Archive for November, 2010

Dealing with verizon and being sent to collection.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

This is one of those things that some would consider a bureaucratic horror story, but it wasn’t really that bad. It’s just another tax in life you have to pay, like parking tickets. Sometimes you pay with money, sometimes you pay with time and aggravation. The advantage of paying with time and aggravation is that you can take other people with you on your way down.

I used to have the triple play thing with Verizon, phone, TV and innernet, and whenever I got my bill I was always pissed all all those bullshit taxes and fees and surcharges and fees to collect the surcharge on behalf of the government which is taxing me in other ways as well. Not to mention the MTA tax. Love that one.

Anyway, I decided to switch to magic jack which is $20 a YEAR (got that verizon? A YEAR) but I wanted to keep my old phone number because the effort of finding and fixing the hundreds of companies that have tied me to that phone number is greater than  the expense of porting the number away.

Or so I thought.

Verizon being a phone company to the core had to come up with a way to deal with people who didn’t have a phone number now that they sell TV and innernet, with the possibility of getting one of those services without getting phone service and therefore having no phone number. Apparently they worked out how to do it, and it involves having an account that’s of a different type than those with a phone number.

So poor me who simply wanted to take my triple play and turn it into a double play ended up causing a most unique thing to happen. Instead of just removing my phone service (because apparently you can’t take phone service away from a phone account) they made a new account, added the TV and innernet to it and then canceled the old phone account.

Sounds logically reasonable if not straightforward. But there are two downsides to this treatment.

1) they didn’t tell me.

2) when they sent me the final bill for the prorated cost of the triple play on the old account, and I used the verizon bill pay web site to pay it, instead of crediting my old phone account (which was the only account I thought I had) it credited my new double play account.

I did not know, I did not care, they sent me a bill, I agreed to the prorated amount, and I used their web site to pay it. I did everything right. No worries.

Fast forward 3 months (because while the rest of us are using 3Ghz core 2 quads, the phone company is using a single 386/16 for all their IT needs and it takes them forever to do anything involving moving data through computers) I get a letter of collection from a collection agency.

Always one to enjoy the lottery, I called the number on the paper to find out who was sending me to collection. And who was it? Verizon of course, for lack of payment of my phone bill.

Sigh. Let the adventure begin.

I will say that I only had to make 3 phone calls (this was late october) to figure out what happened. It turns out that I did in fact get the final bill, I did in fact pay it in full, but oh no, verizon credited the wrong account. And so the old phone account went unpaid. Verizon made no attempt to contact me in any way about that unpaid bill, they just sent me to collection. They’re the phone company they have a process for everything, even dying.  I know, I used to work for AT&T, but that’s another story for another time.

At the end of the 3rd phone call, we worked out that in fact I did owe the amount they said I did, but I decided not to take it in the ass without a little fight, so after I finally got them to clearly admit that it was not my fault, I not so kindly suggested that they might consider giving me a discount for my efforts in having to deal with this when the fault was clearly theirs as I paid in full every bill they sent me using their system yet I was sent to collection for lack of payment. She gave me 25% off. I should have held out for more, but I was trying to make a point, and I did. (that whole taking other people down with me thing I mentioned earlier.)

Great.  I called the collection agency and I paid 75% of the balance due, (because verizon won’t take payments on bills sent to collection) and verizon said they were going to credit the rest of my account, push it to the collection agency and it will all go away. Problem solved. No worries.

Fast forward 2 more weeks and I get a letter from the collection agency saying I owe them $20.83, the amount of the 25% discount.

Sigh. The adventure continues.

I called verizon to see what they have to say, and it seems they have a front line of call-at-home center people (I could tell because I could hear the children screaming in the background) who have the gift of being able to decipher the phone company billing system. Even if it spans two accounts. The phone company certainly has come a long way since the advent of competition in the early 80’s. This nice fellow took only 2 minutes to come to the conclusion that I was paid in full and shouldn’t have an outstanding balance anywhere. OUTSTANDING!

So I called the collection agency, they say their computers insist I still owe them $20.83.

So I called verizon back and got another call-at-home center person with that same gift who also agreed that I owed nothing and maybe I should just wait another two weeks and check back as maybe the credit hadn’t posted to the collection agency yet.

This second guy did me one little favor though. He mentioned that verizon has a “payments and collections” department. Well I knew right then that I wanted to talk to THOSE people.  He connected me and wouldn’t give me a direct number. And after the usual phone company standard hold time I was connected to somebody who sounded like they weren’t going to budge, but eventually conceded my point. Her math showed that I still did in fact owe $20.83 at which point I muttered under my breath “oh no, we’re not having this fight again.” and then she went back and did some more math and came up with the same zero balance my other two verizon friends had come up with.

So now we’re all in agreement. I don’t owe anything, but alas, the collection agency still thinks I do. Previous notes on the account (from the late october phone calls) indicate that in fact none of this was my fault, so I explained that now that somebody important from “payments and collections” agrees that I don’t owe anything, what can we do about making the collection agency agree, and more importantly, how can I remove this black mark from my credit history so that I don’t get mauled by the bank when I go to refinance my mortgage.

This was really the crux of my goal. I long ago lost most of the enjoyment I ever got from making phone company employees suffer, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let their screwup tarnish my otherwise sparkly credit rating.

So she wrote all sorts of important things on the notes of my account, and then told me she was going to transfer me to an even MORE important credit reporting department who have the god-like power of being able to remove black marks from your credit report.

And she gave me their direct number.

And while I’d love to make some money selling this information, I’m feeling particularly generous at the moment. Here it is: 877 325 5156

Have a good time. Call them early and often. These guys are probably a very valuable resource so wasting their time must cost the phone company more money than wasting any other phone company rep’s time. Take full advantage. They’re nice people so be nice to them, but by all means Waste Their Time.

So it was only another few short standard phone company hold times later when the guy kindly informed me that I would be receiving a letter with shiny verizon letterhead and account numbers and circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back explaining what it was so that if I ever had to prove I did not belong on the collection list I’d have this piece of paper to show in my defense.

And he put through the request to the four credit bureaus (I thought there were only three) and this entire mess would be all cleaned up in no more than 2 billing cycles.

I asked the google calculator to convert 2 verizon billing cycles to days  and it was unable.  I also asked the wolfram alpha engine, and it gave me a stock quote.

From this, I surmise, that the wolfram alpha engine is superior to google calculator, but The Phone Company is superior to them both.

So I won. Or lost depending on how you look at it, and you know I’m going to call back in some random period of time that I think passes for 2 verizon billing cycles and see if everything is still in the clear, but at the moment, I think I finally caged the beast.