ArchivesSite MapSubmitOur GangContact UsHot Sites
1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
Hariette Surovell's Long Epic Fight with the Faceless Monster Verizon PDF E-mail
You can always tell a Texan, but you can't tell him much --old Texas saying

"Do you have any enemies?" "T", the Verizon security expert suddenly asked me.

"Enemies?"

"Yes, Ma'am. Is there someone out there who would want to do you harm?"

I felt like Briscoe and Logan from "Law and Order" were at my door, investigating a homicide, or in my case, potential identity theft.

ENEMIES?!

It was the second week of April, 2009.

I had first contacted Verizon in December, 2008, about a simple customer service snafu. Since then, I had logged in an inestimable number of hours sending e-mails, waiting on hold at the mysterious, David Cronenberg-ian e-center, speaking to human Verizon employees, then speaking to their supervisors, and, most recently, having daily conversations with "T". Could someone in my sphere of acquaintances--a friend, an ex-friend, a neighbor, an anonymous evildoer--harbor a V-for-Verizon vendetta?

During December in New York City, vigilance is imperative. Crowds of Christmas shoppers fill the streets, as do pickpockets, hoping to avail themselves of pocketbooks stuffed full of cash. Yet despite my caution, my checkbook became a casualty, stolen on a Friday evening (while I was out seeing the movie "Milk" and then eating an Italian restaurant dinner with my elderly mother). Fortunately, I realized that it was missing the next evening, and I reached a bank agent on the phone. He gave me a special pin # which allowed me to withdraw all the money in my checking account from an ATM, and then he closed it out. During the following week, I went to my local bank branch and opened up a brand-new checking account. I received pristine checks and a shiny bank card, all linked to an obscure, bank-generated password in about the time it takes to order a slice of pizza.

Next, I needed to notify the service providers who automatically debit my checking account. This included Verizon (who also sends me a monthly hard copy bill.)

So, I phoned my business office. I reported that my checkbook had been stolen, and therefore, I needed to change my checking account information.

"I can't help you with that!" the business office rep yelled, angrily, and abruptly hung up.

I was stunned. Then I wondered: Whatever had possessed me to deal with humans and their many moods in a cyber universe? So I changed the required data myself in my verizon.com account. The computer assured me that my account would be automatically debited, once monthly, only now with the updated information.

Only...it wasn't. No monies were taken out in December.

On January 8, 2009, I engaged in a "live chat" session with "an e-person" who informed me that I now owed even more money, which I could conveniently pay 24 hours a day at verizon.com. I was encouraged to call the "e-center."

I called the e-center. I did so five times. Each time I was asked to wait for 15 minutes, which became 30 minutes, which became an hour. I couldn't go the distance.

So I called the business office again. I told a different rep, "My checkbook was stolen, and I have been trying to correct the information in my account for months and verizon.com just won't debit it!"

"I talked to you once before," the rep replied, exhibiting impressive memory skills. "But you didn't say that your checkbook had been stolen! That really changes things! I'll take care of it for you right now!"

So he did. He did it by transferring me to the e-center, where I waited for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, reading my e-mail, posting theories about the sociopathic personality of "Damages" arch-villain Patty Hewes on imdb.com, and browsing through the "Huffington Post" until I heard an announcement saying, "The e-center is now closed. Please call back again tomorrow between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m."

I called the business office the next day and got the same rep. I begged and pleaded. " I don't want to wait for hours on the e-center line again."

"But there's no other way to do it. You have got to call the e-center."

"What time do they close?" I asked, just to see if he would give me the wrong information.

He did not disappoint. "Eight p.m.," he replied.

The next day, as I schemed away, obsessing about avoiding the e-center, I was granted a reprieve. An e-mail I had written on verizon.com had somehow reached a human being, much like a message sent out to sea in a bottle.

The human called me. He sounded so distraught, and seemed so genuinely concerned that I pictured him as Burl Ives, a folksy, fatherly fellow with a large beard and a sad, lined face. "Burl" was so upset by my travails he sounded almost teary.

