Cutting the Charter Cord

Today I ran across this article on the cable industry losing subscribers in droves. I’m not sure if they think that what happened to the music industry can’t happen to them or they just aren’t sure how to stop it. What I can tell you is they’re not helping their situation by continuing to provide such horrible customer service.

After an incident this weekend I’ve decided to quit giving my money to them.  It’s not the first time.  About 10 years ago I switched to Dish+DSL for a few years after a long battle with Charter over an internet connectivity problem in our neighborhood.  When I moved back downtown I decided to give them another try.

For the past few years I’ve put up with video and audio drop-outs, the horrible DVR interface, and other occasional issues.  However, it was this weekend that finally got me fired up to “cut the cord”.

Saturday night around 7 P.M. my wife and I were watching a streamed movie from Amazon when all of a sudden our Roku lost internet connection.  After a quick look around I realized that not only was our internet out but so was our cable TV. We gave it 10 minutes to come back but then I figured it was time to call Charter.

Our internet was out but luckily I had my cell phone to search the web for Charter’s customer support line.  I dialed in to the automated assistant and was provided with the choice of tech support for “internet” or “TV”.  Unfortunately I made the bad choice of saying that it was a “TV” issue.  At this point the Charter robot told me that it was sending a signal to reset my cable box and that I would be put on hold for 5 minutes unable to do anything until after that time was up.  When the horrible hold music started playing I hung up.

I called back and this time asked for “internet”.  I was greeted with a message saying there were known outages in my area and did this answer my question.  I assumed that they were having some system problems so I answered yes and hung up.  When I finally went to bed there was still no service.

When I woke up at 6 A.M. it was still out so it was time to get back on the phone.  I called Charter and this time I didn’t get the “outages in your area message”.  I explained my issue to the tech support person and she said someone would get back to me within an hour to schedule a service call. I waited 90 minutes then called back to find out where my return call was.  After jumping through all the usual hoops to get to a live operator and re-explaining the problem, I was told the first person had been incorrect. I would have to wait until an hour after the dispatch office opened at 9:00 am.  I waited a few more hours and finally called back again at 10:00.  After re-explaining everything for a 3rd time I was told there was nothing she could do. The problem had been escalated and I would just have to wait until someone called me from dispatch. Awesome.

While I was waiting on dispatch I noticed that my cable boxes were all occasionally flashing the word “hunt” on their 7 segment LED displays.  Since I still had my phone as a hot-spot and my IPad, I did a little search around the internet and happened across this long discussion on a guy with the exact same problem. It suddenly made me remember something.  Our apartment building has always included basic Charter cable for free but recently they quit offering that amenity.  I had remembered that Charter had sent some piece of mail to that extent but I just figured since I had all the extra tiers and internet they’d start billing me for the “basic” cable. Perhaps they just went ahead and disconnected everything when they were no longer getting their basic cable payment.

It was right after this revelation that someone from dispatch called me back.  She told me that they were full for the day and I’d have to wait until Monday unless there was a cancellation.  I explained to her what I thought might be going on and asked her if she could check the levels on my modem to see if she had any connection to it.  She said she couldn’t see the levels and agreed that it was possible they’d come out and disconnected me.  However she couldn’t actually look at my bill to see what was going on as that wasn’t in her abilities.  After unhappily scheduling an appointment I decided to try calling Charter’s billing department back.

So once again after explaining everything another CSR verified that I didn’t have basic cable on my bill even though I had everything else.  He agreed it was a bit weird but once we discussed the removal of the bulk service by my landlord he said it made sense.  After much wrangling he said it’d actually be cheaper for me if I added on telephone service for their “Triple Play” offer. Although I didn’t want a phone I figured what the heck and went ahead and signed up for it.  It was now around 11 am and my wife I and I headed out for the day.

Upon returning around 7:30 later that evening I walked in and noticed that everything was back. TV and internet were all working just fine.  After making sure everything was good I called Charter back one more time to cancel the service call for the following morning.  I’m not sure if they actually got someone here to physically reconnect us or if it was some internal switch they flipped when I got the billing thing sorted out.

On Monday morning I received an automated call from Charter reminding me that later that week they’d be coming out to install my new phone.  It was at that point that I decided I’d had enough.  I really didn’t want a phone with them and I was still unhappy they shut us off in the first place.  I took a couple hours to read a number of articles on “cutting the cord”  and felt it was time.

It seemed better to do this in steps so I called up Charter and told them I wanted to get rid of all our extra channels packages, 2 DVRS (we had 3), and I didn’t want to get a phone.  We’d still be keeping internet, basic cable and 1 DVR for now. I immediately got the Charter hard sell.  The salesperson asked me if I watched HBO.  I said yes but I’d be purchasing HBO online straight from HBO.  She said “why would you do that when you get all these extra channels if you buy it from Charter”.  I told her because I would much rather just give my money to HBO than a company who only cares about me when I call to cancel services.  We went round and round about how I was missing out on such a great deal with Charter.  At one point she asked me why I was even keeping internet if I was so upset with them.  I told her I didn’t have much of a choice in my area.  She also gave me some grief for not paying attention to that letter they sent me.  I said, “Hey I’ll give you that that’s on me, but then why did you come out and shut off my internet?  That has nothing to do with the TV service.  If it weren’t for the fact that I get my phone through AT&T I wouldn’t even have been able to contact you when you turned off my service.”

She then decided that I owed them for part of the month for the basic cable that had been missing for 2 weeks so she put me on hold for a few minutes while talking to a supervisor. Finally at the end of it all she also informed me that I’d be billed for the other 2 DVRs until I returned them to Charter.  They pretty much yelled at me on my way out the door making me even more motivated to get rid of the rest of my services.

I would think that I’d be the customer they’d want to keep.  I’m a 50 year old guy who was spending somewhere between $150 – $200 a month.  I don’t call and hassle them every few months to get a lower rate, I’m never late in payments, and every now and then I add some other feature (the Latino tier was the last one). Throw on a few on demand movies and the occasional pay per view event ($60 so my wife could watch Ronda Rousey spend 30 seconds in the ring) and I gotta think I’m exactly who they’d want to keep happy.  It’s really not that hard. Just care even a little about providing me with a decent service or be quick to react when something is wrong.  Better yet, offer to give me the $4.99 back that I had to pay Amazon to watch the rest of my movie that we were half way through when the internet went out for 24 hours.

We had been looking at newly developed high end apartments a couple months ago and I found it interesting when the landlords told me they hadn’t been concerned about providing cable to the apartments just internet as most of their renters didn’t care about cable TV.

Add this all up and it’s looking like Charter has got a fair amount of pain in its future.

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