Opinion: why I’d rather throw my money into a fire pit than give it to Verizon

Verizon drop contracts petition

Verizon Wireless may be the nation’s #1 carrier, but that doesn’t mean it’s America’s most beloved wireless provider. Notorious for the love-hate relationship with its customers, Verizon frequently draws ire of the press and consumers alike who crucify the company and criticize its questionable business practices.

In the wake of a series of customer-friendly moves by T-Mobile, collectively branded under the ‘Uncarrier’ tagline, one after another horror story concerning Verizon is getting unfold and making headlines.

The press likes to dis Verizon as a greedy corporation that shamelessly takes its customers for a ride under the presumption that everyone else is doing it, too. Verizon’s past and present business practices have been ticking me off for quite some time so here’s why I’d literally rather throw my money into a fire pit than give it to them…

Here are three ways Verizon thinks you’re stupid.

1. Verizon thinks a two-year contract is the greatest invention since the wheel

Ever since T-Mobile separated hardware cost from the service itself, offered no-interest installment payments and introduced inexpensive, no-contract plans, Verizon’s been in the panic mode. Sure, they’ve brought out some shared plans.

Is it just me or should Verizon focus more on customer experience than spending money to convince users that committing their soul to Verizon is in their best interest?

Case in point: a new campaign on Verizon’s Facebook page which literally argues that “saying no to long-term service contracts means saying no to discounted phones. Period.”.

Discounted phones, seriously?

iPhone Verizon Hard Pill To Swallow

This is just shameless. Verizon builds the price of the hardware into their service contracts. The problem is, after your service agreement is over and your device has been fully paid off, they won’t cut the subsidy cost out of your wireless bill.

This kind of convoluted logic may work in Verizon’s world, but saying ‘no’ to two-year contracts on T-Mobile does mean getting a discounted phone for between $0 and $100 down, Better yet, the device itself is payable through T-Mobile’s no-interest monthly installments and you don’t have to sign a long-term service contract.

Droid-Life sums it up best:

They [Verizon] may be allowing you to walk away with a new phone for next to nothing, but you are still paying for that phone each month with a built-in, behind-the-scenes subsidy cost (think of it as a really bad loan).

So each month, you are paying for that phone with a charge that won’t show up on your bill or ever receive a mention from your carrier of choice. By the end of your service agreement, you will have paid for that phone little-by-little, month-by-month, you just might not have realized it (ever wonder why your ETF lowers after each month?).

For the sake of balance, prepaid Verizon plans are available starting at $35 per month. A typical Verizon prepaid plan, for example, give you 500 minutes, unlimited text and three gigs of data for $55 per month.

How do you feel about that?

In April of 2013, Verizon actually extended early upgrade eligibility from 20 to 24 months, cynically arguing that customers are free to “purchase a new phone at the full retail price at any time.”

Verizon (Facebook camaing, contracts 001)

It also pays to remember that Verizon back in 2011 actually eliminated the 12-month upgrade option altogether in another customer-unfriendly move that stunned the press.

2. Verizon is forcing folks on non-tiered/shared plans to switch before upgrading

It’s another way Verizon seems to be screwing customers because they know you’re stuck. Senior Review Editor at MacTrast, Ian Fuchs, has shared his interesting exchange with a Verizon support representative.

Long story short, Ian is on the Nationwide Talk/Text 700 minute plan and has unlimited data. He was told to switch to the more pricey More Everything plan in order to upgrade a basic phone to a smartphone. Not only would that mean losing unlimited data, Ian would end up paying more for the privilege – $85 per month.

Verizon customer service (screenshot 001)

Verizon’s response: “Your plan must require that you change your plan with any upgrade that you do with it”.

Again, not very customer-friendly.

Truth be told, some customers did report being able to upgrade without losing unlimited data, but Ian’s example isn’t just some randomly selected piece of rare anecdotal evidence.

I’m sure plenty of our readers have similar stories to share just as tons of disgruntled customers have been taking to blogs, forums and social media to share their own horror stories.

Verizon MORE Everything plan (teaser 001)

3. Verizon’s response to FCC’s throttling confers: everyone’s doing it

Three years ago, Verizon began throttling data output for the top five percent of its 3G customers on unlimited data plans.

Starting in October 2014, they’ll be throttling LTE customers who fall within the top five percent of data users on the network (using 4.7GB or more per month), have fulfilled their minimum contractual commitment and are on unlimited plans using a 4G LTE device.

These customers may experience “slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications,” Verizon notes, meaning anything from high-definition video streaming, online gaming and what not.

As a consolation, data throttling will only happen when you’re connected to a cell site when it is experiencing heavy demand. For those wondering, government or business accounts that have signed a major account agreement won’t experience throttling. Don’t want to be throttled? Switch to a new usage-based plan!

Fortunately enough, the FCC is now questioning Verizon’s “network optimization policy,” as they call it. The Commission’s Chairman Tom Wheeler in an open letter asked the carrier to provide rationale for treating customers differently, explain why its policy is inconsistent with the transparency rule that remains in effect and provide complain arguments for data-throttling on its efficient 4G LTE network.

Wheeler wrote:

It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its ‘network management’ on distinctions among its customers’ data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.

‘Reasonable network management’ concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams.

Verizon’s knee-jerk response?

“The network’s capacity remains a shared and limited resource that we must manage to provide the best experience for all of our consumers,” said Verizon.

“The rationale is to provide the best possible network experience for customers,” wrote Kathleen Grillo, Verizon’s SVP of Federal Regulatory Affairs, adding the company wants to ensure that this “small group of customers do not disadvantage all others in the sharing of network resources during times of high demand.”

Verizon Sucks

The Verge adds some color to the story by noting that Verizon’s response hammers on the fact that every other major U.S. wireless provider (AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) has already implemented some form of data throttling. However, Verizon goes “a step further and says its competitors often have ‘less tailored’ policies that can impact customers regardless of network congestion,” explains the publication.

Yes, certain limitations in fact need to be imposed on those who download excessive amounts of data. But if you ask me, 4.7GB per month hardly defines a data-hungry user.

To be perfectly fair, Verizon does operate the largest and longest-running LTE network in the country and there have been reports for months now that data speeds in major cities like New York have slowed to a crawl due to network congestion.

Final thoughts

None of this absolves Verizon from its moral and business obligations to its customers, who dutifully pay a premium for the service.

I know Verizon is in it for the money (just like any corporation), but earning money doesn’t exclude treating your customers with the utmost respect they deserve. Sadly, Verizon’s latest moves paint a not-so-rosy picture of a greedy corporation that thinks its customers are stupid enough to fall for its cheap pitches.

Conceivably, I’m not generalizing and am sure there are plenty of satisfied Verizon customers out there who’d readily defend the company, and I’m okay with that.

I want to hear your thoughts on the matter and learn about your experience with Verizon. And as per usual, it’s perfectly fine to disagree with the opinions laid out in this article. Or maybe you just need to vent out your frustration about Verizon’s policies?

Either way, meet us in comments.

Disclaimer: opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinion of the iDownloadBlog team.