Dear Charter Communications,
For the past 18 months since our breakup you have been insisting that I owe you about $180. You've had four different collection agencies contact me about it, although they're not trying very hard (With a balance this paltry it's barely worth it for them to mail me a bill.) I'm confused, CC. I'm confused because at this point I can't figure out what is the worst: your customer service, your prices, or the actual internet services you provide. I regret being unable to choose one definitively, but it is not easy to choose among superlatives.
Charter, let me summarize your position on this matter.
When I moved to Illinois from Georgia I cancelled the internet services that you provided. See, when one moves out of a house or apartment it is traditional to cancel the utilities. About three months later I discovered that you continued to bill me monthly after my service was cancelled. Boy, that kind of mistake must be embarrassing! But no matter. Things happen and I was certain it could be resolved easily.
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I got in touch with one of your call center commandos and was informed that the billing continued monthly because – get this, Charter Communications! – I asked for my service to be terminated but I did not also state that I wanted to stop being billed for it. In other words, you apparently believed that I wanted to keep paying for your service after I ceased to receive it.
Charter, I've been to two county fairs. I've seen Carrot Top live. I've watched Bio-Dome with Pauly Shore in its entirety. I sat through a macroeconomics class taught by someone who idolized Murray Rothbard. What I'm saying, Charter, is that I've heard and seen some pretty goddamn stupid things in my day. Somehow you've managed to top it all.
Charter Communications, I think I'm starting to see why you declared bankruptcy in 2009. It is not a mystery why PC World ranked Charter 14th of 14 major internet providers. It's not hard to understand why you have a 1.5 average from 83 reviews on Yelp. Now, Yelp is not the first place to go for info about tech and communications. Yelp is mostly about restaurants. So here are some of the few restaurants I could find on Yelp with a rating lower than 1.5. For context. There's Regal Cafe Pizzeria in Boston (1.0). Colony Cafe in Miami Beach (1.0, noted for "fraudulent business practices" and charging $27 for a Bacardi Rum and Coke). Melrose LaBrea Animal Hospital in Los Angeles (OK it's not a restaurant, but apparently they charge several thousand dollars and then murder your pet so it seems similar to Charter). Clarke's on Belmont in Chicago (2.1 rating, but patrons run the risk of being attacked by a transvestite wielding a shovel). Pizza Napoli in Washington DC (1.5 stars, "Pro: Biggest piece of pizza I've ever had. Con: It was terrible pizza."). "Sushi Kingz" in LA – that's how they spell it! – which needs ten reviews from sockpuppets/the owner to get a 2.
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This is your peer group, Charter. You are the Sushi Kingz of ISPs. In fact, given your business practices I'm starting to wonder if Charter owns and manages the Colony Cafe. Here's what we're going to do. You bill me for whatever amount you feel is appropriate for services not rendered. I will send you an invoice in the same amount representing my hourly rate for putting up with your bullshit (call it "consulting" or something). We will be even-Steven.
In closing, Charter Communications, you are terrible at everything and I want all of the bad things in life to happen to you and only you. I want Jelly Belly to take your favorite flavor off the market. I want your favorite shirt to be irreparably stained. I want you to sit next to the crying baby on every flight. I want your spouses to leave you for prison pen pals with life sentences. I want your children to go to the most expensive university they can find and major in Folklore. I want you to be preoccupied at the urinal and not even notice that you're urinating on your pant leg. I want you to get to the front of the TSA line before you realize you left your wallet at home. Most of all, Charter, I want you to plant a big sloppy kiss right on my ass.
59 thoughts on “AN OPEN LETTER TO CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS”
That was beautiful.
Nice. I've belligerent-ed my way out of bogus legal charges, late fees, penalty fees, and more than several traffic tickets by doing exactly what you've done. Not as expressively or elaborately but somehow I managed to get them all to never mind.
Hope you addressed your letter to the president of the company. S/he won't read it but always send it straight to the top.
Dr. Mac says:
I've got Charter, and when I changed my plan to a more expensive configuration, they CHARGED ME A $50 FEE!! Excuse me, Tony Soprano, but that is just not fair, says the Beaver. Fortunately, the Oregon AG frowns on bullshit, so when I submitted a complaint exposing said bullshit, a Charter rep called me, and then the state agency rep called as well. BTW, Charter's humans in the local office actually called bullshit and reversed the charge. Doesn't matter, Charter sucks.
middle seaman says:
Could you post this one again tomorrow or even the whole month?
