Fora slow news day: Verizon Continues to Give Me the Shaft

Update: Verizon just called to tell me that, miraculously, they’ve finally worked out that, yes, the phone arrived, and yes, they were able to finally authorize my credit. Of course, I only got apologies for the delay and assurances that, yes, I was correct, there really was no excuse for it taking this long. *Whew*

I just sent the following Email to our local NBC affiliate. Feel free to share with whoever you like.

Perhaps for a slow news day, though I’m at my wit’s end with this. Verizon has not resolved this problem after nearly three months. To save time, here’s what I originally wrote on the matter, admittedly in some heated language, on my personal blog:

[Blog post deleted, but you can read it by visiting this page.]

That was posted on 29th October.

After that, I received a query for more information from Verizon’s Facebook page, and they assured me that they would look into the matter. They also sent yet a third round of shipping labels. Between the three mailings that were supposedly ordered, I got one plastic bag with instructions to use the label provided with my replacement phone (which had already been used, of course), and, finally, a shipping label I could use. As I was out of town for part of the beginning of November, the phone was shipped out November 10th, and received, according to USPS tracking, on November 14th. To date, Verizon has not credited me yet, they still claim that the matter is “under internal investigation”, and, while they claim to have put a hold on any collections proceedings and marked the amount as not due, I’ve received calls and texts from the financial services department at Verizon Wireless asking for payment, in order to “avoid an interruption of service”.

Here is a full transcript of messages between me and Verizon wireless on Facebook:

As requested, I’m sending a private message. The details of this are posted already, so I need not belabor them. My Verizon mobile number, so you can look at whatever you need to, is (814) 431-0962.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the message, Buddy. Yes, I can see the previous posts and I am aware of the issue regarding your iPhone. I’m very eager to review your account. However, it’s protected by a billing system password (not the same one used at My Verizon Online). Please share so I can review further. – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Right. Hi Dion, Andrea, Jennifer, Alan, and all the ships at sea. It’s [redacted]
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for greeting all of us, Buddy. It’ll just me me this time around. I’m having a look at the equipment history on your account to find the replacement device that you’ve advised was issued through Apple’s inventory.

I’ve found that there was a replacement device activated on your line in November 2013. What I don’t show is the origin of the device (as being a warranty model). Does that date jibe with your records or was it at some other time? Do you happen to have any documentation from Apple left over from the exchange? – Dion
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That’s the one, yes. It was definitely under warranty (after all, the 5S was only released in September of last year), and it was replaced under Apple’s expedited replacement. They only charged $29 for the cross shipment. This was handled over the phone with Apple’s support department, and I didn’t have AppleCare, so definitely standard warranty replacement. I don’t think I have anything from Apple on this, but if I do, it’s on another computer.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
I could come up with a payment confirmation from Paypal, but I’m not confident I can come up with any more than that.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Pay dirt!
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for all of these details, Buddy. Just in case, what Apple Store did you visit in order to have your original device replaced? – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
None. There isn’t one here. I called Apple.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan


Dear Clyde Brannan, Repair ID:

We have shipped the replacement IPHONE 5S you requested. Please allow two business days for delivery.

Courier: FedEx
Tracking number (active within 24 hours): 582783491141

Shipping address:
1114 W 30TH ST

To protect your shipment, Apple’s courier won’t deliver your package without obtaining your signature. If you’re not present for the delivery, the courier will return the next business day.

Identification Numbers of the Original Product
Serial Number: F17LG13LFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989051615436
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905161543

Identification Numbers of the Replacement Product
Serial Number: F17LF2NUFNJM
IMEI (GSM network): 357989054813012
MEID (CDMA network): 35798905481301

Please retain this email as a record that your product’s identification numbers have changed as a result of this service request.

The replacement product will come with instructions for returning the original to Apple. To avoid being charged a non-return fee, you must return the original so that Apple receives it by 2013-11-29.

Visit Repair Status to view the current details of your service request.

The AppleCare Team

Copyright © 2013 Apple Inc. All rights reserved.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
That was November 15, 2013.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Sorry. I was on a call (work, tech support, just finished). The Email from Apple should have everything you need in it?
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Thank you for this information, Buddy. I attempted to reach out to you to provide you these details, but you weren’t available to take my call. I will be submitting a request for escalation regarding the serial number for this device, in order to have it updated in our database. Once I receive confirmation, I will reach out to you to make sure this is all taken care of. Thank you once again. We look forward to getting this resolved for you. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Great, thank you. I’m sorry I couldn’t take your call, I was on another call myself.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
No worries, Buddy. I most definitely understand! The last email excerpt definitely includes all the details I will need for this. Once I hear back/have a resolution I will reach back out to you. Should hopefully be no more than Five business days. Thank you once again, Buddy. May you have a great evening. – Nicandro
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
OK, thanks. Meantime, if I ever get shipping materials, it’s going back post haste. With tracking.
Oct 29

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, that’s a great idea. We will be speaking with you soon. Have a great night. – Katie
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Thanks Katie. And you’re #6. Have a good evening.
Oct 29

