Verizon Wireless Apparently Still Can't Train Its Sales People In Basic Math

from the add-your-0.2-cents dept

You may recall the story from last year about Verizon Wireless' dubious math skills. What kicked off the story was a guy traveling to Canada with a Verizon Wireless EVDO account. He had asked how much the roaming charges would be, and was told 0.002 cents per kilobyte -- which is quite reasonable. However, when he got his next bill, it was quite a lot bigger than he expected. That's because Verizon Wireless actually charges 0.002 dollars per kilobyte. When confronted on this, hilarity (or frustration, depending on your point of view) ensued. Even when being explained the difference in dollars and cents clearly, Verizon Wireless customer service reps continued to insist that 0.002 cents per kilobyte is the same thing as 0.002 dollars per kilobyte. The publicity backlash convinced Verizon Wireless to refund the guy's money (though still demand he not use their logo on his blog about the story). Either way, you would think that this widely talked about event would have Verizon Wireless careful to train their customer service reps on the difference between dollars and cents. Not so, apparently.

Broadband Reports points us to a guy who clearly has way too much free time, who decided to check up on Verizon Wireless, calling the company 56 times to ask about two separate data rates. Out of 56 customer service reps he spoke to, a grand total of one gave him the correct info on both questions. 52% answered both questions incorrectly. All in all, he received 22 unique answers, with many underquoting the actual rate by a factor of 100. However, as he noted, that didn't stop nearly all of them from immediately then offering him a two-year contract -- which you could claim was sold to him with false data about what he'd be paying. He put together a nice video to highlight some of the incorrect statements from Verizon Wireless CSRs:
So, is it reasonable to ask when Verizon Wireless is going to start teaching its customer service reps math?

Filed Under: data charges, dollars and cents, math
Companies: verizon wireless

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  1. identicon
    Zazie, 14 Nov 2007 @ 3:21pm

    oh... come on!

    Verizon Wireless should have gotten their act together on this one by now. At least my network representatives can handle basic math. Who the hell is Verizon employing?

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

  2. identicon
    redhammy, 14 Nov 2007 @ 3:28pm


    Is this really a case of misinformed customer service reps or is it actually a case of salespeople lying in order to get a commission for signing up a new customer?

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

  3. identicon
    Thom, 14 Nov 2007 @ 3:32pm

    What morons

    You'd think that a company the size of Verizon would have one person smart enough to say "Let's quit quoting rates in per kilobyte and quote per megabyte instead." Then the 0.002 dollars per kilobyte they can't seem to get correct becomes an easy to state $2 per megabyte, pro-rated.

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

  4. identicon
    matt, 14 Nov 2007 @ 3:54pm

    Re: What morons

    That would be true if you were using Seagate math.
    It would really be 2.048 per megabyte.
    ($0.002 x 1024)

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

  5. identicon
    MadJo, 14 Nov 2007 @ 4:15pm

    What's wrong with those people?

    I can sort of understand the confusion between $0.002 and 0.002 cents, but not in that number of mistakes... That is just staggering.

    And not knowing the answer? To these two questions? What's wrong with those people?

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

  6. identicon
    carl patrick, 14 Nov 2007 @ 4:17pm

    Verizon --

    I have Verizon FiOS - TV,Internet,Wireless. All my interactions from a couple of error prone STB's (Made by Motorola) and my router going bad. Every interaction I have had is great, just ask for agent to go around the voice responce system and the support staff and the guys that come to my house are great. I used to work for Sprint and had Sprint mobile for over 10 years Verizon is first rate, the last guy who worked at my house left a card with his cell number on it and said "please call him direct if I had any issues". Any problems are small compared to the other guys and I love my "FiOS" and no I don't work for them.

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

  7. Get rid of the humans

    This would be an example where a computer answering the questions would be better than the humans.

    Remember, "call center rep." is not a class in college that is offered, at least not in the U.S., maybe in India though.

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

  8. identicon
    MR Anderson, 14 Nov 2007 @ 4:29pm

    1 out of 56! right

    i call Verizon about a month ago and was asking about new calling plans i had been told about a week or so before hand be one of the costumer service supervisors. and the guy went to transfer me to his supervisor and connected me with T-Mobile instead.

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

  9. identicon
    Overcast, 14 Nov 2007 @ 4:36pm

    hmm, dang - should have asked them - if dollars and cents are the same, if he could pay them cents instead of dollars on the bill...

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:00pm

    A few weeks ago a vzw rep insisted that February 28th was four months from April 28th. For those that don't know Verizon moved the new every two time frame from 22 months to 20 months. I'm not sure when it started, but if you've had your phone for more than 20 months go get a new one.

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

  11. identicon
    Sarah Smile, 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:00pm

    Who cares?! They satisfied the customer and NO ONE does that anymore. Give them a break. I have used their service for about 7 years now and no one can compete with their customer service. I absolutely love them and think that guy should just drop it already.

