Thursday, February 11, 2010

Verizon Part I

For those who haven’t heard, Verizon is now implementing a charge for all but the most generic phones in their offering. The charge as described by Verizon is for a data plan, which “gives customers quick access to Mobile E-mail, games and the Internet.” The plan costs $9.99 per month (in addition to what you already pay, unless you currently use a data plan by choice) and covers 25MB of data transfer. As just stated, if you happen to already have a data plan that you pay for, this won’t matter to you, since you already chose to pay for it. But what if you don’t want to pay for these services, or more precisely, what if you don’t want to USE these services? Verizon says, ‘too bad.’  The options you have are:
1. Get a decent phone and pay the service charge.
2. Get a “Simple Feature Phone” (see more below) to avoid the charge.
3. When your contract is up, leave for another provider.
4. Leave now and pay the early termination fee for ending the contract ahead of schedule.
If you have only recently upgraded your plan and you were not already affected by this change, then you should be good until your contract is up, or your phone breaks. As it turns out, VZW will also be forcing this charge if you upgrade replace your phone if it becomes damaged. This includes replacing a phone that you bought 6 months ago with no charge added, with an identical model.
However, if you choose to downgrade to a “Simple Feature Phone” to avoid the charge, you are soon to be discouraged. There are only 3 (of 16) phones listed at the time this was written that have a QWERTY keyboard. There are only 5 phones listed that have a 2.0 megapixel camera; none have anything higher, while many have none. Only 1 has a user rating higher than 4/5. Of course, none have a touch screen. Some of these little additions are not for everyone, and the SFP categorization is actually fairly accurate. But that’s what you get if you don’t want to pay the charge.
If you do want something a little more snazzy, pony up. You want a decently rated QWERTY phone or anything else listed above? You’re going to have to pay for it, but you will do so indirectly. You will not be paying for the extra features that you are looking for with the $9.99 charge (you will be paying for it with an increased phone price, but that is what is expected). Instead, you will be paying a fee for a data plan, that has nothing to do with a touch screen, QWERTY keyboard and the like. It is for browsing the web and retrieving and sending email. Verizon has taken the stance that if you want to do that, then pay for it, if you don’t want to do that, they pay for it.
There have been a few disgruntled customers out on the web who have wonderfully analogized this situation as follows: This situation is the same as if your cable company charged you for HBO, because it was a feature available through the cable system, even if you never watched it, and told them you never wanted to watch it. Just because the availability is there does not mean every customer wants or is going to use it.
From Verizon’s community message boards, many unhappy customers are reporting that they are sending letters to VZW Execs, and getting responses. In most cases, it seems the response is empty, but it is something. I have actually considered this myself, and if that happens, I will be posting the letter and any responses that come. If not, I’ll still be updating the blog with any new news about it. Why? Because when I search for anything related to this issue, I have trouble finding much of anything in the way of public exposure. Most of the search results are either simple press-release-type descriptions of Verizon’s new business plan, or else message boards with angry customers.
Stay tuned…

Update from feedback:

A smart phone is designed to use the data package and paying for the data package makes perfect sense. When the Droid was released, it came with a required data package. That's fine, because that is a phone that people will buy for that reason; part of the draw to the Droid is that it is a super fancy phone that has advanced capabilities that most phones don’t have.

But I am not talking about those phones. I am talking about the phones that have a built-in capability to access the 3G network Verizon offers, but the functionality to do so is not the main drive behind the phone's particular design. Take the LG enV3, for example. It is NOT a smart phone, but it has a lot of nice features. Verizon will force the data plan for this phone. The problem with this is that on December 1st, anyone could have purchased this phone without the service charge. Assuming someone did just that, but today the phone broke and they have to go and buy a replacement. Now suddenly, even though the phone would be replaced with the same exact model, they have to pay the $9.99 service fee. Why, if they didn't have to before?

