Verizon Draws More Attention To Telco's Dubious Math Skills

from the Streisand-effect dept

A Verizon Wireless customer on their "unlimited" EVDO data plan (aka their limited data plan) recently took a trip to Canada. Before leaving, he confirmed with Verizon Wireless that their advertised ".002 cents per kilobyte" out of country data charge was correct, since it seemed ridiculously inexpensive. When he returned to the States, he was greeted with a bill for $71, and discovered that he had been billed $.002/KB, or "point zero zero 2 dollars per kilobyte," a hundred times more than the price he was originally quoted. When he called Verizon Wireless to straighten out their incorrectly advertised price, he found that both support reps and management couldn't tell the difference. After a hilariously painful recording of the conversation was posted to his blog, the media attention forced Verizon to offer a full refund, though as of mid-December the company was still quoting the wrong price to users. To have a little bit of fun, the user started selling T-shirts on his blog making fun of Verizon's math skills, much to the chagrin of the telco's legal department. They've since sent him a lawyergram (pdf) warning him to stop using the Verizon logo. Obviously Verizon is ignoring the Streisand effect -- and any resulting legal action against the site will only serve to bring attention to the fact Verizon can't differentiate between dollars and cents.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    LGSimmons, Jan 10th, 2007 @ 11:26pm

    Verizon math

    It is bad when a major business can't tell the difference between dollars and cents. Bet the one responsible didn't pass the State math exam either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Chris D, New Zealand, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:03am

    Verizon - Slow thinking

    Said same will probably not realise the difference between 100% customer satisfaction and 1% satisfaction! Or perhaps the difference between profit and loss when it comes to bonus time?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 3:39am

    Stop it - you're killing me ;0)

    Just listened to the call on the link. I had to stop after a few minutes as with my headphones on I was cracking up and people were looking across at me


    Wow - I can't believe the guy ringing in actually managed to keep a straight, calm tone that long in - I'd have been rolling in the aisles or shouting depending on my mood


    The really scary bit is reading the posts beneath and the fact that so many agree with Verizon "They are simply reading thier computers and seeing $0.002 per kilobyte. You know the only way to pronounce it is ".002 cents" It would be insane to pronounce it $0.002 DOLLARS!"


    It's like comedy genius ;0)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    rahrens (profile), Jan 11th, 2007 @ 4:07am

    confusing

    I know why it's confusing for modern kids.

    Back in the day when people used typewriters, not computers, the shift position over the number 1 had the 'cent' sign instead of the modern exclamation mark(!). That is because one could make an exclamation mark by typing the small vertical mark ' then backspace and type a period. It wasn't until IBM started making the Selectric Typewriters (which had removable balls of different typefaces) that typewriter manufacturers replaced the cent sign with the exclamation mark, because it was determined to be more often used, and the notation $0.0x could be used to denote cents also. So the cent sign has fallen out of common use.

    Since it is not immediately apparent to most users how to make a 'cent' sign (looks like a 'c' with a vertical line drawn through it) on modern computers, it is easier to use the notation $0.01 to denote 'one cent'. We don't use the appellation 'one one-hundreth of a dollar" to describe that notation.

    Since we learn in math class that the third position to the right of a decimal place is the thousandths position, it is easy to mistakenly say 'two thousandths of a cent" when we see the notation $0.002.

    So it is a fault of a disconnect between the manner in which we speak of the way in which we notate dollars and cents now vs. when the actual 'cent' sign was in common use. The written notation for two cents is now written '$0.02' instead of using the now outdated cent sign after the number 2. Our computer systems are ahead of our common verbal usage.

    Verizon management should actively train their customer service reps to properly verbalize their prices so such misunderstandings do not take place. Of course, that assumes there is anyone at Verizon that truly understands this problem!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Dosquatch, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 4:51am

    Re: confusing

    Verizon management should actively train their customer service reps to properly verbalize their prices so such misunderstandings do not take place.

    Simple - instead of trying to communicate a fractional penny per K, communicate it as "1 cent per 5K" or "$1 per 500K".

    OTOH, if Verizon truly isn't understanding the difference, maybe I can pay my phone bill for a penny on the dollar...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Bumbling old fool, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 5:50am

    Re: confusing

    Verizon management should actively train their customer service reps to properly verbalize their prices so such misunderstandings do not take place.