"My goodness, "he said. "I can see that you changed your checking account information, but for some reason, it just never went through in the system. I sure am sorry about this, and I'm sorry that you have gone through so much trouble. And I'm especially sorry that you got your checkbook stolen."

"Well, actually, that wasn't really such a big deal, because I took out all the funds from the account and closed it the next day," I replied.

"Boy oh boy, Ms. Surovell," he said. "We are just so sorry about everything. Now if you just send us a check, and next month, when you get your bill, you put an x on a box and mail it back to us, that will get you re-enrolled in our automatic debit program. But gee, I sure do feel bad that we didn't fix this for you before."

"It's okay!" I kept insisting. "I'm a big girl! It wasn't all that traumatic..." Then I succumbed, wrapping myself in his empathy as if it were a down comforter. The information Burl gave me about enrolling in the auto-payment plan was actually wrong, but did I care? The woman he transferred me to, who was surprisingly also quite pleasant and very efficient, took my payment information and automatically re-enrolled me in auto-debit. I had paid my bills for December, January and February. Just like that. Problem solved. I was on a roll.

I spent a few weeks doing things like working, reading, seeing friends, having fun...even, paying other bills. Then, at the end of March, while looking over my bank account statement I realized with a jolt that my checking account had been debited for my March bill, but I had never received my hard copy of the bill in the mail.

I called the business office. A woman told me, "Just go into your verizon.com account and check the box that says 'suppress bill.' "

"Suppress bill?"

"Yes."

"How did that box get checked in the first place? I never said I wanted my bills to be suppressed."

"Just go in there and fix it." She hung up, because in the ultimate irony, Verizon apparently instructs its employees not to use the two basic terms which define a phone conversation: "Hello" and "Good-bye."

There was no "suppress" button anywhere on the site.

When I called the business office again to report that there was no such item as a "suppress button" on verizon.com, I was told that no one knew how to help me, and that I should phone the e-center. "No way," I said, like Gandhi finally deciding to practice his civil disobedience, like Rosa Parks sitting down wherever she pleased. "I won't call there. I need to speak to a customer service rep." Someone connected me to one, who in turn, called the e-center, with me still holding. I assumed we would soon be having a conference call. The rep was placed on hold for 19 minutes. I waited on the other end, reading my e-mail, posting theories about the sociopathic psychology of "Big Love's" Roman Grant on imdb.com, browsing through "The Huffington Post". As the 20th minute approached, the rep fearfully told me, "Ms. Surovell, I am only allowed to spend 20 minutes helping each customer. From this point on, you will have to hold for the e-center yourself."

"So, what was the point of your being involved at all, if you can't do anything for me?" I asked.

"Ma'am, I'd like to help you, I would, but I'll get in trouble if I don't get off the line now."

He was becoming frantic.

I stayed on the line, holding for the e-center until I got the announcement. It was 6 p.m., and the e-center was officially closed. I was welcome to phone back the next day between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

This was the wall, and I had hit it. This was critical mass, and I had reached it. I had had enough of the e-center, of misinformed business office representatives, of rude Verizon employees, of verizon.com and their "e-people".

I refused to converse with another verizon employee. From now on, I would only send e-mails through their website and hope against hope that they once again reached Burl Ives.

And that's when I made the discovery.

It was on the "My Profile" section of my verizon.com account. I had never before had the time or the incentive to read this obscure section.

But if my verizon account was the Titanic, the "My Profile" page was the iceberg. Under "Billing Information", it stated that my bills were to be mailed to c/o...I'll call him Jose, at an address in New York State, in a city close to Rochester.

In other words, my money was debited from my bank account, but my bills were being sent to a complete stranger.

My blood pressure soared into toxic digits. I dialed information in "Rochester", and asked for "Jose's" phone number. I was told that there was no telephone listing for him.

"Do you mean that he is unlisted?"

"No, there is no Jose in 'Rochester', N.Y.."

