So I’d like to preface this post with some comments about my expectations of customer service. No company is perfect. Customer Service is expensive and I purchased the device at a pretty good discount versus other sources. The company likely wasn’t making a ton of money on the sale to begin with, but nevertheless, I still think it’s reasonable for a company to stand by their promises of great customer service and to take charge in taking care of routine issues, such as a customer receiving a defective unit.

My service experience was below my expectations (which were, sadly, actually lower than those I express in my communications) and I thought it would be interesting to document the process. The service I received seems typical of many companies these days. If you’ve never seen the article “Why Service Stinks,” I’d recommend you check it out. It certainly explains why companies don’t really care about situations like mine. Unfortunately for many companies, consumers are even more empowered today than we were back in 2000 through social media and other online word of mouth.

So I ordered my Galaxy Nexus on December 15th and received it a little over a week ago.  The device has a hardware defect (blown earpiece speaker) and I need to work with LetsTalk to send it back.  It’s been somewhat difficult to try and work things out with them and Verizon to get a working phone in a timely manner (trying to maintain the service I’m paying for).

LetsTalk.com proclaims to want to make sure I’m satisfied and that they’re “all over it” when it comes to issues (see the attached letter they included in the package they sent me).  I thought it would be worked out with what we arranged yesterday, but Verizon is making things difficult (won’t let me reactivate my old phone temporarily without losing the 4 gig/month data promotion that just ended).

Here’s an email I just sent to LetsTalk.com’s customer service.  We’ll see what they come up with.  I think I’m being reasonable.  We’ll see if LetsTalk.com pulls through and “exceeds my expectations.”

Hi there,

First, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read this email and doing what you can to help me out.  I’m having a really hard time getting my defective phone exchanged and I’m writing so that you are able to take whatever time you need to figure out a solution to my problem.

First, the necessary info:

Order #______

(RMA #______)

Email on the account: _________

Home phone # used during purchasing: _________

Number of phone that was upgraded: ________

User of that phone line (me): Tim Ehat

I spoke to a representative on the phone yesterday and she said she added me on/made a note that I’m allowed to work with you on this account.  I am an authorized account “manager” on the Verizon account.  If you have any issues with me using my personal email to send this message (I’m doing this so my wife doesn’t have to deal with it), please feel free to call my wife on her number (__________) to get any required authorization you may need.

Summary of issue:

Ordered Dec 15, 2011.

Phone was backordered (didn’t know at time of purchase), phone arrived 1/9/2012.

Phone has hardware defect: the earpiece speaker on the phone is blown.  Calls are quiet and very distorted (unusable as a phone).  I was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week and verified with a Samsung representative that the issue was just with my particular handset.

Your proposed resolutions:

A) Send in the phone this week, activate a temporary phone on the line while waiting again on backorder for the next shipment.

B) Hold onto the phone for another two weeks (approx.) and send it in prior to your next shipment of Galaxy Nexus phones in the hope of making the cut for the next backorder (can’t be guaranteed).

C) Send in the pnone now, do not activate a temporary phone, and wait until you have a phone to send me.

Proposed solution (A) will not work.  Verizon’s 4GB “double your data” promo has ended.  I went into the store and talked with them on the phone and was told that I could not (even temporarily) activate a 3G phone without losing the 4GB data promotion.  Even after reactivating a 4G phone, I wouldn’t receive the promo anymore (one rep told me I had 14 days, but a rep on the phone told me it wasn’t possible at all).  I ordered the phone from you and expect to maintain the same service that I ordered.

Proposed solution (B) will not work.  There’s no point keeping around a phone that I can’t use due to the hardware issue.  No point in paying for the service if I can’t use the phone.  If I wait until closer to your next shipment, I’m afraid I’ll miss the cutoff and still be waiting even longer for you to be able to ship me a phone.

Proposed solution (C) maintains the 4G promo, allows me to (hopefully) make the next backorder cut off point to receive my phone sometime after 2/3 (at the earliest 2/6, I’d assume), but leaves me paying for voice and data service for a phone I do not have and cannot use.

Other options allow you to provide some extraordinary customer service:

1) Send me a 4G phone to use temporarily.  After I receive it and you take care of activation for me and I send in my defective Galaxy Nexus.  You send me a working Galaxy Nexus when the stock arrives, activate it for me (keeping the 4 gig data promo throughout all of this process) and I send back the temporary 4G device.  If you sent me a HTC Rezound to test, I’d might even choose to keep that device instead of getting the new Galaxy Nexus (it’s my second choice of phone, but potentially first choice if I decided I liked it better).

2) Reimburse me for the amount I’m paying for my cellular service while my phone’s out of commission and provide me with a prepaid SIM card I can use in a spare unlocked BlackBerry Storm 2 I have laying around.  I will take care of telling those that need to contact me to use a different phone number for a few weeks.  Similar to option C above, but you help me maintain some sort of connectivity and reimburse me for the service I cannot use.  The amount of the reimbursement is negotiable based on the number of minutes/data available on the prepaid card (difference between what I pay Verizon for and what you would provide to me in the form of a prepaid voice/data SIM).

Another idea you might propose:

Refund my purchase, I return the phone, and you credit back the upgrade onto my phone line so I can purchase the phone elsewhere.  Problems include: lose the deal you offered (spend more on the phone elsewhere), lose the 4 gig data promo, wait several weeks for the return to be processed and for the upgrade credit to be replaced.

What do we do?

All in all, it should be a simple matter, but it’s become more difficult for two reasons: 1) you’re completely backordered on the Galaxy Nexus phone and haven’t maintained a reserve supply for exchanges; and 2) Verizon’s 4 gig data promo has ended and Verizon is unwilling to provide reasonable service to help me keep that promotion through the exchange process.

From my perspective, I was very patient waiting to receive the phone and it’s nobody’s fault that the phone doesn’t work and that we need to go through this process.  The only issue is that the two reasons above prevent a simple exchange from leaving me without a phone for several weeks (paying for the service all the while).  I would expect that you would take responsibility for my satisfaction and help me through the situation.  I don’t feel it is unreasonable (and feel you would agree) to expect to get a working phone at some point, maintain some sort of voice service (and hopefully data service) through the exchange process (even if I have a different phone number), and to not lose the 4 gig data promotion Verizon offered and you signed me up for.  I feel that’s a pretty standard level of service that you would strive to provide and I’m willing to accept some headaches (losing my number, not having the right phone, etc) through the process.  I just need your help to make something happen.

And, as a side note, I would hope you can do what needs to be done without having to place any sort of hold/temporary charge on my credit card.  I can accommodate that if absolutely necessary, but it doesn’t seem like such a process should be required for an exchange.  If you did need to place a temporary charge for a temporary 4G phone (say the HTC Rezound I mentioned earlier), I would expect it would be the discounted price of the phone (including the $75 discount I had on the original order).  Then if I chose to keep that phone, it would be as simple as reimbursing the original charge and keeping the new charge for the Rezound.  (I was investigating your “advanced exchange” process and was told that you’d need to charge me the full price of the phone and the discounted price of the phone onto a credit card in order to send a working phone first prior to me sending back my defective unit.  That would be almost $1000 of charges in addition to the ~$180 I have already paid for the phone in the first place.  Since you don’t have the phone in stock, the advanced exchange is really not in the picture anyways.)

Please let me know how you’d like to proceed with the issue and we can work together for a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Thanks for your efforts,

Tim Ehat

Update 1:

No response today, so I initiated a chat session with them (can’t really phone them).  Took them a few minutes to find the email and review it (I guess the department they forwarded it on to doesn’t read their emails).  The result? LetsTalk says they cannot do anything other than what they had already proposed.  What a frustrating response.

But, as my luck would have it, they received their next shipment early and have the phone in stock once again.  (I guess these guys are at the total mercy and whim of Verizon since they’ve not been very accurate about when they’re going to receive more stock from Verizon.)

They’re going to have to do their whole “charge you everything and reimburse later” thing as part of what they call an “advanced exchange” (cross shipping the new/old phones), but, hey, that’s better than paying for a phone I can’t use.  They say they’ll manually change that temporary amount to half of the retail price instead of the full retail price, but, really, what’s the difference?  It’s a charge on my credit card for a week or two that gets cleared off.  It was always about the idea of charging me again for something I already bought.

Oh well, I guess they deal with a bunch of people who try to rip them off.  Too bad we consumers deal with companies that act the same way.  I think we as consumers need to all get together and get our own set of Terms & Conditions for doing business with us.  Or something….

So the result is: their customer service is slightly better than others (free return shipping for cancelled orders, etc), but when it comes to the more advanced problems, it’s just as frustrating as any place else (well, I’m assuming no one charges their customers to return defective products).