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

  12. identicon
    ZeTron, 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:09pm

    This is sad. Too bad Verizon has declined so much in accuracy. However, they do internally monitor their calls to ensure accuracy. Working for them as a CSR is actually somewhat of a nightmare because there are literally thousands of mundane facts a CSR must know and are asked. Not saying cents and dollars is not mundane (they need to be trained) but that knowing everything is not as easy as one may think. The CSRs Have something like 10% of their monthly calls monitored randomly, and their job/pay relies on them giving accurate info... If you were to ask a similar obscure question to T-mobile or sprint you would have about the same success rate. Not that this is a good thing. But it's not just V wireless.... oh and for the commenter who mentioned Verizon land line. they;re in a entirely different call center reality. Their CSRs are in no way related to te Wireless. IMHO land line customer service is garbage and should not be put in the same boat. (having he same name is about all they have in common)...

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

  13. identicon
    John, 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:13pm


    The reason they say .002 units instead of $2/MB is that people know how big a MB is. Its one floppy. If you told someone that one floppys worth of info is going to cost them $2, they wouldn't sell anything. As far as the diffrence between dollars and cents, bits and bytes is important when you are in a tech field.

    You can't drop this. If you were told that Gasoline was 3.19 CENTs per gallon, you pump 30 gallons because its such a good deal and get hit with a $95 tab you would be pissed too.

    The only difference here is that it would have been a months worth of gas and your ass is stuck pumping at this gas station for 2 years!

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

  14. identicon
    Thom, 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:35pm


    I was going to mention the difference ($2 vs $2.048) in my post but decided against it thinking this isn't slashdot and people could grasp the point of the post. I was wrong. Sigh.... you people are just as big a group of morons as the Verizon folk.

    So Verizon could lower their price to $2 per MB or round up to $2.05 per MB or choose any other price per MB. The point was they could have avoided all this bad publicity if they'd stated the price per KB rather than MB.

    Go back to slashdot you tards.

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

  15. identicon
    Thom, 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:38pm


    Ok, above should read "if they'd stated the price per MB instead of KB." Sigh...I'm a tard too.

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

  16. identicon
    michelle Kirkland, 14 Nov 2007 @ 6:16pm

    KB's vs. MB's

    I'm quite sure the CSR's were only quoting what they were trained to quote. I agree that if you called any other service provider their reps would do the same thing! Coincidentally, I happen to work for the competition and can honestly say that it's the same across the board.

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2007 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Verizon --

    I love how your comment had almost nothing in common with the original article, wasn't part of the discussion and really hyped up an unrelated and apparently clued part of Verizon.

    ... If we believe a guy who can't figure out we're talking about evdo.

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

  18. identicon
    Monarch, 14 Nov 2007 @ 7:35pm

    Re: Verizon --

    The difference is that Verizon FiOS is part of Verizon Communications, where Verizon Wireless is a separate company. Yes both are owned by Verizon, Inc., but ran as completely separate companies. The employees can't even transfer between the two companies.

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

  19. identicon
    Rocky, 14 Nov 2007 @ 7:40pm

    video gone?

    hmm...this video no longer available?
    anyone have a link where it hasn't been taken down?

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

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2007 @ 8:01pm

    video still works?? and from watching it I can see where the confusion stems from. every overage charge is usually in cents but this time its in dollars. which is very unusually for a cell company to charge. if the documentation the reps were referencing had BOLDED and called out this extremely important fact i thing many of the responses in the video would have been correct... that said, they (and pretty much and call center rep) needs more training. and large corporations should not give a customer greef over charges like this in the first place. they should understand where the confusion comes from and credit the customer. if it happens again then the charges would be valid, as the customer would have been correctly informed the second time around..... it costs companies nearly nothing for overage charges, they loose way more in reputation and positive standing when giving customers a hard time... from my experience most of the cell companies see this fact and treat me well

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

  21. identicon
    Buzz, 14 Nov 2007 @ 8:36pm


    Nothing kills me more than seeing signs at stores that say the item costs 0.25 cents. I will never hire someone so mathematically challenged.

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

  22. identicon
    Jaylen Smith, 15 Nov 2007 @ 3:43am

    Re: CSR's

    Regardless of how many facts one is suppose to know, when it comes to billing you should have your facts straight. When I use to work in a call center, there was a computer program that we could use to find the info we needed if we didn't know it off hand.

    I understand that there are likely to be hundreds of tiny facts, but that's why they sit in front of a computer and are supposedly trained to use it.

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

  23. identicon
    Wizard Prang, 15 Nov 2007 @ 7:48am

    You pay peanuts, you get monkeys

    Not a diatribe against call-center staff; most of them don't do it for the love of the job.

    It gets worse... some employees at Fast-food restaurants cannot make change without a computer-controlled till yelling at them to give the customer 21c.