Of course there is, and if you look him up on zabasearch, you will see that Jose, age 51 lives with his wife "M" and "F", their 22 yr. old son. Their phone # is also listed. They have e-mail, too.

I spent an anxious evening.

The next day, I called the business office and asked if there was a management office I could call, which would be appropriate for when matters had escalated beyond simple customer service complaints. Finally I was given the number of "The President's Line."

"It sounds like your site was hacked into!" the President's Line employee exclaimed.

"What do you mean? I thought the Verizon site was totally secure!"

"Well, any site can get hacked into."

"That's not what you people told me when you encouraged me to set up an account at verizon.com!"

Imitating a Verizon employee, I hung up. Then I called back and related my tale to someone else. She was perplexed, and requested that I elaborate on the details numerous times. Finally, she informed me that a Verizon Security Expert would be contacting me shortly.

No one contacted me the next day, or the next.

So I called the President's Line again.

"I was told a Verizon Security Expert would be calling me, but no one has done so."

"A security expert?" was the response, as if this had all been MY idea. "What do you mean?"

"Are you really asking me what *I* mean?" Just look in your computer and check out my case."

Finally, I was told that I would be receiving a phone call from Verizon Security Investigator "T".

"T" formally, and I do mean formally, introduced himself during the first week of April, 2009.

"Ma'am, my name is 'T' and I have been assigned to your 'case'," he announced with such a thick Texas twang that it practically oozed barbeque sauce. "I have your file here. I haven't read it yet, but I promise I will have it read by tomorrow."

"Okay," I replied, slightly irritated. I frankly hadn't expected him to be prepared, or to have read my file, but nonetheless, why had he wasted my time by contacting me prematurely? "If you're going to call me tomorrow, could you please do it after 3 p.m.? I'm a writer, and I like to work at night."

"A writer? No kiddin'. Do you mind my askin', what is it you write?'

"Books. Articles," I said vaguely, knowing from long experience what was coming next. My instincts did not fail me.

"No kiddin'! That is really somethin'. Someday, I want to write a book about my experiences living in Tampa, FL. People there are very strange. I could tell you some stories, you would not believe them."

"Are you in Tampa now?" I asked.

"No'm. I am now in New Hampshire. I'm originally from Texas, though. I gotta tell you, Ma'am, you sound like a real ticket! I mean it, Ma'am, you're a ticket."

I had no idea what he meant by this expression. I got the impression it meant "feisty l'il gal" or "interesting gal" or...something.

The next day, he called me after 3 p.m., and we began discussing my "case".

For the first two weeks of April, I had almost-daily (during weekdays) "conversations" with "T". He only called me from his car phone (apparently, a legal act in New Hampshire), and, as he would frequently go out of range, we often got disconnected. Then I would have to repeat whatever I had just said.

Much of the time, "T" would speculate about whether or not Jose was a sleazy, scheming identity thief; he would make references to the oddities of Tampa residents (I've been there, to see the Mets at Spring Training. It never struck me as a city filled with lunatics, or even eccentrics), he would call me a ticket", and then "T's" ever-present road rage would kick into, pun intended, "overdrive."

This is a verbatim conversation:

"Now Ma'am, you say you set up your new account, and at first you were receiving your bills?"

"Yep."

"And then, suddenly, you stopped receiving them and that's when this 'Jose' character started getting them?"

"I don't know. I only know that I saw on verizon.com that it said that my bills were to be sent to 'Jose'."

"And this 'Jose' character never notified Verizon that he was getting your bills?"

"I wouldn't know. When I called information to get his phone number, I was told that he didn't exist."

"T" snorted in derision.

"Oh, he exists, Ma'am, oh yes he does!" he exclaimed, as if "Jose" were the top fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted List. "Oh yes indeed, you can be sure that this man is real!"

"Well, I wouldn't know why he didn't notify Verizon. He wasn't obligated to do so. Listen, 'T', if this turns out to be some internal Verizon mistake, like a computer error, I'll be relieved, okay? I'm not going to be angry. I would obviously prefer that to be the outcome than to think that there is some complicated plot going on."

