The chronicles of bad experience: Verizon and Symantec

Everybody knows that bloggers like to bash companies that have displeased them. We do it because we feel angry and betrayed and want to get back at them. We also do it because we want to save others from unpleasant experiences and avoidable frustrations. Today it’s my turn to rant: let’s talk about Verizon’s greed and Symantec’s pitiful and misleading customer service. Fasten your seat belts.

Verizon: “Have you paid us yet?”

A few months ago I decided to leave my wireless phone provider. I had been with Sprint for many years and I eventually got tired of their lack of loyalty and disappointing customer service, whose errors and misinformation had costed me money and minutes, and worst of all frustration and unhappiness. And with all is going on in the world, the last things I want to be unhappy about is my wireless service.

Husband and I researched other wireless providers, and eventually settled for Verizon, largely because Husband’s family have Verizon’s plans and we would be able to call them for free. We bought cool Motorola Razr phones (I got the extremely cool pink one for an additional $30) and the cheapest family plan. It took an excessive amount of time to set up the accounts, but the people in the store there were nice, and we left fairly happy.

It turns out that Razrs are really cool looking phones, but they are not great phones. The sound quality is so-so and the user interface has annoying usability flaws (on the top of my list: the same key sometimes brings you back to the previous screen and other times deletes information from your phonebook: so annoying). But, of course, this is not Verizon’s fault.

Verizon’s fault is to have hacked Motorola Razr’s software to eliminate functionality that is useful to their customers but does not increase Verizon’s profit.

A minor–but revealing–annoyance is the function of the central four-way navigation key; pushing up, down, left, and right allow you to access the four most frequently used functions. According to Verizon those are: Get V-cast videos and pay additional money, browse the Internet and pay additional money, “Get It Now” aka get videos, pictures, and sound clips and pay additional money, or connect to your bluetooth headset (for free, if you have bought the bluetooth headset from Verizon). Do you see the pattern?

Incidentally, this means that I don’t have any fast-and-easy way to get to the list of missed calls or recently called numbers.

But here is the really insulting hack. In the latest version of the operating system, Verizon’s disabled OBEX (Object Exchange Protocol), the piece of software that enables the phone to move files to and from your computer via bluetooth (read more on Wikipedia).

To add to the insult, it turns out that Husband’s gray Razr, with an older version of the operating system, can still connect with a computer through bluetooth. But my cool pink $30-more-expensive Razr has the new operating system with OBEX disabled (fair punishment for my vanity, I suppose).

My crippled pink Razr can’t talk to my computer, poor thing, and if I decide to take pictures with my phone I have to use Verizon’s fee-based messaging service to get them out of the phone. Incidentally, this also prevents me from synchronizing phone book and calendar with my computer.

To the best of my knowledge, only Verizon has disabled OBEX on its phones: other wireless companies such as T-Mobile and Cingular allow for full phone/computer synchronization.

Verizon is trying to establish the brand image of a company that cares about their customers. But through my day-to-day experience of their service, “Can you hear me now?” and “We are working for you” sound rather like “Have you paid us yet today?” Verizon behaves as it’s trying to take advantage of its customers, rather than engaging in a fair service provider/customer relationship.

The moral of the story: Verizon’s greed is permeating my experience of them to the point that after a few months I already know the exact date I will switch provider: the day my contract expires.

Symantec: “Take the money and run”

If Verizon’s experience was mildly disappointing, Symantec’s experience was plain infuriating.

My investment firm was offering a discount on Norton Internet Security 2006 so I decided to take advantage of it. I went on the Symantec website to make sure that this particular product was compatible with my Mac. The information on the site was contradictory: on one page it said that MacOS 10.4 was not supported, on another page it said that anything over 10.3 was supported. So I called.

The sale guy I spoke with didn’t have a clue. He said: “I think so…” with an unconvincing tone, then put me on hold to check somewhere and came back saying that yes, MacOS 10.4 was supported for sure. I told him that one page on their website said that it was not supported. He told me it was probably a mistake.

