unlimited data plan for $20 for the first three months, then $100/month afterwards on three year contracts. Sounded like a good deal, I could RAdmin clients in my car (pull over first of course) so I bought two. One for me and one for my other tech. Then I find out a few months later that 1. The data plan the rep signed me up for applied to blackberries, not pcmcia cards and that unlimited actually means 250mb with a $.20/kb charge. What I actually got for my $20/month was included 1mb. Not knowing any better, I did 2 gigs of transfer one month (don't know the exact details of all months, I'd have to look them up) After three months of trying to get it sorted out and paying their ransom, they cut me off. Been fighting it since. Apparently there are two issues: 1. the rep signing me up under the wrong plan, 2. the definition of unlimited. I contend unlimited means without limits, they assert the fine prints say 250mb. Seeing as my contract has no fine print, nor reference to any tariff's or other contract, I don't know where they get this idea. It's really screwed me up, seeing as they filed against my credit bureau, we now have to wait until this is cleared up to buy the house we were planning to this winter. I can't get credit for a pack of gum at the moment. Now, comparatively, I have a Rogers Portable modem which is external, and for $50/month I get a 30gb cap. Yet somehow, it's all my fault. Oh, they did credit my bill $400, and another $800 for the misunderstanding (which brought it to $9500.) They did however fail to credit me for the $128.40 I did pay, you know, for what I agreed to.
  • by Kalak ( 260968 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @10:17AM (#17173548) Homepage Journal
    I am writing in regards to the incident recorded at [] for the charges of George Vaccaro. He was originally quoted at a rate of .002cents/kb, and this was confirmed multiple times by customer service reps as the rate he was expected to pay. In doing the proper math, his bill should result in a charge of 72cents, not the $72 he has been billed.

    What concerns me is not that he may have been misquoted, but that the quote was confirmed to be correct multiple times, and yet, the billing charge remains the same, stated multiple times, due to a simple math error. I fear this lack of proper math skills in both quoting and billing will be applied to my account. I will not continue to have an account with a company that cannot rectify its own math, as I fear this incorrect math will be applied to my account, and it too will result in a bill that is *100 times* larger than it should be.

    Verizon needs to correct this math error, charge him the rate he was quoted, and repeatedly confirmed, which results in a charge 72cents, or $0.72, and also publicly apologize not only for the frustration and time loss it has caused to Mr. Vaccaro, but also to assure other customers that they will not be treated the in the same fashion.
  • Unsurprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slamb ( 119285 ) * on Saturday December 09, 2006 @10:29AM (#17173616) Homepage

    This is a particularly blatant and well-documented example, but it's not surprising. Verizon regularly lies to consumers, actively or by omission.

    When I signed up, I had no credit history, so they charged me a large deposit which was to be returned after a year. When I called after over a year asking where my check was, they told me that I had to request the deposit to be returned. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Why didn't they mention this when I started the account? They were simply hoping I would forget that I'd paid the deposit or wouldn't be willing to fight them for it. How many deposits have they just kept in this way? Or put another way, how much of other people's money became Verizon's because of deception? How much money did they steal?

    But what can you do about it? There's no accountability. "George" and "Andrea" are either absolutely incompetent or dishonest, but they don't even tell you their full names. You can't link the voices on the phone to actual people. Even if you could, there's no channel to complain about them. And there's certainly no way to link the absence of an action to a specific person, so there's certainly no way to hold them accountable for not sending my check. And unfortunately, you can't just switch to a more honest phone company, because I don't believe such a creature exists.

    I think the most that can be done is to take them to small claims court each time. If you go through all the work to do so, you'll almost certainly win. But they're betting most people don't have the time to fight them, and...well, they're right.

  • Re:updates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by twrake ( 168507 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @10:31AM (#17173632)

    Bell used to be a tech company, Verizon is a sales company, you are always talking to sales reps.

    Frankly, my experience with Verizon indicates that the 50% offer may be an indication you are being put on the collections tract. I would advise to be on your guard after this as they expect you to settle for 50%. EVERYONE needs phone service YOU MUST PAY or we shut you off is the attiude of Verizon.

    If you really want to drive them nuts ask for all written communication. First mistake here is no legal document to file in court. Verizon hates to deal this way - after all they are a TELEPHONE (tech^h^h^h^hsales!)company.

