Tag Archives: Vonage

Says Vonage: Five Years Doesn’t Matter. Give Us All Your Money.

The following post is one we wrote almost two years ago (circa July 2009) but never published for whatever reason. We have since dropped Vonage–finally, after a long seven years as a customer–and thought now, about a month post-cancellation, would be a good time to go back over why we finally quit them.

In a nutshell, they didn’t–don’t–care about anything but the money. You may see this as a recurring theme around this blog; I’m not sure it’s possible to put too fine a point on that, either. Money is nice and all, but you can’t focus solely on that and expect to keep people (or your business) around forever.

About a month ago, I finally got around to calling at an hour when they were open to take my call to cancel–and attempt to keep me from cancelling.

I cancelled anyway; it just wasn’t worth it anymore. They became Yet Another Phone Company, leveraging fees for everything and generally behaving badly from a customer-service perspective. The whole reason we went to Vonage in the first place to get away from all of that with traditional telcos!

At some point a year or so ago, we switched from the $14.99 500-minute plan to a 100-minute plan for $9.99/month. That cheaper plan, with 40% fewer minutes, after all the fees they’re now adding, was costing us more than we paid for the $14.99 plan when we started with Vonage so many years ago. And we just weren’t using it. If you have Vonage, great. If you don’t, you’re really not missing anything Time-Warner or Comcast or AT&T or another traditional telco could offer you at this point.

We don’t miss Vonage. At all. At least what Vonage has become, anyway. The idea of Vonage–the core of their business model back then–is still appealing; we do miss that.

If you have and use Vonage, think about whether you’re really, truly using it. You may not need it anymore, either.

And finally, even though we dropped service with Vonage a month ago, we are still unable to access the website to make our final payment in good faith. We offered during our cancellation call, but were told we would continue to have access to the website to pay our final bill at our convenience. But clearly, that’s not quite true:

 [This was a screenshot of a regularly-broken
Vonage website before Twitpic shut down]

So professional.

Anyway, here’s the previously-unpublished post from 2009:


We recently tried to cancel, and failed. We called right away the morning of the first day of our new billing cycle; we had been billed at midnight overnight. After being strung along on the phone for a very long time, we were eventually told we would receive a credit for the billed-in-advance amount. Except, a short time later, our bumbling phone-center monkey handed our call off to someone else–a “supervisor”–who told us no, they were absolutely not going to do anything of the sort. Yes, certainly we could cancel today! And yes, they would gladly terminate our service immediately! But… they would be keeping our money for the rest of the billing period anyway–so sorry!

In the end, we opted not to cancel for the time being–we didn’t want to lose our money. Turns out that was stupid. We switched to a lesser, cheaper plan, and they issued a credit and a couple months of free service, only to end up coming up short on their promises and start billing us again a full month earlier than promised.

But first, back to the initial cancellation attempt and how we were treated. The fact that we’d been always-on-time, regular, loyal customers of theirs for a full five years prior? Well, it was utterly irrelevant to the a-hole “supervisor” we ended up talking to. He also insisted he could not–would not–transfer us to anyone else to discuss it further. We had our options: stay and pay, or leave…but still pay. Jerk.

Vonage does NOT want you to quit them. If you call to cancel–and indeed, you MUST call them to cancel, which is also completely ridiculous–expect to be hassled. They will NOT schedule your service disconnect to coincide with the last pre-paid day of service. They WILL, however, cancel your service immediately and keep whatever pre-paid amount of money you’ve given them. Even if you’re cancelling on the morning of the very first day of the billing cycle. They will not prorate any refund. They want it all. Inexcusable greed, pure and simple.

If you’ve got Vonage service, call them and attempt to cancel. You’ll see. And you’ll probably want to cancel for real after that. Quitting something has never been so difficult or fraught with sliminess.

