Until the Caldwell grandmother picked up her landline telephone.
There was no dial tone.
“I had no way to dial out and no one could reach me,” Gerber said.
Not sure what the problem was, she used a cell phone to call her carrier, Verizon, to report the outage.
It was confusion from the start.
“I spoke to a representative that explained that I had given permission to give my number away,” Gerber said. “When I said that I did not, they insisted that I did.”
Gerber didn’t understand why, or how, Verizon would give away the telephone number she had for more than 35 years.
She asked for the number back, and Verizon told her it couldn’t be done, she said. The number had been given away to another carrier.
Verizon started an investigation.
But Verizon continued to insist that it was Gerber who gave permission for the switch.
Gerber had a three-way call with the folks at Verizon Wireless and the FiOS people. She said she was told an order had been improperly placed, causing the mistake, and she could have the number back.
That was good news, or so it seemed. Reps started playing a blame game, which meant putting Gerber back to where her services were before the switch wouldn’t be that simple.
“FiOS was on the line and still insisted (the reassignment of the phone number) had come from me,” she said. “They said they would reinstate my number but would not give me my original bundle back because I had broken it.”
The bundle she’s talking about is the FiOS Triple Play, which provided telephone, internet and cable service to Gerber’s home.
Before the misplaced phone number mishap, Gerber paid $100.69 per month for the three services. That included a couple of discounts that would stay in effect until February 2014.
But her bill would now rise to $149.33, records show, because those discounts would no longer apply.
“Verizon claims since they consider it my fault, they have to give me a new bundle and that will cost me more,” Gerber said.
She maintained that it wasn’t right. She said she and her husband never authorized for their number to be given away — they weren’t looking to take their number to a new carrier — so she said Verizon should restore her initial bundle price.
Verizon again said it would look into it, and she would receive a call in three to five days, she said.
No one called, she said, so she tried again.
On April 26, Gerber said, a rep confirmed she could have the number back, and that she would receive a call when it was restored.
Gerber said she never received a notification call, but when she listened for a dial tone later that day, the number was back.
And there was no follow-up on the bundle price, she said.
“No one wants to take responsibility for the mistake,” Gerber said. “The consumer never seems to be able to fight these large companies, and they get richer as we pay higher prices for poorer service.”
She asked Bamboozled for help.
WHY IT HAPPENED
It took Verizon less than two hours from the time we contacted the company to give Gerber her bundle price back, adding a free month of service and extending her credits — the ones that would have expired in February 2014, until April 2015.
We were glad to hear Verizon was restoring Gerber’s original bundle price with such speed, but we also wanted to understand how her number was given away in the first place.
Tom Maguire, a Verizon senior vice president, talked us through what happened.
“Verizon fat-fingered a port request, taking the number from us,” Maguire said, explaining a Verizon Wireless employee simply transposed the numbers on transfer request.
He said Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules about number “porting” — switching a number from one carrier to another, whether it’s wireline, wireless or otherwise — require that simple ports be processed in 24 hours.
“The purpose of this is to make sure customers can take their numbers with them — and their old providers do not hold it hostage — very quickly,” he said. “All of this means that there is no time for an extensive verification process when port requests are placed and acknowledged. As long as some basic data points align, we — anyone, really — release the number.”
While in this case the port request came from Verizon Wireless, it could have come from any carrier, he said.
When a customer requests a new carrier move a customer number from an existing service provider, it issues what’s called a “local service request” to the existing provider. On the day the new servicer takes the number, it notifies a third-party service — Maguire likens the third party to a traffic cop — of the change.
The service that’s losing the number then disconnects it on the same day, and it no longer has the authority to take it back, Maguire said.
That’s why Verizon couldn’t get Gerber’s number back immediately.
In this case, Maguire said, human error caused the problem. When Verizon Wireless realized it was a mistake, it notified the third-party “traffic cop,” but Wireless never notified Verizon, so Verizon couldn’t act to put the number back.
Maguire said when Gerber called about her number, the Verizon system showed her to look like any other customer who moved their telephone number to another provider.
“Unfortunately when it moved, she ‘broke’ her bundle, and our people did not do a great job of fixing this,” Maguire said.
Maguire said the company has learned a lesson from the mistakes on Gerber’s account.
“We will talk to Wireless to ensure we have a process in place to address issues like this in the future,” he said. “Realizing that humans make mistakes, I think a very speedy recovery is important and you have to recognize a situation to make it right.”
He strongly urges consumers to establish a four-digit PIN “to protect them from the evil fat finger.”
Thanks to Verizon for fixing the error and restoring Gerber’s bundle price.
UPDATE ON BENEFITS
Last month, Bamboozled brought you the story of Vietnam veteran Tom Emmerich.
Emmerich lost his leg in Vietnam in 1970, and for more than 40 years, he’s been receiving an annual clothing allowance of between $700 and $800 to help pay for the clothing that his prosthesis wears out.
He needs to reapply for the benefit every year, and when it came time for his 2012 benefit, the VA asked that he prove that his injury was combat-related — something that all his paperwork clearly showed.
After fighting the bureaucracy for eight months, he asked for Bamboozled to help.
We contacted the VA on April 8, and exactly a week later, Emmerich e-mailed to say he received a benefit check of $741, dated April 12.
“The ‘power of the press’ worked. The reaction was swift. No apology letter, but that doesn’t matter,” Emmerich said. “I hope this will bring attention to higher authorities so other veterans don’t have to go through the same frustrations.”
Thanks to the VA for getting it done.