Buddy Brannan
Do you know, this is now officially beyond stupid. Apparently yesterday we received an envelope from Verizon, one presumes that this is what passes for “return shipping materials”. It included a plastic bag to put the phone in, and instructions to use the box that my new phone came in, along with the shipping label included with my new phone. This, of course, is impossible, since that shipping label went back to you when I shipped this phone back the first time and it was returned to me. With no return label. Which the replacement “shipping materials” should have included if anyone had any sense. If I was angry at Verizon Wireless’s corporate incompetence before, rest assured I’m far beyond that now.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Lets clear the air, Buddy! Just to confirm, we did not include a shipping label in the return packaging? I am truly concerned as one should have been sent to you. If not, we can request for another to be shipped out. – Lena
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
I’m not sure which batch of return shipping materials this is, as yours would be the third ordfer for them, and this was the first that was received. In the envelope was a letter, as outlined, a plastic bag, and nothing else.
As this has been ongoing for over a month, from my first return of the iPhone 5S to today, you can well understand why I am, to put it mildly, disgusted. And angry. And have zero confidence in a smooth resolution.
I believe I asked this on the phone before, but I can’t just take this phone and turn it in at a Verizon store?
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, we want to restore your confidence in us and resolve this equipment matter right away. You will need to ship that device back to us in the shipping materials that you were provided with. Please retain the tracking number for your records. Once the device is recieved, we will submit an escalated request to ensure that your Edge trade in is accepted. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Seriously. You gotta be kididng me. Have you in fact read this whole exchange? Have you reviewed what’s transpired to this point? You must not have if you sent an inane reply like this. Seriously. Read through the history. This response did absolutely nothing to restore any confidence.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I apologize for my confusion. After reviewing your account, I see that was a follow up placed by a previous representative to ensure that your issue is resolved. However, the notes are very vague. I’d like to take ownership of this matter and further assist you from here. Can I contact you by phone? Do you have a moment to speak with me this afternoon? – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Yes, but before you do, you’d better read this, so that we’re not covering already covered ground:

[Lasina then called, we discussed the issue, she summarizes.]

Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thanks for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon. As we discussed, I’ve submitted a request to send you the shipping materials again. It will take 7-10 business days to reach you via U.S. Postal mail. Make sure that you retain the tracking number once you ship the device back to us. I will contact you on November 11, 2014 to follow up with you and submit that request to dissolve that equipment charge on your account.

Again, I truly apologize for these inconveniences. We take full ownership/responsibility of this matter and look forward to getting this resolved for you soon. – Lasina
Oct 31

Buddy Brannan
Thank you. I’ll be happy once this is all behind us.
Oct 31

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, no worries! I got you covered. I’ve already submitted an escalated request to accept the device once it is recieved. I will be submitting another request once I’ve verified that it’s been accepted in our warehouse. Additionally, your account has been noted to ensure that everyone on our end knows exactly what’s going on.

Please feel free to reach out to us anytime between if you have additional concerns. – Lasina
Oct 31

[No contact from Lasina on the previously agreed November 11]

Buddy Brannan
For Losana: Looks like Verizon received my phone a few days ago. I got the label before I left for a long weekend on the 6th, the phone went out on the 10th, y’all received it Friday the 14th according to the postal service.
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Umm. Make that last for Lasina. Oh dear. I really butchered that, sorry.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Thanks for the reply and the update Buddy! Lasina is not in the office yet. Can I assume that all of your wireless concerns has been addressed now that your phone has been received? If you have any additional questions then please share as we are here to help. – Arnett
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
Hi…No, you really can’t. It was received last time, too. Please pass on to her, she’ll understand what to do with it. Once I receive my credit properly for the returned phone, then we’ll be resolved, but not before.
Nov 19

Verizon Wireless
Understood. The issue is currently under review. We appreciate your patience. – Yosef
Nov 19

Buddy Brannan
For Lasina:
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Ahem. Yes. For Lasina: we have a problem. Verizon has, according to the postal service, received the iPhone 5S I shipped back on 14th November. I not only have no acknowledgement of this from Verizon, and not only does my account show a past due amount, but I just got a call from Verizon financial services requesting payment. As I have fulfilled my end of the Edge contract not once but twice, faithfully, and as requested, and Verizon has dropped the ball in processing this *several* times,, beginning with not recognizing a warranty phone replacement, I clearly do not owe the balance of the contract at around $374. Not owing this amount, I also do not intend on paying it. Moreover, any marks on my credit report will be disputed and should be removed, if indeed they such has been filed. I have fulfilled my end of these transactions in good faith and have received hassle and bother in return. While all of the actual people I’ve spoken to have been nothing if not unfailingly polite and helpful, the process has been anything but.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you so much for the details. I can understand your concern. We would love to check into this information for you ASAP. Do you by chance have the tracking number for the package that you sent back? If so, can you please provide that number to us. Please keep us posted. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan

USPS says:
removed class name to show expected date on closed state
Expected Delivery Day: Thursday, November 13, 2014 tooltip widget/added Sept27’14Release/JR

Product & Tracking Information
Postal Product:
First-Class Mail®
Return Service

November 14, 2014 , 5:28 am


New Status Summary Panel

Your item was delivered at 5:28 am on November 14, 2014 in FORT WORTH, TX 76190.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
Thank you so much for those details. I did place in a ticket for our warehouse to review this information so we can get these chargers cleared for you. Your ticket number is: 183630. As soon as I hear something back I will make sure to inform you. I have reached out to our financial services department for you as well to place a hold on the account due to the investigation. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
No doubt you’ve seen the previous action on this issue. Thanks.
Nov 25

Verizon Wireless
You’re welcome! We will normally hear something back with in 48 to 72 busines hours. But, with the holiday in the mix it may be a little later. Looking forward to getting this taken care of for you. – Kevin
Nov 25

Buddy Brannan
Again for Lasina: Verizon has had the iPhone 5S sent in as part of my Edge upgrade, for the second time, since November 14th. As it hasn’t come back to me a second time, I assume this means it’s in process; however, I have received no confirmation of this, and I have also not received an appropriate credit for it on my bill. Instead, I have received a request for payment of a past due amount, followed by a threat (today) of service interruption if the past due amount is not paid. I reiterate: I am not paying the amount you claim I owe on this phone upgrade, as I have fulfilled my end of the contract. Twice. You have not. This ball has been dropped more times than I care to count. This issue has gone unresolved for what is now going over two months. I get apologies. I get assurances. I get no resolution, and I get lots of hassle and inconvenience. I have been very patient. I’m through being patient. Were I as slow to resolve a problem you had with me, I can assure you that Verizon would not be nearly this patient with me, and it would demand immediate resolution. When the shoe’s on the other foot, however, I’m expected to patiently wait for your incompetent systems to work their “magic”. This needs to be resolved. Immediately.
Dec 6

[Lindsey called me, assured me that a block was again put on the amount that isn’t really past due, and I shouldn’t receive any further communications from financial services. Except I did, about five minutes later, if not less.]

