too big to be accountable (and other lessons in corporate anarchy)

Along with countless people, my email account with Verizon has been down for two days now. I have spent a lot of time on the phone in India talking with people who have absolutely no ability to do anything except tell me that I am talking to the wrong people.

My problem is that I have dialup Internet service with Verizon, and they aren't set up to provide technical support for dialup, but they won't admit it. Sure, they give you a voicemail option to press for dialup, but it makes absolutely no difference; your call gets put on hold and is automatically placed in the same pool as high speed customers. Which means that after a considerable wait, you will get someone in India who will tell you that his job is to answer the phone and provide technical support for high speed and not dialup. He will then give you the dialup number (which is of course the same number you called) and tell you to select the dialup option). I did this repeatedly. Of course, on two of the occasions, I was dropped after being on hold. (I suspect they enjoy doing that at random.) And when finally I did get through, I was told that there is an system-wide email outage problem which would be resolved by 6:00 p.m. last night.

Well guess what? It wasn't!

To say that there is no accountability would be understatement. This company does not even reach the state of even theoretical accountability. It is pure bureaucratic anarchy, run amok.

Fortunately, I'm still online (I don't have Verizon as my Internet service provider), and as Verizon email has been down for two days now, it occurred to me to Google the news sites. Sure enough, the problem is bad enough to have been written up as a story.

If you are a Verizon user, you might be wondering what has happened with your Verizon email. Well, at the time of writing, it seems many people are reporting Verizon email problems, being unable to sign in to their account due to time out.

Verizon has used their Twitter account to let their users know they are aware of the problem and working on it:

"Some Verizon Online customers are unable to access email today. We are working to isolate and resolve this problem"

And as no story about Verizon would be complete without an official lie from Verizon, Verizon has managed to come up with one -- on Twitter, no less!
UPDATE!! Verizon apparently has resolved the problem, in the Twitter account they posted:

"Verizon Online email access completely restored at www.verizon.net"

Is the problem resolved for you?

Hilarious!

No, of course the problem is not resolved, and Verizon damned well knows it. At least, someone, somewhere at Verizon knows it. The company is so large that there is absolutely no accountability anywhere. They lie by rote and there is no way to call them on it. They are not people, they have no titles, they have no country, and there is no there there. Almost reminds me of the golden days of The Telephone Company:

...you're dealing with the telephone company. We are not subject to city, state, or federal legislation. We are omnipotent.
Except in those days, even though The Telephone Company was an omnipotent monopoly there was a sort of mutually understood cultural acknowledgment that they would would fix your service when it didn't work.

No more. Now they won't admit to anything being broken. Instead, they issue official lies, and only if you go through an elaborate ritual called technical "support" might you be lucky enough to glean an admission that something is wrong.

Not that they're fooling anyone. The commenters certainly know.

#
joan says:
April 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Nope. Webmail is back - sometimes but not e-mail. 7 pm east coast - just live chatted and they said they are still working on it
#
joan says:
April 22, 2010 at 4:51 am

8:51 a.m. east coast - still not working.
#
joan says:
April 22, 2010 at 5:01 am

Just called and got a recording: There is an e-mail outage in your area. We are committed to resolving the problem by Friday April 23.

YIKES.

YIKES is right. But I'm curious about something. What's with this Twitter business? Why would a huge company like Verizon open a Twitter account? I don't know how to interpret this. Is it just a new place to lie? A better way to expand upon their hegemonic system of unaccountability? Or might some joker in the corporate hierarchy simply be displaying a sense of humor?

I can't be sure, but I did find the Official Lie here, and as Twitters are notorious for disappearing, I thought I would take a screen shot.

verizoncompletelyrestored.JPG

Not that this would in any way hold them accountable, for I know such a thing is impossible. But because I think it's actually funny to see an official corporate lie on Twitter. I also think it's funny to read that my email has been "completely restored." (And I find it especially touching that even though they apparently can't fix their email service, and have to lie about it, they're still not too busy to wish their customers a Happy Earth Day!)

In what was a sort of mini-triumph this morning, I managed to get an online chat person to make an admission of sorts:

there is an outage going on in Verizon so please wait until it is resolved.
It wasn't easy, as he played the same game with me that they play on the phone. First they say they can't talk to you because you've been sent to the wrong department, then finally -- if you're lucky enough to persuade them to look past the jurisdictional wrangling for a moment -- you might be able to get them to admit the system is down. That might not be much, but I'm willing to settle even for a tiny victory in my ongoing Sisyphean struggle against vast bureaucratic anarchy and total unaccountability.

I saved my chat room dialogue for those who are into such kinky things, and if you're interested, you can read it below.

UPDATE: Just got an email from a friend:

no wonder some of my emails to you failed! What a nightmare.
Well, it might be a nightmare for customers who rely on email to do things like conduct their own business, but it's all just fun and games for the corporate anarchists.

