Why Verizon is the worst. Literally.

The Intro

Before this story begins, the background… I’m not one to get a new phone every year, or even every couple of years. Right now I am still rocking my iPhone 5S from when they came out. When I get a new phone, it’s a big deal. This year with the iPhone X coming out I decided it was time to treat myself. Not only that, for the first time ever I wanted to be one of those select few able to have the phone on the first day it was available, before the phone got backordered. So I set my alarm for 2am CST on October 27, when the preorder process opened. Yay!

But 2am is where the pain began.

The Preorder

A minute or so before 2am, Verizon’s preorder page opened up. Already knowing exactly what options I wanted, I quickly clicked through the pages, until I got to the shipping confirmation page. Here’s where the problems began. Verizon’s pre order website had no way to specify a shipping address. The only option was to ship to the billing address — this was not where I needed the phone to end up. After going back a couple of times to be sure I hadn’t missed something, I opted to just place the order, then update the address through support. My biggest concern was getting my preorder in before the shipping dates started getting pushed out. As it turns out, by morning shipping dates for the iPhone X were pushed out 6 weeks.

So once my preorder was placed (scheduled to ship to the wrong address, I opened a chat support session with a Verizon representative). The representative quickly confirmed that an address change was not an issue and I could do so via phone support the next morning. So I happily went to bed.

At 7am the following day I called support and spoke with a friendly representative named Cawanna who happily took the corrected address for the preorder and assured me that everything was updated and I’d receive my phone. Everything was set! My iPhone X was preordered and would ship to my address on November 3, the first day the phones shipped out. I couldn’t have been happier!

But then came November 2. This is when FedEx tracking numbers started being sent out. When I checked the tracking information, it showed that my phone was being shipped to the billing address on the account. The wrong address. So I called Verizon support again with this information. A friendly representative named Gina reviewed my preorder and assured me that although the shipping information showed that the package was going to the wrong address, once the package was scanned to be delivered on the 3rd, this would be updated with the correct address. I skeptically accepted her word on this. I figured she should know more than I. Foolish assumption.

The Delivery (or Not)

Finally, Friday the 3rd rolls in. I took the day off of work in order to be able to receive the package since it required a signature.

After waking up, I opened up the FedEx tracking page to see where my shiny new iPhone was. It was on the truck to be delivered. In the wrong city.

Now came the 3rd call to support. This first call of the day took 1hr 28min. I went through 3 separate support representatives, up to a manager. During this call, the first revelation was that the fraud department had some kind of hold on the package. This was an excuse given multiple times throughout the process, as you will see later on.

Finally, when I got to the manager level, the answer I was given is that preorders cannot be rerouted and that the only option is to cancel the order and place it again. This was problematic given that 3 representatives to this point had told me the exact opposite, and at this point placing a new order would result in me waiting until somewhere around December 13 to receive my new phone.

At this point, I was given two options by the manager: 1) use Verizon’s “jump the line” process to get a phone next time there is stock being shipped out rather than waiting until everyone who placed an order up to that point received a phone — there was no cost to this option, but also no assurance when the phone would arrive or 2) since the phone was being shipped to an address where I knew the residents, they could receive the package and ship it to me. Given the fixed timeline of the second option, I reluctantly opted for that. I wasn’t going to get it the first day, but I knew I would receive it the first week. Better than nothing…

At this point I go into work to try and get something productive with what remained of the day since there would be no delivery today. During this time, my mother waited at the billing address, changing her day’s plans to intercept the package and ship it on to me.

Around noon, I got a text from my mother. The FedEx tracking page indicates that the order has been cancelled. I take to Twitter to find out why Verizon had cancelled my order. The FedEx Twitter account even stepped in, confirming that the shipper had cancelled the order.

By this point, I’m pretty ticked. What was supposed to be an exciting, painless experience was quickly turning into a nightmare.

The Nightmare

The Verizon Twitter account went inexplicably quiet, after having previously responded (albeit not usefully). So back to phone support I went.