Buddy Brannan
You will fix this problem immediately. Now. If you an’t, you will escalate it to someone who can. I just got a call from financial services, not five minutes after you assured me I wouldn’t get any such calls. Now, please.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, I do apologize about the phone call form Financial Services. The system was not updated for the hold on the account before that call went out. We did make sure that the hold is in place going forward. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused. – Kevin
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
I’ve had apologies. I’ve had assurances. I’ve had excuses. I’m done with it. The only thing I want to hear from you is that this problem has been resolved, and that my account is in good standing. That’s it. Make it so. I’m done with everything else.
Dec 6

Verizon Wireless
Buddy, thank you for speaking with me. Have a wonderful rest of your day. – Lindsey
Dec 6

Buddy Brannan
On this coming Sunday, verizon will have my second-time returned phone for one month. A week after that will mark three months of this particular nightmare’s duration. This has gone far beyond ridiculous. Let me draw you a picture. For this to be properly resolved, do I need to file a complaint with the PUC? Do I need to take it to the media? I note here that, even though it is completely irrelevant, I am fairly certain the media would just love a story of “blind mobile phone customer being jerked around by the big mobile phone company”, and, irrelevant as that detail is, the fact of my disability would likely get a lot more attention than it deserves. I can see absolutely no resaon that this problem has gone on as long as it has. This needs to be addressed today. Further payment will be held until this problem is resolved. I’m sure you can understand my position on this.
Dec 12 at 8:27am

Verizon Wireless
Hello again, Buddy. I know that you’ve really been pushed well beyond your limits on this matter. I wish I had more information to share with you, but we are still trying to resolve this matter internally. The investigation remains open at this time. – Dion
Dec 12 at 11:54am

Buddy Brannan
Please do not bother to explain the following text, just received:
To avoid interruption of your Verizon Wireless service, please click to make a payment or dial #PMT from your handset.VZW FreeMsg.
Instead, escalate this issue right now.
20 minutes ago



What is wrong with us?!

I seem to be asking myself this question an awful lot. Really, what’s wrong with us?!

I’m put in mind of this question, again, after hearing about this story on the news this morning. Well, the little snippet on the morning top of the hour news only mentioned the case, but it was enough. Why can’t we just do the right thing, even if not doing the right thing is legal? In fact, why must there be laws forcing people to do the right thing?

Sure. I understand that what “the right thing is” isn’t always the same from one person to another. Right for whom? Right for the investors? Right for the bottom line? Right for the workers or families of workers? I guess it all depends on your values.

I guess I don’t understand why our corporations, and maybe our society in general, has the skewed values it has. Is it a byproduct of our throw away society? Things are so disposable. It’s kind of like A Brave New World. Actually, it’s really disturbing how much of that novel we’re actually seeing in our society. Think about it. Throw stuff away rather than fixing broken things. Just get a new one. (Sure, sometimes you just can’t, what with, for instance, electronics, being so miniaturized that they can’t be fixed.) Is that also how we handle people? Just throw them away, we can get new ones. They’re just parts, they’re replaceable, one’s about as good as another. Do we value each other so little? Do we value saving a penny, never mind a buck, so much that we can’t modify duties for a pregnant UPS driver? I see that UPS has announced that it’s going to implement a policy that mandates accommodating pregnant employees such as should have been done in this case, yet they maintain that their stance was still legally correct. What about morally correct? Are we so wedded to being right that we can’t unconditionally admit when we were wrong and then make things right?

I don’t suppose that this UPS driver got, or ever would get, an apology. Maybe someone sees this change in policy as an apology of sorts, but there’s really nothing worse than a conditional apology, or an apology with a defense. “I’m sorry, but I was still right” strikes me as something like that. It reminds me of this time when I had an argument with my mother. I was still living at home, though I was by then over 18. I came home late…well, I came home later than expected, at any rate. I walked in the door and I got both barrels. I was selfish. I didn’t care about anyone but myself. If I really had any consideration for anybody else’s feelings, I would have called. (It wasn’t even 10 at night, and it was a weekend!) I was pretty upset. I went back to my room. Some time later, mom came into my room, brought me a sandwich, and said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you pissed me off.” Nope…that didn’t help. I didn’t consider that an apology at all. Oh sure, it used the right words, or it started to anyway, but it fell short. I think you can see how.

It seems to me that we’d live in a much nicer world if we lived by these rules:

  • If you can do something for someone else, do so cheerfully. Everything we do comes back to us, good or bad.
  • If you wrong someone, apologize sincerely, completely, with feeling, and without reservation.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it, and do what you can to make it right.
  • Say thank you, and by god, mean it.

Is that really a lot to expect?

On Identity, Being Trapped, And Freedom

Yesterday on Twitter and Facebook, I made this observation:

Do you know, I haven’t felt this free in ages! I really do have a new beginning.