MORE: The Examiner has a story of the outage too. It's major.

Verizon DSL customers across the country, including here in New York, are reporting an email outage. POP access is down completely. It appears the servers have crashed. Webmail access is sporadic at best and even the Verizon.net page is having load issues.
Having issues? That's putting it mildly. I can't login at all.

AND MORE: Bad as this is, it only underlines how much worse things could be, as Glenn Reynolds explains in this book review.

AND EVEN MORE: If this mess sounds familiar, it is.

As a report from last year illustrates, it's
nothing new
!

Yep, it looks like their server crashed and died! As I am a Verizon customer myself I called their tech support to find out what the story was. The rep insisted everything was fine and blamed it on my computer. Uh, no don't think so. When your website is telling people there's no server to connect to, you have definite problems!

As of 6:30am EDT POP mail was restored while website access is intermittent at best. Slow, poorly formatted pages alternate with the APACHE failure message quoted above. Mail on the POP side is trickling in and is delayed. Users up and down the East Coast have been flooding DSLReports.com with outage reports, so the problem seems to be fairly widespread.

Mail and server outages seem to be a fairly regular occurrence these days yet Verizon refuses to acknowledge or apologize for the downtime. The last update on their System Status page is from January. What gives, Verizon? Why don't you want to communicate with your customers?

IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING! (Like the old movie title....)

UPDATE (Friday, April 23, 2010): Email is still down, there is an interminable waiting period for customer support and the Verizon chat line people say they have no idea how long it will last. From my earlier chat this morning:

Chat Subject: Other
Your Question: For three days I have been unable to access my email, and unable to login. It will not accept my password, and when I try to reset, I get this: "The tool is currently unavailable."
A Verizon eCenter Representative will be with you shortly. Thank you. (10:04:07)
Agent Kayci has joined. (10:04:07)
Kayci : Chat ID for this session is 04231027682. (10:04:07)
Kayci(10:04:32): Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. I will be happy to help you today.
Eric Scheie(10:04:38): Helo
Eric Scheie(10:05:17): No email for three days. It's a problem.
Kayci(10:05:52): I apologize, the POP server has gone down and Tech Support is aware of this issue. You can call them directly at 800/567-6789 if you would like further information. There is not an estimated time that this issue will be resolved.
Eric Scheie(10:06:26): I called four times, and I don't want to call them again. How long should I wait?
Kayci(10:06:51): We do not have an estimated time of repair, I apologize.
Eric Scheie(10:07:04): OK thanks, I realize this is not your fault.
Kayci(10:07:29): You are welcome, and again, I apologize for this inconvenience.
Eric Scheie(10:07:50): OK, I'll just keep checking. Thanks. Signing off now.
Hey, at least they say they don't know, which is honest.

That's progress.

UPDATE (April 24, 2010): After being told this morning that the problem was solved, my email still didn't work, and I was still unable to login, it would not accept my password, nor could I delete or change the password. So I called tech support again, and they were able to change my password account and bring my account back. Which means the problem is solved for now. Thank God.

What follows is my chat room dialogue from this morning:

