Over 20 years ago the cellular service that eventually became Verizon operated a small franchise outlet located at Railroad Bazaar. While the name (which is a combination of the Latin word, veritas, or truth, and horizon,) became known for the iconic “Can you hear me now?” phrase that has become a part of our current vernacular. More importantly Verizon now has the largest 4G network as well as greatest amount of 4G coverage in America. These days it has far more to offer than cell phones.
Just in case you are too embarrassed to ask what 4G means, here is an explanation for non-technoids like me from the Verizon site: “The term 4G LTE is really two terms. 4G means the fourth generation of data technology for cellular networks ? following 3G, the third generation. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is short for a very technical process for high-speed data for phones and other mobile devices. Together, they make 4G LTE ? the fastest 4G service available today.”
By way of a little history and education, Verizon came about as the result of the merger of Atlantic Bell and GTE, two telecommunications giants of the 20th century. Therefore much of the service and coverage infrastructure was already in place. However, just because you are big doesn’t mean you are good at what you do, and we have seen several cellular companies come and go. “What makes the difference is customer service,” said Heath Gilmore, the manager of the Athens store.
Heath has always been interested in technology, studied engineering at UAH, and worked for Dynetics. He has also been in sales for years, and before joining the Verizon team 18 months ago, he sold underground utility systems in Athens and Madison. The products included pipes, backflow prevention systems (important in battling terrorism), and other components of water and sewer services. He is also nearly finished with a Master’s degree in Ministries.
While at the Athens store, I also chatted with Athens State University graduate Heather Balcerek, who holds a Master’s degree from American Public University (APU). She is the Verizon sales support and training manager over 57 stores. Her territory includes Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. She told me about the upcoming “shindig” to be held on April 29th. The new store, which is located at 22041 A, Hwy 72 in Athens (in the recently constructed buildings on the south side of the Publix shopping center), will have its grand opening/Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting celebration beginning at 10 am. Journey 93.3 will be broadcasting from the store, and from 2pm to 6 pm there will be pizza made especially for the party by Village Pizza in Athens. There will be giveaways all day, and for any new service purchased, there will be free activation April 15 through April 30. Andy, who is a 7ft tall Android, will also be on hand to greet the guests.
These days all the retail outlets for the major telecommunication corporations have largely the same products to offer their customers. The days are gone where some stores only carried Apple products and others Android. “We’re far more than cellular. Everyone now carries tablets, iPhones, iPads, and all kinds of Androids,” said Heath. I asked, “If everyone basically carries everything, then why should I come to you?” “We have the best service,” he said. “Every day I have customers coming in to say ‘I used to be with__________,’ and there is no comparison to your service and theirs.’” He added that while all of the major players have competitive prices, the difference has to be made up in customer satisfaction and keeping up with advancements in technologies. The Athens store is state of the art and is designed to reflect and display those advancements.
One of the new “toys” offered at the Athens Verizon store could have been what we used to see in the comics being sported on Detective Dick Tracey’s arm: the two way TV wrist radio, as well as computer. It is made by Samsung, and is called the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. Heath was wearing one, and with it you can answer your calls, read texts and emails, take pictures, and so much more. They also carry what is known as the Jet Pack. It is a device that is about the size of a cell phone that acts as a portable Wi-Fi system. With the Jet Pack, if you are in a coffee shop, restaurant or other outlet, you don’t have to use their system to get online. You just turn on your Jet Pack, which is configured to your IP address, and “you’re in,” as they say. The Jet Pack can run up to 10 devices at once. As thankful as I am for all the local business owners who have provided free Wi-Fi access to the public, sometimes I need to get online quickly, and having your own system greatly streamlines the process.
Another of Verizon’s new services is called Sure Response, which can be compared to Life Alert. It is worn around the neck, is water resistant (so it can be used while showering), and has carefully trained attendants on the other end of the line should there be a slip, fall, accident, or other type of emergency. It is perfect for seniors or those who are disabled.
I always like to write the Athens Now advertorials for our clients from the standpoint of being a truly satisfied customer, and I believe that on the 29th of April I will become just that. Awhile back we “bundled” our TV, Internet, and office phone line into one cable package, and while there has been solid satisfaction with the first two, with the phone service, not so much. I do most of my business communicating on my cell phone, and a great deal of the time I am “out of the office and out in the field.” Once I got the new office phone number for my home, my phone was ringing constantly day and night with sales calls. Apparently I had not read the “fine print” that indicated that my phone number would be released to the planet, and it was more than annoying.
Verizon to the rescue! Beginning with a $20 per month plan, I can utilize the home phone connect service with unlimited calls in the U.S., along with the option to add generous international calling plans. The home phone connect unit plugs into the wall, just like a household appliance. Verizon also offers a combination service that has Internet and voice bundled together. If the power goes out, both units have batteries that last for up to four hours. I do not have to get a new phone number, and I can keep the other two services (TV and Internet) in my present bundle. Oh, by the way, Heath and Heather assured me my phone number would never be sold.
Verizon does offer its own bundling package for residential and business use. In addition, because of the 4G coverage, is able to provide service in rural areas that are not reached by other companies. They have plans that are designed to fit every budget and need, and I would like to encourage you to join me on April 29th to both welcome them to their new store, and experience the fulfillment of the promise of unparalleled customer care.
Athens Verizon Store
22041A Hwy 72 Athens, AL 35613
Phone: 1-800-NEW-CELL or 256-262-0847
Hours: Mon-Sat 9-7, Sun 1-6
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner