my VoicePulse dilemma…

So over the weekend I discovered that our home phone had stopped working. I had actually been suspecting it for a while because the answering machine hadn’t been filling up with messages like it normally does, but honestly we rarely use the thing so it wasn’t that big of a deal. It finally became an issue because we had given the home number to the mattress store so that they could call with the delivery times for the new bed that we bought this weekend, but I had no idea it would’ve ever gotten this frustrating.

We currently have a VOIP line through a company called VoicePulse. They’re a lesser known provider than the big VOIP giant Vonage that you see advertised pretty much everywhere, but overall they’ve been great to work with and actually, the reason I went with them instead of Vonage was simply because 5 years ago when I wanted to leave Verizon, VoicePulse was able to port my number over when Vonage insisted that it wasn’t possible. So up until pretty much today, I’ve always been an extremely satisfied customer and tend to name drop them quite a bit when I hear friends or family considering whatever overpriced VOIP option that their cable company is pressuring them to add.

That said, fast forward to today. Basically, the adapter that plugs into my router (and then the phone into it) is pretty much dead – won’t respond to the router, lights don’t acknowledge when I pick up a handset, nothing. I did some testing of my own just to make sure that it wasn’t a problem with my router or maybe a bad cable, and then opened up a ticket with VoicePulse, who prompted me to do some more tests by sending some codes to the adapter via the phone. Nothing worked, and so the response after reviewing my feedback for their tests was that I needed to call into customer support for more details.

I called in and they verified that the next step was to replace the device, which I kind of expected because it’s literally the same device that I received when I started their service back in 2005. I mean, I’ve had multiple routers go bad in that time, so it wasn’t a big surprise that the adapter finally bit it, too, and I figured this was probably a good time for them to just swap it out for a more current model anyways. We were all set to do the exchange – they’d send out the new unit, along with a return envelope for the old adapter – and then the kicker … oh yeah, there would be a $39.95 ACTIVATION FEE required to setup the new box!

What the hell kind of company tries to charge you a fee when something goes wrong with their service?!

I argued back and forth with the guy about how it was ridiculous and how their “1 year warranty” shouldn’t matter because I didn’t own the device in the first place, they did, but he just kept repeating the same scripted crap over and over again before I finally threw in the towel and hung up. I even called back later on that afternoon after reviewing their Terms of Service and taking note of the clause about requiring a Replacement Deposit that would be refunded once they received the old device in return, but another rep insisted that this fee was different and would not be refunded, discounted, or waived, even in the event that a long-time customer like myself was really pissed and threatening to switch to another carrier over their asinine policy.

So here I am, now a few hours later trying to decide what to do about the whole stupid situation. On one hand, I’ve rarely had any issues for the entire life of my service with VoicePulse, so part of me wants to just pay the forty bucks, get a new adapter, and put it all behind me … but then again, the other part of me out of principal knows that that’s just completely and utterly bullshit. Again, what company tries to stick their customers with a service charge when it’s their equipment that’s broken in the first place? I borrow a cable box from my cable provider just the same and if it starts having problems, they don’t send me a bill to replace their own hardware! Sure, if I add some new services and need a new device, I can see how that might warrant an “activation fee,” but one simply triggered by a device being issued to replace something that is broken? I really feel like I’m being taken advantage of here and their customer support group, albeit small and knowledgable, made absolutely no effort to address my concerns about being bilked for a support issue – at least a larger corporation would’ve transferred me to a retention department who would’ve had someone with the brains to realize that a 5-year account that always pays on time isn’t worth losing over a policy that’s stupid to begin with. Is the life of my account really worth losing over $40???

Right after I hung up, I went over to Vonage’s website and couldn’t help but notice that they don’t charge an activation fee. I’m half-tempted to send their sales team the scenario and ask if they would charge their customers for technical support, just to see what they say! As much as I don’t want to leave this company who’s otherwise been good to me for the last five years, I can’t in good conscience pay them forty bucks to replace a piece of hardware that I don’t even own in the first place. And besides, what if it happens again – are they going to just keep hitting me up for “activation fees” every time they have a problem? The third option would be to stay with VoicePulse, but buy my own adapter, which would be about $60, but that’s not really guaranteed to work with their service, either.

I really wish I could get this story to someone higher up in the company who gave a shit. From here I can’t tell if this is just a stupid, overlooked loophole in a policy that their customer service department doesn’t care enough to address, or a completely legitimate, albeit ridiculous policy that somebody deliberately put down on paper to make a few extra bucks. Maybe most people just pay it because it’s easier than switching carriers.

Or maybe it’s just really bad customer service that needs to be corrected, but the powers that be aren’t even aware that it’s happening.

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