"Well, I gotta be honest here, Ma'am, and tell you that it's not looking good. Now, let me warn you, we're going into a zone, and my cell may go out, so..."

"I didn't hear the last thing you said. You're fading out."

"What? What did you say?"

"I said I can't hear you! I'm hanging up."

"What was that, Ma'am?"

A few minutes later, he called back.

"'T', I can't stay on the phone with you like this every day. These calls are taking a lot of time, and I need to use my time to be writing my articles. "

"Ma'am, you are a ticket! Hey, can you hold on there a minute, some people should not be allowed on the road (screaming out the window...) 'Lady, you fucking idiot, you goddamned moron, who the fuck taught you how to drive?!' (Without skipping a beat...) Pardon my language there, Ma'am, I hope I didn't offend you, but some people driving out there can really rile you up."

"I'm a New Yorker, it takes more than the f-word to shock me." I lied. "T's" segues from extreme formality (I was being "Ma'am'ed" more than Judge Judy) into gross obscenity unnerved me.

"Well you are a ticket, I tell you, that's what you are!"

Since I was loathe to engage "T" on any level other than the facts of my case, I never asked him what the expression, 'You're a ticket' meant. I assumed it was a familiar Texan saying, or, much less probably, a Tampan saying. It was also possible that given the fact that 'T' was a road-rager, he may have been literally worried about receiving tickets for his driving, his cursing...whatever.

After my daily discussions with "T" were finally concluded, I searched the net, including many sites devoted to idiosyncratic "Texas Talk" (or, as the sites refer to it, "Tawk".) I couldn't find one single example of the usage of "ticket" as a descriptive term. "That's the ticket" is (or was) "a positive interjection used to express confirmation." "A hot ticket" meant "an extremely popular person or thing." In the 1950's, "a hot ticket" was a "hot" expression, implying that something was "all the rage", as in "That Benny Goodman show is the hottest ticket in town!" The internet "urban dictionary" had many current definitions for the word, none of which seemed applicable. Today, "ticket" may mean "one million dollars", as in, "Yo, man, I just spent a ticket on this house!". It can also be slang for "heart", as in, "Yo, Jerome got his ticket broke by his shorty."

The Beatles song, "Ticket to Ride" has been minutely analyzed on wikipedia. John Lennon may have coined this phrase to describe the "card indicating a clean bill of health" handed out to the Hamburg prostitutes the band had frequented when they played gigs in Germany before becoming famous. I.e., "She has a ticket to ride", meant, "The government clinic has determined that she is disease-free and able to have sex."

Surely, "T" could not be equating me to a Hamburg hooker, circa 1960!

And yet...My mother told me, "When you call someone 'a hot ticket', it means she's 'a sex-pot.' "

Could 'T' have been calling me "sexy"? But how would he know? Had he seen a photograph of me somewhere? If so, where? Had he bought my book "Lovestrokes: Handwriting Analysis for Love, Sex and Compatibility" and checked out the back cover photo? My suspicions were heightened when I read a review of the erotic appeal of actress Megan Fox in "The Daily Mail": "She's one hot ticket in some sizzling scenes."

During one conversation, I mentioned in passing that I had changed my checking account information after having had my checkbook stolen. Silly me, assuming that this would have been in my "file".

"You had your checkbook stolen?!" "T" gasped.

"Yeah, why, I didn't mention that?"

"No, Ma'am, you did not."

"Does it make a difference? I still got my Verizon bills after it was stolen."

"Ma'am, this does indeed change everything. When did this happen?"

"Back in December. But, what difference does it make? Are you implying that 'Jose' stole my checkbook?"

"No'm."

"Well, what could someone find out from my phone bill, anyway? All it has is my name, address and phone number on it."

Another snort. Perhaps "T" had ridden horses on a Texas ranch. "They could find out plenty, Ma'am!"

The next afternoon, 'T' called me to announce, "Ma'am, there has been a security breach on this account! We have positively determined this." He sounded bizarrely triumphant.

Now, I was worried. And not just about the state of "T's" mental health.

