Over the weekend I initiated a transfer of my wireless service from AT&T to Verizon Wireless. The process was so painful and so fraught with failure that I felt compelled to share the story. Buckle up, ’cause here we go.
I first subscribed to AT&T in December 2006 to get a BlackBerry Pearl. My main number has been with AT&T for nearly 13 years, so why switch now? The lies. AT&T’s service has been mostly fine, though there are some spots in my daily life where coverage isn’t good enough. The prices have gone up — a lot — and that bugs me, too. But the real last straw was the lying and outright deception foisted upon its own customers.
What lie? The 5G E lie. AT&T started showing a 5G E symbol at the top of its phones despite the fact the devices were connected to LTE 4G networks. When called out for the policy, AT&T executives actually doubled-down on the misrepresentation and refused to capitulate. Sure, I understand that AT&T is trying to show its customers that they are in an area with enhanced service, but faster LTE ain’t 5G and AT&T knows it. The company clearly has no respect for the people who pay it each month — which is part of the reason that I refuse to give it any more money.
Why now? I’ve had to serve out the remaining payments on an iPhone X I bought in November 2017. Free of the payments and full of indignation, I trekked to my local Verizon shop to initiate an escape from AT&T.
The Verizon corporate store
There’s a large company-owned Verizon Wireless store and service center in a strip mall adjacent to the large mall near my house. I showed up at 7PM on a Saturday evening, one hour before closing time. I had to sign in and join the queue of others waiting for assistance. In total, I waited about 40 minutes before a store rep was able to begin helping me.
I explained to the Verizon employee that I intended to port over five lines from AT&T: four standard cell phone lines plus a data line for my iPad. The employee, whose name I did not note, was great. Porting five lines takes more than a simple snap of the fingers. The task involved bringing over two lines with trade-ins for new device purchases, and transferring two lines to Verizon SIM cards for existing unlocked phones I planned to continue using.
Porting over the first two lines with new phone purchases went smoothly, as did the port for the iPad’s data line. The new devices had working connections to Verizon’s network in the store. After this step was completed, we set up my Verizon account online and then initiated the number transfer to the new SIM cards.
A hiccup in the system caused some trouble here. Completing the transaction required multiple attempts, from my phone, from the employee’s tablet, and a store computer. I didn’t have the two unlocked phones with me so I couldn’t test that the SIM cards had in fact been activated, but the employee assured me they were. All I needed to do was put them in my unlocked phones.
After making the tax and device payments for the two phones I purchased on-site, I walked out of the store at 9PM I thanked the employee for staying well past closing time and felt confident I’d made the right move.
Caught in port limbo
I’ve ported numbers between carriers before and I know it can be weird. Whatever magic allows carriers to yank numbers from one another and activate them on their own network doesn’t always run smoothly. Naturally, I ran into problems.
Once I got home I grabbed my daughters’ iPhone XRs and swapped out the AT&T SIMs for the Verizon Wireless SIMs. Nothing. The phones would not connect to Verizon’s network despite reboots and other futzing about with the settings. No biggie, I thought, it’s the weekend, yadda yadda, I’ll try again in the morning.
At the same time, my wife’s old phone (which still had its AT&T SIM inside) continued to receive text messages while the new one did not. Moreover, my new phone could access data, make calls, and send texts — but not receive them. Again, not a serious issue as it was late and we didn’t really need our phones for anything important until the next day.
No biggie, I thought, it's the weekend, yadda yadda, I'll try again in the morning.
Unfortunately, nothing changed the next day. I resorted to pulling the AT&T SIM out of my wife’s old phone and that appeared to clear up the issues with her device. Her new iPhone began to work as it should on Verizon’s network. Despite repeated attempts to activate the SIM cards for my daughters’ phones via my online account, I couldn’t get them working. I had not choice but to leave the old AT&T SIMs in their phones, as they continued to offer AT&T service.
Fine, I figured, I’ll deal with it on Monday.
Customer service hell
Come Monday morning, I had no choice but to allow everyone to use their phones as-is during the school and work day. Can’t send the family off without working phones, particularly since my daughters partake in after-school activities and need to be able to call or text for a ride home.
At 5PM, I called Verizon customer service. Little did I know that I was stepping through the gates of Hell.
The automated system had me punch in a few numbers before it tried to transfer me to Verizon’s FiOS support line. Eventually, the assistant said Verizon’s chat bot could handle it. The company sent a link to my phone and hung up on me. Great.
So I clicked the link, which opened a chat window in the browser, and I started conversing with Verizon via chat. It took about 15 minutes of chatting through my phone (a painful experience, this sucked) before the chat rep admitted they could not help and suggested I call customer support (again). I was told to call the main number and select “option 3” when confronted by the automated system. I did this exactly and it resulted in an unending loop, pushing me from one menu to the next. Eventually I cracked and kept hitting 000000000000000 until a person picked up.
