Friday, May 15, 2009

Verizon Frustration

Hello, Thrifters,

I haven't written since last winter--more on that another time.

Wanted to quickly share an absurd encounter that ultimately validates the worth of hanging in there with customer service issues.

I recently signed up for a mobile broadband account with Verizon Wireless. I now own a cute little (overpriced) USB wireless modem and for $60/month, I can use it to download 5GB of data each month.

The gizmo had a 30-day money back guarantee, so I waited until it ended to pay my bill as the jury was out until the last minute.

I then tried to go online to pay, but in order to set up an account, I had to have a temporary password. The only way to get a temp pw was to receive a text message.

Verizon has set up their mobile broadband service as though it's a mobile phone service. I have a phone number attached to my account. But, remember, I don't *actually* have a mobile phone, just a little USB dongle/router.

Since there was no way around the temp pw text situation and my bill was due, I put a check in the mail.

I then got my next bill, which included a $5.00 late fee and a .20 cent charge for the text.

It's the kind of eye-roll inducing big-sigh moment when you wonder if it really is worth it to make a phone call and navigate the phone trees and talk to at least one person just to get your money back.

I decided it was.

Luckily, I was able to convince the automated voice to give me a human being fairly quickly. Three selections and an assertive "speak to a representative" command later, Lisa came on the line.

At first, my dilemma puzzled her. "Did you post-date your check?" she wanted to know.

"What?...Post-date? No." I couldn't think what else to say.

Turns out, the check was received and credited to my account nine days after it was due, so she thought I had post-dated it.

At any rate, she was nice and after I explained the reason for my late fee--couldn't pay online because couldn't get a text message--she refunded me for the late fee and also for the text message, which was supposed to be free.

After a short while on hold, she then connected me to Collette, who took me through a circuitous pre-determined script for setting up my online account. Turns out, I *can* receive text messages to my modem (who knew??) via the management software. She showed me how to find the password.

A few frustrating Verizon.com loop-de-loos later, and I was in. I paid my next bill early.

But, we'll see if the two additional texts with two new passwords that Collette and I sent to my modem result in forty more cents on my next bill.

Collette, by the way, confirmed they are supposed to be free. What a racket, right? If Verizon is forcing any customer who wants to pay their bills online to receive a text message and pay .20 cents for it...those cents would really add up.

For another Verizon encounter, read this blog post from a colleague of mine.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Real Life Thumbs Down for eBay and PayPal

I know some people have had great luck with eBay. They live for it. They live with it. Whatever.

I almost never have a good experience. And yet, once or twice a year, I forget that and give in to the temptation to get something I want cheaper than I can find it elsewhere--and then I suffer the consequences.

Most recently, I wanted to buy a book on ayurvedic cooking and healing techniques. The cheapest copy I could find was available on eBay. I bid on it. I won it--for $1 plus shipping and handling. I paid the seller using PayPal.

Then I waited.

Four weeks later, still no book. So, I checked eBay. The seller is no longer registered with eBay. I checked with PayPal--I hadn't received a refund. I also haven't received any communication from the seller.

So, the question becomes, how much of my time is it worth to recoup my $5 loss? Not much, theoretically, except that it's the principle of the thing.

I began by investigating my history at PayPal, to be sure I hadn't been refunded--or that the transaction had been canceled by the buyer. It didn't seem to have been, although it was all pretty confusing, to be honest with you. There was a debit when the money was sent to the seller; and then a credit when it came in from my bank account. So, on the face of it, it seemed like there had been a debit and a credit, but the credit came from my checking account, not from the seller. So my PayPal balance is $0, when it should be $5, if the refund came through.

Next, I tried to find some help options as PayPal.

Since there wasn't an FAQ, Disputes, or Help button readily available on the page, I clicked on the Contact Us link, which is in the fine print at the bottom.

My first option was to Chat with Sarah:



I was in a rush, so I mistook Sarah, "my PayPal virtual help assistant" who "is available to chat with me at any time" for a real person. That's amazing, I thought. They have such excellent customer service that someone is available immediately, all the time.

Here's what ensued:


Sarah - PayPal :
Hello, I’m Sarah, and I’m here to answer questions you have about PayPal. Just type into the box below and click Submit to get started.
I’m in training now, so if I don’t know the answer to your PayPal question, I’ll try to learn it for next time!
You :
Hi, Sarah
Sarah - PayPal :
Hello, you're an early bird! How can I help you?
You :
An early bird? It's 4pm...
Sarah - PayPal :
Do you mean:
How do I add/remove/edit personal information on my PayPal account?
What is PayPal's phone number?

