Lanet Sawyer shared a Verizon account with her friend. When her friend dies, Verizon tells Sawyer to keep the phone. Then it sends her a bill for the remaining payments, a whopping $435. What’s more, no one seems to care. What can she do?

Question: A little over a year ago, we added a close friend, Ruth, to our Verizon plan. She purchased a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. On October 3, 2015, Ruth died.

The same week, I called Verizon Customer Support and spoke with Mary, who identified herself as a supervisor. After explaining the circumstances, Mary told us Verizon would waive any further payments on Ruth’s device and she also deactivated her line. She further stated that we did not need to return the device, since Ruth had paid on it for almost a year. All of this was recorded in the notes on the account.

Subsequently, Verizon demanded the phone back, which we didn’t have. Then they billed me for the full balance on the phone, which totaled $435. My husband and I both called Verizon several times to get the charges reversed. Verizon told us that although they could see the notes from my phone call with Mary, the corporate office decided not to honor its employee’s decision to waive the charges.

Concerned this would affect our account, we paid the inflated bills, hoping that the mix-up would be sorted out. But a year has passed, Verizon has gone back on its word, and no one at the company seems to care. Can you help me get in touch with someone at Verizon who can help? ¬†— Lanet Sawyer, Grand Ledge, Mich.

Answer: I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. If a Verizon employee said that you didn’t have to return Ruth’s phone or pay for it, that should have been the end of the story. Unfortunately, there was a disconnect at Verizon.

You were being a good friend, and a good customer. You allowed Ruth to share your account, and after she passed away, you told her family to keep the phone. Demanding the phone back after telling her family they could keep it was something you refused to do — even though that’s exactly what Verizon was doing.

You did everything you could to try to fix the problem. You calmly pointed out Verizon’s mistake during several phone calls, and eventually, you sent a letter by certified mail to Verizon’s dispute resolution team. You even paid¬†the bills in full. None of your efforts got you closer to a resolution.

Your case is a perfect example of the failures so common in American customer service. Often, massive companies like Verizon don’t empower their front line agents to solve its customers’ problems, resulting in frustrating situations like yours. You had every reason to believe that Verizon wasn’t going to charge you for the phone, because companies should stand by their word.

I reached out to Verizon on your behalf. A senior-level representative contacted you, apologized, and expressed her embarrassment over the situation. She said that any representative should have been able to partner with management to resolve the issue, and issued a credit in the amount of $434.64.