Hubby and I have a cell phone contract with Verizon Wireless here in southern MN. Years before Verizon owned the company, we signed up with a great little company called Midwest Wireless in about 2003. Their customer service was fantastic, and phones and coverage were great, even in our small rural area. If something went wrong, Midwest Wireless fixed it.
After a couple of years, a company called Alltel bought Midwest Wireless, so we became Alltel customers. The great slide downward began. Customer service suddenly sucked, and when we renewed a 2-year contract and bought new phones as well, the phones didn’t get very reliable coverage (“we’re working on it,” they would say), and our phones broke and had problems. We stuck it out because we don’t have a land line and Verizon was the only company that provided wireless service in the boondocks where we live.
After a couple more years, Verizon Wireless bought Alltel, so we automatically became Verizon customers. Verizon’s coverage has seemed more reliable, and while only one phone broke down immediately after going out of warranty, it’s almost impossible to get a human being to to help you over the phone, and it’s quite unlikely that that human being will be friendly or of much help.
Another unfortunate change was this: with Midwest Wireless, I could call my provider ahead of time and temporarily change my plan if I had to travel out of my normal region for work. Then when I got back, I’d call them and go back to my regional little plan. This helped me avoid expensive roaming charges and made me a happy customer, too. When my provider became Alltel, and then Verizon, I called to request this service and the reps said that was impossible (the Verizon rep even chuckled a bit), and stated that I needed to buy a bigger plan if I was going to travel a few states away for work (even just for a few days per year). So, that’s the end of that.
Now it’s November 2012, nine years after I first started working with this company. My fourth wireless phone contract with Verizon Wireless has just expired. Hubby and I decided to check out new plans, as Hubby hates his phone and I want to be able to text more often. We went to the Verizon store yesterday to get some ideas. There was no one else in the store when we walked in, so we had the rep’s full attention. He was a middle-aged man, dressed for business in a shirt and tie. We explained that we were an existing customer and wanted to make some changes and were interested in new phones and a new contract. (This was music to his ears, right?)
To begin, the rep looked up our current plan. He said, listlessly, “oh, you’re on an old Midwest Wireless plan and I can’t give you any better pricing than this, so if all you do is use your phone for talking, just stick with what you have.”
We asked him to show us what a new plan would cost, and what options we would have. We explained again that Hubby hates his phone and I want to text more affordably. The rep literally handed us a brochure and told us to look at it and “think it over.” In other words, he didn’t want to do anything right now to help us. He would prefer that we not take his time. (In our own defense, I feel compelled to state that Hubby and I had both bathed and brushed our teeth that morning.)
As we quickly realized, the Verizon rep wasn’t in the least bit interested in our business or in showing us anything new in the store, and while handing us the brochure, he literally started walking away from us to talk to another customer who had just walked into the store. So we thanked (?) him and walked out of the Verizon store with two things:
- our old phones
- an expired contract with Verizon Wireless
We got into the car and laughed. My 43-year old hubby mused, “I guess we’re too old to be customers Verizon wants.” True, we’re not really interested in using our phones for anything except talking and texting. We don’t need to have every piece of information available at our fingertips at all times, especially on a tiny screen. But we’ve faithfully been paying Verizon Wireless $60 – $80 every month for the last 9 years, and they never had to do anything to get it (or even provide customer service). Seemed like a good gig for them, if you ask me.
As a salesperson myself, when I walked into the Verizon store I knew myself to be “low-hanging fruit.” I was a customer ready to spend money. We had driven 10 miles to get to the store and approached Verizon simply because they were our current provider and we hadn’t taken the time to explore other options yet. We were ripe to sign up for another 2 years with Verizon, spend more money with them, and walk out of the store with brand new shiny phones. All we needed the rep to do was tell us what the best deal would be that would also provide the service we wanted. Mr. Sales Rep, you missed an opportunity to take my money. I’m not sure if you were hung over, bored, enduring back pain, wanting to read the latest issue of “People” magazine in peace, or what, but you did not rise to the occasion and we could quickly see you weren’t interested in our business. My message to you:
Pay attention, man! You just lost a long-time customer and a sale.
Anyway, as Hubby pulled out of the Verizon parking lot, my friend Gayle called me. I told her what had just happened and she told me to go to Target or WalMart to get a phone without a contract. We were headed to Target anyway, so we looked at the different plans available without contracts. There are options, indeed:
- payLo by Virgin
- Net10 Wireless
- Virgin Mobile
- Verizon Prepaid plans (harrumph!)
Etc. etc. So all I have to do is find a reputable phone and pay monthly for the services I want, and I can quit whenever I want. And, we are far enough into the 21st century so that these plans have coverage where I live. Newsflash: I no longer need Verizon Wireless.
And here’s what else happened at Target: a young man about 20 years old was “minding the store” in Electronics. He offered help. We explained what we were looking for, he answered our questions, showed us some of the plans, pointed out a few phones that he liked, and even told us which plan he uses and why it works for him. (He doesn’t talk on the phone. He texts. It made me smile.) He went away when we were done with him, but came back happily when I realized I had more questions. He smiled and was patient. He didn’t seem to mind that Hubby and I are 43 and mostly want phones for talking.
So, tomorrow, I am going to call Verizon and cancel the phone service I’ve had for 9 years. Then I’m going to drive to Target and buy a couple of phones and prepaid plans that will work for me and Hubby. (And I will be spending less money every month, too, and getting more minutes and gazillions more texts.)
If I were a salesperson (oh, wait, I am) I would use this experience as a reminder to myself that, even if someone calls my company and will probably never be my customer, or if there are bigger fish to be fried that day, or if I’m hungry for lunch, or if they’re a good prospect but I just don’t feel like dealing with them that day . . . well, tough. I need to treat these people like they’re my ONLY customers. If they do buy, chances are good they’ll buy from me because I have the best products and I treated them great. If they don’t buy, they might remember how they were treated, and come back to me when they are back in the market to buy.
What I really mean to say is: Thanks anyway, Verizon Wireless.