"A security breach? What kind of security breach?"

"I am not at liberty to say that, Ma'am."

"Then what is the point of calling me up and getting me all upset?"

"I thought you should know that there has been a security breach."

"But for what purpose, if you're not going to tell me what it is?"

"T" was like an eight year old. I half-expected him to answer, "Because, because, because."

The next day, I wasn't feeling well. A severe case of Verizonitis? I lay in bed all day, and I especially didn't answer my phone, including "T's" daily check-in.

But I succumbed on the following day, which was whenÊhe asked the Briscoe and Logan question:

"Ma'am, do you have any enemies?"

"Enemies? No way!"

"There's no one out there who is trying to make trouble for you?"

If this was suddenly a personal matter, then what was the relevance of my stolen checkbook, or my bills being sent to '"Jose"?

All I could think of was an article I had written for salon.com ,"Poor Little Rich Thugs" (http://www.matahariette.com/p_rich_thugs.html).

It was about the numerous criminal acts committed by Howard Bloomgarden, the son of an opthamologist and a art therapy professor. Bloomgarden pled guilty to conspiracy to extortion to commit murder. Ever since the article was posted on salon, an internet publication, in July, 1998, I have been contacted by an array of readers. Most of them, however, much like "T" himself, are interested in writing their own books. The son of one of the criminals in Bloomgarden's enterprise, Gary Friedman, who had been a practicing attorney, is currently serving two life sentences. His son had believed in his innocence until 2004, when the state of California pursued death penalty charges against him. Friedman finally admitted his guilt, and his son inquired if I could help him in his efforts to publish his memoirs of growing up, not exactly Gotti, but Son of Friedman.

"I covered a murder trial and wrote about it in 2000," I told "T", giving him the wrong date of when the article was posted online. "But I can't imagine anyone involved with that trial trying to steal my identity or hack into my verizon.com account!"

"Nonetheless, I think you should change your password in your verizon.com site. "

"Please don't ask me to call that business office again."

"I can do it for you, Ma'am. What would you like to use? The last four digits of your social?"

"Aren't people always advised that one should never use their birthdate or their social for any kind of password?"

He didn't answer me.

But he probably felt insulted. Because then, he really upped the ante:

"Ma'am, given that you did lose your checkbook, and that we know there has been a security breach, I am encouraging you to call the credit agencies and have them flag your new bank acount. I want you to contact Equifax, Trans Union or Experian (here are the numbers for each of them), and ask them if anyone has tried to open anything in your name. Tell them that you have been working with Verizon security, and that someone has changed your billing address. No, say it this way, tell them that you have been a victim of someone changing your billing address for your phone service and see what they can do to flag your account. You need to file a report with them now."

So I called each of the credit reporting agencies.

There were no humans to talk to, no live customer service agents. There was only the usual computer menu, with no options allowing one to "Press 2 on your touch-tone telephone to speak with a representative." What had "T" been talking about, saying I should call and "ask them, tell them" anything? What kind of security expert was he if he didn't even know how credit reporting agencies operated?

The next day, "T" reported:

"Ma'am, we have finally discovered what the problem was. It was a system error. Your order was written in error. Someone caught it and was supposed to have canceled it in December. They were supposed to notify everyone but they didn't. "

"So...what you are saying to me is that it was exactly what I predicted it would be, a stupid internal error, where someone made a mistake, right?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"So, there was no fraud, there was no security breach, it was just Verizon messing up, is that right?"

"Well, if you put it that way, yes, Ma'am."

"And therefore, there was no reason for you to scare me about having potential enemies or for me to put a fraud alert on my account, is that right?"

"Well, Ma'am, I would have put on the fraud alert because your checkbook got stolen."

"But that had nothing to do with Verizon. If I felt nervous about having had my checkbook stolen, I would have put on my own fraud alert in December."

"Ma'am, if you are not satisfied with the way I handled this case, you are free to call my supervisor, 'R'."

