Letters to Verizon (Bell Atlantic at the time)
The letter below was written to Bell Atlantic by me, and should explain my ordeal to anyone who wishes to read it. I originally sent a letter in January of ’99 and followed it up with another in March. The original letter to them is in light blue, and the follow-up letter is in pink. Be careful though, as I’m sure you will feel my pain…
On 1/19/00, I mailed the following letter to your office:
To Whom It May Concern:
Once upon a time, there was a Bell Atlantic customer named Marcus. Marcus owned a small tennis business that had done fairly well as a one-man operation, but now the business was growing quickly which necessitated expanding the organization.
Unfortunately, The Tennis Center did not have an area which could be allocated for office use, so instead, he began working on a set-up which would allow two of his employees to work out of their homes. In order to do this effectively, the phone system would have to be able to transfer calls from one location to another. For example, if a customer called the operations center located in Acton, but wanted to speak with the tennis director located in Leominster, Marcus wanted a phone system that would allow a call to be transferred to that other location.
Initially, Marcus contacted Bell Atlantic to see what solutions they could offer to some of his communication dilemmas. After being on hold for 15 minutes, he’s told that his account is handled at another business office and is subsequently transferred there. The representative who he speaks with, informs him of the Bell Atlantic Centrex system. Although the service would cover his needs, the cost would be enormous. Apparently there is a hefty charge for setting up a Centrex system between towns.
Because Marcus was resilient, he sought other options and managed to get in touch with a telecommunications consultant. The consultant (who works under the umbrella of Bell Atlantic) agreed that for a small business like Marcus, Centrex is too cost prohibitive, and informs him of Bell Atlantic’s Intellidial system. Intellidial offered all of the features that Marcus was looking for, and hence, the order was placed. Marcus is very satisfied at the result, and all seems well.
At the main location on Street XYZ in Littleton, a Bell Atlantic serviceman shows up to connect the two new lines to the house. The numbers there are 978-952-XXXX and 978-742-XXXX (fax). He is there for no more than 5 minutes. The other numbers 978-263-XXXX and 978-266-XXXX are converted to the Intellidial system respectively.
As the bills begin to show in the mail, Marcus is somewhat surprised at the cost of the exorbitant installation charges and at how much the cost of all the lines increases. On the other hand, this is a growing business, and with that comes incurred expenses.
Fortunately, Marcus initiated the phone system installation back in October when the off-season began so as to be prepared in the event of any problems. Now in January, he begins to test out the lines.
There is no dial tone at the 742-XXXX number. His first problem. Upon calling Bell Atlantic, they respond by saying that there must be an issue with the inside wiring. So Marcus calls an electrician. After inspecting the wiring, it takes the electrician just a few moments to notice that only 1 line was brought to the house and not two as he had been charged for. Again Marcus calls Bell Atlantic to have them send someone else out. That serviceman appears and brings the other line to the outside box.
Now a few customers begin calling. Both lines begin to ring at the same time (952-XXXX) and the fax line (742-XXXX). After the fourth ring, the caller is bounced over to the fax number. Marcus’ second problem.
Marcus calls Bell Atlantic again, going through the typical 15-20 minute wait on the phone. Now his account is being handled by yet another office and once again he is transferred over. After more holding, he is informed that the call forwarding on the Intellidial is sending the call over to the other line. He asks if it can be removed. He’s told that it cannot. That’s okay though, because since it forwards the call after four rings, we can just increase the number of rings before it does that, right? Wrong. After asking to have the number of rings changed, he is then told that Intellidial is being phased out and that NO adjustments can be made whatsoever. He is told by everyone and their uncle who works at Bell Atlantic that “Intellidial has been grandfathered”, “…because of the grandfathering of Intellidial”, “Intellidial is now a grandfathered service” etc. To add insult to injury, he is also informed that Bell Atlantic will ultimately be increasing their charge for the service in the future, and that I’m better off being on the custo-pak or Centrex. Marcus is now just a little upset. Upset that he never received any prior notification about such a change. Upset that he has been paying for a line that was never installed. Upset that he’s wasted an inordinate amount of money on a service that he’s never even used. Upset that he’s paid for a system that now he can’t use.