Griping on Twitter got us somewhere. Shockingly. I was still treated like I was demanding some monumental favor, talked at like the guy was reeeeeeeally bending over backwards to do something Really Special for me. Like honor their promise to extend enough credit to cover not having a bill with them again until November? Nah, they hit us with a $20 bill in October. For a $9.99/month plan. Nuuuuh-uuuh.

So eventually the final day of our “deal” arrived. Except I didn’t call in by 7pm CST for a billing that doesn’t happen until midnight. Vonage only has open phone lines until 8pm Eastern time. I had called around 715–I was too late. That, to me, seems pretty evil and deliberate…or conveniently profit-inducing, depending on which side you’re on. So we’re screwed again for another month. All apparently by design.

Run away. As fast as you can. Eventually, we will be done with this.

Vonage, You’re Making A Mistake, And Losing A Customer

Vonage Customer Since 2004

We’ve been Vonage customers for 5 years come mid-July. This very likely ends soon.

Let’s first say something, though: overall, we’ve enjoyed having Vonage. It was nice to be able to tell Ameritech/SBC where to stick their lackluster customer service and ridiculous billing. The Ameritech/SBC rep at the time had no idea what Vonage even was (which would hopefully no longer be the case).

They also couldn’t touch Vonage’s pricing. And it’s recent Vonage pricing changes that have us seriously considering surrendering our account with them…

We’ve had Vonage for our mixed-use/SOHO line since 2004. It’s been pretty good for us, mostly. We’ve never used it that much, so the 500 (outbound) minutes per month plan for $15/month seemed like a pretty good deal. It was actually more than we needed at the time; as it turned out, we had to work pretty hard to even use 300 minutes in a month–and that’s only happened a handful of times.

So for $15/month, we had a fairly nice, relatively-inexpensive solution to keeping a landline in our home for the random phone call we needed to make or–more critically, really–receive. And it worked pretty well. Once we worked out the router QoS settings and gave it the right amount of bandwidth, you’d never know it wasn’t a ‘real’ phone line.

We did go through a period where we had a lot of problems with Caller ID, though… even going without it at all for more than a year at one point. We wrote and called them and attempted to get someone to even acknowledge the CID issue, but Vonage was unwilling and/or unable to work with or help us. In the end, Vonage additionally refused to issue us a credit for any of our hassles at all–despite it eventually being a well-established issue by many other Vonage customers on many Vonage-related forums and other websites–because, in their words, “you’ve had active service all along”. We’re not paying for just the dialtone, Vonage; way to miss the point!

We were not amused, but at the same time, it was still the best bang/buck option available to us… so that came and went, and came again briefly, and went again… and overall, for fifteen lousy bucks a month, there’s just not that much complaining you can do.

And then the fees started to accumulate, bloating our bill.

Vonage started acting like a Real Phone Company, insofar as feeling it necessary to preemptively charge us for taxes and other fees they felt they might eventually have to start paying should they not get a pass on VoIP-related legislation. We were getting Milwaukee County Miller Park renovation fees tacked onto our Vonage bill. Really, Vonage? We started feeling like we were back with SBC/Ameritech, getting nickeled and dimed all over again.

Vonage was also involved in a lawsuit or two along the way, which no doubt redoubled their efforts to be as “preemptive” as possible collecting as much money from their customers as they could get away with. Our $15/month was rapidly turning into $18, $19, $20/month… a sizeable increase for something that shouldn’t really increase at all. It’s really no different than having a subscription to an online game, after all. It’s an online service we use over the Internet. Not really any different than web browsing, instant messaging, telnet, ssh, irc, and on and on.

Well, it seems Vonage is on another money grab. As of February, they’ve raised the rates on their $15/month plans to $18/month. With the fees, this jacks up our monthly bill to nearly $23/month. For a 500-minute plan.

Vonage’s solution to our $23/month dilemma? “Upgrade to our $24.95/month unlimited plan!”

Yeah, we’re just dying to do that. Looking at a recent billing statement, we used… thirty minutes the entire month of April. Thirty. Our $23/month bill, including fees and taxes, means we’re paying a nearly-ridiculous $0.77/minute.