I elaborated this morning:

The thing is, I didn’t know I was trapped until I wasn’t, if that makes any sense. Now I just see all kinds of possibility.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this.

First, I want to thank all of my friends, and all of the wonderful people who have been so supportive during this change in my life. Truly, I am blessed, and I won’t ever forget that.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. I really out of nowhere had this epiphany last night. It’s not anything I’d ever thought of in that way before, but it all emerged over the next bunch of hours, starting with the feeling I mentioned of freedom and lightness. It was amazing, and it was something I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. I could be anything, I could do anything, I had no chains or walls to bind me.

And that was odd, because I never thought I had any chains or walls before.

I never knew I had them until I didn’t have them anymore.

That realization hit me like the very cliche ton of bricks. How could I not have seen the walls that imprisoned me, especially when I built them all by myself?

I’ve always thought of myself as a technology guy. It was what I did. I’d always done it. I’d always do it. Even during the times that I was doing things like manning the phone and opening the back door for the nurses who went to pollute their lungs at the VA (irony, no?), I still thought of myself as someone who worked in technology, and it really is what I’ve done most of my adult life. But even when I didn’t, it’s how I thought of myself.

Some people say it’s a guy thing, that guys have their identities all tied up in their work. Who are you?, someone might ask, and who I was invariably had something to do with what I did. I don’t know, and don’t care to argue, whether this is an especially male outlook. But it was mine, for good or ill.

And then, gradually, I started to become restless with my identity. And one fine day, I thought to myself, “You know, you’ve spent your entire adult life, for all intents and purposes, doing stuff with technology. With computers. With machines in some way. And how do you feel about that?”

I was tired of it. I was drained. I was burned out on it. More and more, the work that I had basically devoted my life to became less satisfying. I began more quickly losing patience with the griping and the complaining and the bugs and the “We should have this” and the “It should do that”.

So what was I going to do about it?

I was going to do something else, that’s what. In the back of my mind was a notion developing that I’d really like to work with animals. I’d like to train dogs. I’d like to work closely with animals, and less closely with computers that were possessed by demons. So I started to make a plan. The plan started to come together.

Then, the plan got a kick in the ass.

Ready or not, with one thing and another, I left my tech support duties at Serotek. This was a relief in some ways, and really scary in a lot of others. But one thing it did was showed me a world of opportunity.

That evening, as I thought, “What are you going to do with yourself now?”, Melanie suggested that I call our vet to see if they needed any volunteer help. What a brilliant idea!

I’d thought about checking the shelters. But before I started my plan, I can guarantee you that it wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

Somehow, amidst all of the confusion, and relief, and dread, and “OMG what have you done?”, and “Smartest thing you’ve ever done”, and all the other things, I cast off my identity as “a tech guy”.

And saw that the only person who meant anything that was putting me in that box was me, myself. Oh sure. Some people thought of me that way, and maybe that reinforced the idea, but I’m the only one who can decide who or what I am. And I had put myself in that box. No one did it for me. All I had to do was to take myself out of the box I had slowly, even unwittingly, put myself into.

Who I am doesn’t have to be tied up in what I do. What I do is just a thing I do. It may be a thing I do passionately, or with gusto, or routinely, but what I do is not, after all, who I am. I can be anything I want, but always, always, I am myself. Not the tech support guy. Not the computer guy. Not the animal guy even. Those are things I do. Those things can change. Being just myself, without the labels or definitions, leaves the world open in front of me. Just being myself means I can redefine my role as much as I want to. Still me under there.

This isn’t coming out the way I see it in my head. Doesn’t matter much though. My point is, I can be, or do, anything I want. And so can you. You know how people talk about getting out of your own way? Yeah, doing that. Allowing yourself out of the walls you’ve built for yourself.

Anyway, I’ve got a long ways to go on this journey. I’ve always heard that people go to find themselves a lot earlier than this. Guess I’m getting a late start, but I’m at least getting a start, anyway.

The best is yet to come.

An Open Letter To Tim Cook

In response to this article, I dropped the below Email to what seems to be Tim Cook’s Email.

Howdy Mr. Cook,

As a fellow but different minority (I suppose several, though a blind person first), I stand with you.

Specifically, two paragraphs really stood out for me:

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.”

Sir, my hat, if I wore one, is off to you, and I agree with you completely. I, too, see my blindness as a gift, and in much the same way as you do. Would that those minorities who face discrimination, misunderstanding, bigotry, and societal limitations all felt the same; it surprises me still that so many perpetrate the same kinds of attitudes upon others that they themselves face daily.

I, like you, look forward to the day that your announcement would not be news. In fact, I’ve often wondered why it *is* news, or anyway, why some feel the need to “come out publicly” in the first place. After all, if it isn’t a big deal, why make it one? I think you have clarified this issue for me somewhat. I thank you for that, and for handling this issue with such grace and class.

You have had some mighty big shoes to fill, and you haven’t filled them. Instead, you have made your own way, certainly building on the foundations that Steve Jobs and others have laid, but putting your own stamp on Apple. There are things you’ve done that would have never been done before your tenure. But make no mistake, I think you’re heading in the right direction, you’re doing the right things, and Apple is well and truly in good hands.

Thank you, Mr. Cook, for all that you do, not only for what you’re doing with Apple and the technology that makes my life easier, but for what you do to further equality, acceptance, and justice. Yep. I’m a Tim Cook fan.

All the best,

Dear Verizon: Piss off…

It’s so nice to know that the edge Plan from Verizon Wireless is so customer friendly. Except not really. Maybe I’m just special.