You :
I purchased an item using PayPal through ebay, but the item has not arrived and the seller and the listing have been removed from ebay.
Sarah - PayPal :
Sorry, but your phrase is too long and I will not be able to perform a full analysis. I would be very grateful if you could try to make it a bit shorter and more concise.
You :
what do i do
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm not sure I've understood. Could you please rephrase your question?
You :
oh, i get it. you're not human. well...is any of this getting through?
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm a virtual person, and I'm programmed to do my best to help you with basic customer care issues.
You :
that's creepy.
Sarah - PayPal :
I apologize if you can't find the infomation you seek by speaking with me. I'm unable to help with your request. Please enter a new question, visit the Help Center, or Contact Us.
You :
id you get my question
Sarah - PayPal :
Do you mean:
I am unable to login, what can I do?
What if I've forgotten my email address?
Can you tell me more specific details about my account?

You :
fraud ebay help
Sarah - PayPal :
Could you be more precise please?
What is eBay?
My buyer is trying to defraud me
Can you tell me more specific information about my eBay account?
How can I report potential fraud to PayPal?

You :
How can I report potential fraud to PayPal?
Sarah - PayPal :
If you notice unauthorized activity from your PayPal account, report it to us immediately through the Resolution Center. If you notice an unauthorized transaction on your PayPal Debit Card report it to us immediately by calling the telephone number or sending an email to the address listed on the back of your debit card.
If you received what you believe is a fake PayPal email, or you've come across a spoof PayPal website, please report it to our Customer Service team. If possible, please forward the original email to spoof@paypal.com. Anything else I can do to help you?
You :
this is useless
Sarah - PayPal :
Really, that frustrates me... Because I do my best to improve every day. Really, that frustrates me... Because I do my best to improve every day. Do you have any other questions?
You :
i still have my original question.
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm not sure I've understood. Could you please rephrase that?
You :
i bought an item on ebay. it never arrived. buyer protection?
Sarah - PayPal :
OK. I'm unable to help with your request. Please enter a new question, visit the Help Center, or Contact Us.
Sarah - PayPal :
I've just opened the right page for you. Please let me know if you have other questions.
Sarah - PayPal :
I'm about to open a page which will allow you to send a copy of our conversation.
Sarah - PayPal :
I've just opened a page allowing you to send an email with the transcript of our conversation. If you cannot see the page, this may be because your pop-up blocker is activated. Try clicking on yellow bar at the top of your window to deactivate your pop-up blocker.

[This Page Could Not Be Found]

You :
you have to do it again, please
Sarah - PayPal :
What precisely are you looking for?
How do I update or edit the Shipment Tracking Information that I previously provided to the Buyer?
How do I track packages with labels created on PayPal?
How do I obtain Shipment Tracking information from my seller?

Sarah - PayPal :
I've just opened a page allowing you to send an email with the transcript of our conversation. If you cannot see the page, this may be because your pop-up blocker is activated. Try clicking on yellow bar at the top of your window to deactivate your pop-up blocker.

[This Page Could Not Be Found]

**
I have now composed an e-mail to PayPal, which also required some irritating navigation of passive-aggressive and unhelpful menu trees so that they can categorize my e-mail.

We'll see if I get any help.

I can't even ding the seller with negative feedback because he's gone.

This is what's wrong with eBay--seriously.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chain mail

A couple of days ago, I actually received an old-fashioned chain letter! Like, in the actual postal mail, and stuff. It consisted of some absurd multi-page proposition--photocopied! (so cute!)--that would garner me hundreds of thousands of dollars if only I, too, would make some photocopies, buy some stamps, send some people some money, and buy a mailing list from whatever company sold them my address.

The return address was in Louisiana...and I felt a tinge of sadness for whichever desperate soul must have paid the $87 for the mailing list, bought stamps, diligently made copies, and presumably sent off money to strangers. The total investment was over $200 for people properly fulfilling their ignominious duty to the chain.

I felt so sorry for the sender that I almost sent him or her money...but a) that's illegal and b) I can't really know this person's circumstance. Also, I didn't want to encourage him or her--and also didn't want them to have any contact with me, personally.

So, instead, I did what I think you should do as well, should you find a relic of pre-Internet pre-spam chicanery in your mailbox: I delivered it to my local postmaster with a note that said, "I received this in the mail and believe it may be illegal."

For more on chain letters, why they're illegal, and why they don't work, read this. If you Google "chain letter" you can also find some more detailed explanations of the flawed math, the history of the chain letter, etc.

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