Legal Issues

by Karl Bode




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.

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  1. icon
    rahrens (profile), 11 Jan 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!

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