If we upgraded our plan to the “unlimited” (note: not really unlimited-read the fine print!) $25/month plan, after taxes and fees, we’d be paying right around a dollar a minute. A dollar a minute!

So, as a result, Vonage will almost certainly be losing our business. We’re apparently not tethered enough to our phones to make it worthwhile, and they’d rather not bother. it’s a shame, because VoIP with Vonage could be one of those Great Equalizers, able to accommodate everyone at every usage tier and/or income level. And indeed, I thought that was kind of the point of Vonage in the first place. A for-profit business, to be sure, but also a company clearly interested in being a reasonably-priced VoIP provider that could and would dominate and maybe even destroy the Bells, bringing everyone along into VoIP fold.

Maybe Vonage feels they’ve succeeded at that, I don’t know. If so, they’re wrong. They’re certainly facing increased competition from Internet providers that are offering similar–and often more featured–telephony options alongside their Internet service.

What Vonage needs to do is consider the lower end of the market; something no one else is really doing effectively. “Skype”, you might say… but Skype isn’t really pedestrian enough a solution for most people. People want what seems and feels like a real phone. Skype too often feels like a toy (and frequently sounds like one, too). It’s great for all the geeks, but it’s not such a hot solution for the grandparents.

Vonage could easily offer lower-end services, at even lower prices, for people interested in paying less because, hey, they use the service less. What will be happening instead is Vonage will be losing those customers they’re attempting to force to upgrade, that already don’t get full use of the lower-tier plan. And again, after taxes and fees, I’m guessing Vonage’s $25/month unlimited plan would top out over $30/month, which means last month’s 30 minute of usage here would end up costing us a buck a minute. No thank you.

So Vonage, either offer us something that will keep us around, or they’ll lose us. And others like us, no doubt. I’d think even $10/month is still better than $0/month, for those that barely use the service, but would still like to have something around that works reasonably well. Even a cheap parking/forwarding service, to keep the number and allow inbound-only calls… I’d strongly consider it, and I’m sure others would, too.

We’ve tossed around the idea of a $200 Ooma box, but we’re not quite sold on their business model, although the break-even point after purchasing the box is at around 10 months. There are no mandatory monthly fees with Ooma,, but there’s a premium package that’s certainly got our attention. That’s still $100/year (minus the hardware cost) for a few dozen minutes a month, though…

And of course, too, we want something we can hang onto and not have to change. We also don’t want a Sunrocket situation with Ooma going belly-up and leaving us and our phone number stranded and difficult if not impossible to recover.

Of course, I have no idea what it costs Vonage to maintain a line and number for a customer, so maybe that’s part of their pricing, too… but surely there’s some kind of option to keep Vonage from losing the lower-tier customers. Jacking up the price, by the way, if it wasn’t already clear… isn’t really one of them.

So, Vonage, we prepare to bid thee adieu. Will you be around still in 2, 3, 5 years? Who knows. It’s no longer a bet we’re willing to take.

Update: Vonage has been running commercials recently bragging about how they’ve never raised prices. Watch the commercial closely. They specifically limit their claim to their $25/month “unlimited” plan. They conveniently leave out the gouging they’ve been doing trying to force people off thei 500-min/mo plan, jacking that up from $15/mo to $18/mo. They’ve also not mentioned they’ve kept adding fees to the bills over time, causing increases of several dollars over the years in the total price of the service per month. In a nutshell, the commercial’s technically truthful, but otherwise fairly dishonest and deceptive. Buyer beware.

Time-Warner Is Always Right, You Idiot

The Customer Is Always Wrong
Time Warner does it again!

But First, The Survey And The Burial

So, sometime day before yesterday our yard was surveyed so the bright-orange cable line that’s been lying across our yard and down the hill to the street-side cable hookup for the past three weeks can finally be buried. Three weeks was long enough, and I’ve gotten tired of mowing around the thing, so we think it’s great to see a little paint on the lawn.