Tim Ehat: Hi, I’m wondering if anyone has had a chance to read my email I sent last night?
Tim Ehat: Order #_________
Tim Ehat: I need to know whether or not I should be sending in my phone today on my way home.
Mary G: Tim my name is Mary and I will be happy to review your order. Please verify your address and phone number.
Tim Ehat: [I provide the address and phone number]
Mary G: Thank you for providing that information. All emails take up to 24 hours to be reviewed. When did you send it?
Tim Ehat: Please check the notes on the account and you’ll see that I’ve been authorized to deal with you
Tim Ehat: I sent the email yesterday evening
Mary G: Please allow me 3-4 minutes to review with our email team and verify if they have received it.
Tim Ehat: ok
Mary G: Our email time is reviewing the orders at this time to locate yours. What was the subject line?
Tim Ehat: It was simply, “Order #_________”
Mary G: Please allow me another 3-4 minutes while they locate it.
Tim Ehat: ok
Tim Ehat: I sent the email to “[email protected]” as indicated on your letter in the original package (http://www.timehat.com/wp-content/uploads/LetsTalk-Letters-002.jpg)
Tim Ehat: If that helps at all
Tim Ehat: I’m happy to forward the email to another address if you need me to.
Mary G: [Mary G is idle]
Mary G: [Mary G is no longer idle]
Mary G: Thank you for that information, the psr team sent it to the correct department earlier this afternoon and a supervisor is reviewing your proposed suggestions. Please allow another 3-4 minutes while they are reviewing it.
Tim Ehat: okay, thank you
Mary G: Tim a supervisor has reviewed your email and unfortunately, we cannot accommodate the suggestions you have offered. I do apologize for any inconvenience this causes. You are still within your 14 day return period if you wish to return your phone for a full refund and reverse the upgrade. We do also offer an advanced exchange option. We can cross ship the new device however we will bill your card the full value of your device you have now and ship the new one today. Once we get it back we would refund the amount back.
[Here I assume that she hasn’t noticed the product was out of stock. Stock had actually arrived that day.]
Mary G: My supervisor has authorized the cross shipment to be done at half the full retail price plus the sale price of the phone which would total at $539.99 versus the normal price of $904.99

Tim Ehat: So I have to pay for phone that I cannot use?
Tim Ehat: Well, that’s really no difference to me since either amount will be credited back when you receive my phone.
Tim Ehat: You’ve left me with either cancelling my order (losing out on your offer and Verizon’s 4 gig data promo) or paying for service that I can’t use
Tim Ehat: I expected that you would take care of this situation in a better fashion.
Mary G: We are more than happy to exchange the phone for you with either option we have so that you are not paying for service you cannot use.
Tim Ehat: No, I don’t think that will work
Tim Ehat: With the first option, I pay more for the phone elsewhere and lose the 4 gig data promo (and have to wait a week or two for the upgrade credit to show up on my verizon account again)
Tim Ehat: I don’t believe the second option is even a possibility since the device is backordered.
Tim Ehat: I was told Monday on the phone that you could not cross ship the item
Tim Ehat: since it was back ordered
Mary G: I apologize for the inconvenience but these are the only options we have available at this time. A supervisor has reviewed our inventory and we show this phone is in stock.
Tim Ehat: and even if you can, I can’t keep using the defective phone
Tim Ehat: You told me the phone was backordered until about 2/3
Tim Ehat: (a previous support agent, that is)
Mary G: We have received shipments of this phone this week and do have this phone in stock.
Tim Ehat: Okay, that completely changes things. Are you able to verify that I will not lose my “double data” promotion if we perform a cross shipping advanced exchange?
Mary G: That is correct.
Tim Ehat: Okay, let’s do that then
Tim Ehat: I’ll need to have you use a different credit card for the temporary charges
Mary G: To do the cross shipment we do need to be able to authorize the full amount initially and then a supervisor will do a manual override to reduce it to half. Will that be ok?
Mary G: The full price is $904.99
Tim Ehat: Yeah, that’s fine. As long as I get the full amount reimbursed and end up paying the amount we originally agreed upon for the order, I’m perfect.
Mary G: That is not a problem. Unfortunately, I cannot take your credit card information via chat for security reasons. You will need to call our customer service department at 866-825-5460 to update your credit card.
Tim Ehat: Okay. I’ll have to wait until I can use my wife’s phone since mine isn’t working. How late will you have representatives there tonight?
Tim Ehat: Also, do you know how long it will take to receive the replacement unit?
Mary G: We are open until 10pm central. Once we ship out the exchange, it will arrive within 2 business days.
Tim Ehat: How quickly will the device ship? Are you sure that you’ll still have inventory in to ship it soon? (Perhaps pulling a unit aside for this exchange.)
Mary G: Unfortunately, we cannot hold any units aside. However we have enough to complete your order. It will more than likely ship tomorrow, we will not be able to create the cross shipment order until we have the correct credit card on file.
Tim Ehat: okay. I’ll be calling in within the next 2 hours to take care of that.
Mary G: Is there anything further I can assist you with today?
Tim Ehat: Just to verify one last point: when I receive the new unit, do I use my same SIM card, or do I send back the SIM card you’ve already sent (and you’ll supply me with a new one)?
Mary G: We will be supplying you with a new SIM card.
Tim Ehat: Okay, thank you (I had heard differently before). I will ship back the original SIM card you sent me.
Tim Ehat: Sounds like we’ve managed to work it out. Thank you for your help today.
Mary G: You’re welcome. Is there anything further I may assist you with today?
Tim Ehat: Nope, that should do it.
Tim Ehat: Have a nice evening
Mary G: It was a pleasure to assist you today. Thank you for contacting LetsTalk.com “The smarter way to buy wireless” Please remember to hit the “end chat” option and to monitor your email or check status online for updates.