12 comments:

  1. *** COMMENT 1 OF 2 ****
    Ahh yes, the old consumer versus big business. A timely tale for all ages. Unfortunetly this is no Disney movie that is staring Lindsay Lohan and Anne Hathaway, and nor will this response be. I do want to say that i agree with the fundamentals of what the poster is saying. I'm writing this response to better promote conversation on the topic from all perspectives and angels.

    Now before i being i must say that i'm writing this really quickly before work. I do not have time to research statistics and numbers and what not. So all of what i'm saying is my own opinion.

    I'm sure to hit a nerve or two from the average consumer reading this. Why you ask? I'm going to write from the perspective of big business but not as their public relations department. Public relations are there to smooth and calm the consumer. I'm going to say what an executive would say to other executives in the board room. Stuff consumers don't want to hear.

    Before i start with that I want to start us off with an analogy.

    Anne walks into Bestbarn to buy a new TV. For some reason Bestbarn was just struck by a freak tornado and only had two TVs to pick from and all others are on backorder.

    TV1 - $1500 A JacksonP HD TV which has built in DVR and Ethernet port for internet hookup
    TV2 - $900 A Jacobe HD TV with no special perks.

    Based on Anne's research the JacksonP probably will last longer than a Jacobe but she doesnt need nor will ever use the built in DVR or Ethernet port.

    Anne, "I'll never use it. I think you should let me buy it at the price of $900."
    Clerk, "Ma'am i'm sorry but it's already on sale for the price of $1500 we can't go any lower."
    Anne, "Fine! I'll take my business elseware where they will not charge me for stuff i don't want to use!"
    Clerk, "Um, okay. Thanks for coming to Bestbarn."
    Anne storms off to write a blog and the clerk, well he goes on break.

    Now WAIT!! It doesn't take a call to the physic friends network to know what your thinking!! Let me take a stab! "What does that have to do with the post? The post is about paying for a monthly service charge on something that will never be used not hardware!"

    Why don't we look at it from a larger perspective on how these two relate.

    A Blackberry Cruve 8520 non-activated/non-contract right now will retail around $299 to $399 depending on purchase location. The Blackberry is a smartphone. Smartphones are phones that were specifically built to contain an operating system that is data-network-connection based. They are, in essence, internet-computers that happen to be able to make calls, send texts, and mimic other cell phone functions. They are like that by design.

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  2. *** COMMENT 2 of 2 ... Please read first one before this ***
    -----------------------------------------------------
    If you only want a phone to make calls, get calls, and send a text every now and then and never use the web or internet. Why get a smartphone? Wait, i'm getting another physic reading. "I want the smartphone only because it'll last longer and gets great reviews. Plus there are hardly any other options of non-smartphones with good reviews! I shouldn't have to pay for the internet-computer portion of it if i don't want to use it."

    This is where i'm going to start speaking like a executive to another executive in big bad corporation.

    Any cell phone company is not under any obligation to sell you anything for anything. What does that mean? As long as the company operates within the guidelines of corporate law they are fine and owe you as the consumer nothing. Ouch! I can already feel the anger and the defenses of the consumer reading this getting heated!

    Mr. Verizon is going to give you a $300 dollar smartphone for pretty much nothing. You have to sign a contract and get the data plan for the phone to operate as it was intended. Even after paying that $9.99 extra for 24 months it still doesn't equal the full price of the phone.

    If you do not want to pay the 9.99 because you wont use that portion of the phone. Don't get the phone. If you are upset about the remaining selection that the store has to offer of non-smartphones. Go somewhere else. Yes, i went there. I sure did. Go somewhere else.

    You might hate to hear it but companies do not care if you leave them. Well, within an acceptable margin. We've all heard of that person who yells the old "I'll take my business elseware". Although they don't train their front end agents/clerks to ever let the customer know thats okay. It is. Large companies that we are talking about have a projected amount of allowed customer loss based on past and projected new customers/services for existing customers/etc. They will survive without you.

    Again people, i agree with what the poster was saying. I'm just trying to promote communication on a topic from all perspectives. Don't hire a hit man to find me --- besides, they might charge you a bullet package for bullets that wont get used.