I'm currently in a similar battle with a local institution. Their customer service is completely incapable of resolving my issues, which has been ongoing for over 2 months. I call every day and wait on hold for 1-2 hours to talk to someone who can't resolve my problem, and get told I'm not allowed to talk to the person who can resolve it.
Can anyone guess who I am dealing with? Surprise, it's the unemployment office. I was laid off on Nov 2nd and have yet been able to collect a single benefit because their brand new system is the biggest piece of shit ever. I'm not the only one, but being in danger of eviction because of some private sector shit company lined their pockets is the best feeling I've ever known.
Charter doesn't run Anonymouse's "big city local paper" does it? Because you know, Capitalism… plus the privilege of getting to pay for something you're not receiving and all. But hey, it offers efficiencies in both trashing your credit rating and pissing you off at the same time, as well as paying the lowest prices to do so while still maximising profits and bonuses.
And *this* Ed, is why I tune in.
LOL, Xynzee! I would not be surprised–that paper is floundering (likely because of their complete disregard for paying customers). The city proper has about 80,000 people, then there are the wall-to-wall suburbs that easily quadruple that, and up until the past year or so, the paper was doing okay. Then it was sold, and then the delivery problems started and the customer service no longer spoke English.
On a note related to Ed's In December, I got a call from a collections agency….for $2.35. That is not a typo. Last summer one of the family came down with something dreadful, went to the doctor and paid the $60 co-pay to be seen. Apparently insurance paid all but $2.35 of the remaining $30 fee (why????), and the doctor's office, instead of, oh, I dunno, billing me for the remainder, turned the amount over to a collections agency. Even the collection agent was like, "this is baloney". I called the doctor's office and had to fight with them to get their billing number, then fought with the billing agent, who seemed to think it was completely unreasonable to notify the patients if insurance drops the ball.
I was tempted not to pay the piddly amount just to see if it affected my credit.
@Ed, if Carr sees that you notified the company you were terminating, then stopped paying for something you no longer wanted, it'll come running in here with its little fee-fees huwwt and cry that you're "retaliating" against the poor, poor company, you big meanie, you!
A great rant, and justified.
Bravo. I wrote a similar, but more polite, letter to Popular Photography years ago, after they tried to bill me when I took advantage of their offer for two free issues with no further obligations that they had advertised. Amazing how many business people are so illiterate and stupid that they don't read their own promotional material.
10 out of 10, would read middle-finger-letter to inept corporation again.
My roommate and I recently acquired a Google Chromecast, which was immediately named "Fuck You Charter".
c u n d gulag says:
All American telecommunications companies – each and every one of them – prove that while there may or may not be a God and angels, Satan certainly has plenty of demonic minions.
John Danley says:
You could have ended with Carrot Top, but I'm glad you didn't.
Number Three says:
"I want your children to go top the most expensive university they can find and major in Folklore" ftw
Anubis Bard says:
There was a lot to like in that, but the county fairs paragraph will go down as an all-time favorite.
Funniest post of yours in a long time. My favorite was "OK it's not a restaurant, but apparently they charge several thousand dollars and then murder your pet so it seems similar to Charter".
Well mostly says:
And yikes, Charter just made a bid for our cable outfit, Time Warner. There's an Arkansas wedding if ever.
Wanna bet some really big brained strategic consultants charged them a zillion to come up with that C suite wet dream and while a few Wall Street slicks will enjoy summer in the Hamptons with all the fees that "creates"?
This is what de-evolution looks like. One could almost lose hope!
It really is amazing how terrible America's cable/internet providers are.
Mark B says:
I'm pretty sure that billing you for telecom services after you move away from Georgia is a state law – I had a similar experience with Windstream ($73 – which was odd since my monthly bill was typically $53) when I moved to Columbus and again with Knology ($143 for three months) when I got the hell out of there and moved to Germany. There must be some kind of disconnect between "I'm moving and need to cancel my service" and "continue to bill me anyway" in that state.