Update 2:

I received shipment and billing confirmations today from LetsTalk for the cross-shipment order.  Unfortunately, they failed to only charge me 1/2 of the full retail price plus the discounted price (which they said they would do).  No big deal, except the “discounted price” was almost double what I paid on the original order.  Uhh, what?  How hard could this be?

Me impersonating my wife (it’s easier that way…  LetsTalk can’t seem to actually add me to the account as an authorized person no matter how many times I ask):

Lisa Ehat: I think I was charged the wrong amount on my cross-shipment exchange
Lisa Ehat: order #________, RMA #______
Erica S: Lisa my name is Erica and I will be happy to review your order. Please verify your name, address and contact number.
Lisa Ehat: Name: Lisa Ehat
Lisa Ehat: Address: ____
Lisa Ehat: # ___[phone number]____
Lisa Ehat: I paid $174.99 for the original order
Lisa Ehat: and the total for the cross shipment is $1064.98
Lisa Ehat: take off the full retail that will be reimbursed
Erica S: Thank you for providing that information. Please allow 2-3 minutes while I review your order.
Lisa Ehat: and that is: $334.99
Erica S: Thank you so much for your patience! I show that cross-shipment amount is $729.99 plus the promotional price for the original device. This totals to $1,064.98.
Lisa Ehat: what is the promotional price of the original device?
Erica S: Once original device is returned you will be credited back the full retail price.
Lisa Ehat: Okay, so that leaves me paying: $1064.98-729.99 = $334.99
Lisa Ehat: Which is almost double the amount of my original order
Lisa Ehat: The original device you sent me has a hardware defect, thus the exchange
Lisa Ehat: so I’d expect the final price to be the same as my original order
Erica S: Please allow 2-3 minutes while I review the amounts.
Lisa Ehat: okay, thanks
Lisa Ehat: in addition, i was told yesterday during the chat session that the amount would be manually modified such that the charge for full retail would only be half of the full retail price, given the continued issues i’ve had during this whole process
Lisa Ehat: i don’t care too much about that, but it’s very surprising to see it so dramatically off even if the full amount was to be charged
Erica S: I do apologize for the delay. Please bare with me while I try to get this issue resolved.
Lisa Ehat: no worries, take whatever time you need
Lisa Ehat: my main concern is that at the end of the whole process, I’ve paid you the $174.99 we had originally agreed upon when i placed the order in the first place
Lisa Ehat: and i have the data plan and device i had ordered
Erica S: Thank you for your patience! You will receive an credit in the amount of $160.00. This credit should be applied to your credit card within 1-5 business days. Once you return the original device you will receive credit for the full retail price of the phone. Is there anything else I may assist you with today?
Lisa Ehat: That should be all. Thank you!
Erica S: You’re welcome. It was a pleasure to assist you today. Thank you for contacting LetsTalk.com “The smarter way to buy wireless” Please remember to hit the “end chat” option and to monitor your email or check status online for updates.

Yup, definitely the “smarter way to buy wireless.”

Update 3

The new phone is on its way (should arrive sometime Monday).  I hope it all works out with that one.  In the meantime, however, I just received my first new bill from Verizon.  Guess what I found?  An additional new feature called “VCast Video” was also added onto my phone line at a rate of $10/month.  Great job, LetsTalk.

I contacted LetsTalk since I’m worried about the clause in our contract saying that if I make any changes to my account that they’ll charge me for the discount they extended.  They said it was fine to work with Verizon and that they didn’t see any order for VCast Video.

