Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poor Verizon, So Misunderstood

A Verizon Wireless patsy (er, vice president) had to write a letter last week to the FCC defending its $350 early termination fee and its little “arrow button” cash cow.

She begins by saying those big early termination fees (ETFs) “promote consumer choice” because that way Verizon can offer smart phones at cheaper prices. Customers can pay through the nose for a month-to-month plan, but most (surprise!) choose to sign up for long-term contracts.

And after all, the executive writes, those smart phones are expensive to provide, so they get higher ETFs. It’s a risky business, the mobile industry, and Verizon needs to protect itself. All that technology and all those customers just spooks them out.

The FCC wanted to know how Verizon told people about the $350-and-up ETF. Well, the morons could look on the web site, answers the Verizon exec. It’s right there in teeny-tiny type. In fact, we put the ETF on ads, telemarketing scripts, sales receipts and letters. We do everything but stick it on billboards on Interestate 80! What is wrong with you people?

The FCC then presses Verizon about the rationale for the high ETF, and the Verizon exec gets upset. Do you have any idea, she asks, what a canceled contract does to Verizon? It messes up all our plans! It turns off a guaranteed revenue stream! We have to provide all that mobile broadband service and that costs money! If a customer cancels a contract, it destroys our entire business model. We can’t eat! We can’t sleep! The entire world economy could collapse! Do you want that, FCC?

The FCC also wants to know the cost difference between what Verizon pays for mobile devices and what it charges customers, but Verizon is too cagey to answer that. They just repeat that the difference is twice as much for smart phones. And remember, the executive says, we have to buy ads and pay salespeople. Who’s gonna pay for that? The company? We got shareholders!

At this point, Verizon feels that the whole ETF issue has been pretty much hashed out and turns to the second problem.

Customers are mad because if someone accidentally presses an arrow key on their device (which has been preprogrammed by Verizon for internet access), the customer is charged $2 even if he cancels the connection immediately. And those buttons are kinda small, guys.

The Verizon exec utterly denies that the button takes users anywhere but the Verizon homepage. Those hordes of doofus customers must be recklessly navigating elsewhere on the web, the executive writes. And we’re happy to credit their account if they feel they’ve been unfairly charged.

All in all, I think Verizon is a little bitter about how complicated and expensive providing mobile broadband is. It’s so annoying having to buy the equipment and build a network and hire sales reps and pay for office coffemakers and all. I think Verizon is feeling a little unloved for all their hard work. Verizon is probably wondering why it didn’t go into something easier, like banking.

Poor Verizon.

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