Thursday, September 22, 2016

Verizon wouldn't lie to sell phones -- would they?

In previous posts, I have been unkind to my local-monopoly Internet service provider Time Warner cable and the US ISP industry in general. I've also been unkind to Verizon FiOS in their battles with Netflix and criticized their "gentleman's agreement" to abandon fiber to focus on wireless connectivity, leaving me at the mercy Time Warner Cable.

Those stories all had to do with landlines -- what about Verizon mobile? My wife had an unlimited account with a reseller of Verizon mobile service (a "mobile virtual network operator" or MVNO). She no longer needed the unlimited account, so decided to switch to Verizon.

This was shortly before the new iPhones came out, so she wanted to keep using her old phone for a month or so and, since she had been using it on the Verizon network, she assumed it would work after shifting her account from the MVNO.

To be safe, I went online and had the following chat with a Verizon salesman named Brandon:

Chat transcript -- click image to enlarge

As you see, I gave him the phone's mobile equipment ID (MEID) number and he said it was incompatible with the Verizon network and offered to sell me a new phone. I pointed out that the old phone had worked on the Verizon network for years and he suggested that it may have been blacklisted or have the wrong antenna -- like AM versus FM radio. He elaborated, saying it might be compatible with some, but not all, of their network or perhaps my wife had been roaming for five years.

Maybe the phone would not work somewhere on Earth, but it has worked everywhere my wife has been in the United States and abroad for the past five years. (She is not an early adopter :-). Here are the specs (MEID 990001106522642):

I am not a mobile phone geek -- Is there something that would render the phone incompatible with Verizon mobile service?

We ignored Brandon's warning and opened a Verizon account -- the phone worked fine (in southern California) until it was replaced with a new iPhone.

My guess is that Brandon was just telling me what he saw when he queried Verizon's database, so he was not lying. But is the Verizon compatibility database accurate and, if not, is Verizon lying in order to sell new phones? (This reminds me of the Volkswagen smog check shenanigans).

Update 10/10/2016

Let's talk about customer service.

In spite of Verizon saying it was incompatible with their network, my wife has been using her old iPhone 4 on their network without problems. When she transferred her account to Verizon, they said she had to sign up for a billed (post-pay) account, but could then switch to an automatically-charged, pre-paid account (to get a higher data cap) whenever she wanted to.

She did that two days ago. Doing so required that she speak on the phone with three different Verizon employees -- a support person, a sales person and an account verification person. There were long waits on hold before each of those conversations and she had to explain the situation to each of the people -- there was evidently no transfer of information between them. The entire process took well over an hour.

I am posting this for two reasons:
  1. Verizon has sold their FiOS landline service, but it was the lowest ranked company in the lowest-ranked industry (Internet service providers, ISPs) on the American Customer Satisfaction Index before the sale. I've not seen a ranking for mobile ISPs, but based on this experience, I would expect Verizon to look bad.
  2. One frequently hears complaints about poor service from bureaucratic government agencies. Government agencies are large organizations with monopoly power. ISPs are also large organizations in monopoly or oligopoly markets. A large, private organization in a monopoly or oligopoly market is nearly as likely to provide poor service as a government agency.

Update 10/15/2016

The customer-service saga continues.

I made two payments on my wife's pre-paid account. Perhaps because she changed her account from post-paid to pre-paid, Verizon failed to credit one of the payments and does not seem to realize that she is now post-paid and should be getting a higher data cap.

I tried to clear it up by going to the "My Plan" page on the Verizon Web site, but the page was temporarily down:

That was 25 hours ago. The page is still temporarily down.

I also tried to clear this up with a phone call or chat, but could only find sales pages on their Web site. (I got the phone number last week from a Best Buy store clerk).

Verizon is making the folks like the IRS or Department of Motor Vehicles look good.