Good Times in Small Business

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We hear a lot about how small businesses have to navigate all sorts of cumbersome government regulations to stay afloat. And I can attest to numerous cases where we have to deal with regulations that I fully support but could be much more efficiently managed with zero impact on the social good they’re meant to secure. I’m lookin’ at you New York State! But a far bigger nuisance is dealing with major corporations that appear to decided that one of their major revenue sources should be a level of institutional stupidity that maintains a steady amount of revenue simply because no ordinary person can navigate what appears to be an intentional level of incompetence. To be specific what I’m talking about: a level of bureaucratic inefficiency combined with incompetent customer service that forces people to pay for services they didn’t purchase because the cost of paying ends up being a smaller hassle than navigating the Kafkaesque labyrinth of the company’s phone tree. This line item on the corporate P&L I call the ‘Delta of Derp’. And here’s an example today from one of my favorite companies: Verizon.

Today one of our employees on the business side of TPM got a bill from Verizon for $3,019.95. Now, TPM’s phone bill is bigger than your home phone bill because we two offices and about two dozen employees. But it’s not three thousand dollars a month. But there’s a bigger problem. We’re not a Verizon customer.

Right, we use a different company entirely.

So what’s going on? Well, good question because this is actually the second time in the last few weeks that Verizon has come to us with a bill even though we’re not a Verizon customer. But I don’t want to complicate things.

So after a little internal due diligence, someone on staff contacted Verizon basically to ask WTF was going on. Only they couldn’t tell us because for security reasons we need to confirm our identity with a number on a recent phone bill? But we can’t do that because … right we’re not a Verizon customer.

But can’t they infer that we’re us because we’re getting billing emails to a TPM email address? No comment.

Can Verizon at least tell us whether this service was a service for a company called TPM Media LLC, incorporated in New York State? No, security reasons.

After another hour or so of a TPM staffer being on hold, Verizon comes up with seeming proof. The service was contracted by a person named “Gregory E.” (I’ve left out the last name because Gregory E. may actually exist and he does deserve some privacy.) Only problem: no one named “Gregory E.” has ever worked for TPM.

This apparently happened in early 2012. And like most utilities and service providers they totally let you not pay for a service for over two years without cutting it off.

During the time I’ve been writing, Verizon came up with a new explanation which may or may not involve “Gregory E.”: it must be a government mandated emergency phone line which we never knew about.

My own hunch is that this all goes back to when we actually did have Verizon service, which we terminated back in 2012 in favor of a digital VOIP phone service. Presumably they somehow forgot that this happened and have now come back after two years as thought the whole thing never happened. For the moment though they’re sticking with the “mandated emergency phone line story.”

As I write, we’re still navigating Verizon’s Delta of Derp and possibly entering the Tropic of Crazy.

PostScript: As of 3:10 PM, the latest is that Verizon says two of our old lines “regenerated” after we terminated service with them. So it seems like some version of the plot line in the third Star Trek film.

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