So, against my better judgment and humanity’s better interests, I finally broke down and got a cell phone. My first bill arrives today.
I look it over, and they nicely split out the previous partial month’s pro-rated charges as well as the charges for this month. The usage tables were a little less clear but the important bit of information, that I didn’t owe anything for them, was clear.
Then there’s this $36 “Verizon Surcharge” charge. What is it?
Verizon Wireless’ Surcharge includes charges to recover or help defray costs and taxes and of governmental surcharges and fees imposed on us, and costs associated with government regulations and mandates on our business. These charges include a Regulatory Charge, which helps defray costs of various mandates, and a Federal Universal Service Charge and, if applicable, a State Universal Service Charge to recover costs imposed on us by the government to support universal service. These changes are Verizon wireless Charges, not taxes, and are subject to change.
OK, so, despite the questionable punctuation, it is more honest than what they list as if they were taxes on your landline phone bill. But $36 dollars? Outrageous! I’m not paying that every month.
So I checked with a friend to see if he got that kind of charge regularly, and then called up, ready to strangle someone through the cell phone. After spending time on their network on their dime, none of the online explanations (which were helpfully tuned to the fact that I was a new user) addressed my concern, so I opted for customer service.
First off, the woman didn’t have the same information about me that their automated service did. That’s pretty lame. But it’s also typical, so I ignore it.
So I state my question–namely what is this charge, and is it going to be this much every month? She responds, “Oh, there is a $35 setup charge, and it is a one-time charge.”
OK, great. But what in the above cited explanation on the printed bill leads you to believe that setup charges would be included?
Had they but taken the time to either add that to the explanation or do the programming to break out that charge into its own area on the bill, I would not have called. I may have only taken 10 minutes of the woman’s time and another 10 or so of the online time, but that probably cost them a sizable fraction of the setup fee itself.
If even 10% of other customers react as I did–and the instructions for new customers seem to indicate they get a number of these calls–that has to be a pretty big cost center for Verizon. Just giving your customers salient details (like explaining any one-time charges) will save you money. You can funnel those profits into a nicer hotel room for boinking your fellow executive. Then everybody wins.