Back in the early seventies I had a subscription to Playboy magazine. I decided to let the subscription expire as I didn't wish to get the magazine anymore. Playboy turned me over for collection because I didn't renew my subscription!!
I've had other times when I've been turned over to collection agencies (like when I got hit with a high lab fee, sent them some money and immediately got turned over for collection with no warning), and that's when I ignore them and never pay another dime.
Americans keep voting for no regulation of business and then they do not understand how businesses treat us this way.
Dave Dell says:
TWC is only middling bad the last couple of years & sometimes surprisingly competent here in Lincoln, NE. My brother in law has tried everyone else and not surprisingly they are all the same. Middling bad. Charter Comm does worry me.
On a slightly different note, I feel the same way about Barnes and Noble bookstores. Now that they are the only bookstore left their policies, such as not asking, "Do you need a gift receipt with that?", leave much to be desired.
You're beautiful when you're angry.
c u n d gulag says:
And after the recent lower court decision, just wait 'til you see what happens with Net Neutrality!
Anyone think CJ Roberts and the 4 other SCJ's "The (Not-at-all) Fab Fascist Five!", will let Net Neutrality survive?
No, me neither…
Hey, I'm a transvestite and a former Charter Communications customer! Do you want me to go over to their office and hit them with a shovel?
And should I wear flats or heels?
This was perfect. It almost makes me want to get "service" with them again just so I can read this to them when they inevitably screw up beyond comprehension.
I'm a pretty laid-back dude. Charter has the distinct honor of being the only utility company I've ever dealt with who had me actually screaming at them over the phone to get their mess together. If I hadn't experienced it myself, I would have never believed that they can be as unfathomably inept at life as they actually are.
Brilliant. Just perfect. Nothing else to say.
Posts like this is pretty much the only reason I still have Comcast: somehow, the alternatives where I live are even worse. (Guess one of those alternatives and win absolutely nothing!)
Which would probably be either the best or worst ad campaign of all time, now that I think about it. Xfinity from Comcast: At Least We Aren't Charter.
Why would anyone who can write brilliantly funny stuff like this want to write a Serious, Important Book? That would be remaindered with all the other Serious, Important Books in two weeks? An ebook of your collected irreverencies, or even one with a paper publisher, that's the ticket. I'd buy copies for friends and retarded family members, both.
Others: Every state has some sort of office to which you can report consumer-screwing. (Here in NC, it's the Consumer Protection Section of the Department of Justice.) When you get even the slightest pushback from a business on a reasonable request, file a complaint with that office. Then, if you can, cc that office on all subsequent correspondence. In my previous life as a reporter, I obtained a bunch of records from that office for a story on cellular providers, and in almost every case, once that office had sent the provider a letter, the complaint was resolved quickly and to the customer's satisfaction.
bb in GA says:
You still do stand-up?
Maybe you can distill this down and convert some of your pain into some material…
When I worked for the Federal Government, I had the idea that private sector businesses were run along lines of efficiency and productivity. Since retiring and having more time to pay attention, I have been disabused of this misconception. E.g., while doing some further reading related to the Roger Smith / GM story posted earlier, I came across descriptions of the pissing contests Smith and Ross Perot got into after GM bought EDS. How uplifting their employees must have found it.
I'm with @anotherbozo. You could be the Jon Stewart of printed literature.
At the very least, I think the world needs a book FJM treatment on the catchphrases that are employed in the fraudulent folksy ethos of modern-day politics.
"drill, baby drill" "double down on the trickle down" come to mind.
I'm sure you have your own favorites.
Gerald McGrew says:
Charter is the reason I switched to satellite way back in 1997. By switching, I paid less for more channels and better picture quality.
Now, to give my "can you believe this" story….
My wife and I left California in 2003 and moved to Washington. Several years later we went to re-finance our mortgage and in the process the bank notified us there was a problem with my wife's credit rating. She has a lien on her record. We were baffled. After some digging, we found out that when we moved and my wife allowed her nursing liscense to expire, the State of California somehow concluded that she must still be living there and doing nursing. So they pulled up the average salary of an RN and used that to compute how much state taxes she must owe!
The good thing was it wasn't too difficult to clear up, but the fact that it even occurred in the first place is bizarre. Do they do this to every nurse, doctor, lawyer, etc. who leaves the state?
