By Seth Shire
Obfuscate: To stupify or bewilder. To darken or confuse.
I am writing this article to bring to light my experience with the misleading business practices of Verizon FiOS. I am hoping to save other residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village from the problems I have had.
Two years ago, in May of 2012, I accepted a FiOS offer for TV, internet and telephone. The cost was $84.99 per month, with a two-year contract. Adding in taxes and other charges the monthly total came out to $94 and change. The service that I received was fine.
This past May, knowing I was at the end of my two-year contract, I called Verizon FiOS to see what kind of a deal I could make to continue the service. I spoke to a Verizon representative (I’ll call him Representative #1) who told me that I could have the same services, with a two-year contract, for $95 a month (not including taxes and other charges).
I asked Representative #1 if I could have a lower rate if I dropped some channels from my cable package. He told me that he could put me on a lower channel tier but that I would lose some sports channels. I was fine with that but emphasized that I did not want to lose CNN or TCM (Turner Classic Movies). Representative #1 assured me that I would not lose CNN or TCM. I agreed to the two-year contract.
The next time I turned on my TV I discovered that I no longer had TCM.
I called Verizon, spoke to another representative (Representative #2) and had TCM restored, which meant going back to my original channel tier. I then said that I would take the deal for all my present services for $95 a month (as had originally been offered to me by Representative #1).
I was then connected to another representative (Representative #3) who said I could no longer have that rate because I had been “grandfathered” in for the $95 monthly rate and, since I had moved to a different tier, I could no longer go back to that rate. I explained that the reason I had moved to the different tier was because of incorrect information (the promise of keeping TCM) made by Representative #1. Representative #3 said something to the effect of “Oh that’s just human error” and that there was nothing she could do about it.
I asked Representative #3 what kind of a deal she could offer me. After putting me on hold for quite a while she came back with an offer. She said she would increase my internet speed and keep my present TV and telephone package if I took a two-year contract. She explained that my monthly rate would be $90 for the first year ($105 with taxes and surcharges). She said she did not know what my rate would be for the second year. I agreed to this deal as it seemed to be the best I was going to get and with the knowledge that I had 30 days to cancel it.
I called back later and spoke to Representative #4. I said that I thought it unfair for me to commit to Verizon for two years when they were only committing to me for one year (the $90 monthly rate, for only one year). Representative #4 said my rate for the second year would be $114 per month, but that there would be discount deals available. She recommended that I take the $90 per month deal for now and that I call back in a year because there would always discounts available.
So my 30-day trial period ticked by (it is funny they call this the “30-day worry free” guarantee, considering what transpired). On the 31st day I received an email from Verizon telling me that my bill was now $185. I called Verizon and spoke to Representative #5. I explained that my contract was for $90 month ($105 with taxes and surcharges). To my incredible frustration, Representative #5 told me that I had no contract at all!
When I explained about the $90 rate for one year with a two-year contract that I had been given (by Representative #4) and the increase in internet speed, Representative #5 said that no one would have given me that deal. When I recounted how Representative #4 said I should call back in a year to see what deals were available for the second year, Representative #5 claimed that they no longer negotiated with customers.
When I asked why my bill was $185 she said it included charges from May to June. When I explained that I had already paid my bill for May to June she gave me an incomprehensible explanation and told me that, going forward, my monthly bill (with taxes and surcharges) would be around $150! Representative #5 went on to tell me that she thought the deals that Verizon FiOS made for new customers were too good. She also told me to be a more careful consumer and get things in writing. Lesson learned.
To sum up: Representative #1 gave me incorrect information, which caused me to make a change to my plan. Representative #3 said that because I made a change in my plan I was no longer eligible for the $95 per month rate on a two-year contract. Representative #4 gave me a two-year contract with a monthly rate of $90 ($105 with taxes and surcharges) for the first year. Then I received a bill for $185. Representative #5 denied that I had any contract at all. She also said that Representative #4 never made me the offer that she had, in fact, made to me, and to which I had agreed.
Fortunately, here in Stuyvesant Town (and, I believe, in Peter Cooper Village also) we have choices other than Verizon FiOS. I am sure that Verizon has benefited enormously from selling services to residents of our community. This is how they showed their appreciation to me.
At the end of June I switched my telephone, TV and internet over to RCN. RCN has been a pleasure. Their internet is fast and the TV and telephone work just fine. The price for all three is reasonable. Instead of having to deal with a different customer service representative each time I call, as was the case with FiOS, at RCN I deal with one customer service representative. He returns calls and emails and is committed to customer satisfaction. The RCN technician who came to switch me over to RCN was the nicest, most patient and hardest working technician I have ever seen.
I would like to hear from other tenants who have had trouble with Verizon FiOS.
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Town & Village contacted Verizon FiOS regarding Shire’s customer service experience. Below is the response from company spokesperson Lee Gierczynski:
“Mr. Shire contacted Verizon to renew his FiOS services at end of his contract and wanted to retain the same pricing and products. Verizon made every attempt to keep costs/products similar yet current service offerings required changes which would have slightly increased his pricing.
“Due to a service order processing error, the pricing and products did change beyond what was discussed with Mr. Shire, which resulted in his dissatisfaction. Subsequent calls to Verizon did not resolve these issues, and Verizon is further reviewing the order.”
Seth Shire is a professor at CUNY Queens College during the summer and Queens College and CUNY York College during the fall. He also sometimes writes news articles and film reviews for Town & Village.