I know that by now I should have been suspicious. But I really wanted some Internet Security protection, the discount was good, Symantec claimed I could return the software, so I decided to buy it anyway.

It was pretty clear when I installed Norton Internet Security 2006 that I’d made a big mistake. It turns out that some components of the package are compatible with my operating system and some are not. The Antivirus part, for example, is not compatible with MacOS 10.4 even if there is a Mac version of this software that is compatible: it’s just not the version that ships with Norton Internet Security 2006.

Here is where the horror story starts. Once you buy your software is not possible to talk to a living individual at Symantec without paying money. I managed to chat online with a guy who immediately told me that the software was not compatible with my system. “So, what do I do now?” “The software is not compatible.” “Yes, I got that. But what I do now?”

I asked if he could process a return and he promised he would do it. Of course he was lying, and it was pretty clear: even through online chat you can spot somebody lying. After a couple of days, not seeing any communication from Symantec, I tried to call them to return the software, with no success. It seems that the returns are actually handled by third party vendor, but I could not get in touch with them.

I tried to follow the online procedure for a return, but I just got to a blank page that didn’t give me any clue on whether the return had been processed or not. I haven’t received a single communication from Symantec. As far as I know, they don’t even know I exist and I am having trouble with their product.

And here I am now, with no money back, a piece of useless software cluttering my computer, a few hours of my life wasted, and the 60-day period for the return expired.

They are protecting themselves so successfully from their customers they don’t have any clue about what’s happening outside of the Symantec castle. Talk about security software. I wonder, Symantec: how can you do business by keeping your paying customers out with barbwire?

So, what’s going on here? Either Symantec is an evil corporation that wants your money and then runs with it, or we are seeing the sad effects of outsourcing without controlling the quality of the service provided. I suspect that the correct hypothesis is the second one, but I am not sure which one is worse: dealing with a dishonest company or an inept one.

Either way, you can try to guess how much more business I am going to do with Symantec and what I am going to tell my friends about them. Does anybody have a good suggestion for a good Mac antivirus and Internet Security software?

LINKS and UPDATES: Amazon reviewers are not happy with the Windows version of Norton Internet Security and furious with the Mac Version; a reader warns that Symantec’s products don’t work if you are using AOL; even geeks are victims of Symantec’s bad customer service: read what Rocky Oliver on Lotus Geek, Ken Circeo at PCMechanics, and Charles Cooper at CNet have to say. And Symantec still doesn’t get it: CEO John Thompson thinks he can repair the strained relationship with Symantec’s customers by launching a new product.

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6 thoughts on “The chronicles of bad experience: Verizon and Symantec

  1. When Symantec programs fail you, and they will, you can choose from any of three options. LOL… check out the chat log that I had with a tech from Symantec and you tell me, am I crazy or do the outsourced techs all speak (type) in circles?

    Your Chat Case Reference Number for this issue is 160095. Please make a note of it for future reference.

    Symantec provides free online support that has easy to follow ’step by step instructions’ to remove the threat from your system. The free online support is available to you at http://securityresponse.symantec.com. Type in the relevant virus/spyware threat name in the search box to receive the instructions.

    Stephen M>
    The threat name is unknown to me because Norton Antivirus doesn’t detect it.

    Stephen M>
    I’m still waiting for your supervisor.

    Chitra>
    Stephen, please run an online scan and get back to us with the resulsts.

    Stephen M>
    I have

    Stephen M>
    Don’t you read what I am typing?

    Chitra>
    Could you please provide us the scan resulsts?

    Stephen M>
    I have already supplied you with that information. Read UP

    Stephen M>
    please

    Chitra>
    Sorry, could you please provide the scan results?

    Stephen M>
    When I hang up with you I am going to send this chat log to PCWorld, PC magazine, computer shopper, etc., etc..

    Stephen M>
    The results are as follows: your computer is free of viruses

    Stephen M>
    Where is the supervisor?

