As part of moving down to the Tampa area and setting up a new business, we wanted some new phones. We wanted a phone that was also a PDA, ran Windows Mobile 5 (as I’m a developer on Windows and I want to play in that new environment using .net) and most importantly, we could be used as a network access tool for our notebooks.
The reason that is important is that a large part of what we’re doing down in Tampa is on site and remote support for IT users and if one of the problems we’re fixing (or creating!) is preventing access to the Internet, we need to be able to get there from our notebooks.
We really liked the idea of the EVDO (no link as they don’t have a simple explanatory page on their website, only links to bundles of services) network that Verizon has for their phones. It’s very fast, which is obviously very good. So we went to a local Verizon store to purchase a couple XV6700 phones, and sign up with the EVDO unlimited data access plan.
Things started to go from good to bad pretty quickly. We were greeted at the door by a person who’s job was apparently to use the kiosk to queue us for access to a salesrep. We’ll call the greeter Mr. Stoner. Mr. Stoner asked us how he could help us. We thought he was a sales rep, so we told him we were Sprint customers and wanted to know if they had a plan similar to what we had with Sprint. He promptly turned to the kiosk, and started punching buttons. He punched in that we were existing Verizon customers, got to the phone number field, realized that he didn’t have it, punched the cancel button, repeated hitting the Verizon customer button, skipped the phone number field, and told us to just wait and someone would be with us shortly. However, Mr. Stoner signed us up for the customer service section of the store, not the sales section! After we were called by customer service and told them that we didn’t know why we were there as we were not customers, they queued us up for the sales department.
We finally got called by a salesrep. We carefully explained what we wanted (the specific phones, plans and services) and he began waiving a brochure in our face. As we began discussing the plans, he pointed out that with each plan, we got two free phones. Twice we had to explain to him that we didn’t want the free phones, we wanted the XV6700 phone. Later on he told us that with the plans we were getting, we would get $100 off each phone, and then even later again mentioned the free phones again. Apparently this rep was sharing with Mr. Stoner.
Finally, while questining the salesrep, we discovered that Verizon disables their phones ability to be used as a "modem" through Bluetooth or even a USB cable. However, they’d be more than happy to sell us a separate PC Card and data plan in addition to the ones with our phones.
This was the last straw. We left, went to a Cingular booth, and purchased their 8125 phone, which while it doesn’t have access to a super fast data network, it can be used as a "modem" by a notebook or PC using Bluetooth.
The experience at the booth could not have been different. When we walked up the sales guy (we’ll call him Mr. Professional) was busy with another customer. We walked around and when we saw the phone in the display case, we mentioned something about it to each other. Mr. Professional overheard us, took a second away from his current customer (while they were playing with a phone) and took out a boxed phone and gave it to us to play with while he was finishing up with his other customer.
When he was done with that customer, he was attentive, well informed, friendly and funny. Within 10 minutes we had the whole transaction taken care of, and he suggested that we come back in an hour so he could finish setting up the phones properly. We went to run a few errands, came back, got our phones as promised and left as happy customers.
So, Verizon, while you have a better data access network, your locking down of the phone’s abilities in order to try to drive additional revenue and hiring stoned employees, has backfired, costing you thousands in long term revenue and driving us into the arms of a competitor, proving that "you sir, are dumber than me!" (chorus: "Yes you are!").
PS: That dumber than me refernce is for those Dot Net Rocks listeners out there.