    Why would they do that? That would severely undo all the hard work the marketing department put into creating the management/customer confusion so they could get away with charging 100x the advertised price. silly rabbits...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Ben Robinson, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 6:08am

    What an idiot

    I really don't understand how the customer service guy can not get such a basic concept that 0.002 cents is smaller than 0.002 dollars. I gave up after about ten minutes because i just couldn't stand it any longer. If he really is that stupid then i am amazed he can even manage to work out how to get out of the house and travel to work in the morning.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Jan 11th, 2007 @ 6:41am

    sounds like beer math to me

    in the military on long engagements in the field, the brass will bring in beer to help the troops unwind a bit. the usual ratio is 2 beers per person... apparently that is the ideal dose for a good time without incident.

    so, if your platoon is 30 men, and you require two beers for each one, then the beer algorithm looks something like this:

    2beers * 30soldiers / 24per case = 32 cases of beer per platoon.

    go ahead, add it up on any calculator with a beer function. it's a precise science.

    so, if you apply the beer algorithm to the pricing scheme, you can see that the price is really quite reasonable, especially when you factor in the number of channels you are getting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 7:45am

    Re: sounds like beer math to me

    I think the whole problem is that Verizon is trying to make their service sound cheap by stretching the notation out.

    If they simply posted it as $0.20 per megabyte (or however they'd write it) there wouldn't be any confusion.

    They'd probably write that as - $00.00.00020 per fligabyte where the size of a fligabyte depends upon the amount of precipitation received in Los Angeles on the third Tuesday of the preceeding month unless it's a leap year...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    ShadowSoldier, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 7:58am

    Verizon sucks

    I hate verizon. They apparently don't understand that people odn't like being treated like piles of shit. I know of a restraunt that does this as a gimmick but its all in good fun, and you don't have to spend hours on the phone to order a meal. I eventually ditched them and signed up with T-mobile, which has been pretty good so far. Once in Circuit Suck the guy at the verizon store actively lied to my mom to get her to buy a new plan so I could get a phone that worked. I think the verizon should start listening to what people are saying.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    ShadowSoldier, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 7:58am

    Verizon sucks

    I hate verizon. They apparently don't understand that people odn't like being treated like piles of shit. I know of a restraunt that does this as a gimmick but its all in good fun, and you don't have to spend hours on the phone to order a meal. I eventually ditched them and signed up with T-mobile, which has been pretty good so far. Once in Circuit Suck the guy at the verizon store actively lied to my mom to get her to buy a new plan so I could get a phone that worked. I think the verizon should start listening to what people are saying.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Mitch the Bitch, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 9:07am

    It surely isnt JUST Verizon but they do make a perfect example of what happens when you have a bunch of undereducated (over-hyped) college graduates leading a bunch of high school dropouts and/or 3rd world tech workers. What can you expect to happen in any company under these circumstances?

    The real fault is in academia giving out degree's like candy to anyone regardless as to whether they cheated thier way through class or not. Once you get that piece of paper Corperate America will treat you godlike whether or not you can actually add 2+2.

    The "Lowest common denominator theory" is in full swing in Corperate America.

    Mitch

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Sheryl, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 9:32am

    Verizon Wireless Data price misunderstanding

    Have any of you ever worked in customer service/tech support?! Have some empathy and compassion for the rep that got recorded and how embarrassing it must be for them!! We are all human and none of us are perfect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    G-, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 9:49am

    cute!

    she sounds cute. the whole thing is cute.
    what i am wondering NOW is if somebody at verizon is crapping their pants because they REALLY meant is $0.02 DOLLARS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Rebecca, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 9:51am

    Verizon: unethical thieves

    I am still battling with Verizon over $800 I don't owe. They deserve a class-action lawsuit. They falsely inflate their cell phone charges and also falsely inflate minutes used. I tried to get my plan changed many times and they would always promise I would have enough minutes to accommodate my usage. I upped my plan three times, but when the bill came, my plan had not been increased and they charged me over-minute charges to the tune of $400 per month. Since switching to T-Mobile over a year ago, I have never had a problem with "going over" my minutes. Verizon are lying, thieving bitches.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Jan 11th, 2007 @ 9:54am

    Re: Verizon Wireless Data price misunderstanding

    OK Sheryl, I forgive you for your mistake.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    lugzan3, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 10:18am

    VZW vs. Cingular and new iPhone

    All I have to say is I have VZ now and coverage is good, but half the fun for me is the phone and what it can, VZ's phone suck! Come June or whenever the iPhone is for sale I am going to Cingular and I'll drop a call here and there but it will be worth it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Wizard Prang, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 11:54am

    In defence of Verizon

    I used to have Sprint cellphone service. Reception in certain buildings was poor and they seemed incapable of getting by bills right...

