Bamboozled: Getting what’s due

When a company makes a promise, consumers expect it to stand by its word.BB branding

So did Jim Parascandola.

In October, 2009, Parascandola said a Verizon salesperson set up a table in the lobby of his Hoboken condo building, offering a $150 promotional gift card for those who would sign on to become Verizon FiOS customers, and another $100 gift card for joining Verizon’s referral program. Parascandola said he was also told because he already had Verizon cell service, he’d get a $15 monthly credit on his bill for having all four services.

Parascandola took the deal.

By March, Parascandola said he still had not received what he was promised, and after months of calling Verizon, chatting online with customer service reps and faxing and re-faxing copies of his contract, discouragement was the feeling of the day.


Parascandola said reps had a different story each time he called. First they said there was no record of a promotion on his account. Then he was told that Verizon had run out of the promotional cards.

‘‘They tell me a different thing every time I speak to them,’’ Parascandola said. ‘‘The only resolution I would agree to at this point is for them to immediately provide the gift cards as per terms of the contract I have with them.’’

33010Parascandola’s claim piqued our interest because in December 2009, Verizon agreed to a settlement with the state attorney general and the consumer affairs division to resolve a lawsuit about the company’s FiOS marketing, sales, billing and customer service practices.

While Verizon didn’t admit any liability or wrongdoing, it did agree to ensure inventory levels of FiOS promotional gifts were reasonably sufficient to meet consumer demand, that consumers would receive promotional gifts within the represented time period and that the company would make available an item of equal or greater monetary value if the promotional gift supply was exhausted.

As part of the agreement, Verizon agreed to pay $795,000 to the state in civil penalties and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and investigative costs, plus give $50 prepaid gift cards to the 1,160 consumers who submitted complaints to consumer affairs.

It also promised it would allow customers to cancel FiOS service without an early termination fee.


Bamboozled called Verizon and asked it to look at Parascandola’s account.

‘‘This was a human mistake,’’ said Verizon spokesman Rich Young. ‘‘The sales rep who took the order made a mistake and did not put in a note on the account that he was due gift cards.’’

Young said Verizon has been checking other sign-ups from Parascandola’s building to make sure no other customers were affected, and so far this appears to have been an isolated incident.

That’s great, but why did all of Parascandola’s efforts seem to yield nothing?

It’s true that nothing was offered to him for many months, but there was one phone conversation in late February during which Verizon thought it had satisfied Parascandola, but there was a misunderstanding.

Remember that $15 per month credit Parascandola was promised when he signed up for FiOS because he’d have all four Verizon services? At the time of his call, that $15 credit had not yet appeared on Parascandola’s bill.

During this February telephone conversation, the rep offered Parascandola a $15 credit for 12 months, worth $180. The rep meant for that offer to be in lieu of the $150 promotional gift card, but Parascandola thought it was the credit he was already due for having all four Verizon services.

Verizon’s Young agrees that yes, there was confusion on both sides regarding the credits. But, he said, after that February phone conversation Verizon thought Parascandola was made whole, and then some.

‘‘We’re constantly improving our processes and as a result of this we’ll take a deep dive and if there’s something to be fixed, we’ll fix it,’’ he said.

Young said Verizon has sent Parascandola a $150 promotional card, plus an extra $200 card for joining the referral program. (When Parascandola joined, Verizon was offering $100, but the current offer for new customers is $200 so Verizon is bumping up Parascandola’s reward.) He will also receive a $15 credit for 12 months (standing by the credit that was offered to Parascandola by the rep in February instead of the gift card) and another $15 per month credit for 24 months for having the four Verizon services. The Hoboken man also received $200 in gift cards for referrals he made to four individuals who signed up for FiOS service.

Parascandola said he was pleased to get these credits and gift cards, but he said he told the Verizon rep he was more interested in an explanation.

‘‘I don’t want anything extra nor anything above what was in my contract — while it’s appreciated, what I’d rather have you answer is why, when I provided the necessary documentation to Verizon employees, nothing was accomplished,’’ he said he told the rep, who apologized for the whole error-ridden process.

All too many companies, whether its pride or arrogance, refuse to admit an error. Thank you to Verizon for giving this customer what he was promised and then some, but especially for being willing to admit a mistake.