Little did I know that I was stepping through the gates of Hell.
Here we go, I thought. Finally. Time check: 5.40PM.
The first Verizon rep I spoke with was pleasant and genuinely tried to help. She checked this, she checked that, but after about 20 minutes admitted that she could not resolve the issue. She transferred me to a “tier 2” representative.
The gentleman I spoke to next was from Tennessee and promised that we wouldn’t get off the phone until all the troubles were sorted. We succeeded at one task: getting my new phone working and properly able to send/receive messages and calls. He could not, however, figure out the issue with the SIM cards and said he needed to transfer me to “tech support.” He stayed on the line with me until he was able to transfer me directly to another person. Great.
The third representative I spoke with repeated some basic information back to me, said she needed to check something, and put me on hold. After sitting on hold for 20 minutes, the call was disconnected. Ugh, are you kidding me? At this point I tweeted out a complaint about being hung up on and I tagged the @Verizon Twitter handle. Sometimes company reps will reach out to you via Twitter after seeing such posts. Nothing.
I called Verizon for the third time. Time check: 7:22PM I’d now been dealing with the issue for 2 hours and 20 minutes.
It took a few minutes to bounce up the ladder again to the appropriate-level tech support person. This representative was cheery and pleasant. We worked together and after about 20 minutes were able to get one of the SIM cards working on one of my existing BYOD phones. Two out of three issues resolved.
I'd been dealing with the issue for 2 hours and 20 minutes.
We then trouble-shot the last SIM card for another 30 minutes. In the end, the tech concluded that the SIM card I was given was somehow already associated with another account/number. It couldn’t be activated on my account no matter what buttons she pushed.
Fine. Bad SIM card. I get it. Just wish it hadn’t taken three and a half hours to reach this point. This last call, by the way, lasted 1 hour 4 minutes. The rep suggested I go to the Verizon store, explain the situation, and get a replacement SIM card.
As an aside, I should mention that during this phone call I received a text message from Verizon stating that my main number had been removed from the account. It was somehow unregistered. At the same time, I received an email from Verizon indicating that since I’d opted to receive a full paper statement that extra charges would apply to my account. I’d done no such thing. Something happened during the SIM-wrangling experience to basically kill my online Verizon account.
The independent Verizon shop
Now, at this point it was 8:30PM I knew the big corporate store was already closed so I decided to take a shot at the small Verizon Wireless shop inside the nearby mall.
Two reps were in the store, one was sitting at a desk while the other helped a customer. The sitting rep asked how he could help. I began to explain the situation. Before I got too far he interrupted me to ask if I’d bought the SIM at his store. I hadn’t, I said, I bought it at the corporate store outside the mall property.
He then explained that he could give me a new SIM card, but said I’d have to pay $40 for it. I tried to explain again that the original card was more or less defective. Then the second rep chimed in and said that his store charges $40 for SIM cards, period. I started to argue and the sitting rep interrupted me again and said, “You can get mad all you want but you still have to pay $40.” Was I a bit heated? Yes, for sure. Wouldn’t you be? However, I did not yell or cuss or berate anyone despite my wish to.
I do understand that small, independent stores’ hands may be a bit tied when it comes to activating SIM cards and charging fees. What stunned me was the employees’ complete lack of empathy and willingness to be helpful. In short, they were jerky. (Earlier in the week these same guys tried to sell me an LG G4, and called it one of the newest handsets in the market. *faceplam*)
The taste in my mouth right now is not a good one, Big Red.
Simmering, I walked out of the store and drove home. Once there, I sat down to sign into my account. Perhaps there was something I could do there, I thought. Nope. Because my main number had been removed from the account, I could no longer sign in and access my account at all. Wow. I dialed up the Verizon Wireless help line again and was greeted by a voice telling me it was outside of normal business hours, and to please call back tomorrow.
My only choice was to go to the corporate store again. I had to send my older daughter to school the next morning without a working phone, as the AT&T SIM card did eventually quit.
Verizon Wireless: 1, Eric: 0.
This is ridiculous
By the time I gave up, it was after 9PM I’d spent more than four hours via every means possible (chat, multiple calls, in-store service) to activate a silly SIM card, all to no avail. I was only able to resolve the issue by returning to the corporate store to get a replacement SIM. Even then, it took the employee another 20 minutes to get it working properly.
While I understand that these things do occasionally happen, they simply shouldn’t. The industry has to be better than this. Consumers shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of incompetence.
Moreover, this is not the way I hoped I’d be welcomed aboard by Verizon Wireless. If there’s any way to start off a business relationship on the wrong foot, this is it. The taste in my mouth right now is not a good one, Big Red.