To begin, in November, I noticed my iPhone 5S had a manufacturing defect, so I called apple to have it replaced. This Apple did, with no trouble or fuss, even having the phone active on my Verizon account without me having to do anything to make it work, apart from restoring from my iCloud backup.

Fast forward to iPhone 6 time. I was able to upgrade on the Edge plan, except I got a warning that my phone wasn’t the one that they’d sent me. I explained to the sales agent that this was true, and it was true because the phone had been replaced by Apple. That didn’t seem to be a problem with anyone, and the sales guy put my order through, and I received my iPhone 6 on release day, as expected.

When I received it, I very carefully packaged the iPhone 5S and sent it back to Verizon, as directed, with the provided label. I received the new iPhone 6 on a Friday, and the 5S went into Monday’s mail. I can’t really think how it could have been done in a more timely fashion.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I received An Email like the following Email on Sunday, 29th September. Twice:

Please return your previous device.
View Online

Shop Support My Verizon

Please return your device.

For wireless number ending in 0962


You were recently sent a new device as part of the Edge Up program. When performing an Edge Up, you must return your existing device in good working condition.

Since we haven’t received your existing device, a fee equal to the remaining balance due under your Verizon Edge Retail Installment Sale Agreement has been applied to your account.

If you return your existing device immediately, we will credit the amount of the fee to your account.

View Return Instructions

Please disregard this message if you’ve already returned your previous device. You will receive confirmation of your return within 2 days of receipt at Verizon Wireless.
Thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.

Previous Device Information:

Device ID Number:

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Of course, I ignored it as instructed.

A couple days later, the post office’s web site showed that Verizon received my phone, and I thought everything was taken care of. Until I got a package a week later. The package contained an iPhone 5S. It contained my iPhone 5S. It still had the glass screen protector, but not the SIM card anymore, and Voiceover was still on.

I called customer service to ask what the deal was. Valerie didn’t know. There didn’t seem to be any record. I was able to read the slip in the box though, and, as I’d feared, the problem was that the phone’s ID didn’t match the one they shipped me when I started my plan. I explained the situation again. Valerie said she’d research and get back with me on that Friday, that would be the 10th of October. This she did, and again said that the ID’s didn’t match.

After about an hour with her on the previous Wednesday, after which I thought things should be resolved, I was starting to get angry. I told Valerie that I did what I was supposed to have, that I wouldn’t have been able to have used this phone if it wasn’t registered to Verizon’s network, and the fact that they didn’t have a record of this phone that was used on their network for the past 10 months sounded like poor record keeping. It was, in short, their problem, not mine, and they needed to fix it. Valerie assured me that they’d work it out, and she ordered the materials to ship the phone back.


Then I received the same “We didn’t receive your phone” Email on the 11th. OK, ignored, I’ve done my part.

Two weeks later, the 24th, I still hadn’t received envelope or label from Verizon, so I called again. Jolene was sympathetic. Jolene ordered new shipping materials to be sent, and she’d follow up with me on Wednesday, today.

She did. I didn’t. That is, she ordered more stuff. I didn’t receive it.

But I did receive, just now, the Email that they didn’t receive my phone. Again. This time, with no notice that they’d remove the charge if they received my phone, but both Jolene and Valerie said that they’d be sure I had it removed once this was resolved. Given the third round of “We didn’t receive your phone” Emails, I’m very, very skeptical.

I responded to Verizon’s Email thus:

Per discussions with Verizon customer service, I have returned the iPhone 5S in my possession. It was returned to me as not being the same device, which it isn’t, because it was replaced through Apple. That this replacement device isn’t properly documented isn’t my problem, it’s yours. That you haven’t received my device is, also, not my problem, it’s yours. Again, per discussions with customer service, I was supposed to have received shipping materials to ship (a second time) this iPhone back to you. I have not yet received these shipping materials. Not after two requests and nearly 21 days. Be assured that I will not be paying the balance applied to my account for the iPhone 5S that I have already attempted to return. I have fulfilled my end of this process. I intend to do so a second time. Picking up your end is not my problem, it’s yours.

Jolene says she’ll call me again Friday to see if I’ve gotten the shipping materials again. Whether I have or whether I haven’t, I’m not paying them a dime of the $374 and change they say I owe them. I’ve held up my end. They need to hold up theirs.

Has the promise of the Internet been broken?

Yesterday morning over breakfast, I read this article. It was probably not the best thing to read pretty much first thing in the morning, but there it was, and it gnawed at me all day. And kept on, even today. It disturbed me. No, I wasn’t surprised by it, hardly anything people do surprises me much anymore, especially if it’s bizarre and doesn’t make any sense. It did, however, deeply, deeply sadden me. Here’s what I wrote in the comments immediately after reading.

This makes me unbelievably sad. Just a couple thoughts. I’ve been on the Internet for 22+ years, a thing that scares me a little if I think about it. From those beginnings, when the Internet really was all text, limited to mostly educational and government users (along with some tech companies and very savvy folks–commercial ISP’s were pretty rare), it was, mostly, a free exchange of ideas. It was “the great equalizer”, where all you were in that space was what you said and how you expressed yourself. It was exciting. It was amazing. I had great optimism for this new medium, not because I could be whoever I wanted to be, but because I could be myself. Disability wasn’t a stigma. Nobody had to care that I was blind, only that I was (umm…OK, stretching a point) intelligent. To see this thing with so much potential for bringing very different kinds of people together being turned into, well, a playground for small minds and intolerance makes me despair anew. I, for one, am sorry. I also always read bios, because I think people are pretty interesting. I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before, never read your tweets, know nothing more than this post from you. I, for one, am looking forward to changing that.

This leads me to a question. Has the promise of the Internet been broken?

Oh, sure. The Internet promised lots of things. It promised instant access to information and entertainment. Eventually, it promised easy and convenient shopping. It delivered on all that. (Of course, it also delivered lots of other things, like spam, but we’re not here to talk about that…or maybe we are, sort of.) The Internet has, indeed, delivered on all of that. I have access to more books than I could read in a lifetime, and better, at the same time as everyone else has them. I can do my own shopping and never have to hear some store employee who’d really rather be doing anything than help me say that “We ain’t got that”, even if it’s sitting right in front of his nose. I can write posts like this and have them read by total strangers, and I can be the total stranger who reads someone else’s opinions as well, and comment on them in real time. I can get news as it happens, unfiltered and immediate, which may not necessarily be a good thing, because I can also get all the rumors, misdirections, unconfirmed speculations, and contradictions from everyone needing to get the story first.

But what I can’t get, what Jamie can’t get, is that thing that was so liberating back when I discovered the Internet for the first time. I can’t think of the word for it. Respect? Equal treatment? It’s one of those things that you know when you see it.

Back when our online existence was limited to 25 lines by 80 characters, give or take, all anyone knew about yu was what you posted, and for everyone, that was text. Your thoughts, your opinions, defined you. It was a “level playing field”, and everyone had the same tools of expression. Oh, sure, there were the guys in their basements who never saw a woman before who would call for “gender check” on IRC and would virtually hit on any woman there, but for the most part, our exchanges were exchanges of ideas. I remember thinking that this was really how it should be. We should be able to get to know each other without prejudice, and, in doing so, maybe we’d all be better for it. That I was blind, or so and so was black, or a woman, or short, or didn’t speak well, or any number of things that would isolate someone, weren’t issues here. This one comic I remember summed it up well with its tag line: “On the Internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog.”

Except, now, they do.

That glorious time when our Internet persona was nothing more nor less than how you expressed yourself is gone. Commonplace, very fast connections have made it possible to have graphics, photos, and full motion video and sound. Now, all of those things that didn’t matter before have moved into this space as well. Now, the Internet is just an extension of all the ills of “out there”, but it’s even worse. Because there’s that distance still. People can still hide behind a keyboard and say things they’d never dream of saying to your face, because they aren’t. After all, there’s no one real on the other end. I once had some random person tell me, when my wife was recovering from a very serious heart operation, that we should consider euthanasia for her. OK, remember when I said very little shocks me anymore? That did. So all the prejudice, bigotry, venom, and invective that’s out there is amped up another notch in here, a place that used to be safe, a place where we discussed things as one human being to another.

No, of course it wasn’t all roses and candy way back when. There was alt.flame, after all. But still, things were a lot more civil, and the signal to noise ratio was much, much higher. On today’s Internet, I can’t read the comments often, because they make me too angry.

Maybe the Internet didn’t intend to promise that we’d evolve as human beings and we’d be able to take our level playing field of ideas to the wider world. Maybe it didn’t promise that to anyone but me. Maybe it didn’t promise anything at all, but I just assumed that it did. I wish I knew. I wish we would grow up as a race, as one race (that being human), and value each other for who we are individually. That was the promise I saw back in 1992. Instead, we are divided, we tear each other down, screw the next guy so long as I get mine, you have no value because you’re different from me, and there are no consequences for my being a complete ass, because this is the Internet and no one knows who I am.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. I wasn’t so sure when I started, only that I needed to sort out my feelings about it. I don’t have answers. I don’t know why we can’t just leave our bigotry and prejudice at the door. I understand and accept that as human beings, we all have prejudice. If someone tells you that he does not, he is lying, either to you or to himself. It’s an unfortunate part of the human condition. One of the really great things about being human, however, is that we have reason. Well, we’re supposed to have reason anyway. So can we not use that reason to acknowledge that, yes, I have a prejudice, or such and such kinds of people make me uncomfortable. Recognize this, then resolve to go beyond it. Simple to say, harder to do, but an we please start by veing polite and listening respectfully to other people’s ideas and viewpoints? Maybe if we can see something from the other guy’s point of view, we can all get along better. Maybe we can then find the things that bring us together rather than the ones that will tear us apart. It’s a start, anyway.

Well, I guess i didn’t really answer the question, and I also didn’t really clear this up in my own mind. I’m not really feeling any better about it either. Zero for three this time. Sorry. Better luck next time.

Review: The 33: Pramantha, Part 1 of 4

The 33 Episode 1 CoverHave you been wondering what J. C. Hutchins has been up to since the Seventh Son trilogy came out?

Oh wait. You don’t know who he is, or what that is? Well, that maybe is for another time. I’ll link to it later. Work with me here, OK?

j.C. hasn’t been idle, no sir. He’s been working on interesting things, including a publicity campaign for the recent Fox series “Almost Human”, among other things. He seems to be Mr. Transmedia. That’s a fancy $50 word for things that transcend different kinds of media, like books and games and Internet, audio, and goodness, people who are a lot smarter than I am should probably explain it. Besides that though, he’s been hatching this idea that he brought up way back when he was still updating the Seventh Son trilogy. Now, he’s unleashing it on an unsuspecting public with the first installment, Pramantha, Part 1. This is a four-part story, set in a universe that will have lots more stories, some multipart, some standalone, and, if this first one is any indication, stories that will grab you right away and won’t let go. Kind of like a teleport across the world, except without the puking, but I’m a bit ahead of myself.

Here’s how Hutch introduced the story to me:

The 33 is my new episodic fiction project, which debuts this Friday (Jan. 31). It’s a sci-fi/supernatural thriller series about a group of 33 misfits tasked with thwarting a cabal of baddies keen to jumpstart the apocalypse. It’s The A-Team meets The X-Files, with a dash of Hellboy and Global Frequency added for apocalyptic spice.