  • I'm from India and (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vasanth ( 908280 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:42AM (#17174136)
    I was wondering if school kids here understood the difference, I tried this with two 6th grade students and both of them knew the difference.. I am amazed that more than a couple of adults at Verizon could not figure it out.. not exactly a scientific study but I seriously feel that the US needs to work on its education system, particular schools and high schools. The US universities are of excellent quality but I figure only a very small proportion of your population would be eligible to study there given their understanding of basic school education. Vasanth
  • This is common (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gigne ( 990887 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:58AM (#17174254) Homepage Journal
    I have had this very same problem over in the UK. Orange mobile quoted me in pence/kb for their Orange World internet (free for evening and weekends, charged at fixed rate in the day). I got my first months bill in at nearly £300. They made exactly the same 100 fold conversion error in the quote. Unfortunately for me they wouldn't recognise the error, and had to pay.
    Forgoing the fact that they misrepresented the Orange World internet completely by saying it was entirely free, it's still a poor show on Orange's part.

    I guess I am just lucky it's free in the evenings and weekends, I would hate to see my bill otherwise.

    This is a lesson to UK Orange customers, buy an unlimited Vodafone PCMCIA card. It's much cheaper.
  • by Tarwn ( 458323 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @12:40PM (#17174582) Homepage
    I am not at all surprised. I have been going through verizon hell for 5 months now.

    My wife used to have an employee account with them. When she left the company the person responsible for switching it to a consumer account forgot the minor detail of a contract. Within months the account balance started ballooning incredibly. After a lot of research I determined that a core option had magically disappeared from the secondary phone on the account, the In calling feature. After 2.5 months and several calls and promises to recalculate the bill, we finally had the bill recalculated, only to get a collection notice in the mail (3 days before a call that our bill had been corrected). Along with the collection notice our balance due went up again, this time by two $175 early termination fees. For those that don't know, ETF's are covered in contacts (with some stating there aren't any). So three months later and 6 more calls, I believe I have gotten the ETF's removed. I originally wanted to remain a customer, just to not have to change all of our numbers, but apparently it took so long for the account to be recalculated that I don't even have that option any more. of course, I sort of lost the desire to reconnect around month 2.5 when i received the collections notice in the middle of it finally be recalculated.

    Most humorous (in a sad kind of way) quote from one of the many people I had to talk to:
    "Since your account didn't have a contract the system automatically assigned you a one year contract. So you do have a contract, and it lasts one year" took me a little while to formulate a response to this absurdity.

    And trust me, you really don't want to know about software their rep's are forced to use. There were some tasks that required my wife to use one or more of 5 different sets of software to do the same exact thing, based on various things like location of the caller, location of the sales office, type of phone, etc.

    Important Note: Don't pay over the phone. It's apparently a known issue that the IVR can and will randomly drop options off your account.
    Important Note 2: Don't expect a corrected bill. Even if they painstakingly correct every problem with your bill, the best you will get is a credited amount. Their systems cannot actually handle giving you an updated bill, only a credit-after-the-fact
    important Note 3: It's amazing how much functionality you can squeeze out of VBA through Outlook.
  • by jimmajamma ( 315624 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @01:56PM (#17175298) Homepage
    Thanks to everyone for the words of support. So you know, at this point the $72, if I decide to pay it, would be well spent for all the laughs this has provided.

    Thanks also for correcting the people who accuse me of being less than sincere. I'd have to have Jerky Boys skills to have pulled that off not being sincere. After re-listening to it, I wished I had realized how funny it was, and thrown in "oh god, god and baby Jesus help us!"

    To clear one thing up that people don't seem to understand, I have the unlimited data plan in the states, and no concept of per KB cost. I was heading to Canada so I called verizon to find the voice and data rates. The rep told me the rate, and I actually worked out roughly in my head and out loud the per megabyte cost - I didn't nail it down to $.02 cents per meg, I just roughly estimated it at $1 per meg - thats the degree of accuracy I cared about. I would spend a few bucks, but I wouldn't spend closer to a hundred. I did think the rate was low enough to think something might be wrong, so I reconfirmed the rate with her - ".002 cents / KB?" - "Yes, thats correct." Then I had her note the quote in my account to be sure.

    Also, in the states, since the plan is unlimited, and as many posters have pointed out, you could easily use gigs/month, if you were streaming video or audio ala SlingBox. So the thought that I could pay less than a dollar per meg, even $.02 (if I had computed it exactly) didn't seem impossible, or crazy, just slightly suspicious.

    I make a great hourly rate, and this clearly hasn't been worth the hours I've spent for the $71 thats in dispute. It's been about false advertising and the principle that if you quote something at a certain price, you should really charge that price - certainly not 100 x that price, and certainly if the mistake is on your side. And its been pretty hysterical following this thing.