Jaime M: Thanks for choosing Customer Support Chat!
When you are ready to disconnect, please click the END CHAT button at bottom left of this window.
Hello, Lisa Ehat. How can we provide assistance?

Lisa Ehat: Order _________
Lisa Ehat: Lisa Ehat
Lisa Ehat: 801-360-2361
Jaime M: My name is Jaime and I will be happy to assist you.
Lisa Ehat: 395 n 1060 w
Lisa Ehat: provo,ut 84601
Lisa Ehat: I just received my first bill from Verizon after the new phone/plan were activated
Jaime M: thank you, Lisa. This order was with verizon for an upgrade. is that correct?
Lisa Ehat: and it looks like VCast Video was also mistakenly added to the __________ phone line in addition to the new data plan.
Lisa Ehat: yes, that’s right
Jaime M: I do not show VCast on your order. You can contact verizon at 800-922-0204 and they should remove it for you
Lisa Ehat: I need to know whether to work with you or Verizon on that. I’m worried since I’ve heard that any changes on my account associated with that line within a certain time period (90 or 180 days?) will cause you to charge me since Verizon will withhold your commission
Lisa Ehat: If you can assure me that if I remove that feature through Verizon that you will not charge me, then I’m fine to contact Verizon.
Lisa Ehat: If you cannot assure me that, I’m going to assume you’ll need to take care of the issue.
Jaime M: We never put the VCast on your account, so it had no impact on the price of the phone
Lisa Ehat: But you do receive a commission from Verizon for the upgrade, correct?
Lisa Ehat: Is it true that changes to the account might cause Verizon to withhold that commission and then you’ll seek to charge me?
Jaime M: You will not be charged an equipment subsidy recovery fee for removing the vcast feature. That fee is if you deactivate the phone number or transfer financial liability
Jaime M: Yes, we receive a commission
Lisa Ehat: Okay, that sounds fine then. Since you’ve assured me that removing the feature will not cause any issues between you and me, I’ll work further with Verizon.
Lisa Ehat: Thank you for your help.
Jaime M: Yes, that is true, but only in certain instances. If, for example, you ordered an upgrade on the family 1400 plan and the price of the phone was free
Jaime M: but you called verizon and change the plan to family 700. If you placed the order on our site with the family 700 plan, the phone would have been 99.99
Jaime M: You’re welcome. Also, you would be charged if you had called verizon to activate your upgrade instead of having us do it
Lisa Ehat: Okay, sounds good. Thanks again.
Lisa Ehat: Have a nice day!
Jaime M: Thank you. Is there anything else that I can do for you?
Lisa Ehat: Nope, that’s it.
Jaime M: thank you for choosing online chat support. have a great day!

So I called Verizon and took the feature off.  They warned me about how it might affect things with my third party seller, but I told them I had written confirmation that it shouldn’t be an issue.  They confirmed to me that they don’t just add features onto accounts and that it had come through from LetsTalk….  I guess it’s now a waiting game to see if LetsTalk decides to try and charge me for their mistake.  If they do, I’ll give them a chance to make things right.  If they fail, I’ll have no problem disputing the charge on my credit card and letting them deal with my credit card company over the charge back.  I’ve got a written statement from them saying I should be in the clear and they would not charge me.

Update 4
Okay, the new phone arrived this evening. (A lot earlier than last time! Thanks, UPS!) I cleaned up the old phone, took some photos of its condition (you never know), and packaged it up to send it back. After booting up the new phone, I wasn’t able to activate it. I got online with LetsTalk chat support again and they told me to call Verizon’s activation department for help. That is actually a “no no” with third party phones, but I made sure I understood the rep right (and had it in writing) and called away. Turns out the number she gave me was for their own activation service. I guess “Verizon’s activation department” really should have been “one of our Verizon activation representatives.” No big deal, but I was really surprised at first that Verizon would be able to look up my LetsTalk order number. The first call didn’t get it resolved, but the representative was successful the second time around. The speaker on the new phone works great. I think I’ve finally got my working Galaxy Nexus about 38 days after ordering it.

LetsTalk didn’t send a prepaid FedEx label to ship the old phone back (which all their emails and packing label say to use), but it turns out it’s really easy to print the prepaid UPS label through their website. Just one last rough edge to the whole process, I guess. Now I just send the old one back (I hope they don’t just turn around and send it to someone else), watch for my credit, and never worry about dealing with LetsTalk again.