    Chitra>
    Alright, do you suspect that your system is infected with virus?

    Stephen M>
    yes

    Chitra>
    Stephen, then I suggest you to opt for the any one of the service which is mentioned above.

    Chitra>
    You are at Virus Removal Service. We have a team of technicians and advisors specially trained to handle the Virus related issues and do the best to fix the issue.

    Stephen M>
    Are you being intentionally abstruse?

    Chitra>
    Here we have skilled virus removal specilaist who will remove this virus from your computer and if there is any issue, they can remote login to your computer and delete the infected files manually. In case, there is still any issue, we have our supervisors call you back to know the status of the issue and help you completely remove it from your computer.

    Stephen M>
    stop spamming me

    Chitra>
    I am sorry this is a paid consultation.

    Chitra>
    Stephen, if you need you can opt for the free support.

    Stephen M>
    I hope that you don’t expect me to be satisfied

    Stephen M>
    the free support is pointless because my symantec products are so ineffective they don’t even recognize a threat when they see one.

    Stephen M>
    I WANT TO SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR, NOW PLEASE

    Stephen M>
    CAPS LOCK IS INTENTIONAL

    Stephen M>
    Please, in the future, refer to me as Mr. MacKenzie because I am a school teacher and I don’t let my students or strangers speak to me in a familiar manner. Because your manner is so obtuse you fit into the earlier group. No offence intended.

    YOU think that Verizon is bad? LOL

  2. I want to let you know about my Verizon experience. See letter below.

    July 27, 2006

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I am writing this letter as I sit on hold for at least the tenth time this month for over fifty minutes. I’ve spent a good deal of my time waiting of hold for help regarding my DSL service with Verizon. My most recent problem involved having two additional jacks installed in my home. When I ordered this service over the phone I first called the DSL service and was told that I needed to call the phone company to order the install. The first call had me on hold for about 30 minutes. Then I waited 20 more minutes to get someone to place the order for the jacks through the phone department. During that call I specifically told the customer service rep that I needed one jack for the telephone and the other for the DSL service. I was told that it did not make a difference because the jacks could be used for both. I could not get a technician to come out on the weekend so I had to take off a full 8 hour work day, unpaid, to wait for the technician to come out.

    When the technician arrived on July 14th I told him which rooms the jacks were going in and what type of service I needed for each room. He also told me that it would not make a difference because I would be able to plug the modem and the phone into either. The DSL modem was originally plugged into an existing jack in my basement which worked. After the technician left and I took the computer equipment into the bedroom where the new jack was installed the modem did not pick up a signal. The phone however worked in both of the new jacks. So I called Verizon again and waited on hold for over an hour (I watched 2 TV shows and made dinner while on hold). The customer service rep had me run up and down the stairs to test the modem in various jacks, which involved moving the furniture back and forth, only to be disconnected and not have the rep call me back even though he took down my number “in case we got disconnected.” The customer service rep never called me back and I was not going to waist anymore of my evening on hold. So I waited a few days for a time that I could be on hold for a while and to prepare myself for more upcoming frustrations.

    Which brings me back to today July 27th – after 1hour and 12 minutes I’ve finally been connected to a DSL Supervisor who told me that I have a “NID Splitter” on the line that needs to be removed. He transferred me back to the phone company. I was transferred to the collections department instead who then transferred me to the phone department (holding for 15 min.) Now that another phone rep has had me repeat my story, for what seems like the one hundredth time and adding the fact that I need someone to come out and remove a splitter from my line, this rep tells me that he wants to transfer me back to DSL. I told him what I had been through this morning and asked to speak to his supervisor, Mr. Quincy Roberts, Call Center Supervisor. I am told that Mr. Roberts is too busy but I could send a letter to the rep who would then give it to Mr. Roberts. How ridiculous is that? I am put back on hold. I have currently been on hold for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The Phone rep is back – he’s going to set up an appointment for a technician to come out and remove the splitter even though he says “no one in his department” has ever heard of such a thing. He warned me that there is a chance that I may still have to call the DSL department to request a DSL technician to come out and correct this problem if their tech can not fix the problem and that there may be additional charges associated with this visit. The appointment is for Aug 2nd, next week.

