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Cellular billing scam?

Discussion in 'alt.cellular.verizon' started by Dave C., Dec 17, 2003.

  1. Dave C.

    Dave C. Guest

    "Marvin L. Zinn" <marvinlzinn@mindspring.com> wrote in message
    news:VA.00000687.036e6f36@mindspring.com...
    > Dave,
    >
    > Well, through all the garbage, I think you have come
    > to the right conclusion. If you really liked Verizon,
    > then it might make sense to handle the situation as
    > tactfully as possible, and at some point suggest you
    > may switch carriers unless they can give you a good
    > deal on a future contract. But since your attitude in
    > general is unfavorable (and be careful not to expect
    > too much better from anyone else),


    Well, one thing good I can say about Verizon is that their coverage in New
    England (all over New England, that is) is unmatched by any provider. If
    you need good coverage in New England, Verizon is your ONLY choice. Verizon
    is pretty expensive though, if you compare them in terms of *included
    ANYTIME minutes* to just about any other provider you'd care to name. There
    are other providers in New England who offer adequate coverage (not superior
    like Verizon, but not crap like Nextel) for much more reasonable rates than
    Verizon. So in terms of value for your money, I really couldn't recommend
    Verizon for anybody unless they do a lot of travelling all over New England,
    like I do. The recent billing fiasco was enough to convince me I made the
    right decision to switch. I'm now on Cingular. In the areas the phones
    will be used *mostly*, Cingular has better coverage than Verizon. Also,
    I've found Cingular's coverage in most New England states to be more than
    adequate, if not quite up to Verizon standards. I made sure of that before
    I was locked into a new contract. Now I'll have three times as many anytime
    minutes for roughly the same price and features as Verizon, and my nights
    (5000 minutes) start at 7PM. (YES!!!!) -Dave



    › See More: Cellular billing scam?
  2. In alt.cellular Dave C. <spammersdie@ahorribledeath.now> wrote:

    > Does anybody else besides me see a problem with this scenario? When my cell
    > phone usage has not changed recently, I'm supposed to accept *without
    > question* that I owe $42 for phone calls that are not itemized, from a
    > service provider I don't have a contract with? Is it just me, or does this
    > not pass the smell test? -Dave


    I've roamed before, although not on Verizon, and the roaming carrier has
    passed call details to the carrier I subscribed to. Whoever told you this
    doesn't happen is full of shit. Call back and talk to a supervisor, and
    demand a credit if they refuse to give up the information.

    --
    JustThe.net Internet & New Media Services
    22674 Motnocab Road * Apple Valley, CA 92307-1950
    Steve Sobol, Geek In Charge * 888.480.4NET (4638) * sjsobol@JustThe.net
  3. In alt.cellular Dave C. <spammersdie@ahorribledeath.now> wrote:

    > It makes sense now. Not that I'm happy about it, but at least it doesn't
    > smell like a scam anymore. -Dave


    Well, up in Maine, you were probably roaming on US Cellular. Verizon can't
    bill you until they are billed by USCC.


    --
    JustThe.net Internet & New Media Services
    22674 Motnocab Road * Apple Valley, CA 92307-1950
    Steve Sobol, Geek In Charge * 888.480.4NET (4638) * sjsobol@JustThe.net
  4. In alt.cellular Larry W4CSC <noone@home.com> wrote:
    >>conversation was IMMEDIATELY over. Ask them to leave.

    >
    > Polite but FIRM.


    That's good advice.

    Start cussing or (especially) threatening me, if you're in a public place
    where I work, and I *will* throw you out on your ass and (if necessary) call
    the cops.

    > YOU are in control because YOU are the one with the
    > checkbook. Never threaten, abuse, curse or get upset. You don't have
    > to get upset because THEY don't have your money, YOU DO! Polite, but
    > FIRM, as anyone in control of the situation should be.


    --
    JustThe.net Internet & New Media Services
    22674 Motnocab Road * Apple Valley, CA 92307-1950
    Steve Sobol, Geek In Charge * 888.480.4NET (4638) * sjsobol@JustThe.net
  5. In alt.cellular Dave C. <spammersdie@ahorribledeath.now> wrote:

    > Well, one thing good I can say about Verizon is that their coverage in New
    > England (all over New England, that is) is unmatched by any provider. If
    > you need good coverage in New England, Verizon is your ONLY choice. Verizon
    > is pretty expensive though, if you compare them in terms of *included
    > ANYTIME minutes* to just about any other provider you'd care to name.


    Absolutely true!

    As I've told many people posting this sort of complaint to alt.cellular.
    verizon, it isn't going to change. Verizon Wireless very specifically markets
    based on network quality and does NOT try to compete on price.


    > I've found Cingular's coverage in most New England states to be more than
    > adequate, if not quite up to Verizon standards. I made sure of that before
    > I was locked into a new contract. Now I'll have three times as many anytime
    > minutes for roughly the same price and features as Verizon, and my nights
    > (5000 minutes) start at 7PM. (YES!!!!) -Dave


    That's cool, if the coverage works for you. Can't comment on coverage because
    I've never used Cingular (and won't, since they're owned by a company I will
    not do business with).

    --
    JustThe.net Internet & New Media Services
    22674 Motnocab Road * Apple Valley, CA 92307-1950
    Steve Sobol, Geek In Charge * 888.480.4NET (4638) * sjsobol@JustThe.net
  6. Isaiah Beard

    Isaiah Beard Guest

    Swingman wrote:

    >>The last time I witnessed someone try the "I'm tape recording this call"
    >>trick, the rep warned him that they would have to terminate the call
    >>unless he stopped... when he refused, he was immediately hung up on.

    >
    >
    > That's interesting since most CS call these days begin with them telling you that "your call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance".



    Oh, I know! For whatever reason though, they don't seem to like it when
    the tables are turned and YOU are recording the call "for quality
    assurance." :) To be fair, Verizon isn't the only company with this
    phobia, though.

    --
    E-mail fudged to thwart spammers.
    Transpose the c's and a's in my e-mail address to reply.
  7. Michael

    Michael Guest

    How do you think such a large company stays in business. Suck a few pennies
    out of each customer and you'll then have millions.

    "Dave C." <spammersdie@ahorribledeath.now> wrote in message
    news:_PadnfRSv7DQKX2iRVn-jw@comcast.com...
    > OK, I've had Verizon service on two cellular phones (shared minutes) for a
    > little under two years (the contract expires next month)
    >
    > My previous bill, I had about 100 "delayed billable airtime" minutes on

    the
    > bill. I probably should have questioned it, but at the time, I thought

    the
    > extra forty bucks was worth less than my time to look into the matter, so

    I
    > foolishly paid it.
    >
    > This current bill I have about 100 more "delayed billable airtime" minutes
    > on the bill. There is no explanation for the charges other than that.

    $42
    > worth of non-itemized charges.
    >
    > I just got off the phone with Verizon, asking for an explanation of these
    > charges, as our wireless usage has been pretty constant for the past 18
    > months or so. (so why the odd delayed billing the last two months only?)
    >
    > The explanation I got was that the airtime charges were passed off from
    > another provider (not Verizon) to Verizon, from a previous month. No
    > problem. So I asked Verizon for a list of the phone calls I was paying

    for.
    > (The $42 worth of charges comprise exactly TWO LINES on a 11 page bill!)

    I
    > was told that the other provider does not offer that information to

    Verizon,
    > so Verizon could not provide me with details for the phone calls I was

    being
    > asked to pay for.
    >
    > Does anybody else besides me see a problem with this scenario? When my

    cell
    > phone usage has not changed recently, I'm supposed to accept *without
    > question* that I owe $42 for phone calls that are not itemized, from a
    > service provider I don't have a contract with? Is it just me, or does

    this
    > not pass the smell test? -Dave
    >
    > On hotmail dot com, I am user "junknothankyou".
    >
    >
    >





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  8. DevilsPGD

    DevilsPGD Guest

    In message <<3fe33573$1@rutgers.edu>> Isaiah Beard
    <sacredpoet@sacredpoet.com> did ramble:

    >>>The last time I witnessed someone try the "I'm tape recording this call"
    >>>trick, the rep warned him that they would have to terminate the call
    >>>unless he stopped... when he refused, he was immediately hung up on.

    >>
    >>
    >> That's interesting since most CS call these days begin with them telling

    > you that "your call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance".
    >
    >Oh, I know! For whatever reason though, they don't seem to like it when
    >the tables are turned and YOU are recording the call "for quality
    >assurance." :) To be fair, Verizon isn't the only company with this
    >phobia, though.


    Offer to turn off yours if they'll turn off theirs. If they say they
    can't (which is likely the truth), explain you know how they feel, you
    also work in an environment where calls are recorded and you can't turn
    it off either.

    Should be good for giggles.

    --
    My news reader can beat up your news reader
  9. Bob Ward

    Bob Ward Guest

    On Sat, 20 Dec 2003 03:56:38 GMT, DevilsPGD
    <lookatmeNOSPAM@crazyhat.net> wrote:

    >In message <<3fe33573$1@rutgers.edu>> Isaiah Beard
    ><sacredpoet@sacredpoet.com> did ramble:
    >
    >>>>The last time I witnessed someone try the "I'm tape recording this call"
    >>>>trick, the rep warned him that they would have to terminate the call
    >>>>unless he stopped... when he refused, he was immediately hung up on.
    >>>
    >>>
    >>> That's interesting since most CS call these days begin with them telling

    >> you that "your call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance".
    >>
    >>Oh, I know! For whatever reason though, they don't seem to like it when
    >>the tables are turned and YOU are recording the call "for quality
    >>assurance." :) To be fair, Verizon isn't the only company with this
    >>phobia, though.

    >
    >Offer to turn off yours if they'll turn off theirs. If they say they
    >can't (which is likely the truth), explain you know how they feel, you
    >also work in an environment where calls are recorded and you can't turn
    >it off either.
    >
    >Should be good for giggles.



    You don't listen very well, do you? The required disclosure specifies
    that "If you do not wish your call to be recorded, please tell your
    representative when he/she comes on the line."
  10. Blatt

    Blatt Guest

    Isaiah Beard <sacredpoet@sacredpoet.com> wrote in message news:<3fe33573$1@rutgers.edu>...
    > Swingman wrote:
    >
    > >>The last time I witnessed someone try the "I'm tape recording this call"
    > >>trick, the rep warned him that they would have to terminate the call
    > >>unless he stopped... when he refused, he was immediately hung up on.

    > >
    > >
    > > That's interesting since most CS call these days begin with them telling you that "your call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance".



    Tell them you are calling from a business (imply a financial services
    business) and "all calls are monitored/recorded automatically, as you
    know").
  11. Blatt

    Blatt Guest

    "Michael" <betterthanthis@NOSPAMyahoo.com> wrote in message news:<3fe37df5$1_1@127.0.0.1>...
    > How do you think such a large company stays in business. Suck a few pennies
    > out of each customer and you'll then have millions.


    The following article was widely copied and discussed on the Internet
    after December 4. Do a Google search for "Checking Your Bill for a
    New Charge Called 'Oops'"...


    NewYork Times
    December 4, 2003
    STATE OF THE ART

    Checking Your Bill for a New Charge Called 'Oops'
    By DAVID POGUE


    EVERY few years, economists identify another mutant variation of
    inflation to keep them awake at night. In the 1980's, it was
    stagflation. Three years ago, it was deflation. And now, meet the
    economic specter of the new millennium: stealth inflation.

    That's when phone companies and just about anybody else who sends you
    a bill manages to extract more money from you without actually raising
    their rates.

    Phase 1 of this program was the proliferation of miscellaneous fees -
    for "regulatory assessment," "handling," "restocking," and so on.
    According to Business Week, newly concocted fees will generate $100
    million for hotels this year, $2 billion for banks, $11 billion for
    credit-card companies - and an average of 20 percent extra on every
    phone bill.

    Recently I may have stumbled upon Phase 2.

    Attracted by the superior coverage of Verizon's wireless network, I
    signed up for a new cellphone. The $60 package included unlimited
    night and weekend calling and 800 anytime minutes.

    A few days later, a welcome letter congratulated me on my new
    700-minute plan. I called customer service. It was supposed to be 800
    minutes, yes?

    The phone representative explained that what I signed up for was the
    700-minute plan, with a 100-minute bonus. The welcome letter didn't
    reflect the bonus, but I would see it on my monthly statements.

    All right, no problem. All I'd lost was the 25 minutes on the phone
    with Verizon.

    Yet when the first statement arrived, Verizon had charged me 25 cents
    for every minute over 700.

    I called the 800 number again; the representative apologetically
    credited me the 100 minutes. Cost to me: another 25 minutes.

    When the same error cropped up on the next month's statement, my wife
    mentioned that she had gone through precisely the same ritual with MCI
    long distance a few months earlier. In fact, after reviewing our
    records, we discovered at least seven cases in the last few years when
    a service company (including at least three phone companies)
    overbilled us and didn't correct the mistake until we turned ourselves
    into human pit bulls.

    All right, mistakes happen. But over and over and over again?

    Now, I'm not much on conspiracy theories. But in the weekly Circuits
    e-mail newsletter (nytimes.com/circuits) I floated a theory that all
    this might be part of a pattern of passive-aggressive robbery
    perpetrated on the premise that a certain percentage of customers
    won't notice, or won't bother to protest. Almost immediately, my copy
    of Microsoft Outlook turned into Microsoft Look Out. A tidal wave of
    responses poured in - over 1,200 in the first four days.

    Because the comments were made by e-mail or as online postings, many
    of the correspondents did not respond to requests for elaboration or
    fuller identification. But the volume of the responses made it clear
    that I had struck a chord.

    "My experience with cellphone companies, airlines, and Internet
    providers has been so overwhelmingly dominated by 'mistakes' that I
    can't believe that it amounts to anything less than an insidious new
    business model developed to prey upon busy lives," said Jeremy Cohen,
    a 25-year-old music student in Cambridge, Mass.

    A posting on nytimes.com offered a similar lament: "They've cut to the
    bone to increase their bottom line. They train their front lines to
    blow people off, and give them no authority to make amends for
    problems. In previous eras, this was known as thievery. Now it's just
    the way things are done."

    Not surprisingly, the companies in question deny that there's anything
    fishy going on. "We're not in business to part people from their money
    for a service that they don't get," said Mark Siegel, an AT&T Wireless
    spokesman. "Are there mistakes from time to time? Yes. But is it the
    conscious act of some cabal, a secret group of people sitting in a
    smoke-filled room (O.K., not in New York City)? No way."

    On the other hand, would P.R. people even know about such a program?
    The people who would really know what's going on are the actual phone
    representatives - and I heard from them, too.

    "I can't speak for all the cell companies,'' wrote a two-year
    customer-service veteran at one of the big carriers, "but the idea
    that we would intentionally overcharge customers is just plain wrong.
    Any time someone calls an 800 number, the company is charged, staff
    has to be paid and call centers have to be maintained. Where I work,
    we try to find ways to prevent customers from calling in. It would not
    make financial sense to do things that would purposely cause customers
    to call in."

    That's a convincing argument; in fact, a Cingular spokeswoman told me
    that the industry-average cost per customer-service call is about $7.
    Yet the whole idea behind stealth inflation is that customers don't
    call in, that the overbilling will go unnoticed, perhaps masked by the
    dizzying complexity of the modern monthly statement. Verizon Wireless,
    for example, doesn't even provide an itemized list of calls with your
    statement (unless you pay - what else? - an additional monthly fee).

    Verizon's spokeswoman brought up another point, which I call the
    Theory of Statistical Inevitability. She pointed out that Verizon
    Wireless has 40 million customers. "Even though we strive to get it
    right the first time, all the time, there are, unfortunately, times
    when we fall short," she said.

    But there is a hole in that defense, as one reader wrote: "If these
    were truly random errors, one would expect that some of them would
    work in our favor. I know of no one who ever got extra minutes, extra
    money or extra anything else."

    And sure enough, in 1,200 tales of billing errors, only two people
    described ever being underbilled. (Of course, most customers who find
    errors made in their favor are smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
    Only Abe Lincoln would spend 25 minutes on the phone trying to give
    his cellphone company its $1.75 back.)

    In the end, the idea of a scheme to bilk millions of people by tiny
    amounts sounds preposterous, even silly. After all, wasn't that the
    villain's master plan in "Superman III"?

    If you ask people on the receiving end of the complaints, you'll hear
    other theories to explain the explosion of customer accusations.
    Sprintexecutives, for example, assign part of the blame to the
    consumers themselves.

    "Consumers, the press and others get caught up in the perception of
    overbilling," a spokeswoman said, but "if a customer changes her
    wireless calling plan and she doesn't read the terms and conditions of
    the contract, she might perceive a larger bill to be the result of
    overbilling, when in fact she never understood the terms of the
    contract."

    Several carriers seconded Sprint's additional contention that "so many
    government taxes and federally mandated programs are being tacked on
    to phone bills in recent years. Consumers do benefit from these
    relatively recent government regulations, but at a cost that's not
    easily understood or explained."

    Meanwhile, a number of call-

    center employees suggested that what's really going on may have more
    to do with dim-witted corporate officers than evil ones.

    "I see dozens of accounts every month where we have made a mistake,"
    wrote an 800-number agent for retail-store credit cards. "But because
    the way our jobs are structured, we are basically encouraged to ignore
    the mistakes and make the customer go away.

