Over the last 20 years, I have worked on product teams at Microsoft, IBM and a variety of venture-backed tech products. I know how companies develop tech products, what goes into the process and what can go wrong. For this reason, I am usually very forgiving of functional problems. No tech product is perfect. Flaws are part of life in the digital age.
However, I was unprepared for the shocking lack of product management and poorly-executed security policies on display in the Verizon prepaid wireless data plan. I signed on to this plan a few months ago. I am paying $50 per month for 8GB of bandwidth. To make it work, Verizon sold me an Ellipsis® Jetpack® MHS900L Wi-Fi hotspot.
When it works, it works. I have no issues with the basic service quality. Where things go off the rails, is when you max out your data. There is no warning of any kind. An email might be nice. Just sayin’. Verizon simply switches you to “Safety Mode,” which is about as fast a 2400 baud dial-up modem. (If you don’t know what this, I envy your youth.)
Thus, to add funds to your plan, you must wait—and this is not an exaggeration—about 10 minutes for each page on https://myvprepay.verizonwireless.com to load. Then, and this has happened three times in a row, the site doesn’t recognize my log in credentials. Okay… so I will click on “forgot password” and wait another five or ten minutes for that function to load. The service then sends a PIN number to the Ellipsis Jetpack, a device that cannot display a PIN number.
It’s a true idiot loop, but at least you get to waste about a half hour trying to log in. Or, you can call them and wait on hold for a half hour. You can’t say Verizon denies you choices in customer support. Finally, when you’ve gotten yourself logged in, the site won’t accept my credit card. I’m not sure why this is the case, but I have a hunch it has to do with fraud prevention.
After I’d gone through the rigmarole of adding more funds to my account and getting the high-speed connection going, the administrative panel is still very buggy. It asks a security question at every log in, even though I’m on the same PC and their network device. The prepayment app on the site crashes repeatedly.
I reached out to Verizon for comment by email. They got back right to me with an apology, a statement from a senior Verizon Wireless executive and a free service call on site. Ha! Just kidding. If you believe that, you don’t own enough bridges. I never heard from them.
I do not understand how a company of this size and market reach can release a product with so many interlocking design and business process defects. If I were a cynic, I’d say it’s because they don’t care. They’re part of a duopoly, so my user experience means nothing to them. Still, it might be time to check out the other part of that duo.