But wait, it’s not great. They only surveyed outside our fence. Why? Fear of a dog in our back yard (we don’t have one)? They also didn’t bother knocking or ringing our obnoxiously-loud doorbell to ask, either, because we were home all day.

So who knows what’s going to happen. We decide to wait and see, since calling anyone at Time-Warner almost always leads to more confusion and delay. And yeah, we know that it’s not Time-Warner’s fault the survey wasn’t done properly, because they’re not the ones that do the surveys. But we also have years of experience interacting with them, and calling Time-Warner to ‘fix’ something is rarely straightforward or simple…as you’ll soon read (again).

A couple of guys showed up yesterday to bury the line. Contractors for Time-Warner. They look like a father-son duo, and they’re certainly nice enough to me. I tell them the area inside our fence hasn’t been surveyed for some reason, so I don’t know what they plan to do. The ‘father’ of the crew whips out his phone, talks to someone, hangs up, then tells me he’s called in a one-hour survey and that he’ll be back in a couple of hours to get the line finally buried.

My jaw nearly dropped. I’m actually astounded that someone related to Time-Warner in any fashion can actually pick up a phone and Make Things Happen, Right Awayâ„¢.

So they leave. Some time goes by. Eventually I’m back outside with our oldest son, and we notice fresh paint lines on our inside-fence lawn. Survey done. Wow, progress! A short while later, the ‘father-son’ team shows up again to finally bury the line. They knock on the door, let us know our cable-related services will be down while they disconnect the line to bury it properly. No problem, I say…go for it. So they get to it. We talk some more a bit later about watering the trench so the grass doesn’t turn brown, and hey, they seem like decent guys. I let them get back to work finishing up packing the trench, reconnecting the street-side connection, etc.

A short while later I hear them loading their trenching machine back onto its trailer. I hear their truck start, and away they go. I figured they might check back with me first about our service to make sure it was turned back on and working correctly, but they didn’t. Weird…

So I run down to my office to verify things are working. I take a look at the cable modem lights. No connection.

Uh-oh. I run back upstairs and flip on the television. No signal. Oh, crap

Would it have been that big of a deal after talking to me several times already to just check in that one last time and make sure everything was working again? In my opinion, verifying everything is working as it should is a must-do upon completion of any service one performs.

Cue Circus Music…

Now the fun begins. I decide to call Time-Warner Customer Service’s 800 number. If you’re a regular reader here, you already know my expectations at this point are very, very low…

Oh, wait, I can’t call Time-Warner because we use Vonage, which requires a broadband connection we no longer have. We’re in-between with cellphones right now, due to our recent move, so nothing to do there. My wife has just come home, however, and has her work cellphone, so I use that to call Time-Warner…even though that phone is a strictly-work-only device as mandated by her employer. Oh well, this is an emergency…

First call to the Time-Warner 800 number gets me “Demetrius”. I explain the situation to him. I tell him that the line-burying guys just left, mere minutes ago, and if someone could simply call them, they should be able to come right back and take care of things right away, as it’s obviously just something they messed up in the street-side box. He puts me on hold for a while. I was probably on the phone with him about 10 minutes, including hold time. He eventually tells me I should be getting a call from a local dispatcher in the next 15-20 minutes. I give him my wife’s work cellphone number as the only way to reach us, which he understands and notes in our account.

I ask what I should do if they don’t call (as this has happened to us more than once before), and he tells me to call back. Of COURSE that’s how it should be… Bzzzt.

About 20 minutes later, I get a call from a woman whose name I no longer recall (update: from her voicemails after this incident was finally resolved, her name is Toni). Total time of call was about 15 minutes, including hold time. I explain what’s happened, and how I’d like her to call the contractors and get them right back out to finish their job correctly, as they clearly didn’t.

Welcome To Hell.

And here is where things go the most wrong, death-spiraling into Time-Warner-knows-better-than-you hell. Again.

Toni insists the cable reconnection isn’t the job of the cable-burying crew; she tells me that all they do is bury the lines, and if there’s an issue with my connection, she’ll have to find a regular Time-Warner line technician to come out. She refuses to believe me when I tell her that the line-burying guys DO in fact unhook the cable line so they can bury it, and what this is isn’t a general failure of my cable connection, or anything requiring a technician, but a simple case of a crew that didn’t complete their regular work correctly and should be easily fixed by them, as it IS part of their job. She puts me on hold. She eventually comes back and tells me she’s having trouble finding someone to help me and she’ll call me back in 20 minutes. I say fine, and there I sit again, no closer to resolution than before.

So for the next HOUR, I’m walking around with my wife’s work cellphone in my hand, getting nothing done, waiting for them to call back. At the one-hour mark, I call THEM back at the 800 number again, as I’m thinking I’ve waited long enough. By this time, it’s almost 4 PM, and the day is getting away from all of us. I get another completely different person this time (Rosa?). Total time of call was around 20-25 minutes, going nowhere fast. Our call was peppered with severely long hold times several times as she conferred with people. At one point, Rosa tells me that I was called back and a voicemail was left for me. Umm, no. Apparently Toni–who correctly called my wife’s cellphone number the first time–called back on our regular home line…which is the Vonage line we can’t answer with our cable/broadband connection down. Way to go, Toni.

Our going-nowhere-fast, series-of-loooong-holds call with Rosa was actually cut short by Toni via call waiting, finally and correctly calling me back on my wife’s work phone. At this point, it was an hour and 20 mins since she told me it would be 20 minutes.

Toni’s actually rather snotty about everything. Says she talked to “technicians that installed the cable line” and they’d get a crew to come back out “today”. “Today”? Seriously? She tells me she “called me already about all this” (paraphrased), but makes no mention that she called the wrong number.  Fine, “today” it is, then. I’m clearly not going to get any better answer, so I guess I’m stuck waiting, once again not knowing if/when anything will happen.

About 45 minutes later, the original line-burying duo shows up to fix the line. Turns out when they redid the street-box cable connector, the stinger wasn’t left long enough. The line wasn’t buried quite properly at the enclosure, either. I get the impression the younger guy’s in training. The ‘father’ also tells me he saw me talking to the ‘son’ close to their completion of work, so he thought we’d had a conversation verifying everything was up and running OK… Oops.

And Finally…

Anyway, it’s all working again. The fix was simple, minor, and quickly and easily resolved…just as I expected and explained it would be.

It was down about five hours altogether for what should have been 15-30 mins, max. Not bad for Time-Warner, I suppose, but still ridiculously unacceptable.

And let’s be clear: we don’t have a problem with a single instance of a worker (in training or otherwise) screwing something up. These things happen. What we don’t like is the it’s-not-us, we-know-better-than-you attitude and the presumption of customer stupidity that emanates from Time-Warner’s Customer Service/Support. If they had called the line-burial guys back right away when I first called in, we likely would have been up and running again right away.

In the hour I spent doing nothing but waiting for a callback from Toni, I could have driven around our entire town and found a Time-Warner truck and technician on my own. Never mind the lost productivity (and earnings) from the downtime, which of course Time-Warner never feels is their responsibility even when the outage is their own damn fault.

It’s shocking and ironic that Time-Warner’s in the communication business, when they’re so incredibly poor at it.

All we’ve ever wanted is what we’re paying for to work. When it doesn’t work, we want competent and responsive service. Time-Warner proves time after time that these most-basic customer expectations are almost entirely unreasonable.


We got a voicemail (during all the aforementioned downtime, go figure) from a Sam Olmsted (sic?), a manager with Time-Warner Business Class Services regarding this very blog. Someone with Time-Warner–somewhere–finally notices. I can’t shake the feeling, however, that it’s probably a sales call instead of real assistance. I half-expect to hear something like “With Biz Class service, you can get real QoS and guaranteed uptime!” I suppose I should call him anyway and see what he wants. Anything’s possible, right?