Tuesday, September 9, 2014
NJ Board of Public Utilities sucks! (ditto Verizon)
To Whom It May Concern,
I recently moved; in so doing I disconnected my Verizon phone and DSL service, and now get my phone service through Optimum.
In disconnecting my service with Verizon, even though the phone and DSL service were over the same line and same phone number, the representative had great difficulty locating my DSL service; it took him over five minutes just to locate my DSL service in their system. In the end he did find it, and did disconnect my service. I received a refund check for unused service from the phone at my new address a few weeks later.
Yesterday I received an email from Verizon (attached), telling me I was due a $13.56 refund and that a check was being sent to the address given in the letter, and to please contact them "immediately" if the mailing address was incorrect (which it was). I highlight the word "immediately".
The letter gave a phone number to call, and a refund reference ID number. As to the account this refund was tied to, they only gave me the ending digits, which did not correspond to my old phone number, and did not correspond to any number I had.
I must assume that this refund is for the DSL service, that the ending digits given are part of the elusive account number the account representative had such difficulty locating when I disconnected the service. It is not a number I was ever familiar with; I had been able to pay for my DSL service for over ten years without ever needing it -- the phone number of the line had always been sufficient.
The address the check was to be sent was my old address, and it was incomplete: it did not have the apartment number, and as past experience with the Post Office has confirmed, any letter without an apartment number will simply be returned by the Post Office -- they will no longer even attempt delivery. (Deficiencies of the Post Office are a subject for another rant.)
(Please note that the refund check I received for the phone service went to my new address, which I had given to the representative at the time I disconnected all my Verizon services. Please also note that the address associated with my phone number had always been complete, including the apartment number.)
The email (attached) carries a time-stamp of 8:17 pm. The phone number given is only attended from 8 am to 6 pm. So this morning around 8:30 I called the number. It turns out this is just a general contact number; you get the automated system and you have to try and find you way through the voice prompts to try and get the proper department. After listening to all the choices (of which "correct an address for a refund check" was not one), I decided that this was either a billing issue or a change of service issue. I went with change of service.
I don't know the account number. I no longer have service with Verizon. I am also reasonably certain that my phone number account is NOT what this check and its associated problems is in reference to. The first person I talked to was pretty quick to decide I needed to be transfered. I then spent ten minutes on hold, and when I finally got through to someone, she wanted my account number, etc., etc. When I explained that my phone number was probably NOT the correct account, she told me she couldn't help me because Federal Law prohibited her from accessing my account. I tried to explain that I was merely doing exactly what the letter I received had told me to do, and that I had a refund reference ID number that I would be happy to provide. She again insisted that Federal Law prohibited her from helping me, and when I told her that this was clearly bullshit, she hung up on me.
I again called the number and tried to be directly connected to a customer support agent -- this is very difficult, but if you keep punching 0 it will eventually connect you to a human being. (Whether in the end this is any faster than just picking a random branch of the voice menu and following it to the end is debatable.) The agent I spoke to this time again declared her inability to help me after I'd gotten her off her script and explained the situation. According to her, this was a matter for some billing department, and this billing department was not open yet. (I again call attention to the word "immediately" in the letter I received.) I told her as I'd told the previous representative that I had a refund reference ID number that I would be happy to provide, but she was intransigent in her position that she was unable to help me. I tried to explain how I'd already been on the phone with Verizon for over 20 minutes prior to getting through to her, and that I was merely trying to do what the letter from Verizon told me to do. She remained unimpressed and unhelpful.
At this juncture I turned to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. What bothered me much more than the $13 I may or may not ever see was that there was such a slipshod and disingenuous process in place: Verizon could claim they were communicating with me in a timely and efficient manner, yet the process was clearly a sham: the efficient looking refund reference ID number provided in the letter was not actually anything useful or usable, and their pretend concern for "immediately" correcting wrong information was belied by the actual service received. Someone should care about this, and it seems reasonable to me that the Board of Public Utilities, despite past experiences with them, should be that someone.
Unfortunately, the Board of Public Utilities, confirming my past experience, does not really care. I called their customer service call center. The first problem was that I was on hold for about 10 minutes before I got through to someone. (I called at 9:01; the hours are given as 9 am to 4 pm -- either there is extremely high demand for this service, or they aren't very punctual in opening their customer service call center, but in either case we the public are being underserved.) The representative I finally talked to wasn't very interested in hearing my story, she just wanted to give me the special Verizon complaint line number that the Board of Public Utilities has gotten Verizon to set up. She interrupted me as I was explaining, gave me the Verizon complaint number, and then hung up on me before I could ask any further questions.
A direct complaint line to Verizon might be all fine and good, but at this point, I don't WANT to talk to Verizon anymore. I want someone outside Verizon to take note -- and to CARE -- that Verizon is giving lip service to the very type of minimal customer service they have so often been ordered to provide. I am in a situation where I need to correct a simple address detail, and the communication from Verizon makes it APPEAR that it is a simple thing to accomplish, but half an hour of frustration later, I have not actually been able to accomplish that simple thing. This is what the Board of Public Utilities should care about and be working to fix. But they don't care. They want you to return to your abuser and talk to them again.
I did call the BPU Verizon Complaint number I was given. It offends me that there has to be a special BPU complaint line number at Verizon, and that this is the BPU's solution to poor customer service by Verizon. Instead of FIXING the poor customer service, they have instead grafted out a special, quasi-secret number to call to grease the wheels when things get really bad. I am familiar with this type of influence brokering from my time living in Brazil, but this is not how things are supposed to be done in this country!
But aside from my distaste, the person I spoke to at this number was also unable to resolve my problem. He was not interested in my refund reference ID number, and claimed he was unable to do anything about fixing the address, other than forward my complaint on to what he assured me would be the proper department. He told me that it would take up to 24 hours for this request to be processed, but that I would be contacted and the matter would be resolved. Sure.
So that is where I stand. There is a check for me that is being mailed to an address that the Post Office will not deliver to, and there seems to be nothing I can do to fix it, despite what the letter I received says. But much more importantly, even if I do eventually resolve this issue, the many tentacled beast that is Verizon does not facilitate the process in any way. And the State of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which should be riding roughshod over them, is instead completely cowed by them.
So I bring this to your attention as a resident of New Jersey, a representative of all those who are under-served by our Board of Public Utilities and, through their inaction, suffer under the over-grown, under-attentive mess that is Verizon.
[The NJ BPU direct Verizon complaint number is: 877 730-7909]
I sent this letter to my state representatives; they forwarded my problems with Verizon on to their "liaison at Verizon for follow up". This (or maybe the call I made to the BPU Verizon complaint line) resulted in someone from Verizon promptly calling me, getting all my information (again), and resubmitting this refund from scratch. A new sincerely caring robot letter was generated on the 11th, now with my new address (finally!), along with the same(!) totally useless refund reference ID number. Ironically, the first check mailed to my old address was received by me shortly thereafter, because, despite what the Refund Status Alert letter had said, the actual address that it was mailed to was correct, including the apt. number.
My complaint about the NJ Board of Public Utilities, which was really principally what I was writing to complain about, remains unaddressed...