Serious customer service gaffe related to upgrading devices for unsuspecting tech un-savvy parents.


I recently upgraded my smartphone to a Galaxy S4 through Verizon's Edge program. It cost me monthly payments of ~$50/month. I accepted this deal and recognized the value of what I was getting: a 'top-of-the-line' phone that I would essentially be paying full price so as to offset a potential trade-in in the future. I was not eligible for a free upgrade so I can't complain. I like the phone.

However, both of my parents have been eligible for a free upgrade for a little over 2 years (for my mom) and over a year (for my old man). They recently went in for the 'free upgrade', not knowing that they were about to be hustled by a Verizon Customer Service representative. My parents don't want smart phones or anything that uses internet access on their mobile devices. They aren't comfortable with it and, while it's not my cup of tea, I can understand the rationale behind it. The reason I bring this up, is that the phones that they were in the market for, were decidedly very, very low tech. We're talking flip phones here. Unfortunately, the service tech failed to mention a few things about their 'upgrade'. 1) While they were eligible for a free upgrade with a 2 year service extension, which they signed, they had to pay FULL price for their phones ~ $127 a piece for their low-tech flip phones that don't have internet access or operate as a mobile hotspot. I could've gotten my S4 for $99 with a 2 year contract extension through Verizon's online store. As in, I could buy, arguably the most advanced smartphone on the market with no 'free upgrade' eligibility to my account, for less than it cost my parents to purchase their low tech, clunker flip phones with a screen so small you can't see pictures clearly on them. Then they charged a $30 'upgrade fee' EACH for their phones, which seems to defy the 'free upgrade available' notion that was expressed on our account for both lines. By the time that I had gotten word of what happened, I made a quick trip home and looked at their contract. I asked some very pointed questions to both my parents and they were both adamant that the customer service rep had never mentioned any mail-in rebate. I pointed it out in their contract and said, "that's pretty messed up. You were supposed to be notified about this matter when you guys bought your phones. Are you absolutely certain?" The mail-in rebate had already expired at the point that I looked at what they signed.

So my questions on this matter are:

1) How on EARTH are my parents low tech flip phones worth $127 a piece with a 2 year contract extension when my top-of-the-line Galaxy S4 would have only been $99 (and most of the other upper echelon smartphones on the market are being given away for free) with a 2 year contract extension?
That is perversely messed up. They aren't bogging down the Verizon 4G network with data requests or internet usage and they're being charged MORE than higher end smartphones would have gone for? Where's the logic in that?

2) If my parents were both eligible for a FREE upgrade, why were they charged $30 A PIECE to upgrade both of their phones? Doesn't that negate the whole FREE upgrade premise?

3) Why didn't the customer service rep make it abundantly clear that the rebate process had a time limit or expiration date for their phones. I looked over their contract and there was absolutely nothing highlighted, circled or otherwise emphasized that would have visibly shown that the rep had clearly gone over the rebate situation with my parents (further supporting the notion that he had simply said nothing about it, knowing low-tech 'old' people would never bother to read the reams and reams of contract literature and special addendums that clog up most cell phone agreements or even know that there would be a time limit for the rebate process to be complete).
Furthermore, why is the rebate period less than 30 days, if not to fully benefit from people who don't catch the rebate opportunity until after they receive their next bill and see all the added fees that have been tacked on to their account? Is Verizon intentionally trying to gouge their customers to the point that they seek service with *ick* AT&T or T-Mobile? A 3 month period would be tolerable but less than 30 days? Really?

4) This wouldn't have bothered me so much had Verizon also NOT sent a shipping label in the package with my recent EDGE transaction. The only thing I removed from the shipping container was my phone, then hunted for days for the shipping label that was 'supposed to be in the package with the phone'. Then, I went to Verizon's site to print off a shipping label for my EDGE device return and there was nothing....anywhere....that clearly expressed, "Hey, this is the label you'll need to return your old phone to Verizon for the trade-in to get your new phone." Instead, I printed off some label that looked like it was to be used to return my NEW phone for product defects or malfunctions. I had 18 days to return my phone and if I wouldn't have figured out that Verizon intentionally didn't send a shipping label to be able to charge 'up to $200 for failure to return the used device' and gone online to get the label, this note would have been nastier.

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Re: Serious customer service gaffe related to upgrading devices for unsuspecting tech un-savvy parents.
Customer Service Rep

Good morning, Lordof4s!

Thank you so much for reaching out to us today! I would love to help you out with all the concerns that you might have today. I want to first off by apologize for all the troubles that your parents have been going through. I want to make sure we break this down with each issues that you are having 1 by 1

Issue 1: I understand that your parents got a normal flip phone. My parents are the same way. So I can understand where they are coming from. Do you know what kind of device that they upgraded to? What make and model? When did they get the device? With getting smartphones, the monthly bill cost more than it would for a basic phone. So with smartphones we offer them at a lower price for customers.

Issue 2: I would like to address the upgrade fee. The upgrade fee is a one time charge that every customer has when they sign a 2 year contact agreement. There are phones our there that would be free with a 2 year contact but there would always be that one time fee of $30 to upgrade. This is to help keep the great options for Free wireless workshops in the store, express self-service options, including My Verizon, My Verizon Express, and My Verizon Mobile. We are the last company to actually have any kind of upgrade fee added to the upgrades. Verizon Wireless upgrade fee is the lowest out to the other providers out there.

Issue 3: I want to apologize that the rep never told your parents about the mail in rebate. I would love to see if we can get these rebates going for you. Again this would go back to when did they get the device? Do they still have the box that the device came in? Please keep us posted on this.

Issue 4: Were you able to get the return lable printed off. Was there any info in the box that showed you needed to go to the website to print off the return label? The warehouse normally puts in paper work in the box showing where you can print off a free return label to send the device back.

Again I do apologize for any confusion that might have been going on with your device and with your parents device. Please keep us informed.


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