So how was it? In short, go get it immediately. While it’s a bit of a mystery why it begins the way it does, we don’t start with anyone’s idea of a slow buildup of action or background. We jump in with both feet. This must be a Hutch thing. It’s sort of like starting the first book of Seventh Son: Descent with “The President of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy.” Pramantha begins in similarly dramatic fashion. I was left at the end of the story wondering how the beginning connected, but I’m sure all will be revealed in due course.

This part of the story introduces us to the 33, (or at least, a few of them), just as one of its newest members learns about this secret anti-apocalyptic organization. They don’t deal with things as mundane as religious fanatics and airplane hijackings. Their stakes are higher. A more mismatched group of misfits would be harder to find. With such varied backgrounds and appearances, it’s hard to see how these people are going to interact, much less work together to foil whatever plot they’re assigned to foil, but that’s just the beginning of what I’m sure will unfold in the coming months. For instance, what are their secrets? What was the deal they made with their mysterious…boss? Benefactor? Blackmailer? Clearly, this series has, and will have, lots of layers. Kind of like ogres, except maybe not so nice as the PixR type ogres.

While this first installment is self-contained, as in “Things happen, and there’s a good stopping point”, remember that this is the first part of a four-part story, which will be released a month at a time. You’re not going to get resolution at the end of this installment. There isn’t even a whole bunch of action yet. But this story lays the groundwork and gives us a small glimpse of what lies ahead, should we follow these five maybe odd characters. And what lies ahead promises to be very, very interesting.

You can find out more about the series and buy your own copy of the story in either Ebook or audio format by visiting this page, And if you really did miss the Seventh Son books (really, it was a total of five), along with other original fiction, on this page.

Rebuttal to Things Guys Always Lie About

I got this article off Twitter: “Things Guys Always Lie About”. Well, the title should have tipped me off, because when something says “Always” or “Never”, it’s usually just a thing to draw you in. I guess it works, because, even knowing this, I clicked the link anyway. Predictably, I have issues. Here are my reactions as I read them; I already have issues with the first three.

15) Strippers don’t do anything for me. Well…OK, so why would you go see them then? I actually think she’s got a point on this one. Except, well, strippers really don’t do anything for me. Mostly because, well, you can look but you can’t touch. Ah well. Next?

14) The dreaded question: Does this make me look fat? That this question is on the list at all is totally, completely unfair. As the author rightly points out, we can’t win on this one. Because if it does and we say so, we get in trouble. If it does and we lie, well, we’re lying. If it doesn’t and we say so, we’re suspected of lying. Don’t ask this one. ever. For the record, I’ll just probably say, “Hell if I know.” So I’m safe. But still. Don’t ask. Ever.

13) I never view adult web sites. Well, I actually don’t. Would I if I could? Maybe. Do I read the occasional steamy story? Damn skippy! But mostly to laugh at them, although, admittedly, not always.

12) I’m an integral member of my company. I can’t even bullshit a resume, so the likelihood I’d try to impress anyone with what I do for a living, or how much sway/importance/clout I have at my place of employ is pretty low. I don’t know how common this really is, but I can tell you right off that it’s not my thing at all.

11) I love you too. See, the biggest problem I have with this kind of article is this right here. They make guys all look like massive dicks. True, some are. Maybe a lot are. Maybe a lot just say that to get into a woman’s panties, or because they want to avoid conflict (and I suspect many if not most women would expect the former more than the latter). But it’s not always so, and I’m really kind of offended at the assertion that men always lie about this. It’s another one of those things that we just can’t win on. You know, men supposedly don’t express emotions well. True, some don’t. But if one of us does, he’s lying because, you know, men only want one thing. Right? No. Not right at all. Next?

10) I’m 6’2”. See, I just don’t understand this one. Lying about your physical appearance, either by adding height or subtracting weight or whatever just seems kinda stupid to me. If you never plan on meeting the person, I guess you can keep up the charade, but if you ever do meet, the jig is up, and you’re exposed for being a schmuck. This is what you do when you’re 14. This is not what you do when you’re a grown up. It’s also not the exclusive purview of males. Sorry, just sayin’.

9) I swear that’s the number of people I’ve been with. Yeah, what she says here. But really, why would you ask that in the first place? What, do you want a list? You wanna compare notes? I don’t get it.

8) Of course I don’t think (of insert your friend’s name) like that. Can’t win, but seriously, first, why are you asking? Are you really that insecure? Also though, I think maybe there’s a way for him to express that he find someone else attractive, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to A) do something about that, or B) that it really matters anyway, because he’s with you and not the person about whom you’re inquiring. Well, unless he is, but then you’ve got bigger problems.

7) I have so many interests. Again, offensive to the max. Are you saying that men are just super one-dimensional beings who just are interested in TV and farting? Maybe some are, but some aren’t. It will become pretty clear whether a guy’s interests go beyond TV and farting, but to assume he’s lying if he says that they do is kind of crappy on your part. Why bother then? Now excuse me, because there’s this TV show I need to watch. Oh man, that was a good one. I wonder what would happen if I lit it?

6) I swear I’m 23. Yep. Not just limited to the guys. I’m just a freak of nature I guess, because I have no problem with my age. Hell, I worked hard to get here, and I earned every year, every gray hair, all of it. Would I want to be young again? Hell no! I already did that once. It was a pain in the ass some ways…why repeat it?