    Frankly, the innumeracy of many young (and some not-so-young) people scares me.

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

  24. identicon
    T, 15 Nov 2007 @ 10:02am

    Verizon should just charge a flat rate for unlimited data.

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

  25. identicon
    BS, 15 Nov 2007 @ 12:25pm


    That has to hurt and should be causing a few folks at the VZ HQ to step up and make this right. Too bad VZ didn't think of doing this to themselves and address it quietly.

    Nobody is Perfect but they really ought to try!!!

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

  26. identicon
    david, 15 Nov 2007 @ 1:31pm

    great video

    I had the same exact problem with Verizon. I had a Treo 650 and got sick of paying $40/month for data. So I tried cancelling that plan and just using the Treo as a PIM Phone and on rare occasions using the Treo for mapping.

    The thing is that I could never get a clear answer, much like in this call, how much that would cost. And much worse, they make it impossible to find this rate online. I looked and looked and looked - I could never find it.

    If you have a pay as you go data plan, they show you the data you have used, but they don't convert it into dollars until you get the bill so its really hard to know what you have spent so that you can manage your use.

    In fact had this same exact thing happened, that I could never get a clear answer on the rate until it was too late. Some quoted a rate that made not having a data plan make sense, actually its a horrible deal.

    #7 > good luck finding it online.

    #24 > Verizon does offer a flat rate plan, but it is very expensive - $40 / month just for data. You pay this even if your phone does not do EVDO.

    This is part of the reason why I switched to iPhone. The data plan was only $20/month. For all the people saying the iPhone is expensive, anyone with a Treo, Motorola Q, Blackberry or other smartphone on Verizon is paying twice as much per month for unlimited data as I am paying for data with the iPhone on ATT.

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

  27. identicon
    Basic Investor, 15 Nov 2007 @ 3:31pm

    Plausible Deniability

    This type of problem has cropped up before with the same (not so hilarious)results, until a regulatory agency stepped in.

    Part of the problem is that tele-service reps are deliberately *UNDER-INFORMED* so as not to, "confuse them and the customer".

    In fact, though, it also provides a path for the Management folks to have a path of "plausible deniability" since they verbally instruct the reps to say one thing, then deny they ever said anything such thing when put to the "question" under oath.

    Huge example was about five years ago when SBC (Now the "New AT&T") was caught slamming customers with orders for DSL service and equipment charges never ordered. SBC tried to blame the tele-marketing firm supporting the project, yet were found responsible as they just happened to accept a "mere 10,000" of these tainted orders.

    Lesson, if the reps don't have the correct and thorough info, you can pretty well count on the principle company making sure it was set up that way.

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

  28. identicon
    Nicko, 15 Nov 2007 @ 4:56pm

    Schools get the new verizion math

    Well maybe Verizon will teach their math to your kids so there will be no problems for the next generation.

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

  29. identicon
    Boost, 21 Nov 2007 @ 9:52am

    shady business

    I think Verizon and AT&T use the same tactics that I used when I was in high school to order pizza. You see, you confuse the hell out of the person on the other end of the phone (not hard ususally) and you end up with the wrong pizza, in which case you will then get the correct pizza a short time later and the original pizza free of charge. Verizon is using the tactic to make people believe they'll pay less money for their services.

    The real lesson in all this? Don't trust the phone company as far as you can safely toss their products.

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

  30. identicon
    tired of taking calls, 28 Nov 2007 @ 1:20am

    In our shoes

    I understand the widespread frustration with vzw's billing and customer service. I work in a vzw call center as a csr and let me take a moment to point out some of the realities of my job.
    --we are underpaid.
    --we deal with a staggering amount of information.
    --we get to talk to people who do not respect us or our jobs.
    --we get you at your worst and are forced to smile and take whatever crap you choose to sling.
    --because our interaction with you is not face to face you feel that you can behave in a way that in person would eventually end in assault.
    --the turnover rate in my job is astronomical because the relentless day to day stupidity of the people we talk to drives people over the edge. Look at it this way-think of the least competent person you know when it comes to technology or math (maybe an elderly relative or mentally ill neighbor) and then imagine explaining how to set up voicemail to this person over the phone. Over and over again 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.

    Here are some examples of requests I've gotten:
    -I want you to change the font size on my bill (I can't even get the schedule I want and you think I can change the way your bill looks?)
    -You tell my daughter that she can't text message anymore
    -I want you to go over my bills for the last 4 months and tell me when you find a number with a 2 in it because I lost my phone and I really need my friends number.

    I get to take these calls knowing full well that a 1.50 pay cut would land me a job dropping potatoes in a box of boiling fat.

    Overall I understand the frustration I'm reading here. Your money is affected by our mistakes. Understand this though, 85 calls per day and I might make one mistake a week giving out information that is complex and constantly evolving. We do our best and all we ask is some degree of respect.

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

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