Sunday, December 10, 2006

Verizon math

This was posted to You Tube ( two days ago. It is long. It is the recording of a customer service call to Verizon wireless in the U.S. involving wireless data rates in Canada. It is almost 23 minutes long, if you are listening to the whole thing.

At the heart of the matter, the person calling has unlimited web usage in the U.S. Before going on a trip to Canada, he asked how much it would cost him to use his phone for Internet downloads. Verizon quoted him a price of .002 cents per kilobyte. He downloaded 35,893 kilobytes. Quick! How much should he owe? I'll wait until you get a calculator...

Okay, so he owes 71.89 cents, correct? Okay, he was charged $71.89. Obviously the rate is .002 dollars per kilobyte. Therein lies the problem. He was quoted .002 cents per kilobyte but they charged him .002 dollars per kilobyte. In other words, he was charged $0.002 per kilobyte while being quoted $0.00002 per kilobyte.

The trouble is that he is trying to get someone at Verizon to understand this, and none of the people he talks to gets it! Two separate reps on an earlier call, a rep, a supervisor and a floor manager on this recorded call, and not one of them understand simple math! They continue to quote him ".002 cents per kilobyte" while insisting that his bill should be $71.89 for 35,893 kilobytes.

He double checked the rate before he went, by the way, because the thought the rate was suspiciously low. However, he pays for a flat fee in the U.S., which can easily run up to gigabytes of download a month, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that they would have fairly low rates for someone travelling into Canada.

Anyway, here is the message:

It's quite funny, infuriating (I was infuriated and I wasn't the guy talking to them!), and a sad commentary on the state of mathematics. It's also a wonderful example of the corporate brainwashing that happens with customer service departments. Verizon's internal documents quote ".002 cents per kilobyte" when they mean ".002 dollars", but nothing that the person says on the other end will sway them from believing the corporate literature is right!

I'm sure this is going to go all over the Internet. It will probably show up on Snopes. It is already on Slashdot and Digg.

And I just found out that the guy who had this happen to him has a blog about it! And that Verizon, earlier today, refunded him the entire amount. Apparently they were being inundated by calls from people who heard about this. According to the blog they are now quoting a rate of ".002 dollars per kilobyte". Yes, the penny finally dropped!

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