What To Do When Verizon Lies To Your Face

You can have a cell phone carrier or you can have personal dignity

rarely call Europe. I’m not a sommelier. I’m not a countess. I don’t even really know anyone who lives in Europe. Ok, I know a guy named Rob who lives in Surrey. But that’s where it ends!

I did have an overseas calling plan a few years back, but I guess at some point I got rid of it. But then, last month, I found myself thrust once again into the glamorous world of international telecommunication, because I wrote an article for The Cut about the French actress Liliane Rovère from Call my Agent. I called her once, briefly, to make sure she was game. She was. After we hung up I got a message from Verizon, suggesting I sign up for an international plan. This seemed like a good idea. I signed up. They said they’d rate charges for that first phone call under the new rate. I was like, “Good thing I took care of that.” I had two more long phone calls with the actress and forgot about it.

Three weeks later, on a Friday night, I was drifting off to sleep when I got a text from Verizon. It was my bill. I figured it would be more than usual, maybe $100, once they’d stuck me with a fee and had conveniently misled me about something, or several things. But my bill was $340. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the details. All I could do was lay there, soaked in dread.

I replayed in my head my last Battle With Verizon. This was three years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday, as it left me shattered, humiliated, a mere shadow of myself. The details are too painful to recount. All you need to know is that every Verizon agent who promised me they’d gotten rid of bullshit charges on my bill was either A) lying or B) literally a ghost.

The ordeal dragged on for weeks. It ended with me explaining the whole thing, with what I now recall as pathetic hopefulness, to the supervisor who’d been assigned to my case. He had a soothing voice. He was appalled at the way I’d been treated. A few days later I received from this same man a chilling email which, again, the details of which I can’t bring myself to recount. Know that this email confirmed my very worst fears: They were Verizon, and I was an idiot with a cell phone.

First thing Saturday morning, I poured out my tale of woe to a woman I’ll call Jenny. Jenny listened. She seemed to follow along with my story that I had received this message about “Hey, sign up for a calling plan!” heeded its warning, like a good Verizon customer, but that my international calling plan enrollment had somehow not — taken. She felt bad for me that my bill was so much larger than usual. We had this in common. In the end, she said that she would add the $15 plan now and retroactively get rid of the charges. I asked her twice to give me a ballpark amount of what my new, adjusted bill would be and she said it would be around $95. I was elated. I hung up the phone and was immediately asked to rate Jenny. I gave her a ten out of ten. Jenny wrote me a text saying that she was happy she could help me. It was a bright spring morning, and I spent it sitting in a patch of sun, smiling to myself, thinking, if not wonderful thoughts about Verizon, how glad I was that this was done and dusted.

But Saturday night I received a message from Verizon: Hello, we have taken $100 off your bill. Ordinarily this would be great news, but under the circumstances it was not. Jenny had told me it would take the system some time to update, so I hoped this was what was going on. But on Sunday night I got the same text and was forced to face facts — I had been Verizoned once again.

So Monday morning I called again. I was on hold for a long time. When the agent finally came on the line, I smelled trouble. Her name was not Karen, but let’s just call her Karen. I told Karen what had happened, as I had told Jenny, with the additional information that Jenny had told me twice that my new bill would be somewhere around $95, and that I had confirmed this twice, and that I had said “Even the taxes” which were considerable, and Jenny had said “Yes, even the taxes.”

I wish I had taken notes during my call with Karen, because it is truly impossible to reproduce what a fucking bitch she was. Usually Verizon agents at least pretend to feel sorry for you. But Karen was like a prosecutor, determined to poke holes in my story. “I’m looking at your bill and I see you made long distance calls last year,” she said in a sneering tone. “So don’t sit here and tell me you didn’t know what you were doing.” I acknowledged that I sometimes said to my phone “Call Sophie” and it dialed the UK number for this person and that sometimes I left a message and that Sophie would then write me and say “wrong phone” and that this habit indeed maybe cost me $20 a year. I wanted to know what the fact that I basically mentally butt dialed one number three times a year had to do with the fact that I was now calling again to resolve a problem I had been told was solved on Saturday.