@Gerard – When my English husband moved here, he booked a return-trip flight with no intention of using the second flight, because it was cheaper than a one-way, but forgot to cancel the return flight. No big deal, we thought… They'll just give the seat to someone on standby. I had done it before, no problem.
A month later, the Social Security office refuses to issue him a number on the grounds that he's not in the government's immigrant database. Turns out, the airline reported his flight back to the UK to CBP, but not the fact that he wasn't actually on it, and so CBP cancelled his I94, thinking he left the country.
Luckily we caught it when we did or it would have caused his green card application to be denied and we would have had to forfeit over $1,000 in processing fees.
Bitter Scribe says:
This reminds me of when a jerk technician from Comcast refused to install all the cable connections in my mom's house that I had paid for, and when I called customer service to get them to call the guy and make him do his goddamned job, the nitwit on the phone responds by trying to give me a customer satisfaction survey.
Great rant. Well done.
That's Lewis Black's entire act.
Major Kong says:
My whole time in the military I thought "Private industry can't be this effed up. They have to make a profit."
Then I got into the corporate world and came to realize it was the same exact people – they were just wearing different suits.
AWESOME! Just like the ol' G&T I used to love.
@Major Kong: corporate sector being completely cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs has been my experience, too. I used to joke that nothing beat the military for crazy…then I retired and found out differently…You're right, it's the same exact people, just dressed differently.
I heard this story recently on NPR, and what really struck me was that Michael Powell, former head of the FCC under his dad's former boss' son George W., is now president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. He naturally posits that America's cable internet providers are great and all due to competition from wireless providers.
It struck me at the time as a perfect example of "regulatory capture", but it also helps explain why our internet access sucks. And it's going to get worse, as I don't see the Supreme Court overruling the recent striking down of net neutrality.
karma fubar says:
I wonder what would have happened if instead you asked them to stop billing you for the service, but did not tell them that you wanted the service terminated.
Somebody should try that and see what happens. You know, for the science.
FWIW, and not to cut into the huge pile of enjoyable snark here, but you might try contacting the Georgia Public Service Commission to see if they can be of of any help. I work for another state's counterpart and we can often get things sorted out even when the service isn't regulated.
OK, back to the highly enjoyable comments…
When Charter did something similar to me (though instead of charging me for services they weren't providing to me, they were trying to bill me for services rendered to someone else, because apparently Elizabeth and Pedro are easily confused names), I fought them for months until they sent me to a collection agency. I then got the cable TV regulator involved (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/regulation-cable-tv-rates). He was able to get everything cleared up and get me an apology letter and phone call from Charter in a matter of days.
West of the Cascades says:
My mother had Charter in Athens, Georgia — as unreliable from a service perspective as any communications company around (hence, I guess, 14th out of 14 ISP). To their credit, they were pretty receptive in handling the cut-off of service and return of equipment after she passed away.
One thing I thought interesting in thinking about the Sushi Kingz of the business world … isn't it often the case that the corporations that really do inculcate being good to customers into their culture are profitable/successful as a result? Southwest Airlines came to mind, but I'm having a hard time thinking of many others off the top of my head.
Gah. I hate HTML.
I always enjoy your columns, but I especially appreciated the nod to my neighbor, Sushi Kingz. I've never been there (don't like sushi), but I've always thought it odd that a restaurant (particularly a sushi restaurant, where you'd think the hygiene needs would be extra demanding) would open in what had just been a clothing store, and odder that despite their "Open 24 Hrs" (or is it Hrz?) neon sign, they never seemed to be open any time I walked by.
I'm not sure if this is exactly what your friend is talking about, but in Western PA (before I left about 3 years ago) we had Verizon's FiOS come into the market- cable TV service through the phone lines- direct competition with Comcast. Verizon's service is terrible, but their FiOS customer service was better, and Comcast also had to step up it's game.
In one of my b-school classes, we were supposed to list places we had received bad service- Comcast got a lot of nods as terrible.
