Funny cell phone math on my trip to St. Maarten

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

Karen Daukantas-Jones takes her Verizon cell phones to St. Maarten. But it doesn’t travel well, and now they’ve charged her an extra $81. Find out what happens next.

Question

We took a very nice 14-day trip to St. Maarten recently. We had investigated various options for phone usage during the trip, including renting a phone on the island, renting a sim card or using the Verizon Wireless Global Plan.

A Verizon representative told us that the cost for using our Verizon service during our trip would be $40 per line for 100 minutes and 100 text messages (send).

The company instructed us to turn off the data feature on our phones to avoid an additional usage charge. Verizon also told to call right before we left on the trip to minimize our costs. We called just before we left and activated our Global Plan.

When we returned, we received a $186 bill for the month, including the first three days of our trip. The Global feature for both phones showed the entire billing and the fee of $40 for each phone.

I called to make sure the Global Plan had been canceled. But I learned that the service hadn’t been canceled but supposedly they canceled during our conversation. I was first told that we would be charged an additional $40 for each phone on the next billing cycle.

It did not make sense that the company would charge us $160 for 14 days of service. A supervisor finally agreed. He prorated the charges and gave us a $75 credit. I promptly paid the bill.

We received our latest bill and were amazed that the total bill was now $251. This bill reflects the $75 credit, $40 global charges for two billing cycles and $72 in roaming charges. So it appears that the supervisor didn’t follow through on her promise.

Southwest Airlines is dedicated to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to providing our employees with a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

I called and a representative offered an adjustment of $14. By my calculations, it should be more like $81.– Karen Daukantas-Jones, Baltimore

Answer

Ah, roaming fees! Even though cell phone companies swear they hate them, I think they secretly love them. I had an almost identical experience with AT&T on a recent trip to Italy. First, the promises. Then, the bill. And another bill.

Like almost any other company, cell phone carriers will always do the math in their favor. You were right to be careful, and calling Verizon was a prudent move. But you know what they say – talk is cheap. You needed to have all this in writing, and unfortunately, you didn’t. (Related: Hit with an early termination fee from AT&T — and then some.)

A better way to avoid this is to get a SIM card for your vacation. Don’t involve your carrier, because there’s a good chance they’ll add a “tip” to their bill for doing you the favor of allowing you to connect while you’re away.

You resolved this case without my help by reaching out to the executive contacts on my site. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problem.)

“In less than 18 hours, Verizon contacted me and processed my credits,” you told me.

I love a happy ending.

Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Related Posts