but the difficulty/seeming impossibility of (simply) transferring contacts, data and settings from my old android phone to the pixel is a HUGE fail. i'm hoping the verizon store staff will be able to do it when i go in to activate this phone (it needs a smaller sim).
I'm assuming contacts can be downloaded from your Google address book. When I bought my Nexus 4 back in 2013 the T-Mobile store was able to download them. (I had never had a smartphone before.)
When I switched from the Nexus to the G4 in 2015 all my contacts and apps came over wirelessly. The TM store handled the transfer.
Recently I moved from a G4 to a G5. In this case I handled the transfer myself. I had a 132GB SD card installed on the G4 to store photos and videos. LG has a backup utility that lets you back up contacts and apps to the card. When I bought the new phone and swapped the card I used the utility to reload everything. Even the wi-fi networks and passwords that I use. It worked really well.
I think your Verizon people are going to make this problem go away.