Chat Subject: Other
Your Question: My email is down for the second day now. Can't log in, won't take my password, won't recognize my user name, won't let me log in to change the password.
A Verizon eCenter Representative will be with you shortly. Thank you. (08:11:50)
Agent Kathryn has joined. (08:11:50)
Kathryn : Chat ID for this session is 04221094207. (08:11:50)
Kathryn(08:12:03): Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. I apologize.
Kathryn(08:12:19): I will have tech support assist you.
Kathryn(08:12:34): Do you have DSL or FIOS service?
Eric Scheie(08:12:49): Thanks, I need to access my email.I have dialup only.
Kathryn(08:13:04): Thank you, please hold.
This session is transferred to Pankaj. (08:13:34)
Agent Pankaj has joined. (08:13:34)
Pankaj(08:13:44): Thank you for contacting Verizon DSL Technical Support. My Name is Pankaj and I am the technical support analyst assigned to help you. A few moments please, while I review the information generated by your trouble ticket in order to help you.
Eric Scheie(08:13:56): Thank you.
Pankaj(08:14:31): Thank you for being online, I appreciate your patience.
Pankaj(08:14:52): I would request you to provide us the following information before we start:
-Your first and last name and relationship with account holder.
-Your preferred Email Address.
Eric Scheie(08:15:06): Eric Scheie
Eric Scheie(08:15:14): [no_spam]@verizon.net
Pankaj(08:15:19): Thank you for the information.
Pankaj(08:17:04): Mr. Scheie, as you are a Dial up customer and we are the DSL technical support agent so I request you to contact the Dial up department. Please do not worry I will give you the number for Dial up number and they will surely help you in this case. Is that fine with you?
Eric Scheie(08:17:50): I spent over an hour yesterday and they finally told me service was down. I don't want to call anyone if the service is still down.
Eric Scheie(08:17:58): That is why I am using online chat
Pankaj(08:18:53): I am so sorry for the inconvenience caused to you however Verizon was facing the issue yesterday so please do not worry as we will surely resolved your concern.
Eric Scheie(08:19:11): I did not ask for DSL technical support. Please read the above
Eric Scheie(08:19:22): I said I had dialup.
Eric Scheie(08:19:34): Why do they keep sending me to DSL?
Pankaj(08:19:39): I know that and the agent wrongly transfer you to me.
Eric Scheie(08:19:54): This is what happens on the phone too.
Eric Scheie(08:20:04): I think it is automatic
Pankaj(08:20:14): Please contact at 800-567-6789 Voice Prompt - "Help with dial-up service" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Pankaj(08:20:24): They will surely help you.
Pankaj(08:20:39): Also there is an outage going on in Verizon so please wait until it is resolved.
Eric Scheie(08:20:41): That is what I do EVERY TIME. They always direct me to DSL people who say what you have said.
Eric Scheie(08:21:03): That is what I wanted to know -- whether the outage is still ongoing
Pankaj(08:21:08): I really apologize for that.
Pankaj(08:21:18): It is still going on.
Eric Scheie(08:21:28): Thanks, so how long will I be without email?
Pankaj(08:22:49): There is no estimate time but once it is resolved you will be informed.
Eric Scheie(08:23:36): OK, so I guess I will know when I can finally log in. Right now I get this message over and over:
Eric Scheie(08:23:39): We are unable to process your request at this time.
Please try again later. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Pankaj(08:23:54): That is correct!
Eric Scheie(08:24:03): It will not accept my user name or password
Pankaj(08:24:13): However you have the number with you for Dial up technical support.
Pankaj(08:24:24): For that please contact the,
Eric Scheie(08:24:28): OK so I should try again tomorrow?
Pankaj(08:24:48): Sure. Also try it in the evening as well.
Eric Scheie(08:25:52): Thanks I will keep trying. I need email.
Pankaj(08:26:07): You are welcome!
Pankaj(08:26:13): I am also sending you an E-mail as a follow-up to our interaction today, containing valuable information and links to online resources provided by Verizon.
Pankaj(08:26:13): Thank you for contacting Verizon DSL technical support. We appreciate your business.
Pankaj(08:26:18): Goodbye and please take care of yourself.
Eric Scheie(08:26:57): OK, but please send the email to my yahoo, as the verizon does not work!
Eric Scheie(08:27:05): escheie_[AT]_yahoo.com
Pankaj(08:27:10): Sure.
Pankaj(08:27:10): Bye.
Eric Scheie(08:27:17): OK thanks!
Pankaj(08:27:22): :)
Eric Scheie(08:27:55): You too, signing off now.
Eric Scheie(08:28:00): :)

MORE: And if you got all the way down here, you might just be crazy enough to be interested in the email that was sent to me as the promised "follow up to our interaction today." It has nothing to do with anything I was talking about, but it is presented it here, in the interest of truth, and also in the hope that some callused executive might just be forced to read what their technical support people think is appropriate reading material for customers who only want their email restored.

Dear Verizon High Speed Internet customer,

I hope I was able to answer your questions about your High Speed Internet service today. As promised, here is the information that you requested.
Would You Like to Resolve Your Trouble Without a Phone Call?
bullet
Get the In-Home Agent! Install this application on your PC desktop for fast, easy 24/7 support. Discover great ways to optimize your home network, add a new PC to your WiFi network, establish email settings, - and much, much more. Find it at www.verizon.com/connect
Award-Winning Online Support
Verizon's best-in-class Online Support can provide you with answers to almost all your High Speed
Internet questions, and includes tutorials, instructional links, and trouble-shooting information.
Here are some of our most popular links:
bullet
Top Questions and Answers - includes answers to the questions asked most frequently by our customers
bullet
Verizon's Introduction to the Internet: Learn more about finding what you need online, using chat and
instant messaging, staying secure, and using E-Mail and newsgroups
bullet
Optimize your PC for Verizon High Speed Internet with our free tool
bullet
Tips to Improve your Computer's Performance
You may want to bookmark these sites, so they are handy for future reference.
We hope this information helps you get the most from your High Speed Internet service.

Thank you for being a Verizon customer. We know you will enjoy your High Speed Internet service.

Sincerely,

Verizon High Speed Internet Technical Support

Hmmm...

Why does the word "bullet" suddenly appear throughout the email? It wasn't in what I cut and pasted, so it must be a translation of the html.

Please be assured that it is not commentary from me!