    There are options:
    1. Don't buy a smart phone and get another phone from same provider.
    2. Go to another provider but good luck as they all charge for data packages for smartphones. The majority at least.
    3. You can pay full price (or almost full price) for the phone and go on a non-contract plan. You actually end up paying less a month for full unlimited talk/text/data than u would on contract --- only draw back is that full price of the phone. Most cell phone companies offer this.
    4. Take down big-business and overthrow government. Hm. Or i suppose just write your congressman.

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  3. I have a few things to say in response to this. First, you mention that a smart phone is designed to use the data package. You are absolutely correct. But I am not talking about those phones. I am talking about the phones that have a built-in capability to access the 3G network Verizon offers, but the functionality to do so is not the main drive behind the phone's particular design.
    Take the LG enV3, for example. It is NOT a smart phone, but it has a lot of nice features. Verizon will charge for this phone. On top of that, when the Droid was released, it came with a required data package. That's fine, because that is a smart phone that people will buy for that reason. I don't want an internet-ready smart phone, so I did not buy one.

    Second, your analogy is wrong. Let's revisit Bestbarn, shall we? I WANT to spend money on the nicer TV. I like the features, and while I may not use all, I am willing to pay more for the features I want. Where your analogy goes wrong is not in the features of the TV, but the service that goes with it. You would have been more accurate to equate this situation to the following dialog.
    (At the checkout)
    Cust: "This is going to be a great TV to play my XBOX on!"
    Emp: "Yeah, and it's great for watching cable, too!"
    Cust: "You're right, but I'm not going to hook up cable. I just want to use it for games."
    Emp: "Oh, that's too bad, because we're going to charge you a $50.00 per month cable fee, just because the TV can be hooked up to cable."
    Cust: "But- I don't want cable?!"
    Emp: "Sorry, the TV can use cable, so you have to pay for it."

    Again, I WANT to pay more for the features of the PHONE I want. I do NOT want to pay more for the SERVICE I don't.

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  4. Also, forgot to add one thing about the LG enV3 example. On Dec 1st, I could have purcahsed this phone without the service charge. Assuming I did just that, but today the phone broke and I have to go and buy a replacement. Now suddenly, even thought I am replacing with the same exact model, I have to pay the $9.99 service fee. Why, if I didn't have to before?

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  5. First of all, I must apologize for my spelling! I read the first post and almost had a heart attack. I know the difference between the spelling of angel vs. angle. In my defense I was rushing.

    I was unaware that you were referring to phones that were not smart phones but yet getting charged the 9.99 data package per month. Obviously this is a shady business practice.

    I agree with the points you made and am more clear on the intended content of your original post.

    I still stick with one thing. Unless this 'complaint' affects the profit income of Verizon to fix it will always fall into the acceptable margin of customer/income loss. You hate it. I hate it. It's business. Dirty cold hearted profit greedy business.

    I am interested to see the outcome of your situation. Continue to post your dealings and any new Disney movies you watch.

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  6. r u serious get another phone if you dont like it god i hate customers like you. how annoying.. tbob3

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  7. You hate customers who don't like to pay for something they don't want or use?

    You think a single male living alone should buy tampons, when he obviously doesn't need them?

    You think an infertile couple who does not want kids should be forced to buy baby books, even though they will never have a use for them?

    These are the people you hate?

    Beyond 'customers like us,' and speaking specifically for myself, all I want is a decent quality phone (judged before purchase by reading user reviews) that has a QWERTY keyboard, since I really love to text. That's only two criteria, which should be simple to get, yet Verizon thinks that putting just those two bits together means I MUST pay to use data. As a consumer, this doesn't make sense.

    I'm sorry I'm not the kind of consumer that blindly follows my corporate owners (because they obviously know what's best for me). I'm sorry I'm not ok with just paying whoever whatever they ask for something I don't want. If you don't understand the issue, then I won't try to push it to you any further. Your personal attack on me (or anyone like me) tells me you don't really have a grasp of what is going on and you will probably never get it.

