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“Shut Up And Call”: How I Saved $175 On My Verizon Cell Phone Bill

in Money Basics

As many of you know, my wife and I are relocating our Headquarters to Australia in early June.  As the date creeps closer and closer, I find myself trying to organize our budget and bills to reflect this upcoming change.  One area we know we did not plan well was our Verizon cell phone bill.

Verizon Cell Phone Concerns

  • My wife’s number is still on contract thru 5/15/2010. -  Luckily, my number has been off-contract for a while now.
  • The base fee for breaking the contract is $175!  -  On a positive note, we had budgeted for this $175 back in January, because we knew it was going to be hitting us in June.  We have the money sitting in an escrow account and have mentally already paid the bill.
  • My cell number is still on several ‘For Lease’ signs for properties I manage.  – Even though my business partner has bought out my shares, it would be a big plus if he didn’t have to change the signage.
  • If our stay in Australia is cut short, it would be nice to be able to get back my old number. -  This would be a really convenient back-up, but not something I’m willing to pay for.

My business partner (a trusted family member) has already approached me about keeping the cell phone number for property rental purposes.  This would allow him to both have a separate business number (something he is going to do either way) and to delay purchasing new signs.  It would allow me the possibility of keeping my number when and if we returned.

The only downside to the plan was that we would still have to cancel my wife’s number, which was still under contract.  Even though we had already budgeted and set the money aside for this, I still felt like I could find a way to get out of this without having to pay (isn’t that always the goal?).

I found myself caught up day-dreaming about a solution to our problem when a voice entered my head…  Just shut up and give Verizon a call. Before you waste another minute, make sure they won’t just switch the contracts for you. The voice had a good point.  I was pretty sure the answer would be no, but I dialed anyway…

Ring… Ring…

Mark: Hello and thank you for calling Verizon, my name is Mark how can I help you today.

Baker: Hi Mark, well…  I have a unique situation today and I need your help in finding a solution.  My wife and I are relocating out of the country in a couple months and I’ve noticed that my account is no longer on contract, but her account is.  We are in a weird situation where we would really like to keep MY number active, but cancel HER number once we relocate.  The thing is we really can’t afford to both keep the number AND pay you guys a $175 disconnect fee.  I’d really like to remain a customer…  Is there any solution you can think of that will allow us to move that contract onto my primary number instead of my wife’s secondary number?  Like…  maybe switching which account the contract applies to?

Mark: I would be glad to pull up your account and look over some options for you.  May I have your primary phone number?

Baker: Sure it’s 317-***-****

Mark: Thanks, just one second.  (pause)  Well, Mr. Baker unfortunately we can not actually switch numbers when it comes to contracts.  Each contract may only be linked specifically to the original number on the contract. I do have good news, though.  The disconnect fee is only $125 as of this month.  Every month you pay your bill it will continue to be reduced by $5 dollars.

Baker: Well, I do appreciate that lower fee, but unfortunately this isn’t a solution that will work for us.  I do understand you’ve done everything you can to look into this situation, but I would like to speak to a supervisor.  You’ve been very polite and I’m not upset at you.  I just want to make sure that your supervisor can’t override any of the regulations that you may have.

Mark: No problem, do you mind holding while I locate one?

Baker: Not at all, Mark.  Thank You.

Mark:  [After 5 minutes on hold] Mr. Baker, I am consulting with a supervisor on this account.  We would like to get a better understanding of how you plan to use your phone oversees.

Baker: Well, the phone will be staying here.  It will be used for renting out some properties I have an interest in while I’m gone oversees.  Since this number is on our signs, it would be extremely convenient for us to keep it the same.

Mark: Oh, o.k.  Hold just one second.  [5 more minutes on hold] Thank you for waiting Mr. Baker.  My supervisor has informed me of a possible solution for your problem.  Although we can’t switch the actual contracts on the specific lines, he has suggested that we CAN simply swap the contract end dates.

Baker: Well, since I don’t have a contract end date on my primary number, how does that end up working?

Mark: Your number will take on your wife’s contract end date of 5/15/2010 and your wife’s number won’t be on a contract, since your contract end date has already passed a while ago.  Will that work for you?

Baker: Sounds perfect!  That’s exactly what I was looking for.  I appreciate all your help in getting this done for me, Mark.

Mark: No problem, I’m going to have my supervisor swap those dates, effective immediately.  Is there anything else I can help you with?

Baker: Nope, thanks again!

Boo-Yah! Now, this might not seem like a big victory to you.  However, keep in mind that we had already budgeted and set-aside the money to pay the disconnect fee.  It would have been very easy for us to just send the payment, cancel the account, and move on with life.  It would have been even easier to have taken “no” for an answer when Mark initially confirmed my doubts.  But instead, we are now $175 richer from a 15 minute phone call! Let’s just say it was well worth my time to pick up the phone and ask.