There was no, "I'm very sorry about: the way I handled this, wasted your time, made you nervous or anxious, upset you, caused you to engage in unnecessary actions, acted inappropriately, used obscenities, called you 'a ticket.' " But he sounded depressed, chastened, morose. This eight year old child had misbehaved and he knew it.

A few days later, I called "R". He also had a Texas accent. Had Verizon imported the two as a team? But unlike "T", his boss was not only unfriendly, he was overtly hostile. "T's" accent conjured up images of Two-Steppin' couples, 'R's'... a coiled rattlesnake.

"Did 'T' talk to you about my case?" I asked him.

" Yes he did. I understand that you write about murders," "R" replied.

"Who told you that?" I asked him.

" 'T' did. Is this true or not?"

"I wrote about 'a' murder trial. What does that have to do with anything?"

Radio silence.

I moved along, feeling venomous myself. How dare he imply that I consorted with killers? His intentions were obvious--That I knew all manner of shady characters.

"You're 'T's' supervisor. Is he supposed to be talking about how he wants to write a book about his experiences living in Tampa?"

"No, Ma'am."

"Is he supposed to be telling me that I am 'a ticket'?"

"No, Ma'am."

"When he is talking to me, should he be cursing out other drivers? And by the way, why is he always talking on his cell phone while he's driving? Isn't that illegal?"

"Not in the state of N.H."

"Was it appropriate for him to call me up and ask me if I 'had any enemies'? What was the point of that, other than to scare me?'

"Well, Ma'am, what he should have done, was to ask you if there was someone in your life, maybe an ex-boyfriend, or an ex-husband, who had access to your computer, and who might be wanting to make trouble for you. That often is the case in these situations."

"Oh!" A Judge Judy scenario. "If he had explained it to me that way, it would have made sense."

Right. What was I not thinking? I am quite familiar with The Judge and her daily parade of vendetta-filled ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, any of whom would surely mess with each other's phone bills if possible. A Judge Judyville World, a world I am not a part of, thank you.

"Was it necessary for 'T' to call me every single day, staying on the phone for up to an hour at a time?"

"No Ma'am. He should have notified you that he was handling your case, and then only called you a few times until it was resolved."

"So are you going to have a little chat with 'T'?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I will be speaking to him."

"Should he have advised me to put a fraud alert on my account when there actually was no security breach?"

"I can't really say at this point."

"I'd like you to write a letter to the credit agencies asking them to undo this fraud alert." By this time, I had received letters from all three agencies, informing me that not only was it in place, but as a special courtesy, they had instituted measures preventing me from receiving any pre-screened telephone credit card offers for six months. I like getting pre-screened telephone credit card offers! On principle, I also refused to do the extensive paperwork and snail-mailing the agencies required to get the alert lifted.

"I'll see if I can do that, Ma'am."

I spoke to "R" again. Now, his voice was filled with hematoxin as he suddenly defended everything "T" had ever done. In his Olympian Gold Medal moment, he let me know that one of my documented phone conversations with "T" had lasted FOR ONLY THREE MINUTES!

"R" left me a message on machine, telling me that he wanted to explain to me why he would not send the credit agencies a letter.

I didn't want to talk to him. As in, ever again. Going against my better instincts, I called him. On Friday, May 1st. Just for, I dunno, closure? To put a period on things? Or, because I had come this far?

I wonder if my dear deceased creative writing professor, Joseph Heller, would have called our conversation, "Catch 23"...

"Ms. Surovell, I will not be writing that letter for you about your fraud alert," "R" said in familiar antagonistic tone.

"Why not?"

"Because your checkbook was stolen and because we believed that there was a system error."

"So what? That's not Verizon's problem. If I felt I was in danger because of the stolen checkbook, I would have contacted one of the companies myself to initate a fraud alert."

"I'm still not sending that letter."

"Why not?"

"Because your checkbook was stolen."

"By the way, Mr. 'R", I didn't really appreciate your calling me up and telling me, 'I understand you write about murders.' "

"That is not what I said, Ma'am."

"It is exactly what you said."

