Any Verizon phone I get… better not have VZ Navigator on it

Back a few years ago, before GPS units were in every car, I relied on either MapQuest or Yahoo! Maps to plot my travel from Albany to another city.  I also owned a vintage BlackBerry – it was a 6750 phone, but it didn’t have a GPS or turn-by-turn navigation program in it.

Those two items converged one day – when my poor BlackBerry gave up the ghost.  Because I had purchased it online and used it through my Verizon Wireless carrier, rather than purchasing it directly through Verizon, Verizon would not repair the phone.  They would, however, be more than willing to sell me a new cell phone, and the two-year contract inherent thereto.

So I went to the Verizon Wireless store in Crossgates, and the customer service representative kept steering me toward the phone they were trying to push at that time.  No, it wasn’t a new BlackBerry – it was, in fact, a Motorola RAZR phone.  Yeah, the RAZR.

<SARCASM> Yippee Skippee. </SARCASM>

“The best thing about the RAZR,” the salesperson said to me, “is that you can get our brand new VZ Navigator software right on the phone.”

My ears picked up.

The VZ Navigator was Verizon’s built-in GPS software program.  You could punch in an address and the Navigator would provide turn-by-turn directions right to that doorstep.  And it would give you vocal commands – as in “TURN RIGHT ON SOUTH PEARL STREET.”

I tried it out. At the time, I was involved in a major research project that required me to travel to various towns in Pennsylvania.  And I was getting tired of trying to hold up a printed map with one hand, have one eye on the odometer to measure the miles to the intersection, and the other eye on the road in front of me (and the other hand on the steering wheel).  VZ Navigator might just be the thing I’m looking for.


The first time I tried the VZ Navigator, I had to go to Scranton.  No, I didn’t stop at Dunder-Mifflin and say hi to Dwight, thank you.

I got to Scranton without too much trouble – I-87 south to I-84, which picked up I-81 and then a couple of exits later, hello Scranton.

The problem I ran into was getting back from Scranton.  for some reason, the Navigator didn’t put me back on the interstate – in fact, it took me through Pennsylvania State Route 6, through Carbondale.  Which then led to about five other Pennsylvania towns I never heard of.  Before long,  I was driving through the heart of the Catskill Mountains.

And then my phone lost its signal.  Now what does that mean for me?  Well, for one thing I couldn’t make a phone call out.  But, more importantly, it also meant that there was no signal for the VZ Navigator to pick up and make sure I was going in the right direction.  In other words – I was tooling through Sullivan County without any idea of where I was going!  In fact, by the time I actually found a route to the New York State Thruway, the phone FINALLY picked up a signal, and the VZ Navigator’s synthesized voice kept repeating, “Recalculating Route… Recalculating Route…”

I called Verizon.  They told me it was an issue with early editions of VZ Navigator, and if I pressed a couple of “upload” commands on my phone, everything would be back to normal.


The second time I relied on Verizon’s VZ Navigator, I was in New York City with my wife Vicki.  Now if you’re not 100% familiar with driving in New York City, you need to know that half the roads in NYC are one-way streets, and the only way to REALLY get out of NYC is to either find the FDR Drive, the George Washington Bridge, the Holland Tunnel or the one sympathetic cab driver who will say to you, “Follow me,” and lead you to at least the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Well, once again I employed the services of the VZ Navigator.  Unfortunately, the VZ Navigator suddenly started sending me in several wrong directions.  “Turn left at the next intersection,” it commanded.  Unfortunately, the next intersection involved a one-way street pointing right.

“Turn right on 6th Avenue.”  How do you do that when you’re on 7th Avenue?  Where does 6th and 7th intersect?

After enough of these hijinks, I turned off the VZ Navigator and looked all over for the FDR Drive.  About an hour’s worth of parking-lot-traffic later, I got out of New York City.

Again, another call to Verizon.  Again, another “We’re working on the situation, but we’ve taken your call into account.”


Third time.  I went to visit my grandmother, who was at that time in a nursing home in Ossipee, New Hampshire.  Getting up to Ossipee (which is near several lakefront resort towns in upper New Hampshire) was no problem.  Getting back, however, was a nightmare.

I wanted to stay on major roads to get to the Massachusetts Turnpike; the VZ Navigator had other ideas.  Suddenly I find myself on the Franklin Pierce Highway, which is New Hampshire’s very own 100-mile long one-lane roller coaster highway.  And of course, the minute I get into Vermont – no signal.  No connection with the satellites.  And of course, no VZ Navigator to help me get un-lost.


After my third and final attempt to make VZ Navigator work, I once again called Verizon Wireless Customer Service.  I explained the situation, that the VZ Navigator was creating a route that would take me the wrong way on one-way streets, and that the Navigator was only useful as long as there was a solid cell phone signal, which of late I hadn’t received on that tiny little RAZR phone.

“Well, Mr. Miller, why are you using VZ Navigator for driving directions?” he asked me.

“What do you mean?” I asked, not understanding why he was questioning my use of the product.

“Well, you shouldn’t be using VZ Navigator as a driving aid.  if you’re going to use the software like that, you should go get yourself a Garmin.”

Okay… wait a minute.  Verizon Wireless Customer Service, instead of helping me fix the problem with THEIR software program, told me that I should go get a standalone GPS unit instead?  Wow.

That sound you just heard was my head exploding.  Go put “Scanners” on your Netflix queue.  You’ll see what I mean.

I complained to this guy’s supervisor.  I told him this RAZR wasn’t even qualified to do the work of a paperweight.  It was horrible, it was useless, and as for the VZ Navigator, I could get better navigational directions if I put Vicki in the back seat with a folded Jimapco map that I bought at a Pep Boys.

Eventually Verizon finally listened to me – and I was able to trade in my RAZR phone for a BlackBerry 7803e.  It was just like my old BlackBerry – I could get e-mails and send texts with a full QWERTY keyboard.  I asked if the phone had the capability to use Verizon’s VZ Navigator service.

“Sorry, sir, that phone doesn’t work with VZ Navigator,” the salesperson told me.

I immediately bought it and signed up for a two-year agreement.

A month later, I picked up a TomTom from Best Buy.  And in two years with that TomTom, I’ve never gotten lost – not once.  And unlike Verizon, I’ve never used TomTom’s brand name as a the subject of an unprintable barnyard expletive.