    Also, to those who think I could have done better or planned this - I was blindsided by 3 levels of customer service rep thinking that 2/1000s of a $ is the same as 2/1000ths of a cent. I did the best I could while in disbelief, and even confused myself at times. I had talked to 2 other reps, one on a different call, and one before the first supervisor (the handoff is in the beginning of the audio), and they all seemed incapable of understanding basic math, so I thought to myself of the AOL cancellation guy Vincent Ferrari, and said to myself "you better record this."

    Also, I had tried other approaches - I didn't always just jump into "do you know the difference between $.002 and .002 cents?" That just seemed to be the root of the issue so I figured with the management level people I should cut to the chase.

    I am really surprised that I haven't gotten any resolution at this point from Verizon, it seems like it could be a huge can of worms for them, but hey, I guess I should't expect much.

    Anyway, thanks again for the support, kind words, funny comments etc. I'll keep the blog updated so anyone interested can see the resolution.

    Finally, here is the wrap up:

    1. Rep who quoted me initially .002 cents/KB, confirmed the rate, the one who wrote the first note in the account.
    2. Brie: rep I called first, went through the same stuff, she seemed to get it, even noted .002 cents/KB on my notes, but then left me a voicemail saying the charges were correct and there would be no credit. Conveniently she never mentioned units in her voicemail, just "point zero zero two."
    3. Trent: First rep on 1st call, same nonsense, quoted .002 cents/KB but didn't realize I was being billed 100x that rate so I escalated - after asking twice for a supervisor, the third time was a charm.
    4. Mike: Supervisor - first guy I battle on the mp3 - as you all heard ".002 cents/KB"
    5. Andrea: Floor Manager - ".002 cents/KB... its a matter of opinion"

    All 5 confirmed the rate as ".002 cents/KB", the last 4 "thought" this was the same as "$.002/KB" and claimed my bill reflected the quoted rate.

    Thanks for playing.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @02:46PM (#17176008)
    I just got finished fighting with Rogers. Their math is okay, but they seem incapable of delivering a bill to me. The letter from their president bragging about what great service they offer, no problem, but an actual bill, no way.

    So when accounts receivable called I told them I would gladly pay them when they honored their end of the contract and provided me with a monthly bill. The rep thought that was quite reasonable but her boss disagreed.
  • by AaronPSU777 ( 938553 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:01PM (#17178086)
    1) Instead of spending a half hour, an hour or whatever wading through automated support and going through various levels of customer service trying to resolve an issue simply fill out a complaint form on the FCC's website. The form is available here. [] Within a few days a representative from the phone company will call you and politely ask what they can do to take care of this problem. I have used this succesfully several times in the past. I think once you get the FCC involved the phone companies are generally much more interested in resolving the issue quickly and to your satisfaction. Of course this probably won't do much if your problem arose in Canada.

    2) If you can't get your problem resolved and want to switch providers there is a way to weasel out of your contract with no obligation. This is absolutely the last thing the phone company will ever tell you and most people aren't even aware it's available. Tell them you moved to an area where you no longer have service and they are required, by law, to terminate your contract for you. I myself have never used this but I have several friends that have done it succesfully. Some providers may require you to provide some proof of relocation, like an apartment lease or something. Not that I'm advocating this [ahem], but many apartment companies post their leasing agreements on their websites where you can simply print it out, fill it in and fax it to the phone company.
  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot@ d e f o r e s t .org> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:13PM (#17178882)
    Whoa, sorry -- should'a looked it up first. The smallest U.S. coin ever minted was 5 mills. So says Cecil Adams []. But the smallest unit of accounting is officially the mill -- so the fueling stations are actually not allowed to advertise $1.4999/gal -- they'd have to advertise $1.500/gal if they did that.

  • We had a similar problem with rogers (for our cell phones) a few years ago.

    Now I have the problem of being assigned an account number my bank and their system won't recognize, so I can't pay it. I get a bill every month, but my bank, nor their website, nor their customer service department can process payment.
  • Re:Morons (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beefcalf ( 1035536 ) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @01:19AM (#17181648)
    During the elections last month, there were several anti-smoking measures on the ballot here in Arizona. One of them called for, among other things, an 80 cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes. During all the pre-election-day advertising, everyone agreed that it was an 80 cent tax.

    When I went in to vote and saw the actual wording on the ballot, the proposition was actually worded to add a ".80 cent tax" on a pack of cigarettes. I asked around the office the next day (the proposition passed), but surprisingly few people thought it was worth making a fuss about. Typical replies were along the lines of "well you know what they *meant*..."

    Holy crap, .80 cents is a *lot* different than 80 cents. Wondering why the anti-anti-smoking crowd hasn't challenged the outcome...

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27