"No, it is not what I said, Ma'am."

"Then what did you say?"

"I am not going to tell you that."

"And...why not?"

"Because I did not say that, Ma'am."

"Then, why don't you correct me and tell me what it is you said."

"I will not tell you that, Ma'am."

"What's your reason for not telling me this?"

"Because that is not what I said to you, Ma'am."

"Mr. 'R', I have been a reporter since for more than 20 years. I took copious notes during every single conversation I had with 'T', and every one I had with you, too."

"Ma'am, I need to warn you right now, that Florida is a two-party state and if you are taping this conversation it is not acceptable."

"Did I say was taping this coversation?"

The fangs were out, the rattlers were buzzing. "R" was poised to strike...

"Ma'am, I am going to ask you again. Are you currently taping this conversation?"

"Why would I be taping it?"

"Ma'am, I am not going to sit here and talk to you. I don't have anything more to say" were the last words he screamed at me before he terminated the call.

Literally, screamed at me.

So I phoned The President's Line. One of the agents told me in a matter-of-fact tone that she would be referring my case over to the internal unit. That was the last I heard about it from her, The President's Line, Verizon.

Shortly afterwards, I complained to the Local Public Utilities Commission for New York State, as well as to the Federal Trade Commission on Business Practices. The two government employees to whom I reported were consummate professionals. But even they sounded incredulous. And when I told them about "the tickets" and the cursing, they laughed.

But I still didn't feel any closure, whatever that feels like. I didn't feel that warm, fuzzy feeling that results when someone apologizes. Nor did I experience the relief of vindication.

So I took to the internet.

Like a weary explorer, who suddenly discovers a land filled with riches, I came upon theconsumerist.com, specifically, Ben Popken's article "Executive Customer Support: Finding the Number".

Manna from heaven! Music to my ears! Joy to my heart!

Although I am a reporter, I had refrained from useing my media contacts. But now, I chose to e-mail the Head of Media Relations. On the evening of May 2nd, 2009, I sent out: "Journalist consumer seeks resolution before resorting to media."

He replied by e-mail on Sunday afternoon, May 3rd. On a Sunday. This was dedication. Or, more probably, fear.

"The characterizations you've mentioned in your note are certainly not the way we would want our customers to describe the service we provide," he wrote. "I do not have access to our customers' account information. The only thing I can guarantee to you (sic) is that I will get your concerns to the appropriate group for handling."

That Monday, I got a phone call from the employee the Verizon executive had contacted.

He said that he had begun investigating my case, but, curiously, he did not ask me to explain what had happened. Instead, he informed me that he had been in touch with "Collections". "Billling Orders", "Security" and "Customer Service."

Collections?

Billing Orders?

He had a flat, epressionless, but not unfriendly voice. As I told him the details, he rushed me along, so that whenever he said, "That's enough," which was frequently, I would say, "That's just the tip of the iceberg." I was able to tell him most, but not all of the story.

I said that I wanted the following: An explanation for why these things had happened; for a report to be made about the actions of "T'' and "R", and for them to be penalized by being fired, placed on probation, or having a loss of salary; a letter, fax or e-mail to be generated from Verizon requesting that my fraud alert be lifted, and explaining that they had never detected fraud; and that I receive five or six months of free Verizon service to compensate me for the six months of the time they had wasted ( I knew there wasn't a snowball's chance in, y'know, that they would ever give me this, but I just thought I'd ask, because, y'know I deserved it).

The rep said he would be back in touch with me on Wednesday.

He called me on Wednesday, 5/6 and left a cheerful and pleasant-sounding message saying that he had "an update on my case." I was unable to return his call that day, so I called the next day, 5/7.

Apparently, his good cheer and pleasantness had dissipated. Perhaps he was having a bad day. Maybe he had found himself on the other end of one of "R's" tongue-lashings. I really can't explain the 180 turn his tone of voice took.

All I know is that, SIX MONTHS TO THE DAY of my checkbook getting stolen, the final outcome was this:

1) Verizon would not give me any document asking that the fraud alert be lifted.