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  8. Gaffi, I totally agree and I am in the same boat. I have been a Verizon customer since it was called AirTouch; back then, they were all about customers, not corporate bigotry. Here's my story:

    In January 2008, my wife and I bought into a shared plan with identical phones (LG VX9400) and we were set because we liked the phone, despite the service in our area being marginal (rural). For those of you that don't know, the VX9400 was the first TV phone offered by VZW with the TV service as an additional charge, IF a person wanted it. Neither of us has ever used the TV feature as the phone was designed for, but, we bought them because of the size and was one of the few that weren't clamshells back then.

    A little over a year ago, my wife got her phone wet and it went DOA, so we went to the Verizon store to see what options we had. The rep said that the VX9400 was no longer available and being that I was eligble for an upgrade, the rep explained to us that we could use my upgrade for my wife to get a new phone so that we wouldn't have to pay full retail cost for a replacement. Off she went with an LG enV Touch and she loves it. It all sounded good-until last week.

    We went to the very same Verizon store, different rep, and I explained that my phone was over two years old and I was interested in the new LG Chocolate Touch, because I wanted a small phone with the music playing ability of that particular phone. I do not want a qwerty-type, clamshell or smartphone and prefer LG products because I've had good luck with them over the years. I do not use the internet on my phone for several reasons: our service area is marginal at best, the slow speeds, and I don't like fussing with small screens; I have an air card and wireless on my laptop if I want mobile internet.

    The rep looked up our account and told me that I am not eligible for a new phone until February 2011, however, my wife was eligible for a new phone. After explaining what had transpired a year prior, the rep told us that because my wife took over my upgrade, I had assumed her upgrade date, that being 2011. Then, she said that I could still get the phone I wanted, but, my wife would have to re-assume my (her) upgrade date and a contract extension, I would then get her (my original) upgrade date and a new two year contract, but guess what? Yep, an additional 20 dollars will be added to our account monthly.

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  9. Despite the rep's explanation of the new fee, calling it a "convenience" so that I can "better enjoy my phone experience", it left me with a bad taste in my mouth much like a fecal sandwich would.

    Now, neither one of us access the internet via phones, and yet, we still are forced to pay the new fee. I was also advised that ANY changes to our plan would also incur the data fee for our current phones because my VX9400 can access the internet as well. Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated over this and left the store with my VX9400 in hand and felt bullied by a female representative half my size and one-third my age.

    Now, I am praying that my little VX9400 lasts for the rest of our contract and my wife doesn't get her phone wet. And, before anyone says "go to another provider", let me tell you that there are none in this area. The one that used to be here (Unicel) was bought out by VZW and while others provide "partner coverage" in this area, ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile do not offer plans in my local area (monopoly, anyone?).

    So, my plan is to wait out the Data Fee storm and see how it pans out. While I agree with the fee for the data driven phones and what they are DESIGNED AND SOLD to do, I don't agree with VZW billing me for a service that I do not use with a non-smart phone or data-driven phone. Yea, the Chocolate Touch is a multi-media phone, but, it was offered as a music phone with Sony this and Dolby that, not primarily internet access.

    Gaffi's BestBarn analogy was spot on. However, I'm all about corporations making a buck - it's what they do. But, in today's economy and with everyone trying to pinch a penny, is this good business sense with regard to caring about customers?

    Please keep us posted.

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  10. Thanks for the support. I will definitely keep posting my progress, though I am doubtful much of anything is going to happen as a result.

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  11. I don't have time to post my own opinions or research now, but I just wanted to drop by and say that I am in total agreement with the author.

    Everything that everyone has posted here to try to "dumb-down" the plain and simple facts can be rebutted with some simple logic that they are lacking.

    I'll check back soon for an update!

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  12. If you do a search on Verizon and FCC you will find that they are entering into a class action law suit against VZW for the $1.99 data fee.

    http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20100226005715&newsLang=en

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I will usually do my best to respond as quickly as I can. I would like to encourage conversations between myself and others in this way, so please feel free to speak your mind!