The World at War, $20 at a Time

by Catherine Austin Fitts

In April, I dropped into the Verizon Store in Corte Madera, California. I was headed to Portugal. My iPhone did not work globally. On my last few trips to Europe, Verizon had sent me a temporary global phone which needed to be returned. Getting my reception switched and getting the phone returned had turned out to be time consuming. I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get a phone that could function on a global basis.

After more than an hour in the Verizon store with a helpful representative trying to determine a pathway to switch a phone before my existing contract was up, I ordered a new Blackberry that was global eligible. The phone had to be sent to me. To transfer files, I had to take the phone into the Palo Alto Verizon store. Some subsequent challenges in getting a global package set up on line and by phone ensued, and I headed back into the Palo Alto store and then back on line.

Bottom line, I bought a global package for the Portugal trip with the assurance that this would protect me from expensive roaming charges.

Estimated time to get a global ready phone, buy a global package for Portugal and learn my new phone: app. 10 hours.

I flew to Portugal. It turns out that Verizon’s service was not compatible with the cell services of more than half of the Portuguese companies and people I called. So I used the cell phone for some stateside calls and instead used phone cards with hotel phones. Imagine my surprise when my bookkeeper informed me that Verizon had charged almost $500 for roaming charges for my visit in Portugal.

I called Verizon’s customer support number over several days. After several conversations with several helpful representatives, I was told that the roaming charges would be removed from my account, but that they warned me to expect their action to be overturned by a supervisor. I would have to check back in to determine what would happen. I did. Sure enough the roaming charges were still on the bill. It appears they credited back the cost of the global package.

So I called again this evening and asked the helpful representative to speak with a supervisor. I held on for more than an hour waiting to speak to a supervisor as I listened to a recording tell me how much my business was appreciated. Then the system hung up on me.

Having been trained on the trading floors of Wall Street, I called back. I’m persistent. This time I got an awesomely helpful representative, Brittany. I gave her the history and read her the blog post. We dove into the details of the billing details. This included finding 178 minutes attributed to calls to my own cell number lasting 24-48 minutes each. Why would I call my own voice mail and listen to messages for 24-48 minutes? For some reason the system did not disconnect me when I hung up from voice mail calls.

After much wrangling, the voice mail minutes were credited back and I agreed to pay the remaining roaming charges. Brittany also helped me strategize how to manage my next global package. Thanks to Brittany and criminal conduct on the part of Verizon’s largest competitor, I remain a Verizon customer. On the next trip, however, I will get a cell phone from a European carrier.

Estimated time to resolve the billing issues: app. 4 hours.

Perhaps this month’s phone bill is a metaphor for the struggles that the world seems to be having these days with large companies, complex technology and globalization. Here is my message for large companies and purveyors of complex technology – without Brittany, it ain’t going to work.

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