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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

The Fog of the Phone War

Lowest jerry-rigged phone/Internet/TV bundle ever:

Basic get-a-clear-picture TV..............................................$35.55/mo.

MagicJack DSL-line unlimited calling to
anywhere in the USA @ $20.00/yr....................................$ 1.66/mo.

Prepaid cell phone for emergencies @ $10/yr...................... $ .83/mo.

Basic Budget (for incoming calls only)
phone + Internet.............................................................$58.54/mo.


* * *

“All associates are currently helping other customers. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.”

Tick-tock, tick-tock, lost count of minutes waited.

“Hello, thank you for using Verizon. How can I help you?”

“Hi, I can hardly hear you. Could you possibly talk into your microphone?”

“Hello, thank you for using Verizon. How can I help you?”

“Okay, well, you’re still pretty faint, but my problem is that my bill suddenly went up $17.13, and there are all these listings about changes in service that I never asked for, as well as the removal of my discount for having both my landline and my Internet with you.”

“And how can I help you?”

“Well, maybe if you could talk a little louder. You sound like you’re in China.”

“Is this better?”

“A little. I want my old bill back. That’s the basic problem. And I don’t want to pay this extra $17.13. What do I have to do?”

“Do you mind if I put you on hold while I research that?”

“If we get cut off while I’m on hold, can you call me back on my landline?”

“I’m sorry, I’m not authorized to do that.”

“Okay, well could you not put me on hold then? I usually get cut off on hold, and I don’t want to have to start all over again with the automated selections, waiting, and then a whole new Verizon associate.”

“All right. This may take a while though.”

“No problem. I’ll wait.”

Tick-tock, tick-tock, no sound, no static, no life. Brain death or deep meditation, I’m too far gone to discern.

“Are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here. Did you figure it out?”

“It seems your bundle expired; your phone and Internet are being charged separately, even though technically they’re on the same bill—so you lost your discount.”

“How did it expire? It’s been there since I began my service. Shouldn’t Verizon notify a person about something like this? Can you re-instate it?”

“You want me to re-bundle your services?”

“Yes, please, and take the $17.13 off my bill.”

“I’m afraid I’m not authorized to do that.”

“Well, who is?”

“I can have a supervisor call you.”

“That would be great. Can they call on my landline?”

“Sure. Do you want me to go ahead and re-bundle?”

“Please. Basic Budget plus Internet is all I want. And by the way, is there a charge for this?”

“No charge.”


“This may take about ten to fifteen minutes.”

“Okay, I’ll wait, just please don’t put me on hold. And by the way, you’re fading again. Do you think you could talk a little louder?”

Tick-tock, tick-tock, nirvana must be near.

“Okay, I’ve got you set for a bundle at $49.99.”

“Great. And by the way, you suddenly got a lot louder. I can hear you really clearly now.”

“Probably my hair was in the way.”

“Ha, ha, that’s funny. Oh, are there additional taxes or is the $49.99 going to be my new monthly rate?”

“I’m not authorized to tell you the taxes. They vary from state to state.”

“So I guess I’ll figure that out or ask the supervisor when she calls. Just as long as it’s not more than $58.54. Don’t forget to put in that order for somebody to call me, okay?”

“First I have to finish this bundle. And I have to read you a required statement since this has to be verified through a third party.”

“No problem. Read away.”

There follows a long statement about how somebody who doesn’t work for Verizon will ask me a bunch of questions, including my birthday, my social security number, and anything else they feel like as they record the call, to make sure I’ve authorized this order, and, despite this call being about my phone bundle, they will not be able to answer any questions about it, like my new rates for unlimited long distance calling, etc.—and even though I have no intention of making even short-distance calls on this phone and I could swear I specified Basic Budget, I hold my tongue so she can finish reading. She does.

“Do you have any more questions about your phone service before I transfer you to the third-party verifier?” she asks sweetly.

“Yes, I definitely do—”

Click. Phone line goes dead because my Verizon Internet-MagicJack-enabling connection has suddenly disappeared.

It is 8:15 a.m. I’ve been on the phone since 7:20. Maybe I’ll walk my dog before trying this again. Maybe I’ll call my friend in Alaska who has even worse phone service than New York. Then I remember it’s 4:15 a.m. in Alaska, so probably she’s not in the mood for a bitching session. Not only that, but it would be a minutes-consuming prepaid cell phone call because MagicJack doesn’t reach Alaska. “It’s not our problem,” wrote the Internet chat customer service associate between sips of Indian chai. (MJ has no customer service phone number.) “Alaska doesn’t accept our calls.”

“But you promise calling anywhere in the United States. Alaska is part of the United States, so it is a MagicJack problem,” I furiously typed.

“Yes, but Alaska doesn’t accept our calls, so it’s not a MagicJack issue. Thank you for being patient, and have a nice day.”


In a subsequent call, a very apologetic Verizon associate explains that I never should have received my discount bundle in the first place and they’ve been nice enough to just remove it and not charge me back fees. Not only that, but my Internet service—which is now regularly crashing—has gone up two dollars. Not only that, but my phone service, too, is now more expensive so I might as well get that $49.99 plan, which in fact costs $66 with taxes. I hang up, resigned to my fate. Two hours later, I get word from my best friend downstairs that she’s been trying to call me and my answering machine isn’t picking up. Why? I pick up my landline to discover it is dead. After much agony—which at this point would only bore you—I get an appointment for repair … in six days! During which, my Internet disappears for long periods of time.

When I call Time Warner to inquire about their bundles, I get a recording: “We are aware that there is a problem with outgoing calls—that there is dead air or a quick busy signal upon making a call. Time Warner is aware of the problem and is working on it, so there is no need for you to stay on the phone."

Two days later, I speak to a Time Warner rep. He is selling so he is very nice. Nice goes a long way. So do prerecorded messages that at least acknowledge a problem. I think I’ll switch.


Switch done. New package: $96.95/mo. (approximately $106 with taxes), which includes unlimited long distance and local calling (Verizon @$66+Time Warner TV=$101 was local/regional only), 3-way calling and call forwarding (neither on Verizon plan). The Time Warner 3-service package is one that is marketed to Spanish-speaking clients and I only got it because I specified that I didn't want to upgrade my TV. This plan is the basic plan stations plus some Spanish channels. You'll only hear about it if you're Spanish or really insistent about keeping your TV costs down.

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