When coronavirus closed schools and businesses, Pam Barnard needed a solution to keep her daughters learning online. They live in a rural area where internet service is spotty.
"We never can really use our laptops or anything like that, so it kind of just scrolls and we can't get a good connection,” said Barnard.
She heard internet providers were offering deals to families designed for the shelter-in-place and homeschooling so she called her carrier, Verizon, and asked a representative for help.
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"She just said 'you're gonna have better service' and she said 'we're going to waive any late fees' and she said she 'really thought this would help with the schooling, and that Verizon was committed to help every way that they could during the COVID-19,'" said Barnard
Barnard made the switch on April 4 and very quickly started getting text messages telling her she was using too much data. Barnard thought that was perplexing because she thought she had an unlimited plan, so she called Verizon again.
"I'm like 'what is this? We moved to this to help with the COVID-19 so that our kids could get internet service, and we're getting these texts. What does it mean?' and they said 'it doesn't mean anything, you don't have to worry about it,'" said Barnard.
Eventually, the Barnards got the bill and from April 10 through May 9 they were charged $3907.70. Her husband opened the bill first.
"He sent it to me and said this is our new bill, and I just wrote back LOL...because I knew it couldn't be correct," said Barnard.
Normally their bill was only $304. She called Verizon again and spoke with two supervisors but was told the bill was legit and could not be undone. Barnard was flabbergasted.
"At a time when people are hurting, at a time when you call a company and you ask for help, we have done everything we can with the COVID-19, we are essential workers and we come home. We don't run the streets and we did everything the governor and everybody has asked us to, and we just asked for some help with schooling," said Barnard.
With seemingly nowhere to turn, Barnard went to Facebook Live for help.
"I still don't know even in this 30 days how we got a $3,000 bill and they are not going to come down on it. So I need you guys to share this video, and maybe we can get it into the right hands."
That video found its’ way to the NBC 5 Responds team. We reached out to Verizon to ask if they could research Barnard’s bill.
In an email, a spokeswoman responded saying, “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. After further investigation it was confirmed that this customer was not put on the right plan. …. we have worked with the customer to adjust her account.”
“In less than 24 hours after NBC did a zoom with me. They did contact me. They are immediately crediting $3,360,” Pam told NBC 5. “Thank you NBC for sharing our story.”
Despite everything, Pam Barnard said the service did seem better, but certainly not at that price.
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*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.