Charter Communications To Lose $13,000 Over $35 Late FeeBack in the late 1990s when I worked the loading docks of a growing retailer/grocer, a portion of our training consisted of proper customer assistance. Just because we were on the dock doesn't mean we wouldn't be on the sales floor in full view of shoppers. Quite the contrary is true: we'd be on the sales floor periodically throughout our shift if we ever have to assist other departments. So, regardless of the department we worked in, we were all trained in customer service because at any time we were on the sales floor, we could get stopped by shoppers asking where certain items were even if we didn't know exactly where they were, if we carried them, or had any in stock if we did. That training said to be courteous and either escort the customer to the product (even if we could tell them something like, "It's in the middle of aisle 6, second shelf on the left") or escort them to another employee who may know. Saying, "Sorry, it's not my department" was a good way to get repremanded by management and your union steward.
Why was that?
Because the company's training gurus taught us that their own marketing research showed that every single person that walks into the store -- even if they only browsed and purchased nothing during their visit -- was worth over $30,000 a year to them alone. Their logic consisted of this: A typical customer spends an average of $3,000 a year in the store and if they were to walk up to me for assisstance and I responded something like, "Sorry, it's not my department" or "I've got no idea", that customer wouldn't be happy with their shopping experiance and may decide to never return, thus taking their $3,000 a year somewhere else. Since that customer knows at least 10 other people consisting of friends and family, they're going tell them, "Never shop at this place! They're horrible" and suddenly the loss of that one single person's $3,000 a year alone turns into $30,000 because for those 10 people are likely to their $3,000 elsewhere, too. Having worked marketing and research prior to self-employment building and fixing computers, I can honestly say that their logic is right on the money -- never underestimate the power of "word-of-mouth" advertizing because it'll make or break you.
This brings me to Charter Communications, the company we have Digital Cable and Internet service from. Last year, we busted Charter Communications in an unethical business practice known as "cramming/slamming" -- they tried to argue that we were behind one month on our cable bill when in reality we were not. These arguments took place over the course of 3-4 weeks when they ultimately said that if we didn't pay them the $120 past due bill, they'd shut off my service within 72 hours. This forced me to lose one day of work to stay home, locate every returned check and paid Charter bill for the past 6 months, and show up at their local office where I dropped it all right on their sorry laps daring them to call me and my bank liars right to my face. After a good hour of haggling, Charter backed their asses down and said that we were caught up. I demanded they put it in writing stating that I indeed owed them no more money, that it was all misunderstanding on their part, and they grudgingly did so. From there, I promised them (I don't make threats because threats are for the insecure) that if they ever forced me to lose a day of work to come down and jump their asses again, they'd only thing I'd be paying for is the gas it took to return two digitial decoders and a cable modem for their prompt insertion into their asses if they refused to give me a month of free service. After all, losing a day's work is $80-$100 I'll never see.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. I had a network problem and had to call their support line, go through their rigamorale, and in the end had to schedule an appointment for a service call. A few moments later, I solve the problem myself (we computer gurus have always said 90% of all computer problems are the fault of the person at the keyboard and, by all means, we gurus aren't immune) and call them back to cancel the service call. The tech I talked to then suggested that I keep the appointment because "your cable modem is returning way too much voltage to us". No problem - I keep the appointment. When the local tech came, I told him exactly what the nationwide tech told me about the cable modem returning to much voltage.
What does this moron do? He removes the coax from the back of the modem, hooks it up to a small machine, and does a line quality test. In other words, he didn't physical test the modem at all -- just the integrity of the drop. The drop was fine because even the nationwide tech was jealous that my Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) was in the mid 40s (to which I responded like a braggart, "Yeap, it's slightly better than my sound card!") Naturally, the local tech found no problem (DUH) and I told him he just wasted his time -- the modem was the problem. He glanced at the modem and says, "Oh, that's a top of the line modem!"
Right off the bat, my bullshit alarm is ringing because my 15+ years of computer hardware software experiance says that a Motorola SURFBoard SB4100 is NOT top of the line -- the fucking thing is barely DOCSIS 1.x compliant. It was "top of the line" a few years ago when the fastest connection Charter offered was 1Mb down. Today, Charter's slowest speed package is 3Mb down ... and this modem barely handles it because the DOCSIS 1.x white paper I read at the time suggested that although the technology is capable of supporting a max of 8Mb, expect stability issues as low as 3Mb (alot of other DOCSIS 1.x modems start to overheat and puke after 2.5Mb barrier such as an infamous RCA model). Furthermore, DOCSIS 1.x modems couldn't handle large upsteam bandwidth since it didn't support advancements in digital modulation. So the "top of the line" title at this very moment goes to the DOCSIS 2.x Complaint Motorola SURFBoard 5200 series as DOCSIS 2.0 properly fixes the myriads of kinks the prior 1.x standard was plagued with as well as certifies the maximum theorhetical downstream speed capability to something like 15-30Mb (the fastest Charter offers now is 4Mb is some small areas and Comcast is starting to roll out an 8Mb package now). Obviously, this tech thought I was an idiot but I went along with him because made me sick. The faster he finished up, the faster he'd get out of my sight.
A few days later, we make a $90 payment.
The very next day, a very rude Charter Communications representative calls us and again tries to argue that we owe them $152 for the period of December 21th of last year to January 20th of this year. Mind you, they made this argument that just before Christmas, meaning they're trying to claim that we owe them for services they haven't even rendered yet (January 20th was still a month away). When we told them we just paid them $90, they asked when we'd be able to pay the remaining ballance. We argued the remaining ballance is only $35 and if we can come up with it, they'd would get it but money is tight. It's Winter in Michigan and between energy and gasoline costs, money is stretched as it is. Charter Communications then told us that if they didn't recieve the $35 within 3-5 days, our service would be interrupted. If payment wasn't recieved within so many days after the interuption, our service would be disconnected. In other words, Charter Communications goes from "craming/slamming" us a year ago to graduating to point blank extortion -- extortion because the back of their invoices state that if service is ever interrupted, they reserve the right to add additional fees such as a re-connection fee. This reconnection fee would be to re-enable our DCR boxes. Our service was indeed interrupted a week later when Charter disabled both Digital Cable recievers during the wee hours of the morning. Extended basic still worked as well as my internet service so in order to watch TV, we had to disconnect the DCRs and hook the drops direct to our TVs.
Just 4 hours ago, I get the following birthday present -- a contractor with Charter shows up to disconnect my service entirely, collect the two DCRs, and the cable modem if we didn't pay. I said, "Over $35 fucking dollars?!?" and he looks at his clibboard and says, "My sheet says you owe at least $115 and I've gotta disconnect if I don't get at least $55 from you today." I hit the roof and told him, "Fuckin' slice it then. I'm calling Comcast. Wait there, I'll get your gear." I start to unhook my DCR box and he says, "Man, I'm just doing my job but I probably can take a check for $35." I realize today is Saturday so even if I did call Comcast, the latest they could hook me back up would be the following Wednesday (even if they told me Monday over the phone, knowing Comcast's track record) So, now I gotta dip into the funds meant for another bill. I write his monkey ass a check for $35 and hand over one DCR and consider telling him that if Charter doesn't get bought by Comcast soon, his employment days are numbered anyway because in the end, my $35 deliquency just cost Charter more than $13,000 this year allready in lost revenue.
Because I've noticed over the past two years that all cable companies offer package deals where in the end, the price is deliberately fixed so that they can collect at least $100-$120 a month per customer. If you just get regular basic (Channel 2 thru 75 or so) and internet service, you pay more a month for the internet service. However, if you sign up for Digital, the internet goes down a few bucks. No matter what, cable providers are trying to market their package deals in a way so that you are paying an average monthly bill (Expanded Basic Or Digital, 0 to 1 Premium, 3MB Internet) of $100-$120. Multiply that by 12 months and that's an estimated $1,300 a year.
Since they've been a pain in my ass for the past year now, I'm done with these crooked, bankrupt, incompetent idiots so there goes their $1,300 from me. Ahhh, but I also know at least 10 other people with Charter and as soon as I'm done posting this entry, I'll be calling them up on the phone telling them that the end of my days sustaining Charter Communications from their inevitible bankruptcy are nigh at hand with the deliberate purpose of getting those 10 friends and family members to dump Charter at the first opportunity they can. And the coup de grace? You're looking at it -- my latest SiteMeter figures suggest that TBT generates roughly 20 hits a day. Of course, that's hits; not site views. Those hits mainly stem from search engines but a hit in a Google search for "Charter Communications" could translate to a pageview for TBT ... and those people might just be Charter customers as well whom may need just one excuse to dump their service, too.
Do the math.
Charter Communications sure as hell isn't.