At one point she went away to “see if there was anything” she could do, and when she returned, she doubled down on her cruelty. She said something like, “Yeah, we’ve taken $100 off and I think that’s more than generous. Also, I see that this plan was added March 15, and that you received a confirmation text. Now, there is no confirmation text in the record saying you signed up for this plan earlier,,” she snorted, as if I had been like, “Oh, I hope signing up for this plan doesn’t actually work so I can spend a Monday morning arguing with a complete stranger.”

I said that I did not dispute that there was no record, that I or perhaps Verizon itself had made some mistake in the course of my signing up for this plan. But having made one call to France and then receiving a message that suggested I get a plan, and could she not see in the record that I had called Verizon seconds after getting this message, considering that I had been a customer for so long did she not think there was perhaps a good faith reason, since I’d been a customer for so long … “I can only go by what’s in the record,” she said again.

I asked Karen why it did not matter that I had a conversation on Saturday of some length wherein my matter had been resolved to my satisfaction. I asked Karen why I would have possibly rated the conversation a 10/10 if the matter had not been resolved to my satisfaction. I asked her why she was acting like there was nothing she could do when Jenny was actually a real person I had spoken to who, I assumed, had not died or disappeared in the last 48 hours, and also, didn’t they record this stuff? They were always saying “We are recording this call” which was terrifying but as long as they did it, could this not be a good way of discovering that Jenny had told me she was going to eradicate my charges? Karen scoffed at this. “I don’t have access to your conversation,” she said disdainfully, as if the very idea were ridiculous. “I can only go by what’s in front of me.”

Karen did acknowledge she would be livid if this happened to her, but then repeated that all she could do was go by what was in the record and repeated that I should be grateful for them taking $100 off my bill since I wasn’t disputing having made those calls.

“But that’s not even the point,” I said. “Also, this is not the first time this has happened with Verizon. This happened to me a few years ago. I would resolve an issue with you and then it would be unresolved, and then it would happen again!”

“Ma’am,” Karen said. “Did you make those phone calls — yes, you admit that you did, and…”

“I mean, I give you guys almost a thousand dollars a year, for four years now, like, what is the possible motivation for treating me this way? I had a conversation on Saturday. The issue was resolved. There’s documentation suggesting this. Why don’t you talk to the person I talked to? I mean, how many times do I have to have this happen where I talk to someone at your company and then it’s as if the conversation…”

“Ma’am, you can’t keep talking over me,” Karen said.

“But you’re not saying anything,” I said. “The only thing you’ve said to me during this entire conversation is that the conversation I had on Saturday that resolved this matter didn’t happen. I refuse to be gaslit by Verizon. I refuse. No, no no. I will not let you gaslight me! Good bye.”

I hung up. I was livid, sweating, I smelled like a wild animal. A few minutes later, I called back. I was on hold for so long. Oh God, I thought, no. They’re finding a ringer. They’re finding the biggest meanest pitbull in the building. But I got a woman I’ll call Wendy. Wendy fixed everything in about five minutes, and said she was sorry I’d had to call back twice to get help. It was actually three times, but I wasn’t about to correct Wendy. I asked her to send me an email confirming our conversation. She did, along with the corrected balance for my bill. “You’ve been a customer for four years,” she said. “You really should take advantage of all the points you’ve accumulated. Don’t miss out on those rewards. I hope you have a nice day.”

I joke about talking to that Verizon supervisor, who acted like he was truly sorry, who acted like he was going to do something about my erroneous charges, and then not only did nothing but then made sure I knew that I had no recourse, but honestly, it wasn’t funny at all. When I got his email, after months of arguing, I felt the walls close in on me, and it made me feel terrible for weeks on end, so trapped, so stupid, so sad, so helpless. We are forced to pay for all these things — cars, phones, insurance policies, rent — and then we are not even done paying when we pay, that we have to constantly fight with people that we’re giving money to not just keep giving them more and more of it. It’s a whole extra job, in addition to the one we have to fight to keep so we can continue to pay and overpay and pay. And how it’s not even that interesting to complain about this. You already know. Sorry for telling you all what you already know. I hope you have a nice day.

Sarah Miller is a writer living in Northern California.

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