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 Updated Aug 11

Can You Hear Me Now??

With those five little words, Verizon Wireless has become a huge player in the national cellphone market. The 'Annoying Guy' appeared on ads around the country, taking a step or two and asking that same question repeatedly. "Can you hear me now?"

The 'In' Plan
Verizon now offers an "In" plan, that allows you to: Get IN on the nationís largest home calling area. Talk to any of our 42 million customers from the Americaís Choice calling area, without roaming. Coverage not available everywhere. America's Choice covers 289 million people in the U.S. That's all fine and dandy on the surface, but think about it - how many of those 42 million people do you REALLY want to talk to? In my case, it's four. That's right; four people on Verizon Wireless that I really want to talk to - my fiancee and my kids. In fact, one of those four gave up a pretty sweet AT+T Wireless (now Cingular) plan to be able to talk to me for free, anytime we needed.

Now back to the "Can you hear me?" guy. Bett travels quite a bit for her job, so the ability to stay in touch is great for us. Even better is the supposed national coverage offered by Verizon, and the budget-friendly free "In" minutes are certainly appealing. But why do I keep referring to "Can you hear me?" guy? Because that's what our phone calls sound like! It's rare that I can stay on the phone for more than 15 minutes with Bett, and more commonly we drop after only a few minutes. Where she's staying right now supposedly has no issues yet her phone won't ring at all, or when it does she can't be heard - yet she shows a decent signal.

The problems were so bad that she made the half-hour drive to a Verizon store several times as well as spent numerous hours on a landline with their "Customer Service" people. Although they gave her conflicting reports over and over, she was finally able to get one guy to admit that the ONLY Nokia phone they offer is barely compatible with their network, and they offered her a discount on a new phone that is compatible. Problem solved, right? Wrong. It took them two days to ship the phone she paid to have overnighted. When she got that, she was in almost the same boat as previously. At least at first, the new phone would stay connected while she was in the San Francisco Bay area, but it still failed to connect while she was in the East Bay. She would start driving and sometimes 5-10 miles away the phone would suddenly beep that she had numerous voicemails.

When we talk, our conversations are full of "can you hear me now?" comments, cruelly parodying the Annoying Man in their ads. Redial is a godsend, because we use the damn thing so much. My connections to my kids is usually better, although we've had our fair share of dropped calls. How do you explain to a six or seven year old that you didn't hear anything they said in the past few minutes and that they need to repeat it?

That's right - Verizon says there's no roaming charges with their network. Anyone want to guess why? It's not because they've expanded their coverage or made any deals with other cell providers. Nope, they changed the calling plans a few months ago and added the "no roaming" bit of hype. However, if you look at the old maps and compare them to the new ones, there are very few changes in Verizon coverage. The only thing that really changed is that the areas that used to be roaming (with added charges paid to other providers) are now simply "no Service Available" zones. Yeah, that's a great way to help people. I have never been able to get a straight answer from them either - in the old plan you could be Roaming and still have a signal available, so you could theoretically get hold of 911. Under the new plan, you could be in that same area and the phone would now show *No Signal* so are you screwed if you try to call 911??

Not a chance...their "techs" will claim to research the issue and guarantee a callback at a certain time (usually within 24 hours). Now, they have the cell number, my cell number, and the number where Bett is staying. With three phones available how many times do you think they've called back within the 24-hour period? None.

How many times have they called any of the three numbers within 3-4 days? None.

For that matter...how many times have they called us in response to the first problem reports we made over a month ago? That's right - zip, zero, nada...

Hey Verizon Wireless - Can You Hear Me Now?? No? Let me turn it up for you...

e-mail Jim
Created: March 10, 2003 and updated whenever the Muse strikes me

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