A couple of weeks ago we reported the predicament of Bob St. Germain, who had been unable to settle a disputed $18,000 cell phone bill from Verizon since receiving it in 2006.
Thanks in no small measure to Technorati coverage, I'm sure, we are happy to report that Mr. St. Germain is resting comfortably, his debt having been magnanimously forgiven by Verizon.
Yes, the $18,000 charge (previously reduced by half) has been removed from Mr. St. Germain's monthly statement, but in one last smashing bit of corporate egoism, the bill was not reduced to a normal amount or completely forgiven--it was written off as uncollectible.
This is what is known in the business as wrenching defeat from the jaws of victory. Another apt cliche might be cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.
In order to save a few dollars on next year's tax return--and because as a group the decision makers can no longer see past "losing" to what is in the company's best interests--Verizon has thrown away what could have been a terrific PR win for them.
According to boston.com, "On Friday night, the company issued a statement saying it has concluded the remaining balance is 'uncollectible' and that it considers the matter 'closed.'"
One can almost hear the altered speech caused by the clenched teeth through which that statement was uttered.
The consequences for Mr. Germain are that an uncollectible debt is actually a valid debt and will remain so on his credit report. This makes the Verizon boys look even more like A-holes than they already did.
But that's how the ego is, whether it's corporate or individual. "A collective ego," such as a corporation, writes spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, "manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as the need for conflict and enemies, the need for more, the need to be right against others who are wrong, and so on."
It seems clear that Verizon's $18,000 write-off has done little to win back the trust of a loyal customer, or the respect of a dubious public, which would prefer to see a little corporate humility. How about an apology? That would score so many PR points.
While an apology would cost little in monetary terms, Verizon, just like the rest of us, would have to lop off a large chunk of ego to make it happen.
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