Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why we hate cable companies (in case you forgot)

Here’s why people hate cable companies.

I was trying to arrange broadband Internet access for my mom’s house down in North Carolina. She has no interest or need for Web access, but I do and since I’ll be going to visit more often, it’s a necessary internet cost. (Those Starbucks $9.99-per-day t-mobile charges were adding up.)

My first call to her cable company—Charter Cable—yielded an interesting response. Since their records showed her account under my father’s name—he died in 1984—the rather snippy man on the phone said we’d have to come in, death certificate in hand, to change the paperwork.

Funny. Her bills have been in her name for more than a decade. Probably more than two.

A few days later I called again. No mention of a billing name change.

This fellow, positively chatty, assured me that the installation guy would be able to hook up digital TV, phone AND cable modem even if I—and my computer—could not be around. This sounded fishy. So I asked him three times if that were really the case. He assured me it was.

Fast forward three weeks to the installation. Mom called me as instructed, although after Installation Guy had already installed the digital TV cable box. Then she put the clearly put-out fellow on.

Obviously in a hurry, he said he could not install the cable modem without a PC on hand. In fact, he had not even brought a cable modem with him. Hmmm.

Given that this was the only reason we’d scheduled the service this seemed odd. To make matters worse: He yelled at me. Really yelled. Interesting concept of customer service.

The work order stated that cable modem was the game plan and that the salesman had promised this would not be an issue, I said.

“He just wanted to make a sale,” he responded.

Hmm. I asked for Charter’s phone number.

He said he didn’t have it.

“Um. Don’t you work for them?”


He was one of those nameless contractors who feel no connection to the vendor they represent and are likely abused by said vendor. Hence the tip-top service we get. After an audible, irritated sigh, he managed to provide the number. Was that really so hard? I wanted to ask. But didn't.

After a good five minute wait (probably record time) a Charter support lady said the work order read as I had been told. As in: "Install cable modem, leave easy install kit." She apologized for “any confusion.”

I called Installer Guy back. He was madder than ever.

He had no modem. No install kit.

“Okay. Take everything out.”

If you could hear livid, that was the sound I would have heard it. Who gives a damn if we ruined his day? But I do care that my 80-plus-year-old mom was put through this idiocy for no reason.

Insult to injury: Charter support lady had told me she’d call Mom in an hour to make sure the old (BellSouth, God bless ‘em) phone service had not been impacted by this farce.

It’s been three days: No call.

Moral of the story: Cable companies suck but Charter Cable takes that suckiness to a whole other level.

For more tales of Charter Cable hell, see here. And here. And here.

(I should have googled Charter Cable complaints before, but in truth there is no alternative in western NC.)

Addendum: A recent Comcast experience in the Boston area was the polar opposite of what the Charter fiasco in North Carolina. Not only did the installer do a great job installing digital phone connctino and updating my cable modem, he cleaned out all the outside cable box connections AND provided his cell phone number in case there were any problems. He said to call anytime and leave a message because he typically worked in the area.

So far there’s been no need to take advantage of this offer, but the very fact it was made made him and by extension Comcast a star.

That is above and beyond what anyone can expect. But consumers should be able to expect at the very least competence and civility.

Charter showed neither.


Anonymous said...

My name is Brynn Palmer and I work at Charter Communications in Saint Louis, Missouri. I care about how you and your mother were treated. If you would like to forward your contact information to my email below, I'd be happy to contact you.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I find your blog very interesting. As far as I know Charter Cable specializes in telecommunications services. I saw the customers’ feedbacks about the company on this great site I think that a company should provide quality products if the prices are quite high. It is not an issue with Charter Cable.