Are You Verizon Me?

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Today, it would be too easy to write about the petition that got more than 100,000 online signatures in 24 hours. I could go on forever about how social media is changing the balance of power between corporations and consumers.

Instead, I’d like to ask this simple question: what in the hell did you think would happen, Verizon?

As a small business, my customers can fairly easily choose from a variety of suppliers. We have to do great work and we sure can’t piss our clients off. I can’t even consider doing something like adding a $2 “convenience fee” to my invoices. I’d like to think I wouldn’t even consider it even if I could get away with it. However, large companies — who often have their consumers tied up in contracts — do things like this all the time. Social media is now giving “us masses” a tool to fight back.

But seriously. Why? What were you thinking? And how many Verizon people OK’d such absurdity?

Verizon was profitable last year. It’s not like this was critical in order to stay afloat. Credit card fees are hard on businesses of all sizes, but it’s a cost of doing business that has to be baked in to your fees. I just can’t wrap my mind around the meeting(s) at Verizon that spawned this brain dead policy and unleashed it on their customers (and yes, less than 24 hours later, Verizon wised up).

Maybe the meeting went something like this:

Executive #1: Here’s an idea. Let’s charge people to pay us. That could be worth millions in pure profit each month.

Executive #2: I like it. What do you think our customers will say?

Executive #1: It will be fine. The PR department (Note: I’ll pick on my own for a minute here) recommended we call it a “convenience fee.” Everyone understands you have to pay for convenience. People will be happy to pay for the convenience of paying their bills.

Executive #2: Brilliant!

Kidding aside, dealing with paper checks is expensive. You have to pay people to handle them, work with overdraft issues, etc. Yet, a company run by highly compensated telecom veterans was ready to drive people back into the arms of paper checks, envelops and stamps. 1992 called: it wants it’s preferred payment method back.

Before our collective ability to raise holy hell online, this may have (a) actually stuck and (b) been picked up by the other three major carriers. Personally, I hope the true impact of social media takes us beyond our ability to push back and actually encourages business leaders to think through such ridiculous ideas and kill them in the conference rooms in which they are spawned. I’m a Verizon customer. I like the service a lot. But this is so dumb it’s offensive.

12/30/11: Common Sense-1, Verizon-0.




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