I called in, and spoke to a representative. I immediately indicated that she would not be able to answer my query and that she needed to elevate the call. She assured me that she could help, so I explain the problem. Immediate response: “Please hold. I need to go speak to a manager.” Yes, that’s what I told you…

Anyway, after a long hold, she comes back on the line and indicates that the fraud department had intercepted the package and had it shipped back to Verizon. After I asked why, given that fraud had cleared everything up during my morning conversation, she forwarded me to the fraud department and I spent maybe 15min talking to a gentleman there. He confirmed that fraud had nothing to do with the package being turned around, but didn’t have access to information in my account necessary to determine who had or why. So then fraud bounces me back to general support.

At this point, the two options I had been provided this morning: 1) new order entered to “jump the line” or 2) have the package forwarded from the wrong address had been wittled down to one. Jump the line. So I start this process with the representative.

A little over 2 hours later, my new order was placed and a “jump the line” request had been submitted with an assurance from the support rep that the order should ship within a couple of days.

At the time of entry, the order showed the 6-week-out ship date of December 13, but the date would update once the “jump the line” form was processed.

The Nightmare – Day 2

The next day, Saturday the 4th, the ship date for my order still shows as December 13, so I call Verizon again to get a status update. I spoke first to a low level support representative, who seemed to have no clue what “jump the line” was and said that my order would ship on December 13. At this point, I lost it a bit… I told her that I needed to speak to a manager right then. Shortly after, a manager comes on the line.

This manager very shortly tells me that I should “just give up.” He said that my “jump the line” order request was rejected and that I would need to wait until the order shipped on December 13th. When I told him this was unacceptable (with a fair amount of yelling interlaced), he hung up on me.

Wow. So apparently if Verizon fails to ship to the correct location, then erroneously cancels your order, that is not justification to “jump the line.” This begs the question — what would justify it?

The Bowels of Hell

Having exhausted my options via phone/Twitter support, the only option remaining was to walk into the bowels of Hell — a Verizon store. So immediately following this phone call, I headed to the nearest Verizon store, where they called phone support, and I got to retell the same ever-growing story of what was going on with my order (let me tell you, I was really tired of explaining the situation by this point).

With the story told, the support representative begins digging through the history of my account. Apparently the information on status of a “jump the line” request is not available through an account history and is only known to the person who initiated the request. Seems efficient.

The only information available was a line item from a day earlier indicating that the “jump the line” request had been approved and then a manually-entered line item this morning from the manager I had spoken with indicating that the request had been rejected. No indication on reasoning, no nothing.

Conveniently, the team responsible for processing “jump the line” requests is not available to answer questions, so the reason for this rejection will likely remain a mystery.

The Last Stand

At this point, the service representative I was speaking with suggested I either 1) check local stores for a phone (we did this — nothing in my entire city) or 2) retry the “jump the line” option. The latter was suggested because it had initially been accepted and seemed likely some mistake was made at some point during the process, so it might be worth a try. I took the only option available — retry “jumping the line.”

The End

At this point, the end to this story is unknown. The “jump the line” entry was entered, but being the weekend, it’s unclear whether the request will be processed until Monday. The last support representative I spoke with promised to contact me as soon as he heard anything regarding the request, so at this point all I can do after almost an entire 8-hour work day on the phone with Verizon trying to fix this mess is to sit and wait and loathe their existence.

The one clear revelation from this experience, whatever the end result for my phone, is that Verizon’s various teams have no idea what the other teams are doing and their support staff and management do not all have the same information regarding policies, resulting in consistent misinformation being disseminated to customers trying to find out the status of their accounts. The amount of entirely conflicting information I received on things as basic as when an address can and cannot be changed for an order is truly disturbing and seems bound to limit the ability of a company to manage customer needs.

The End: Part II

Following the above, on November 8, 5 days after my phone was supposed to arrive, I got notification that the “Jump the Line” request had been approved and the shipping process was beginning for phone #2. Finally, afternoon of the 9th I had the phone in my hands.

I also neglected to mention above that Verizon did offer some compensation throughout this ordeal. I was initially given a $50 credit on my account, then after tweeting this article at their account, they followed that with offering to buy me a case for my phone, which I accepted. I maintain that for the more than 8 hours talking with their staff trying to get the situation resolved, the failure to deliver a phone on the day of release which on its own has significant value, and the extremely rude “customer service” throughout this process warrants a lot more than what they’ve given, but there isn’t much I can do beyond making sure everyone knows what happened.

