Monday, March 03, 2008

Vonage Out, In with POTS

Enough is enough.

After having had my fill of their mediocre-to-non-functional telephone service, I closed my Vonage account this morning. And I'll tell you that it was no easy task. First of all, I could find no contact information on their official web site. So I filed a complaint with the New Jersey Better Business Bureau. After about 3 weeks, Vonage e-mailed me a copy of the message they sent to the BBB in response to my complaint, in which their representative said “As stated in the Terms of Service, for the purpose of security, customers are required to contact us if they wish to discontinue the Service. “. Yeah, right.

I called the number mentioned in their letter (1-866-243-4357), and was connected to a Mr. Lopez in a back-office in the Philippines. (Why any American firm has to farm out so-called customer service to some poor schlubs halfway around the world, who are probably getting paid far less than what typical American phone slaves used to earn, is beyond me, but hey, that's progress, right?) Even though I made it clear that I wanted to terminate my Vonage account immediately if not sooner, Mr. Lopez kept on trying – again , again and again - to sell me more Vonage gimmicks and service plans, even offering to charge me only half my monthly fee for I guess 6 months or so if I stayed with them. For several minutes Mr. Lopez and I had a pointless back-and-forth exchange in which I would reiterate my request to terminate my account and Mr. Lopez would immediately ignore my request with an "OK, but..." and then toss out another Vonage come-on. When I told him I didn't want to hear any more scripted sales pitches, he replied that he was making them not from scripts but “from the heart”. Oh, please!

After about 5 more minutes of that, I told him in no uncertain terms that I was no longer interested Vonage in any way, shape manner or form, and asked him one last time to terminate my account. Then I hung up.

A few minutes later my Vonage line stopped functioning, which indicated to me that Mr. Lopez had finally honored my initial request. The fact that I was now disconnected was confirmed when I made a follow-up call to Vonage at the same toll-free number. This time, I got a “Rafael” who said he was located in Vonage's corporate headquarters in Holmdel, NJ. I asked Rafael what I should do with the interface box Vonage supplied me with now that I was no longer a customer. He told me that it was not necessary for me to ship it back, and that I would not be charged for it.

I have never had an experience like this with Verizon, Time-Warner or AT&T. Never before have I been treated in such a hucksterish, unprofessional manner. It'll be interesting to see if I continue to get charged by Vonage for the service that I am now not receiving. Oh yes, I'm told that the New Jersey Attorney General's office has one person in it whose job it is to handle complaints about Vonage.

So much for voice over IP (VOIP). It's back to standard phone service I go.


Anonymous said...

Good luck paying more for less!

While there is no excuse for the customer service nightmare you went through, your problems, as are the vast majority of those using any VOIP service, were probably the result of lousy internet service, not your VOIP supplier.

C.S. Lewiston said...

Crappy Internet service has always been an issue. Apparently, Europeans get much better service than their American counterparts. That's probably because in Europe, politicians aren't all bought-off by the industries which they are supposed to be regulating. But I digress.

On top of crappy Internet service, we have a company run by a new generation of "entrepreneurs" whose vision of their client base is of so many sheep to be sheared, or butchered. The current de-regulatory business climate favors this dysfunctional approach (see above).

Anonymous said...

It's not just Vonage, CS. I have had similar encounters with credit card companies, magazine subscriptions, and almost anything else that levies a regular charge to keep sending something to you. (My latest go around was with Orbitz, though I did finally get satisfaction when I went to their parent company.)

It seems to me that there should be some kind of regulatory oversight that says there must be clear instructions on a web site, AT LEAST AS VISIBLE AS HOW TO SUBSCRIBE, for how to cancel the service. And such cancellations should be honored quickly and efficiently.

I'd put this in a basket of other regulations that include a provision banning the collecting and manipulating of user information for any purpose whatsoever.

Customers are no longer seen as people who should be served. In fact, customers are now a resource to be exploited. The business model that has been inverted.

C.S. Lewiston said...

Your final point is so dead-on. I wonder when business schools started teaching this kind of anti-social behavior to their students?

Who do we have to thank for the deregulation which made this deplorable situation possible? Newt Gingrich? George Dubya Bush? Some conserva-scum Democrats?