Tips for Customer Service calls of any type:

  1. Write down the Agent’s name and use it frequently! There’s a common saying that everyone’s favorite sound is the sound of their own name.  For me this has proven to be true.  I strongly feel I get better results when I reference agents by first name.  Having worked in a customer service call center before,  I can definitely attest that I felt more connected to those customers who repeatedly referred to me as Adam.
  2. Present your request as a “problem” and ask for assistance in finding a “solution”. This has worked much better for me than simply stating my request or demanding a certain outcome.  If I would have called and said “I need my contract and my wife’s contract swapped”, I doubt my results would have been the same.  If at all possible, allow the agent to come up with the solution by guiding them in the right direction.  In my situation, I believe towards the end of the call “Mark” felt empowered…  as if he was “pulling some strings” or “doing a favor” for a friend.  For me, this works much better than kicking in the door and demanding the goods.
  3. When asking for a Supervisor, make sure to acknowledge that you are not angry. Of course, the first step in this process is to honestly avoid anger to began with.  In my experience, it’s better to hang up and call back (for a new random person) than to get frustrated and lash out.  Having some experience in a call center, I know how things work.  Each agent puts notes on your account.  This could cause you problems in the future with other agents who might want to “stick up” for their co-worker, who you just happened to call an “uneducated idiot” last Thursday at 12:45 p.m.  Be nice, praise whatever positive qualities you can find, and politely ask for a supervisor.
  4. If you find an Agent who went out of his way to help you, ask if he has a personal extension. Most of the time, the agent won’t have a way to call them directly.  However, some of the time, especially when dealing with supervisors, you can get a direct number or extension.  Write this down in a file somewhere and keep it.  Go ahead and add it to your Net Worth as an asset, because it’s as good as gold if you ever have another problem.  I don’t know about you, but I felt pretty special when someone would call and ask specifically for me by either name or agent number.  You can bet I pulled out all the tricks to make sure that person was treated like royalty.

On a more important note, now we have to decide how we are going to spend this $175 dollars we saved. I can’t decide if I should use it to speed up our War on Debt or whether I should chalk it up to an extra dive at the Great Barrier Reef!

If you saved $175 on your Verizon cell phone bill, what would you spend it on?  What tips and tricks do you use when calling customer service?   Chime in below and let everyone know what you think!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh April 2, 2009 at 12:23 PM

I usually ask where in the world they are located, then make a comment about the weather or something else I know about their city.
This usually lightens the mood and makes for a more friendly conversation.

Reply

The Almost Millionaire April 2, 2009 at 1:13 PM

Great tips on dealing with a call center! One of my partners was a “supervisor” in a call center several years ago. He said it is extremely funny how the service reps mess with us as “complaining customers” He has some really funny stories, but for another time!
Congrats on the win!

The Almost Millionaire’s last blog post..Should I buy a franchise?

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Baker April 2, 2009 at 1:25 PM

@ Josh – Great advice… Anything you can do to strike up a friendly mood is great. You’d be surprised at the percentage of people that call in pissed and looking for someone to take it out on!

@ TAM – Thanks! Yeah, I have to admit every time I saw a customer come up in the system that had 8 pages of notes where multiple agents commented how rude or angry they were… I was like oh god, here we go. It starts to be a self-fulfilling prophecy after awhile!

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El Cheapo April 2, 2009 at 11:27 PM

Congratulations on the win. Although, I have usually had pretty good luck with Verizon (knock on wood), I have had some pretty frustrating conversations with them. The typical “please hold while I transfer you” over and over again. Anytime I hear someone get something they want from Verizon, it makes me smile =)

El Cheapo’s last blog post..Borrowing From Friends/Family… A Quick Way To Lose Friends/Family

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Baker April 3, 2009 at 2:06 AM

@ El Cheapo – I hate getting caught up in that “hold & transfer” game. I’ve had my own battles with Verizon before, but overall I’ve not had a negative experience with them. Thanks for the support!

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Andrew April 3, 2009 at 10:29 AM

Baker,

It sounds as though Mark was thoroughly professional and did an excellent job of looking after your needs. He deserves a promotion.

A well handled situation all around.

Good luck with your move to Aus! Australia is my home country and I hope your relocation their will represent a successful adventure for you and your wife.

Andrew’s last blog post..Fighting Genocide through Funds Management

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Baker April 3, 2009 at 10:46 AM

@ Andrew – You bring up a great point. I really didn’t give Mark the credit he deserves. Even though I asked for a supervisor he didn’t get upset, and he didn’t dump me off. He talked with his supervisor and saw the situation through to the end!

What part of Australia are you originally from?

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Tristan | The New Man Of Action April 13, 2009 at 4:47 AM

I really like the empowerment aspect by presenting the problem in terms of a solution they could provide you.

I think an important note for this great post is that underlying the problem/solution was the fact that you were remaining a customer. Good customer service from ‘Mark’ would help the company in the future in your books. This was the power you had.

Without this negotiating chip, you might not have had as much luck. Even if you don’t intend to remain a customer in the future, the call-centre people are trained to take actions that ensure that they keep a ‘happy customer’.

Tristan | The New Man Of Action’s last blog post..Book Review: Everything is Negotiable – How to get the best deal everytime by Gavin Kennedy

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marie C April 27, 2009 at 12:54 AM

I have always been under the impression if you are moving to an area the cell phone company doesnt have service in, they have to cancel your service without charging you a an early cancellation fee. We have moved between 4 states within the last 4 years(due to job transfers) and each cell phone company has not had any problem with canceling our service(whatsoever). This goes for T-mobile, Alltel, and AT&T. Our last service was T-mobile, & we loved them, but here in Alaska, they do not have any towers. Glad to hear about your sucess with Verizon, I have heard horror stories about their cust serv. Congrats on the move to Australia. I moved to England on a wim, many yrs ago, and it is one of my favorite memories.

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Baker April 27, 2009 at 8:08 AM

I will admit I’m not 100%, but I’m fairly certain this is not in my contract. However, it might be something to look into just in case, especially if we end up wanting to cancel the other line! Thanks for stopping by and filling me in!

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