After a long battle with Verizon wireless the past few weeks, we are finally admitting defeat and having to plunk out the money to change providers from Verizon to AT&T. Both my farmer and I have been long standing customers of Verizon and to date have yet to have any problems with them as a company. Today, that changes. The past few weeks I experienced the ugliness that is the American large corporation and how much they really don’t care about or understand small town rural America. I don’t like to smear companies, especially ones which I have had such wonderful service from, but these past few weeks have caused my farmer, myself, and the residents of our town much stress and has left most of the people in the complete dark about what is going on. In order to understand our situation, let me give you some background…
Ashley, North Dakota is located in south central North Dakota, about seven miles north of the South Dakota border as shown in the map below. Ashley, North Dakota is also the place I moved to from California. It’s a town of about 800 people located in McIntosh County. McIntosh county is home to four cities: Wishek (pop.1,000) follow by Ashley, Zeeland (pop. 86), and finally Venturia (pop. 10). It’s small town rural America at its finest and Agriculture reigns supreme as the top employer in the county. According to the last US Census, 27% of people in McIntosh county listed Agriculture as their occupation following closely behind by Educational services, health care, & social services.
There is a cell phone tower located literally a half mile from town. It actually sits right next to where we decided to build Maverick Ag. My farmer can look out the window and see it. The tower is an AT&T owned tower, which wasn’t a problem for Verizon customers because the two companies had decided to work together to provide service, so the Verizon customers were receiving signal from the tower located right there in town. Well… apparently something happened, the contract was up, and another contract has yet to negotiated. Let me preface this by saying, NOBODY from Verizon contact ANY of its customers to let us know this was happening. All of a sudden we lost service. And I mean lost it. For three or four days I had zero signal unless I was in an area where I could use wi-fi.
People began calling Verizon to get answers, but unfortunately their 1-800-who-cares number didn’t give any information. So I started to see people turning to Facebook and reaching out to others in the community for answers. I, myself, put out a message on Facebook asking those who weren’t receiving service under Verizon to comment… I had at least 20 responses from people in the county who were experiencing problems as well. Below you can see the Verizon wireless customer service is trying to address the issue, unfortunately, nobody ever received any information or a solution for that matter. Most of the customer service people, which it isn’t their fault, didn’t understand our situation and what was going on. They don’t live in small town America and don’t understand that activating our phones required a 20 mile drive one way.
Luckily I had just attended a social media conference, mentioned here, where I had the pleasure of meeting two wonderful people who work for Verizon. One being the Regional manager for our area of service. I talked with her a little bit about what was happening in our area (the problems were just starting) and I will say that she has been wonderful to email me on a weekly basis to let me know she’s looking into the problem. Unfortunately, this goes beyond her powers there so she did the best she could.
The solution to the problem that Verizon wireless offered us was to turn on a tower that is located seven miles from us, right on the South Dakota border, in order to make up for the loss in service. So now instead of zero service, we have LIMITED service. I have yet to receive more than 1 bar of service indoors and I have to literally hang with my head out the door of our house to be able to talk with my parents or anyone else that calls. There’s been a lot of “can you hear me now” conversations the past two weeks. Finally today, we gave up the battle.
The executive director for our area at Verizon finally called me to review the multiple emails and phone calls I have made to them. We talked for a little bit about the problem and the information she gave me was: a. the service I am receiving now is the service I will receive and b. they are working to improve the service in the area to prepare for 4G LTE BUT she could not give me a time frame as to when my service could possibly improve. I will say that after three weeks of emails and phone calls to Verizon, it was nice to FINALLY get some sort of information and have them basically admit that yes, there’s nothing we can do for you BUT we appreciate your business as a customer and don’t want to lose you.
Unfortunately, the only option she could give to me as far as actions was to provide me with an extender at no cost or to terminate my contract for no charge. So we had to admit defeat. As business people, we can’t be expected to just hang around until the service improves, so by the end of this week, my farmer and I will be moving to AT&T which I am not all too happy about, but what else can we do?
It’s been so frustrating on so many different levels. The fact that a company like Verizon has no other option but to basically leave their customers in Ashley, North Dakota out to dry boils my blood. The fact that they can’t be honest with us about WHAT happened and leave their customers in the dark about their service is unacceptable. We had to receive the information from local contact who works for the phone company here. I’m upset to have to leave a company who I’ve advocated for for years and met some wonderful people who work for them along the way. Verizon Wireless was happy to toot their own horn about how they are helping farmers get access to technology to better their farms and their lives on the farm. And through my involvement with the conference, I was even offered to review some of their products in the future on this blog.. But guess what, none of that will happen here in Ashley, North Dakota. It literally makes me sick…
So today I am left feeling ultimately defeated and utterly helpless by corporate America. And by the end of the week, I will empty out my pockets to AT&T as we get new phones & service so that I can actually make a phone call to my parents back home in California in our little small town North Dakota.
Have you had issues with corporate America not understanding rural America…? I guess it’s really true what they say about misery loving company…