2) Verizon would not be giving me even one day's worth of free service.

3) "T" and "R" were going to be subjected to an internal review by the Special Investigations Unit (Yeah, sure.)

4) Customer Service Agents would be required to take sensitivity-training courses so that my exeriences would never be repeated (Yeah, sure.)

My response was, "So that's it? I'm the Harriet Tubman pioneer who suffered so that future customers will not have to do so?"

"Essentially, yes."

"I never signed up for that role. Will Verizon write me a letter of apology?"

"No, we will not."

I wasn't appeased. Not even slightly. Not even a smidge. Not even an iota. I didn't believe any of it--especially not the bit about the sensitivity classes. And so, since Verizon clearly has an instituted company policy forbidding employees from ever uttering those two little words which were all I ever wanted to hear--WE'RE SORRY!-- I have kept my promise to the Media Executive. Here, Dear Readers, is my verbatim account. Now, I feel closure.

UPDATE: September 2009

Special to the Corpse

Dear Andrei:

I just read an article in "Rolling Stone" about "Phreakers", who are the hackers of the phone system.  The phreaker who starred in this story, "The Boy who Heard Too Much" by Davd Kushner, was a blind, obese loser named Matt Weigman, who could hear tones even animals can't and therefore can hack into any phone system, impersonating the voices of other phone officials, and....do you sense what's coming?

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/29787673/the_boy_who_heard_too_much/print

 A, call me a motherfucking "ticket"!  Eventually, the FBI started investigating Weigman, with the help of "a Verizon fraud investigator", i.e, Billy Smith, aka "T" from my Verizon true tale!  They picked HIM for an investigation?  No wonder all the other feds call FBI agents "feebs", hate their guts and love to tell people how completely incompetent they truly are (did you know that the FBI's actual success rate for catching kidnapped children is 5%?  That's a 95% failure rate!  All those tv shows and flix where people say, "Don't negotiate w the kidnappers, call the FBI" are disseminating major misinformation!).  Here is Kushner's copy: "Late one night that April, the telephone rang at the NH home of William Smith...when Smith picked up, however, there was no one at the other end of the line.  In the nights that followed, it happened again and again.  At first, Smith didn't make much of it..." (YEAH, BECAUSE HE'S A TOTAL TARD, MORE TARDATED THAN TRIGG MEGA-TARD PALIN!  KUSHNER, DUDE, YOUR PHONE IS RINGING...IT'S YOUR READERS WONDERING WHY THIS PASSES FOR "RESEARCH" AT "ROLLING STONE"!)).  Matt, the 18 yr. old kid easily hacked into all of Billy's #'s, forcing him "to change his home phone #, but it made no difference.  The phone would ring again at all hours-this time with Smith's own cellphone as the point of origin.  Weigman, he soon learned (a person with an IQ of say, 85, would have learned this much sooner, say, on the first or second night that it occurred--Har) was using his skills...to ferret out Smith's private numbers and harass him.  In the midst of the harassment, Smith called a travel agent and booked a flight for his wife to visit their son in Georgia.  Then he called his son to inform him of the travel plans.  Minutes later, the phone rang.  This time, the caller ID showed his son's phone.  But when Smith picked up, it wasn't his son after all, it was Weigman.  Matt was using his phone-company connections to track every call that made and received-and the veteran fraud investigator for Verizon could do nothing to stop him."  AND THE REPORTER FROM ROLLING STONE APPARENTLY DIDN'T REALIZE WHY "THE VETERAN FRAUD INVESTIGATOR" COULD DO NOTHING TO STOP HIM!  Kushner even characterized Smith as having a "Southern", not in-your-face Texan accent.

Naturally, I didn't fall asleep for many, many hours!  I was too busy ROFLMAO!

P.S.-- Voila, another chapter for my memoirs! I had forgotten about when an editor at "Rolling Stone" sent me to Washington, D.C. to do a piece re. the Hell's Angels, and well, stay tuned, it's on its way, H

.

 
< Prev   Next >