TeleTruth: The Alliance for Customers' Telecommunications Rights
|Sex, Lies, and Verizon|
|By Chris Pedro Trakas|
It started Friday with a scratchy, static line, the kind Verizon customers
have come to expect. When the lightning came that evening, even the remaining
static failed. Dead air. Went to the corner payphone, called the repair
hotline and to my surprise got an appointment for the next day, the monthly
fee I pay, the maintenance plan, seemed to carry weight with the operator
I spoke with. Lucky me. I wasn't expecting any critical calls that evening
and a next day repair was not so bad. A good night's rest was in order
anyway, as tomorrow I'd be dancing. Little did I know the Verizon payphone
on the corner would be my main partner. For four days.
Mr. Verizon-repair man, a jovial fellow, showed Saturday morning around
10:00 a.m. I showed him the phone box in the basement, where he remained
for about forty-five minutes before emerging to declare the problem remote,
elsewhere, in the main cable. Then he disappeared for two hours, his Mr.
Verizon-repairman equipment dangling from the phone jack in my wall, so
I knew he'd come back eventually. When he did he said the main cable had
fried, but that he'd gotten a line working. He looked like he'd been underground.
A few final tests and he was gone by 1:00 p.m. He called fifteen minutes
later to check one more time and his was the last I received until 3 p.m.
the following Tuesday. My dance with Verizon had begun, and it would be
a blind date from hell. I got a lot closer to the corner Verizon payphone
than I ever intended.
First it was the 24/7 repair hotline. A busy signal, or a message saying
"no calls" could be taken "due to high volume" was
the order of the day, a very hot day, and my temperature was rising. After
an hour of fondling the phone with no response I went for a long walk.
I walked home thinking I'd try calling Verizon a few more times, then
take a nap so I could stay out 'til dawn.
Busy mostly, or the recorded voice saying to call back later or referring
me to the website I couldn't access because I have a dial-up ISP. It uses
the same Verizon phone line that wasn't working. I tried to call the Public
Service Commission, but they're closed on weekends, with no emergency
line (curious that). I was starting to get that my phone wouldn't be working
for a while, and I wasn't happy. I left messages via the payphone for
friends I'd hoped to meet later, but they weren't home and couldn't very
well call me back, now could they. I napped fitfully with the notion I'd
be going to the Roxy alone.
And I did... apparently with flames of pent-up frustration shooting out
of my head. Every effort I made to talk with people failed. Those who'd
normally be friendly ran in the opposite direction, my vibe decidedly
funky. Verizon had harshed my buzz, mangled my birthday mojo and I just
couldn't shake it. The beer wasn't helping. I switched to Scotch. Scotch
makes me stupid. I came home alone and hung-over.
I went to the now familiar corner phone and on my first try, at 7 a.m.,
actually got through. I was elated when the fellow who answered said he'd
put me at the top of the list for Sunday, that they'd attend to it before
6 p.m. I told him it was my birthday and I was expecting calls. He wished
me a happy one, said it was his mother's birthday too! We chatted a bit.
But when I asked whether I needed to wait for a repairman at home, we
hit the wall. Well, I'm not sure, he said, you see, the dispatcher doesn't
come on until 8 a.m. and I don't really know about the crew today. Should
I call back at 8, I asked. Yeah, that's good, he said, call back at 8
and we'll help you out, for sure.
The next several hours were spent napping and calling, all the while
thinking Verizon might show up at my door. He'd told me to call back at
8 a.m. When I finally got through again it was 2 pm. I was informed they
were working on it. Should I stay in my apartment? Well, I don't know,
sometimes they don't need to get into your apartment, I was told, so maybe
you don't need to stay. Maybe I don't need to stay?! Well, it's up to
you, she said. I stayed, calling back from the corner (I can see my front
door from the phone) three times, getting the same assurances. They were
working on it.