    "When it takes several minutes to unravel a mess but we are only given
    156 seconds to handle the call, most customer service reps look for
    the quickest way to dispense with the call. Extra minutes are very
    costly to the C.S.R. With the millions of dollars we are getting from
    those who are not catching us, it more than makes up for the lost
    business."

    In any case, there is some cause for optimism. In the cellphone arena,
    at least, the new era of number portability means that companies have
    an enhanced incentive to improve. For example, Verizon Wireless says
    it is adding a number of satisfaction-improvement programs, including
    customer-service software that has been redesigned to prevent errors -
    "using drop-down menus to choose items rather than relying on a rep's
    ability to remember some of our changing promotions/procedures."

    A customer backlash is taking shape, too. Verizon agreed this year to
    a $20 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit that accused it of
    having overcharged hundreds of thousands of California customers on
    their long-distance bills. (The plaintiff's law firm is now pursuing
    the matter on a nationwide basis.) Sprint, Qwest, SBC, AT&T and MCI
    have also recently settled class-action lawsuits related to fees and
    overbilling.

    The more customers catch the errors and push back, the more it will
    cost the service companies to handle them - and the more likely such
    problems will be prevented.

    At that point, Americans will encounter a form of inflation that will
    be worth celebrating: reverse stealth inflation.
  12. Aboutdakota

    Aboutdakota Guest

    Andy wrote:
    > "Dave C." <spammersdie@ahorribledeath.now> wrote in message news:<_PadnfRSv7DQKX2iRVn-jw@comcast.com>...
    >
    >>Does anybody else besides me see a problem with this scenario? When my cell
    >>phone usage has not changed recently, I'm supposed to accept *without
    >>question* that I owe $42 for phone calls that are not itemized, from a
    >>service provider I don't have a contract with? Is it just me, or does this
    >>not pass the smell test? -Dave
    >>

    >
    > Hi Dave,
    >
    > Of course you should not pay that. You have no obligation to pay for
    > things you didn't contract for, and certainly not for unitemized
    > charges! This sounds like one of those tactics the telecommunications
    > business uses routinely: throw in spurious charges and random and see
    > who will pay them.
    >
    > Here is what you do. Call customer service again. Tell them the
    > charges are unacceptable and must be removed. When they say that
    > can't be done ask to speak to their supervisor. Repeat "this is
    > unacceptable" to the supervisor, and tell them that you are tape
    > recording the call. If that doesn't work, tell them that you will
    > never ever pay the $42 charge no matter what, and that you will cancel
    > your service if they don't take off the charge, so they have a choice:
    > remove charge and not get the $42, or leave the charge on and still
    > not get the $42 and also lose you as a customer forever. Demand the
    > supervisor's supervisor if necessary. Once you get them to capitulate
    > say you want a credit for the earlier charge you accidently paid, and
    > say you want a letter faxed to you the same day confirming the charge
    > removal and the credit. Also get the supervisor's name and phone
    > number before you let them get off the phone.
    >
    > My wife and I have used all of the above tactics with success in the
    > past with various telecom providers. You have to hang in there like a
    > pit bull.
    >
    > Andy


    Depending upon which state you live in, you may not need to even tell
    them you are recording the phone call. Google for "one party consent"
    and you will find a list of states that one party can record a phone
    call without the other's knowledge.

    ==AD
  13. Aboutdakota

    Aboutdakota Guest

    Isaiah Beard wrote:
    > Andy wrote:
    >
    >> Repeat "this is
    >> unacceptable" to the supervisor, and tell them that you are tape
    >> recording the call.

    >
    >
    > The last time I witnessed someone try the "I'm tape recording this call"
    > trick, the rep warned him that they would have to terminate the call
    > unless he stopped... when he refused, he was immediately hung up on.


    Wouldn't that technically be illegal? What about a woman who needs to
    have every single call recorded and logged because she has received
    written and verbal death threats from her ex-husband, who seems to
    always find her phone number or address after she moves and has her
    number changed. Besides, many states offer "one party consent". The
    laws of the state in which you reside will override the laws of the
    state in which the call center is located (as when VZW registers for
    business in your state, it must follow local laws, or if there is a
    conflict between laws in your state and the state in which the call
    center is located, they must be willing to provide a local call center
    applicable with the same laws). At least that's how an attorney
    explained it to me.

    ==AD
  14. Carl.

    Carl. Guest

    "Aboutdakota" <aboutdakota@hot-mail.com> wrote in message
    news:3FE3F1B3.5060000@hot-mail.com...
    > Depending upon which state you live in, you may not need to even tell
    > them you are recording the phone call. Google for "one party consent"
    > and you will find a list of states that one party can record a phone
    > call without the other's knowledge.
    >
    > ==AD
    >


    It may be legal to record a call like that, but not necessarily usable in
    court. I think the idea is that someone might be tricked into saying
    something that they think is in casual conversation. Anyone wanting to
    record such a call should also be looking for what can be used as evidence
    in their state, not just what is legal to do.


    ---
    Update your PC at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com
    Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
    Version: 6.0.553 / Virus Database: 345 - Release Date: 12/19/2003
  15. Michael

    Michael Guest

    If this is the truth and case, how come these companies still get away with
    it? Donations to senator's and government or some thing?

    "Blatt" <blatt987@hotmail.com> wrote in message
    news:da3051d8.0312192213.5a235aaa@posting.google.com...
    > "Michael" <betterthanthis@NOSPAMyahoo.com> wrote in message

    news:<3fe37df5$1_1@127.0.0.1>...
    > > How do you think such a large company stays in business. Suck a few

    pennies
    > > out of each customer and you'll then have millions.