    So at this point I still have no idea if the problem will be corrected but I do know that I will be charged to every visit these technicians make to my home and that I have an outstanding balance on my current bill for services that I have not been able to use consistently for well over a month because in addition to the DSL problems associated with the phone jack installation, I have also had to call frequently for connectivity problems through the modem and my router that I am too exhausted to get into at this time but I’m sure can bee seen when my record is pulled up.

    My experience with this company as a whole has been very disheartening. I have tried not to get too upset with the customer service reps themselves because I know that they are just spokes in this completely ineffective machine that you call a company. I feel trapped because there doesn’t really seem to be another company to go to for these services in my area. It should be illegal for a company to rape consumers like this.

    As I write this letter I have no idea who I should send it to so I will send it to any and everyone I can think of. Besides that fact that my current problem needs to be resolved and I don’t feel that I should be charged for full DSL service during this time, I must demand that Verizon take a look at their corporate structure and fix the communications between the phone and DSL departments especially since they are on the same bill. There obviously need to be cross training put in place between the two departments. No one spending over $100 dollars a month (not including my wireless service) should have to go through this. Let’s not get started on the fact that Verizon recently reported “billing errors” for a number of their customers who need to wait for an investigation of the bills in order to have adjustment made.

    Sonya Barbee
    Verizon Customer/Rape Victim

  3. I see that Stephan had a pretty bad experience with Symantec chat support. In my case; it was quite opposite and I am pleased with the experience.

    The team stayed with me till the end and ensured that the threat was removed from my computer. They followed up with a call to ensure that the problem didn’t recur. Amazing experience, which you don’t see with Support (generally!!). I will stay with Symantec !!

    Peter

  4. Know how ya feel! Have Verizon Internet Security two months and already have 2 virus’ in my computer. 5 Calls – hours!!!!! on hold with 3 disconnects before getting a rep – 1 disconnect after getting a rep (with no call back after they ask you your phone number 3 times in the process of getting a human voice)
    To finally be told…really sorry but can’t help…tell me to wipe my hard drive!! New computer..rarely use..except to download pictures from my camera and google for household info…and I have 2 virus’. So much for the quality of their Internet Security!!!!!!!
    Gee and they wonder why people go postal!!!!!!

  5. With telecommunications companies there is a means of recourse via an official complaint with the PUC (Public Utilities Commision). Generally just the mention of it will get a supervisor on the phone. As for cable operators such as Charter, Time Warner, etc. they are required by law to provide you with cotact information to file a complaint with the FCC locally. Be prepared in either case to present a list of issues and attempts of resolution. Also be damn sure the problem is not with your equipment. The service providers responsibility stops at the “demarcation point”,that is the place where the companies line stops and the internal wiring begins. Good Luck

  6. Just tried to renew Norton Internet Security subscription with Symantec. Tried on-line yesterday, but after entering Credit Card info and clicking the proceed button, got the message that the URL was invalid (the button in their own page pointed to an invalid URL ? How lame is that). Waited on the phone for 45 minutes yesterday. Gave up.

    Finally got through after 1/2 hour today. The person, probably off-shore, told me I didn’t have to worry, my credit card was not charged (I’ll believe that when I see my credit card bill). Then I asked how I could renew it. She said on-line. But then told me the price would be $49.99. I told her on-line it was listed as $39.99. She said yes, but their was a processing fee to do it over the phone. I was incredulous, and asked her if they were really going to charge me and extra $10 because their site was broken.

    So then she told me that actually, there was a processing fee if I had done it on-line, and the price would have come to a total of $59.99.

    I hate wasting time, but I hate being lied to even more. I will never by anything from Symantec again, as long as I have any other option.

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