Friday, April 11, 2014

My Verizon horror story

After having just recently entered the 21st century, I found myself looking for a bridge back to the 19th.

Okay, so I finally decided to abandon my Pleistocene era flip phone (and all of my neo-Luddite principles) and get a smart phone. It wasn't entirely for cavalier reasons either.

I have always had a phone to talk to people with. With my voice. Using words. Sentences. Even paragraphs. But I found that, increasingly, my friends and professional associates wanted to text me, requiring me to text back, which, using my flip phone, took approximately 35 minutes for one simple message. I had to press each button approximately 47 times to get the right letter and then, as I was nearing the end of the sentence, my fingers raw, I would realize I had made a mistake and had to erase all of the intervening letters between where I was and where the mistake was and begin there again.

People wouldn't see me for days.

So there I was on a business trip, hundreds of miles from home, when the Verizon store beckoned to me. So I pulled in, got out of the car, and entered the store, where I met "Greg," the sales rep. I walked in and he asked me if I needed help (The bandaged fingers must have tipped him off).

I showed him my flip phone. He began laughing. He continued laughing, more and more uncontrollably, holding my phone in the air and pointing to it as all the other people in the store looked on. They too began to laugh, until everyone was doubled over, pointing at me.

I felt like someone who had just woken up from a long nap after having played ninepins with a bunch of bearded men in the mountains. This, I thought, is the price I must pay for entering the modern world.

When Greg regained his composure, he took me over to a desk and asked me if I would like something more (suppressed giggle here) "modern." He showed me the "Samsung Galaxy Note 3." He said this with an air of gravity, and paused, apparently waiting for me to express my amazement at the words that had just come out of his mouth.

I just crossed myself.

Greg began to explain the many features of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It was hard for me to keep track, partly because there were so many of them, and partly because I couldn't really make heads or tails of any of them. I did catch something about "apps" and "processors" and "chipsets" and "interfaces." But these meant little to me.

I'm sure it was good. After all, Greg was now my friend. He was going to shepherd me through this process. He was going lead me beside still waters and restore my digital soul. This, after all, he explained, was the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I should have no fear.

"Can I call people with it?" I asked. He stared at me, dumb for just a moment, and then assured me that it would. "Can I text with it?" No problem, he said. "Okay," I said, decisively, "I'm in."

At this point, Greg began opening boxes and inserting cards and pressing buttons. There were beeps and blips and bright lights. It took a few minutes, but finally, after a brief but significant exchange of credit cards, Greg was done. He handed me my phone proudly and shook my hand, as if he was congratulating a new father. I wouldn't regret it, he assured me.

Goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life.

I walked out of the store, the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I would go home and show it to Mrs. Jetson. I looked around the parking lot for my flying car, and wondered if I would ever have my own show on Boomerang.

I had now entered the Brave New Smartphone World. Things would be faster now, easier to access. My life would now be measured in milli-somethings, kilo-this and mega-that. Everything would now be at my fingertips, just a screen touch away. No more waiting, no more wanting.

If I had had a cup, it would have runneth over.

As I had calculated, son Elroy and daughter Judy, though impressed with my Samsung Galaxy Note 3, were less than impressed with the fact that they were to be pushed out of the digital nest and have to get their own phone plans now. I was fairly certain that they could survive on their own.

And then there was the matter of Wife Jane's phone, which I had also purchased through my new friend Greg, but to which I had neglected to transfer her old number. This was going to have to be corrected, I was informed. Too, son Elroy promised that if I would just put him on my plan, he would pay his share. Just like he had paid his share of the car insurance and his monthly karate bill.

I didn't believe him then either. But, like before, I relented.

So a week or so went by. I figured I could take care of both these matters--switching the wife's number and adding my son's line--on the Verizon website. So I Googled it. So far, so good. Then I tried to log in. And this is where I entered the Valley of the Shadow of Technological Death, without my friend Greg, who was far away, to comfort me.

When I tried to register, it said I was already on the system. When I tried to log in, I got the message: "Service temporarily unavailable." After I entered my phone number, it asked for a password, which Greg had set up for me. But then it gave me a screen with a security question asking me for my favorite vacation spot.

Since I had never accessed the site before, I was wondering how the system could know what my favorite vacation spot was. I thought of all the places in the world Verizon didn't reach.

I would call the customer service phone number to find out why I couldn't log in. Surely there was one of those. I clicked "Contact Us," a link you often find on websites these days that leads you on a long and bewildering quest for an actual phone number you never seem to find. But not here. No. There it was an 800 number where I could talk to a real person!

I would ask for Greg.

I dialed it (on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3). All of a sudden my screen changed. It said I must use the "611" service. However, in order to use the 611 service, I had to log in. But that was the reason I was calling customer service: in order to find out why I couldn't log in. In order to find out how to log in, it was telling me, I must first log in.

At this point, fatigue began to set in. I gave up. But a thought occurred to me: Maybe I could call the local Verizon store and they could help me. I knew Greg would not be there, but maybe there would be another person there named Greg who could help me.

I walked in and was quickly referred to Antoine. Antoine deftly took care of transferring my wife's number (which would ensure a pleasant dinner that night). But then there was the matter of adding my son to the plan. I would have thought this would be a routine procedure, but I was apparently wrong.

Antoine had to call Verizon. Unlike me, he was able to talk to a real person (I noticed Antoine had a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, apparently made when having a conversation with another human being by phone was still possible). The person (whose name I don't remember, other than that it was not "Greg") informed him that this would have to be done with both people there in person. But my son lived in another city, he told this non-Greg person, and surely there was another way to handle it.

He waited. Then he came back on and asked if he could speak with me, and so Antoine handed me the phone. I explained to him that I just wanted to add my son to the plan. He said that would be difficult because I had made changes to my plan in the last thirty days. I explained that I had only been a Verizon customer for about a week and half, at which point he said, "Oh," and asked me to excuse him for a moment to check some things out.

After listening to evil organ music for about two minutes, he came back on and said that he could add him to the plan, but that it would take 72 hours.

72 hours? In the new digital age of milli-second transfers of mega-sized information? At a time when smart phones could do everything but enable Scotty to beam you up? Antoine had just transferred my wife's phone number in a matter of seconds on his primitive Samsung Galaxy Note 2--and he wasn't even Greg for crying out loud.

That's the best he could do, he said. But he would e-mail me an e-mail address so that I could verify the change. What was my e-mail address, he asked. I gave it to him, and in a few moments, he said, "Hmmm." He was having technical problems with his e-mail. He would have to mail it to me. He hoped that would be okay.

Mail it to me? As in United State Postal Service? Seriously? I informed him that I was the owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and that I had no more need of the United States Postal Service. But he simply reiterated, in his customer service-voice, that he would have to mail the information.

After a brief silence, I said: "Can I speak to Greg please?"

But Greg was not there, he said. There was only him and his evil organ music and his 72 hours and his United States Postal Service.

I handed the phone back to Antoine, who apologized for the inconvenience in getting the new line. I told him it wasn't his fault. I thanked him for what he was able to do for me with his Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and encouraged him that some day he would have a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and these kinds of things wouldn't happen anymore.


Martin Cothran said...

I had referred to my phone as a Note 4 in the original version of this article, but someone has pointed out that there is no such thing (yet). I corrected it. In fact, I think they just came out with a 5, in which case the question is now what happened to 4. It must be some kind of conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

Galaxy just came out with the 5. Note is still on 3. Also, you agreed to pay the "karate bill" and the "car insurance" thank you very much. I will pay it as soon as I am able.