    >
    > The following article was widely copied and discussed on the Internet
    > after December 4. Do a Google search for "Checking Your Bill for a
    > New Charge Called 'Oops'"...
    >
    >
    > NewYork Times
    > December 4, 2003
    > STATE OF THE ART
    >
    > Checking Your Bill for a New Charge Called 'Oops'
    > By DAVID POGUE
    >
    >
    > EVERY few years, economists identify another mutant variation of
    > inflation to keep them awake at night. In the 1980's, it was
    > stagflation. Three years ago, it was deflation. And now, meet the
    > economic specter of the new millennium: stealth inflation.
    >
    > That's when phone companies and just about anybody else who sends you
    > a bill manages to extract more money from you without actually raising
    > their rates.
    >
    > Phase 1 of this program was the proliferation of miscellaneous fees -
    > for "regulatory assessment," "handling," "restocking," and so on.
    > According to Business Week, newly concocted fees will generate $100
    > million for hotels this year, $2 billion for banks, $11 billion for
    > credit-card companies - and an average of 20 percent extra on every
    > phone bill.
    >
    > Recently I may have stumbled upon Phase 2.
    >
    > Attracted by the superior coverage of Verizon's wireless network, I
    > signed up for a new cellphone. The $60 package included unlimited
    > night and weekend calling and 800 anytime minutes.
    >
    > A few days later, a welcome letter congratulated me on my new
    > 700-minute plan. I called customer service. It was supposed to be 800
    > minutes, yes?
    >
    > The phone representative explained that what I signed up for was the
    > 700-minute plan, with a 100-minute bonus. The welcome letter didn't
    > reflect the bonus, but I would see it on my monthly statements.
    >
    > All right, no problem. All I'd lost was the 25 minutes on the phone
    > with Verizon.
    >
    > Yet when the first statement arrived, Verizon had charged me 25 cents
    > for every minute over 700.
    >
    > I called the 800 number again; the representative apologetically
    > credited me the 100 minutes. Cost to me: another 25 minutes.
    >
    > When the same error cropped up on the next month's statement, my wife
    > mentioned that she had gone through precisely the same ritual with MCI
    > long distance a few months earlier. In fact, after reviewing our
    > records, we discovered at least seven cases in the last few years when
    > a service company (including at least three phone companies)
    > overbilled us and didn't correct the mistake until we turned ourselves
    > into human pit bulls.
    >
    > All right, mistakes happen. But over and over and over again?
    >
    > Now, I'm not much on conspiracy theories. But in the weekly Circuits
    > e-mail newsletter (nytimes.com/circuits) I floated a theory that all
    > this might be part of a pattern of passive-aggressive robbery
    > perpetrated on the premise that a certain percentage of customers
    > won't notice, or won't bother to protest. Almost immediately, my copy
    > of Microsoft Outlook turned into Microsoft Look Out. A tidal wave of
    > responses poured in - over 1,200 in the first four days.
    >
    > Because the comments were made by e-mail or as online postings, many
    > of the correspondents did not respond to requests for elaboration or
    > fuller identification. But the volume of the responses made it clear
    > that I had struck a chord.
    >
    > "My experience with cellphone companies, airlines, and Internet
    > providers has been so overwhelmingly dominated by 'mistakes' that I
    > can't believe that it amounts to anything less than an insidious new
    > business model developed to prey upon busy lives," said Jeremy Cohen,
    > a 25-year-old music student in Cambridge, Mass.
    >
    > A posting on nytimes.com offered a similar lament: "They've cut to the
    > bone to increase their bottom line. They train their front lines to
    > blow people off, and give them no authority to make amends for
    > problems. In previous eras, this was known as thievery. Now it's just
    > the way things are done."
    >
    > Not surprisingly, the companies in question deny that there's anything
    > fishy going on. "We're not in business to part people from their money
    > for a service that they don't get," said Mark Siegel, an AT&T Wireless
    > spokesman. "Are there mistakes from time to time? Yes. But is it the
    > conscious act of some cabal, a secret group of people sitting in a
    > smoke-filled room (O.K., not in New York City)? No way."
    >
    > On the other hand, would P.R. people even know about such a program?
    > The people who would really know what's going on are the actual phone
    > representatives - and I heard from them, too.
    >
    > "I can't speak for all the cell companies,'' wrote a two-year
    > customer-service veteran at one of the big carriers, "but the idea
    > that we would intentionally overcharge customers is just plain wrong.
    > Any time someone calls an 800 number, the company is charged, staff
    > has to be paid and call centers have to be maintained. Where I work,
    > we try to find ways to prevent customers from calling in. It would not
    > make financial sense to do things that would purposely cause customers
    > to call in."
    >
    > That's a convincing argument; in fact, a Cingular spokeswoman told me
    > that the industry-average cost per customer-service call is about $7.
    > Yet the whole idea behind stealth inflation is that customers don't
    > call in, that the overbilling will go unnoticed, perhaps masked by the
    > dizzying complexity of the modern monthly statement. Verizon Wireless,
    > for example, doesn't even provide an itemized list of calls with your
    > statement (unless you pay - what else? - an additional monthly fee).
    >
    > Verizon's spokeswoman brought up another point, which I call the
    > Theory of Statistical Inevitability. She pointed out that Verizon
    > Wireless has 40 million customers. "Even though we strive to get it
    > right the first time, all the time, there are, unfortunately, times
    > when we fall short," she said.
    >
    > But there is a hole in that defense, as one reader wrote: "If these
    > were truly random errors, one would expect that some of them would
    > work in our favor. I know of no one who ever got extra minutes, extra
    > money or extra anything else."
    >
    > And sure enough, in 1,200 tales of billing errors, only two people
    > described ever being underbilled. (Of course, most customers who find
    > errors made in their favor are smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
    > Only Abe Lincoln would spend 25 minutes on the phone trying to give
    > his cellphone company its $1.75 back.)
    >
    > In the end, the idea of a scheme to bilk millions of people by tiny
    > amounts sounds preposterous, even silly. After all, wasn't that the
    > villain's master plan in "Superman III"?
    >
    > If you ask people on the receiving end of the complaints, you'll hear
    > other theories to explain the explosion of customer accusations.
    > Sprintexecutives, for example, assign part of the blame to the
    > consumers themselves.
    >
    > "Consumers, the press and others get caught up in the perception of
    > overbilling," a spokeswoman said, but "if a customer changes her
    > wireless calling plan and she doesn't read the terms and conditions of
    > the contract, she might perceive a larger bill to be the result of
    > overbilling, when in fact she never understood the terms of the
    > contract."
    >
    > Several carriers seconded Sprint's additional contention that "so many
    > government taxes and federally mandated programs are being tacked on
    > to phone bills in recent years. Consumers do benefit from these
    > relatively recent government regulations, but at a cost that's not
    > easily understood or explained."
    >
    > Meanwhile, a number of call-
    >
    > center employees suggested that what's really going on may have more
    > to do with dim-witted corporate officers than evil ones.
    >
    > "I see dozens of accounts every month where we have made a mistake,"
    > wrote an 800-number agent for retail-store credit cards. "But because
    > the way our jobs are structured, we are basically encouraged to ignore
    > the mistakes and make the customer go away.
    >
    > "When it takes several minutes to unravel a mess but we are only given
    > 156 seconds to handle the call, most customer service reps look for
    > the quickest way to dispense with the call. Extra minutes are very
    > costly to the C.S.R. With the millions of dollars we are getting from
    > those who are not catching us, it more than makes up for the lost
    > business."
    >
    > In any case, there is some cause for optimism. In the cellphone arena,
    > at least, the new era of number portability means that companies have
    > an enhanced incentive to improve. For example, Verizon Wireless says
    > it is adding a number of satisfaction-improvement programs, including
    > customer-service software that has been redesigned to prevent errors -
    > "using drop-down menus to choose items rather than relying on a rep's
    > ability to remember some of our changing promotions/procedures."
    >
    > A customer backlash is taking shape, too. Verizon agreed this year to
    > a $20 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit that accused it of
    > having overcharged hundreds of thousands of California customers on
    > their long-distance bills. (The plaintiff's law firm is now pursuing
    > the matter on a nationwide basis.) Sprint, Qwest, SBC, AT&T and MCI
    > have also recently settled class-action lawsuits related to fees and
    > overbilling.
    >
    > The more customers catch the errors and push back, the more it will
    > cost the service companies to handle them - and the more likely such
    > problems will be prevented.
    >
    > At that point, Americans will encounter a form of inflation that will
    > be worth celebrating: reverse stealth inflation.