At 5 pm I called one more time and was told a repair was scheduled for tomorrow between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tomorrow? TOMORROW??!!!!! Yes, Monday the 5th (my actual birthday), but we can offer you the first appointment, she said politely. I demanded to speak with a supervisor, who first offered to call me the next morning but when I said "now!" she told me my repair had always been scheduled for Monday because they don't have any crews working on Sunday. No crews? Oh no, never on a Sunday. My Greek blood started to boil. I asked why I had been lied to all day. The supervisor, Ms.Barbay(?), said that was impossible, that her workers don't lie, but that there were 5 offices open in the city, taking repair calls, so maybe I spoke with a different office. According to the monitor she was looking at, my repair had always been scheduled for Monday, which had to be the case because, she repeated, there are no work crews on Sunday. She had to say it twice, I guess, to make up for the four times I'd been told the opposite by her staff that day. Five offices open on Sunday to take emergency calls but nary a crew to fix them. And lies to keep the customer at bay.
Now I was pissed. And it would get worse.
Monday morning, calling from the payphone with an eye on my apartment
door, I first go to the Public Service Commission. Busy. All day busy,
probably with a lot of calls about Verizon. And of course the Verizon
line was still not accepting calls. Back to the apartment, where a Verizon
technician shows around 10 a.m. He sticks his repair phone into my jack
and says, yeah, the problem isn't here it's in the cable. You don't need
to get into the basement, I ask. No, it's in the report from last Saturday,
the problem is in the main cable and now I have to report it to my boss
who'll report it to the construction crew because I can't fix it.
That's when I blew my top. I told him that I'd had enough and was cancelling
my account, that I'd been lied to about a crew working Sunday and now
Verizon comes to repeat a worthless procedure, the outcome of which is
already known so as to further delay my repair. Seeing I was serious,
the guy opened up. He said he would have loved to make some money yesterday,
but Verizon refuses to pay overtime for weekends and evenings, that Verizon
was trying to fire 900 workers. I told him I was a union man (SAG, Equity,
AGMA, AFTRA) and I understood. He implied a work stoppage/slowdown, using
the word "retaliation" regarding the apparent internal labor
dispute. He even mentioned that he'd parked 10 blocks away and walked
casually to my appointment. And he told me it didn't matter if I switched
carriers, because Verizon owns the lines and even if I was an AT&T
client, Verizon would still do the repairs. Then he told me to call the
"Presidential hotline" and complain, though he didn't know the
Back to the payphone, furious. I'd located a customer relations number
in the Verizon phone book and called it. I spoke with a Miss Healy, who
located my service request and told me my phone would be repaired by 8
p.m. on Wednesday. WEDNESDAY?! I said not a chance and let her have it
with both barrels. She assigned me to a complaint manager, a friendly
guy named Thomas who as much as admitted that all he could do was contact
"construction" and find out what was going on. He gave me a
number and told me to talk only with him from now on. And by 5 p.m. when
he was leaving work, he still had no answers.
Tuesday morning. 9 a.m. sharp and I'm finally talking with the Public
Service Commission. They take my complaint and tell me to call back since
they can't call me.
I try to call Thomas but the line is busy so I go back to the presidential
hotline. I speak with a Mr. Barbelli (?) who tells me he can't comment
or report on my service request because I called the Public Service Commission
and now they were handling it. I said give me a break, but he insisted
he couldn't discuss my phone service problem with me any further. This
they call customer relations.
My phone was working 2 hours later. Tuesday, not Wednesday. Verizon called
at least 6 times afterwards to see if everything was okay. I finally answered
on Wednesday morning and tersely said yes, the line was working, but no,
everything was decidedly not okay and that I was writing this article.
So, what's the moral of the story? Don't piss off a guy on his birthday? No, it's much simpler. We all need to ask; how did a private company kidnap the public utility phonelines so that we are at their mercy, their time-schedule, their lies? This is like the highwayman of old, owning the roads, exacting their tolls, legal and illegal, however they can. Verizon's corporate greed requires them to crush labor and to control the public service commissions (co-conspirators it seems) and the public-phone-roads.
They cook the books and there are audits that prove it, but Congress
has zero interest in pursuing those who bankroll its corrupt political
cronyism. This has got to stop once and for all.
|© 2002, TeleTruth||
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