The Remaining Questions

  • Why was my first “Jump the Line” request denied?
  • Why does Verizon allow its managers to be as rude as the one who told me I just needed to “give up”? Especially after a customer has been put through what I had?
  • Why did so many different Verizon employees have no clue where phone #1 was going? Even when I specifically indicated that it looked like it was going to the wrong place, I was assured that everything was fine.

Removing COM Module from Honeywell UtilityPRO

A few weeks ago, my apartment complex installed new UtilityPRO programmable thermostats in all of the units. As part of the CPS Energy Peak Saver program. Quite a convenient little gadget, but a little creepy too. With this thermostat, CPS has the ability to modify the temperature remotely without me knowing. Although I personally couldn’t care less, I spoke with some friends who didn’t like this idea. So that got me thinking — I wonder how difficult it would be to disable this remote access.

A little googling revealed that the thermostat I had was a Honeywell UtilityPRO, which handles remote communication through the ZigBee protocol. With this knowledge in hand, I did what any good computer scientist would do and ripped the damn thing apart (carefully, of course). What follows are the steps that I followed in removing the ZigBee COM module, which in turn disabled any remote communication with the thermostat.

Continue reading “Removing COM Module from Honeywell UtilityPRO”

Accurately Track Your Dynamic IP With Text Messages

A few weeks ago, I posted about how to send SMS messages via command line. Today, as promised, I am going to follow up on that post by providing a practical use for this functionality.

My current setup at home includes a hole in my firewall to allow SSH access to a machine sitting inside of the network. On this machine sit various items that may be useful to me when traveling outside of my home network, including movies, music, and various other files. However, this open SSH hole does me zero good if I don’t know what my machine’s IP is, and I generally would not know since the IP is dynamically allocated by my ISP.

In order to always know where my machine is currently located, it needs to phone home every time the allocated IP changes. In this case, I mean to phone home literally. I have setup this particular machine to regularly check its IP, then, if the IP has changed since it last checked, it will send me a text message with the new IP.

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Taking On Art History For My Second Major

Happy April Fools’ Day, all! As some may have guessed, I am not in fact adding a second major just a month before my graduation. As much I do appreciate the beauty of art, I am not nearly dedicated enough to the discipline to make that kind of commitment to it 🙂

Monet's Water Lily Pond
Monet’s Water Lilly Pond is one of the beautiful paintings that inspired this decision.

I love computers. They make life interesting and I could never give up working with them, but I’ve always felt that something was missing. That something is art.

After thinking long and hard about this, I have decided to pick up a second major in Art History. I feel that this additional major, in combination with the minor in Anthropology that I already picked up and my soon-to-be-complete major in Computer Science, will give me a broader appreciation of the world, both computationally and artistically.

Unfortunately I do not have as much time as I would like to discuss all my reasons for this decision, but stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information.

With a New Year, A New Website… Again!

Exactly a year ago, I made a post with this same title (minus the “Again”). I have learned a lot since that post. For starters, I have learned to be careful with local database backups when reinstalling my OS (this is why the first 20ish posts that were on this site no longer exist). Lesson learned.

Since that post from one year ago, I have moved from my position as Web Specialist Intern for the UTSA Honors College to Web Specialist for Startech Foundation. I have presented at two national conferences, one in Indianapolis and one in Boston. But more importantly, I have learned to take myself less seriously. I’ve learned to have fun, roll with the punches, and never be afraid to fail. And boy, have I failed!

Looking past the failure to properly back up my database, which I mentioned above, I’ve failed in numerous other things. I have loved and lost (multiple times). I have thought that I could do it all, and eventually had to concede that I needed help. I have also written enough typos to fill several volumes (thank God for browser inline spell checking). There is no doubt that I have failed plenty in this past year.

As I look forward, I have so many exciting new experiences ahead. I plan to graduate in May, after which I’ll be looking for full-time employment for the first time. Ever. I’ll also be applying to MBA programs around the country. As the end of my undergraduate career approaches, for the first time I feel like I am making decisions that will determine the rest of my life. It’s definitely a scary thought.

As I greet 2013, I have no desire to make no mistakes; that would just mean that I have not challenged myself enough. As Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus says, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (Yes, I just quoted a kid’s show. Live with it.)

What I do hope to do is always look at life through an open mind, consider every opportunity that comes before me, and, most importantly, have fun! I only get this one life so why waste it being so damn serious all the time?