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  16. Not Me

    Not Me Guest

    | >>The last time I witnessed someone try the "I'm tape recording this call"
    | >>trick, the rep warned him that they would have to terminate the call
    | >>unless he stopped... when he refused, he was immediately hung up on.
    | >
    | >
    | > That's interesting since most CS call these days begin with them telling
    you that "your call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance".
    |
    |
    | Oh, I know! For whatever reason though, they don't seem to like it when
    | the tables are turned and YOU are recording the call "for quality
    | assurance." :) To be fair, Verizon isn't the only company with this
    | phobia, though.

    some states (Texas was one last I checked) have one party consent rules. If
    either party says it's ok then it's legal. I don't have the cites but the
    insurance companies ran cross ways on this as their answering device stated
    the call may be recorded which gave the caller the same option. but check
    with a lawyer for your area.
  17. DevilsPGD

    DevilsPGD Guest

    In message <<74m7uvk42s9uqjk4q6l09jirkl347c0a97@4ax.com>> Bob Ward
    <bobward@email.com> did ramble:

    >You don't listen very well, do you? The required disclosure specifies
    >that "If you do not wish your call to be recorded, please tell your
    >representative when he/she comes on the line."


    Interesting, I've never heard that, but I've never phoned verizon
    either, so that might be why.

    --
    You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.
  18. DevilsPGD

    DevilsPGD Guest

    In message <<bs2qn1$8vpom$1@ID-204939.news.uni-berlin.de>> "Not Me"
    <me@privacy.net> did ramble:

    >some states (Texas was one last I checked) have one party consent rules. If
    >either party says it's ok then it's legal. I don't have the cites but the
    >insurance companies ran cross ways on this as their answering device stated
    >the call may be recorded which gave the caller the same option. but check
    >with a lawyer for your area.


    With one party consent, why would the company bother mentioning it? As
    long as the company consents, then it's legal, no?

    --
    Stop cleaning your ears with screwdrivers, lest you loosene the screws
    holding your tiny brain in place.
  19. Bob Ward

    Bob Ward Guest

    On Sun, 21 Dec 2003 01:31:48 GMT, DevilsPGD
    <lookatmeNOSPAM@crazyhat.net> wrote:

    >In message <<74m7uvk42s9uqjk4q6l09jirkl347c0a97@4ax.com>> Bob Ward
    ><bobward@email.com> did ramble:
    >
    >>You don't listen very well, do you? The required disclosure specifies
    >>that "If you do not wish your call to be recorded, please tell your
    >>representative when he/she comes on the line."

    >
    >Interesting, I've never heard that, but I've never phoned verizon
    >either, so that might be why.


    I can't recall ever dialing any tech support number and NOT getting
    such a disclaimer.
  20. DevilsPGD

    DevilsPGD Guest

    In message <<9odauvchijqtqcu71b5peecmavfb9s8jb2@4ax.com>> Bob Ward
    <bobward@email.com> did ramble:

    >>>You don't listen very well, do you? The required disclosure specifies
    >>>that "If you do not wish your call to be recorded, please tell your
    >>>representative when he/she comes on the line."

    >>
    >>Interesting, I've never heard that, but I've never phoned verizon
    >>either, so that might be why.

    >
    >I can't recall ever dialing any tech support number and NOT getting
    >such a disclaimer.


    Everywhere I call mentions that the call may be recorded, but I've never
    heard an opt-out option. *shrugs* Probably regional.

    --
    Stop cleaning your ears with screwdrivers, lest you loosene the screws
    holding your tiny brain in place.

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