My $10 Victory Over Verizon and the NSA
Business + Economy

My $10 Victory Over Verizon and the NSA

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

If you do the math, it’s clearly not worth spending the time and effort (and the cost of two Advils) to argue with a big company over what you perceive as an unfair charge of a measly $10. But everyone has a tipping point, and mine came when I received my June Verizon wireless bill.

A little background. I have a smartphone—a Samsung Galaxy S-3. I have a low-cost plan, which covers both my husband and me (he has a stupid phone—no email, no nothing, just phone). We make and receive few phone calls; download no videos or music (unless they’re clips of family sent by email), and I send a few text messages monthly.

Nevertheless, my charges were higher because of text messages. So I arranged to pay an additional $10 a month for unlimited texts to cover the 20 or so I use monthly. Then came the new bill. Not only was I charged the original $10, but an additional $10 as a set-up fee.

It was the $10 shot heard round the world—and we’ve all heard them from time to time. So I called. A pleasant woman named Debbie, who announced she was in Harrisburg, Pa., took the call (I assumed there was no Harrisburg, India, Ireland, Ukraine, Philippines, or Canada, and she didn’t have an accent, eh?). I told her my story and she explained that this was a one-time charge.

I thought about conceding, by I soldiered on.


“Why should I pay double for a service that Verizon should be thrilled I want to add to my bill?” I asked. She was calm—even nice by comparison—and she held her ground. I pulled out my automatic weapon—“I’m a long-time Verizon customer who still has two, count ‘em, two landlines. And I’m thinking about switching to FIOS. I’d like that $10 charge taken off my bill.”

Debbie fired back in a soft and mellifluous voice, “I’m not authorized to do that.” 

At that point, I had to draw from my nuclear arsenal. 

“Please let me speak with your supervisor,” I said. 

“Certainly,” Debbie said. “It will just be a minute.”

At this point, I was feeling guilty. Debbie was so nice and well-mannered. She even seemed sympathetic. Was I hurting her chances for advancement? Did she have five kids and live on food stamps? Before I could be derailed by that possibility, I took a deep breath knowing that my mission was clear. That’s when a new voice came on the phone.


“Hello, I’m supervisor Jane Richardson. Debbie has briefed me about your situation and she is also on the phone.” 

Ah…the doubling down of troops, I thought. This is getting good. I explained my situation calmly and said what I believe are a customer’s magic words: “Imagine my surprise and disappointment when a company like Verizon, with such a fine reputation for service, appears to be nickel-and-diming customers like me.”

Jane Richardson didn’t hesitate. She simply said, “I’m sure you can appreciate that some customers take advantage of our unlimited offers, which is why we have one-time ‘pay in advance fees’ like this. But in your case” [by this time she had probably seen every bill I had paid on time along with whatever the NSA had collected from Verizon] “we will waive that fee and the charge will be eliminated from your bill.”

Score one for the customer.