MORE: Cut and paste got screwed up but it's now fixed thanks to Veeshir.

posted by Eric on 04.22.10 at 11:25 AM










Comments

I have Sprint, for some reason they changed my service without telling me.
I noticed a message when I paid my bill.
So I dialed "*2" to go to customer service.
Did I mention I have Sprint?
Both time I called I was greeted with "Thank you for calling Verizon".
I had to use a landline to call Sprint.

All customer service sucks anymore. They all have scripts that they're supposed to follow so they don't listen to your questions, they just go along their script until you browbeat them enough that they listen to you.

I stay with Sprint because they don't refuse to admit when they're wrong and they'll give you something to make you happy.

Unlike AT&T or Verizon who start with "It's your fault" and go on to "There's no problem" and finish with, "We fixed it, now leave us alone".

Veeshir   ·  April 22, 2010 12:14 PM

Oh, meant to say, you cut and pasted the same part twice, the second time you left your email address in there, the first one you put "nospam@...", the second you left in your name.

Veeshir   ·  April 22, 2010 1:18 PM

Sprint is still trying to figure out why they changed my plan.
I spent most of an hour on the phone this morning without them figuring it out, I finally told them to just call me when they figure it out.
Some guy keeps calling me back and saying, "We haven't figured it out but....." and I keep saying, "Well, call me back when you do."

I have one question and nobody can answer it and I'm not going to waste my time while they get their act together.
I don't want anything from them, I just want to know what they're doing.

Veeshir   ·  April 22, 2010 3:05 PM

Interesting. I have had good luck with T-mobile customer support. No blame the customer first, "you called the wrong number" song-and-dance routine.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 22, 2010 3:09 PM

Eric,why do you bother with an ISP provided e-mail? they don't care and never have,why should they? Dupes keep paying, right?
No offense meant I read your stuff every day,but ISP e-mail Always sucks and always will,
Bob

Bobnormal   ·  April 22, 2010 4:20 PM

P.S. If you use hotmail, Gmail, yahoo, etc, you can use Outlook/Act!/Outlook Express nowadays with a little tool called Outlook Connector,free from Microsoft that will drag all of your "cloud based" e-mail accounts to
your Outlook program or whatever editor you choose,Good Day Sir,
Bob

Bobnormal   ·  April 22, 2010 4:26 PM

I've never dealt with T-Mobile, since they're affiliated with AT&T I had assumed they were the same.
I should have known better. I've been with Sprint for years and they're "Sprint/Nextel" and one time I got a Nextel phone on accident.
What a horrible 6 months that was, Nextel was a nightmare. From the 2 hour phone call for me to get the phone activated to the AT&T-style customer service it was just one frustrating time.

Veeshir   ·  April 22, 2010 6:23 PM

Unbelievabile.
I just got an email from Sprint without an answer to my very simple question.
Why was my account changed?

I hate customer service.

The problem is that companies can't afford to pay a lot so you get the lower rungs of the job ladder.
Competent people don't want to take rude crap from jerks all day for low pay.
I can't blame them but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Veeshir   ·  April 22, 2010 7:09 PM

Veeshir,

Have you tried rebooting your computer?

Try rebooting your router...

Perhaps it's the alignment of the planets, or sunspot activity?

Oh, I know, Global Warming!

It must be anything but the fault of the people you're paying for service.

Sorry, I started having flashbacks of the last time I bothered to call my ISP to complain about their lousy service.

Heh, the thing is, before I started paying my current lousy ISP $40/mo for 300kbps service I had dial-up and was paying $20 for internet access in addition to paying Verizon $90/mo for the privilege of having a dial tone on my line - most of the time.

guy   ·  April 23, 2010 1:47 AM

Okay, so my last email to Sprint included two sentences for them to finish.
One was
'My account was changed because_______'

I wrote Just finish that sentence. It's really that easy."

So they responded with, "We see your account was changed. If you have any other questions please contact us.".

Veeshir   ·  April 23, 2010 8:59 AM

Comcast had been overcharging me for years (it happened when they bought out Insight and changed the services on my FAX line).

We brought it too their attention.

1. They were embarassed
2. I got a BIG discount to make up for at least a big part of the costs
3. They upgraded my account for no charge.

Their technical service has always been excellent.

So given the usual problems I'd have to say that I'm OK with Comcast.

M. Simon   ·  April 24, 2010 7:41 AM

Eric,

My first mate (you know who) worked for T-mobile a couple of years back. Their policies for their customers are such that most customers leave satisfied.

Plus now she knows all the tricks of the trade. Which may have helped with the Comcast negotiation.

M. Simon   ·  April 24, 2010 7:45 AM

I'm paying Comcast (phone, cable TV, Inet) $20 a month for 15 Mbs (peak - usually at night) speed and 250 GB/month volume. Phone $20 a line - unlimited USA calling. Plus Cable for $40 a month.

Seems like a reasonable deal.

M. Simon   ·  April 24, 2010 7:52 AM

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