Rant of the Week – Verizon

Today I was geocaching on top of Black Mountain off Montebello Road in Cupertino, the exact same spot mentioned in my book Cached Out. The views were gorgeous, both looking toward Silicon Valley and looking south toward Santa Cruz. There was a heavy fog layer both directions, but we were up above the fog and the sun glistened off the snowy billows, with mountain tops peeking through. Okay, pun intended there. Although I don’t carry a smart phone and get sick of looking at most people’s photos of their trips, whether geocaching or not, the view was so pretty today, I decided the exceptional nature warranted some photos. I pulled out my old Verizon (LG) flip phone and snapped three shots.

I used to be able to upload photos from my phone to a Verizon site called PixPlace. I’ve done it several times in the past, but not recently. I tried to send them from my phone to that site the usual way, by selecting PixPlace from the phone menu, but the connection failed. So I got home and tried to log on. It turns out I couldn’t log on because PixPlace was discontinued last fall. I was redirected to another Verizon site. It required the userid and my old one no longer worked. I was perplexed. It then asked me to verify I was the account holder by entering the last four digits of my social security number. I did. It failed. I then realized that my daughter is the official owner of the account now. She had some discount from her employer a couple of years ago and thought she could get a better rate so we let her take it over. She got the better rate but it turned out to be a false savings  because now the usage from my wife and me is on her account and she is reluctant to ask for us to pay her for it. We give her orders of magnitude more money at Christmas than the cost of our phone bill, which is modest, so she doesn’t think it’s right to ask and we don’t really want to be bothered writing her checks every month. However, I knew that when we made the switch it took about an hour of futzing around with Verizon to make sure I was still a “manager” on the account so I could deal with my wife’s and my account problems. Still, the website just sat there demanding the four digits. I looked around and realized I didn’t have them. We used to use them all the time for tax returns but she hasn’t been a dependent for years, so I didn’t know where to find them.  Id been redirected to something called Verizon Cloud. I couldn’t log on there either, for the same reason, but it looked to me like I would be able to upload my photos there and then download them once I got logged on once I created yet one more account.

Just as I was stymied and contemplating my next move, a chat window opened up from customer support asking if she? (Terri) could help me. I explained the situation. She said to connect my phone to my computer with a USB cable. I told her my phone didn’t have one. Then she said the charging cable would have one. I contradicted her. Then she told me to buy an adapter and a memory card to transfer the photos off my phone to my computer. I told her I didn’t want to buy a bunch of equipment just to get three pictures from my phone. I asked if she could just transfer my PixPlace account to the new Verizon Cloud. She said no, the flip phones aren’t compatible with the Cloud technology. I would need to buy a smart phone and a new data plan. Rip off! After fifteen minutes of this sort of thing she then said I would need to talk to Tech Support and gave me a 1-800 number.

I called that number, went through an interminable phone tree and finally got to a selection that said to push three for Tech Support. I pushed three. Then they asked for the 4-digit social security number associated with the account. Grr! When I didn’t push any buttons a woman finally came on the phone. I explained the whole thing again. She was very polite, but basically if you reread the last paragraph, it went almost exactly the same way. Yes, that included at the end when she said I needed Tech Support. I said I thought I was talking to Tech Support. She said no, she was with customer support. So I got transferred once again.

Person three was a very cheerful young woman who was obviously more knowledgeable than the first two. For the third time I went through the whole story and recommendations outlined above. The one thing different she did was insist that I go and unplug my charger and look at the end. She was so sure there was a USB port there, but of course there wasn’t. She found this so incredible that she put me on hold and after five minutes of me waiting she found that I got the phone in 2007 and the USB ports on chargers didn’t come into being until 2008. So then she looked up available charging cords for my unit and another five minutes later determined that there is no compatible USB-enabled charging cord for my phone. She then put me on hold yet again and went to talk to someone more senior (age 25+ maybe?) who actually was alive and using phones in 2007 and might know something about steam engines, abaci, and LG flip phones. Another five minutes gone. After I dismissed all the suggestions of buying a smart phone and data plan, I heard her mention something about texting. This was lost on me at first because it had never occurred to me that it could be possible to text a photo. The whole reason texting was invented is to take advantage of the extremely small bandwidth text messages use,  which could be crammed into unused cell phone frequency space at essentially no cost, and yet the phone companies could charge extra for it. And, boy, have they! I have texting blocked on my phone and know little about it. Anyway, I asked if it was possible to send a photo via text. If so, I could just text it to my daughter or anyone else and they could email it to me. Without calling me a moron she said yes that was possible. Great, I said, only I have texting blocked. Can I unblock it so I can send these photos, then get it blocked again? Yes, she said delightedly! Finally the problem is solved.

So you can guess the next step, right. I asked her to unblock it for me and she started to do it. The only problem was, she couldn’t “verify” the account, even though I was calling on my own phone and knew the names, addresses, and numbers of everyone on the account. She said she was locked out of the administrator access without getting the four-digit password, which was, of course, the last four digits of my daughter’s social security number. Curses, foiled again! I pointed out that I was a manager on the account, which she confirmed, but said it didn’t matter, she was facing a screen that required the password and had no way to get by it without the number. She asked if my daughter was home and I told her I didn’t know, but to give her a call. Another six or seven minutes go by and she comes back on the line and says she tried twice and couldn’t reach my daughter, but she had another great idea. I could drive to the nearest Verizon store and show my photo ID and they could verify the account with that and give access to unblock texting. Great, after a six-mile very steep hike with me now nearly falling asleep at my computer I’m supposed to get in the car and wait in line t a store to get three photos off my phone, and then repeat the process afterward at some point. I said no and gave up, defeated by Verizon’s calculated strategy, first invented by Apple, to make everything incompatible with whatever technology they used two years earlier so that customers are forced to buy, buy, buy every two years and upgrade in between every month or so.

I hung up. The whole process had taken around 45 minutes, maybe longer. An hour later I remembered where I stored a document that would have my daughter’s social security number on it. I dug it out and there it was! One minute after that my daughter called me and asked why Verizon had called her about giving me access. She said we had taken an hour when the account was transferred to her to make sure I was a manager and could do everything on my own account without involving her. I gave her the short version and she was flabbergasted at how difficult it had been, but she offered to call Verizon and cancel my text blocking for me. I said no, I can now do it myself. The more I thought about it, I decided not to bother. The camera on the phone is so bad I’m sure the pictures would be a disappointment. There’s maybe 100 pixels in those things. The pictures look like a landscape made out of Legos. As my wife said, I’ll still have my memories. It really was the most gorgeous view I’ve ever seen geocaching, with the possible exception of one view from a park in the Queen Anne section of Seattle overlooking the sound, the city, and the mountains on a crystal clear day. And as I said, I know that despite what people say, they really don’t want to look at other people’s photos, they want other people to look at their photos. That’s true for me at least. I won’t inflict these on you. If you want to see that view go hike up Black Mountain like I did. A photo can never do it justice. So maybe in the long run it was all for the best, but for Pete’s sake, Verizon, at least when you say you’re transferring me to Tech Support, please transfer me to Tech Support, although I probably won’t be your customer much longer. And make the PixPlace data compatible with Verizon Cloud. It’s just bits and bytes. That’s what programmers are for.