    The last straw was when I called to ask them if they could changed the off-peak watershed from 9PM to 7PM. They said "no", so I went ahead and switched to Verizon, who was offering a better deal.

    After signing up with Verizon, I called Sprint to cancel. The gentleman asked if there was anything he could to to keep me. I told him what I had asked for half an hour earlier.

    "Sure, I can do that".

    "Your Customer Service people couldn't"

    "They're not allowed to. I can."

    "Too late - I just signed the contract."

    Since then I have used Verizon for my cellphone service for about four years now; mistakes are rare, and when they make them they have credited my account for double the difference.

    Also they are one of the only companies that I know that offered a credit ($20) for going paperless - everyone else just expects you to save them money while offering you nothing in return.

    The problem, such as it is, is not restricted to Verizon - or Sprint - it is a consequence of trying to get top-notch people for bottom-dollar wages.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    ruck, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:07pm

    You guys just don't know who to talk to.

    I have sprint. My plan started out at $30 for 250 peek and 250 off peak.

    So I called them and got a customer server rep {by the way they have no power to change anything.}
    I told them my problem and told them I needed to talk to the people in the cancellation department. {This is the key}. I informed them that I was going to cancel my service. They asked why not enough minutes. The said how about we up you minutes for the same price. I did this 3 times there called comp minutes. My plan is now 600 peek and 3000 off peek for the same $30 .
    7am to 7pm.

    My other phone is 150 min for $11.99 .

    I never paid for a phone they will give them to me every 2 years. As long as i sign up for another 2 years.

    With these plans, I have no problem doing another 2 years.

    Like in all the customer service if you don't like you anwser ask to speak with a boss.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Philip, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 2:26pm

    Almost wanted to side with Verizon

    After listening to 10 minutes of that wave, I almost wanted to side with Verizon.

    Yes, the guy is right. Yes, Verizon looked like fools saying they didn't know the difference between .002$ and .002c but this guy was explaining things all the wrong way and causing even MORE confusion than necessary.

    Look, not everybody is good with math. It's a fact of life you have to learn to live with. This guy was going good when he was talking to the initial supervisor on the wave file, but screwed up right here;
    When he asked the supervisor to do the math, the supervisor started to say, outloud, .002 times 3 .. and then the guy interrupted him and asked him "of what?" .. Hello .. You cannot tell your calculator what denomination. You have to wait until /after/ he gets the answer before you correct the denomination.

    The rest of the entire call was a pointless call. It could have finished within the first 5 minutes, easily, but the caller was a horrible teach and went about explaining his side completely the wrong way.

    He should have came across with the math like he did and then explained to them when you multiple cents by units, the end result is still in cents: .002 times 38xx is 71.xxx. At that time is when he should have told them that is in cents, not dollars. And leave out the whole math thing.

    People suck at math, leave it at that. Don't attempt to explain the finite details of math to them cause they will get even MORE confused about math.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    LJSeinfeld, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Almost wanted to side with Verizon...

    Could you sympathize with someone who can't understand the difference between $2.00 and $200.00?

    This isn't exactly rocket-science...

    If you told Verizon you were going to send them $200 towards your bill, and actually only sent them $2 because you're not good with math.. .how understanding do you think they'd be?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 3:05am

    just goes to show...

    when talking to *any* company over the phone... record the call, so they don't 'forget' what they have agreed to, or to help them out when they do.. you know 'for training '

    amazing the number of issues that can be solved by playing back (of stating you can) what a previous rep has said.

    mobile phone companies can be bad, but utility comps are worse, and convential telcos even worse. oh and don't get me started on banks.

    I now record all calls (cus my mobile lets me do that), and decide afterwards if i want to keep it (to burn to cd later as an mp3 file). only had to play one call back to date, strangly what was written on my file changed as the rep suddenely found another field...

    ho hum.

    but maths like this... looks like a case of a company assuming no one will notice, after a mistake was made, its hard to see it being a genuine plan. who was it who said something like:

    never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetance

    or something like that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    RSBennett, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 2:57pm

    This is classic

    This is better than Abbot and Costello - "Who's on First". I lost a whole morning on this one - this is way too funny. This should go into a training manual.

    Thank you for a real good time!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2007 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Stop it - you're killing me ;0)

    Yes, since the better way to say it would be 0.2 cents.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This