Out of frustration and to try and stop some of the fiscal bleeding, Marcus decides to turn a few of his lines to residential numbers, even though he knows it will come at the cost of a yellow page listing that helps a lot for the business, and the professional image of the business. Upon doing so, he is asked if he wants any of the ancillary services such as call waiting, call forwarding, speed dialing, three way calling…wait a minute… three way calling? You can do three way calling, as in call transferring?! “Yes you can.” So he proceeds to convert all his lines over to residential. However, after the conclusion of the call, he wonders to himself whether the same features can be added to a business line as well so that he can retain the yellow page listing. After going through the same on-hold rigmarole, he discovers that he can. So now his lines are simple business lines with a few added features.
That last call to Bell Atlantic was yesterday, 1/18/99.
Seldom do I write letters to organizations regarding their service. Typically, I show my support or dissatisfaction by either using their service or going to someone else. However, I felt as if this was such a profound example of poor service, misinformation, and wasted money, that I had a compelling need to address this with the company.
I am at a serious disadvantage relative to Bell Atlantic. I’m a very small business customer whose phone bills may only total a few hundred dollars per month unlike some clients who pay tens of thousands per month for your service. If I did find another service provider, it would be doubtful that Bell Atlantic would even notice. However, after having had a very negative experience with Bell Atlantic and now making you aware of it, I. m interested in seeing what response I receive based on my experience with your organization. I recognize that mistakes happen, but it will be your response to my situation that will leave a lasting impression about my feeling towards Bell Atlantic and whether or not to use your services in the future. I can be contacted directly at 850-514-XXXX or leave a voice message at 978-534-XXXX and I will return your call promptly.
Director of Tennis
Unfortunately I never received a response. In fact, a month later, I was double charged for another one of your “one time” service fees. A month after that I lost business because my line went dead, and B.A. wouldn’t bother fixing it until the next day. Even when it was fixed, clients would get disconnected because the call-transfer feature was not properly installed as it should have been. AFTER THAT people on call waiting were not getting through because it was “programmed incorrectly”! You guys don’t even have the common courtesy to send a letter of apology or to make follow up calls on situations like this, yet you have your little tele-marketers call me so that I’ll hopefully be suckered into buying some lame additional feature that I don’t even need!! Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. On one hand, your account reps (who I talk to on a daily basis and have gotten to know by first name) are friendly and well meaning. Even THEY joke about how poor your service is!! However, the organization on the whole is uncaring, greedy, deceptive and unorganized and now I think it’s time to take a different approach to this situation.
Obviously B.A. couldn’t care less about screwing over a customer. And although I was credited for your latest mistake, as usual I was the one who had to call and point it out. How many other customers have you erroneously charged extra fees to and pocketed the cash? In fact there was a rather unflattering reference made about another such mistake (surprise, surprise) in the March 14th issue of Inc. Technology magazine (page 78) with another customer. Why is it that mistakes on your end are NEVER made in favor of the customer?!? Isn’t that a little strange? I would think so, but to Bell Atlantic, those are your usual practices.
Well the way I see it, you guys have cost me a lot of time and money. Now it’s my turn to repay the favor. You see, I took the liberty of acquiring the domain name of bellatlanticpathetic.com. With that name, I’m going to see to it that it registers at the top of the majority of search engines when people are searching for telecommunications services or your name. What they’ll see is a very professional site illustrating your lack of customer service and overcharging practices. There will be links to alternative solutions that will give customers better choices of service providers for their telecommunitcations needs.
Although you have the local markets tightly controlled, I know you’re trying to capture a piece of the digital wireless industry as well as break into long distance. Obviously I can’t prevent that, but I can make it so that you lose potential customers to your competitors. In fact, I guarantee that I will cost you far more in lost revenue than you have cost me in time and money. I even plan on having a registration section for individuals who have switched services or decided to go elsewhere as a result or seeing my page. I want everyone to be able view your losses. If nothing else, it will be bad press that B.A. so rightly deserves.
Personally I hope you once again ignore my letter. That would be “par for the course.” Better yet, DON’T respond to this letter. I’m actually looking forward to my new project.
By the way, “thank you for choosing Marcus Pacific…and have a nice day.”