5) Oh honey, I’m huge. Umm. Why? Seriously, it’s like the height thing. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

4) Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine. Again, not exclusive to the guys. I’ve been on the receiving end of that a time or two in my life, as well as being on the other end. Sometimes, though, it isn’t that we don’t want to talk about it, it’s just that right then isn’t a great time. Sometimes I really don’t know what’s wrong, or how to express it, or especially how to express it in 25 words or less. Maybe we should all learn to say “I’ll talk to you about it later”, “Now isn’t a great time”, “I really don’t know”, or something more appropriate? But this really isn’t just the guys, and we all know that 68.5% of statistics are made-up on the spot anyway.

3) I can’t wait to visit your parents this weekend. I really can’t imagine saying this. That is all.

2) I love working out. Umm. Yeah. And also sitting on the sofa with the TV and farting. Yes. Well. Which is it? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or the…whatever it is that people eat that isn’t pudding. I was about to say, “What, are we 15?”, but I know that there awesome women who emphatically would answer “Yes!” to this question.

1) We’ll talk about it later. See the one a couple of paragraphs ago. So maybe some people would say that this is tied to that. The thing is, if I say “We’ll talk about it later”, I probably mean that at the time. “Later” may just not come because I’ll forget. I have a pretty short attention span. But if I say “Later”, I, at least, generally mean that and not “Screw you, go away, I don’t want to talk about it.” If I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll generally say that.

I’d like to see the companion “Things Women Always Lie About” piece.

I gotta pay how much to use Facebook?!

Today, GW Micro announced a new product called SocialEyes. This is a piece of software that is meant to give blind Windows users a more accessible, consistent interface to Facebook and all of its features. As you can imagine, discussion of this new offering on the GW-Info Email list was quite heated, both for and against. Some people said that it was ridiculous to charge for access to Facebook, and it would be well to just include better Web support in Window-Eyes to begin with, while others said that those guys should be grateful for the work that GW is doing and quit their gritching. This is a somewhat simplified accounting of the discussion, but it’s the usual sort of thing. Find below my contribution to the discussion.


My comments about product naming aside, I guess for better or worse, I’m weighing in, too.

OK, GW Micro asks what people want to see better access to. Consumers (you and me, except I didn’t) respond. GW listens. This is excellent, actually, since GW Micro listened to the needs and wants of their users and put something together to accommodate.

But it’s too expensive! Sighted people don’t have to pay $50 to use Facebook.

Neither do you. What you do have the option to pay for is something to make using Facebook more convenient. You can choose to have that convenience, or not. Yes, convenience. You know those little stores on the corner? Like 7-11, Circle K, Diamond Scamrock, places like that? They’re called “Convenience stores”, and their prices are generally higher than similar or identical goods in a big box store or grocery store. Why? You’re paying for the convenience of not having to go all the way to a grocery store, search the shelves, and get what you want. You’re paying for the convenience of a short drive and a quick nip into the store for a gallon of bread and a loaf of milk. In similar fashion, subscribing to this app, or the Socializer in SAMNet, or GW Connect, can be viewed in a similar way.

Beyond that though, full disclosure. It’s no secret that I work for another AT company, I’m fairly sure that most people probably know which one. Even so, I’m a Window-Eyes user. I’m also an NVDA user. And, of course, a System Access user. And a Mac user. And an iPhone user. And to a limited extent, a Chromebook user. Yep. Fingers in lots of pies. Anyway, all that to say, I have some idea of what goes into making some of this stuff go, especially as concerns things like keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of things like Facebook, things that change on seemingly nothing more than a whim. Keepin up with that takes people. People gotta eat. In our current system of doing things, this means money, and that’s got to come from somewhere. If this was a do once and forget it kind of deal, that would be fantastic, but it’s not. Anyone who’s ever looked at the Facebook site from month to month, even week to week, knows that. So if the product is needed, and enough people see the value in it, it will get bought and maintained and succeed. If not, it will fail, and the developers will go off and do something else for a while. Pretty simple. TANSTAAFL and all that.

Someone, or someones, mentioned NVDA. NVDA is fantastic. It’s well done, it’s matured nicely, it does lots of great things, and it’s free. Let’s be clear though, NVDA is free software in the GNU definition of free. This means that you have the freedom to redistribute it, to modify it, to share your modifications. It also happens to be no cost, or “free as in beer”, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be “free software”. But I digress somewhat.

You’ll note that development of NVDA, even though it’s free, takes money as well. Some of this money is had through grants from big companies. These grants, to some extent, likely also drive the direction it goes (i.e. it will have better support for Adobe Reader because Adobe threw money at them). Some of this money comes from you, the end user, which is why you are asked to donate every time you update. You can choose to, or not, but understand that someone, somewhere, has to pay something. Even if no on pays anything, the developers pay in cost of their time, which could be spent doing something that did pay them. TANSTAAFL, again.

Would I like everything to be free and work for us without any extra effort? Damn skippy I would. In my ideal world, we wouldn’t need companies like GW Micro, Serotek, Freedom Giantific, and the rest, because access would be built in, would not be an afterthought, and would work 100% of the time for all populations who need it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality, and it likely will never be the reality. Sure, it’s a lot better now. The fact that we’re even entertaining this discussion, that we can even think about expecting such access, would have been unheard of five years ago. It will likely get even better in the future, and a day when universal access is the norm rather than the exception seems likely to me. (This will present its own set of problems, but this post is long enough already.) And anyway, that day isn’t here yet.

So, yeah. Buy it if it’s useful and convenient for you. Don’t if it isn’t. It’s really pretty simple. Even though I have the Socializer, and even though I use lots of other things, it is likely that I’ll buy it myself, if for no other reason than to have another option, because it’s convenient.