Also your point about competition in the market place- cable companies are state created monopolies, so customer service is largely lip service. It's like an old funny faux commercial for the gas company- "We're the gas company. The only gas company. So fuck you. What you gonna do, get electric heat? HA!" It is part of the fallacy that giving government services (prisons, tolls, schools, etc) over to private industry that it will somehow run better, not just cheaper. The theory sounds nice, and it might look great on paper (those shitty city schools will have to compete!) but in practice, it doesn't matter (turns out being poor and growing up in a shitty neighborhood has a bigger effect on a kid's grades and learning than who is running the school! Who knew!).
Every company that has to compete for it's business has to at least show some effort at caring about service, unless they have a monopoly, have you locked into their service somehow (think service contracts at car dealerships) or if they are an absolute price leader. Wal-Mart ends up being perceived as being the cheapest place in town, and so people tolerate awful service because they feel they don't have a choice, which in turn helps create small monopolies that Wal Mart is able to exploit.
bb in GA says:
The counter example to monopolies that give crappy service is the old Bell System. I worked for them back in the day and they are missed in some ways.
Rock solid equipment and pretty good service.
Or is this just old fart glory days stuff?
Death Panel Truck says:
We've had had Charter internet for 10 years, and have had few problems with it. We also have Charter Phone, and I'd say it's gone out maybe four times in two years. We gave up Charter cable last month, because we weren't watching it enough to justify the cost. My wife took the box back to the local office, and asked them to please prorate to make up the difference. After a futile attempt to persuade her to keep their cable, they complied with her request.
Sorry to hear about your problems with them, but not all of us have the same experience. There are lots of huge, heartless multinational corporations I loathe with the white-hot heat of a million suns, but Charter has been fair with us.
Actually, many telecoms do that. The same thing happened to me with Verizon (twice) and once with AT&T (I've been moving a lot across the country).
These people are mobsters, and they know that they owe you, so there.
What you can do is, wait half a year of so and then write the three credit bureaus and challenge the negative report. They'll have to ask Charter to back up their charge, and they won't do it. Then the bureaus fix your credit back to where it should have been. Worked for me. You may have to give it a year, though.
I don't think that non-essential services (like airline travel and cable television) versus essential services (like police, fire and schools) is necessarily a fair comparison. All of these do a lot to bolster our economy, but airline travel and cable TV are not necessary for the survival of society. On the other hand, abolish the police and watch the crime rate skyrocket because criminals are not being apprehended; abolish the fire departments and watch your house burn down or your national forest get eaten up in a wildfire; abolish the schools and within a generation quality education will be only for the rich (although some will argue that is the case already).
The lousiest service I've ever seen was at my local driver's license office. When I have to go there, I make a point of going first thing in the morning because otherwise I can expect a wait of two hours or more. But I think that is more a function of
assholestaxpaying citizens who want the lowest tax rate possible while whining about the poor service which results. The fact is that if we wanted better service, they have to hire more people, and that would mean raising taxes. Putting myself in the shoes of the poor schmucks who work there, I am quite certain that they are doing the best they can with the people and the resources that they have. I would be willing to bet that the reason they don't work at a faster pace is to prevent burnout and to avoid justifying further cuts. And I wouldn't want to have to deal with assholestaxpaying citizens who scream about how long they have to wait in a certain office when it comes time to renew their driver's license/their car registration/their fishing or hunting license/their contractor or building permit but don't want to pay more when the tax bill comes due.
Going private over public also does not make for better quality. John Rosemond, the child psychologist, wrote a column years ago in which he pointed out that private schools are for-profit and by definition are looking to extract as much money as possible from their paying customers, who would be the parents of their students. They actually have a financial incentive to hold a child back a grade because that would mean an additional year of tuition from Mommy and Daddy's wallet.
I think that part of the issue with competing cable companies is the network that they utilize. Superstorm Sandy wiped out a lot of landline telephones which one of the major providers up there (either AT&T or Verizon) said wouldn't be replaced because landlines are becoming obsolete. As a certified paralegal, this concerns me because cell phones and other wireless communications are not considered secure enough for discussing confidential information (medical people will probably say the same thing because of HIPAA). Thus I am interested to know the mechanics of two cable companies directly competing with each other in my friend's previous hometown; did each company have their own network, or did the city install a public-access network or declare eminent domain over an existing network?
Anyway, lots of interesting food for thought. But I've yammered on too long already.
my brother passed away and we notified charter the next day…lo and behold about three months later we get this bill for three months that he was gone and his current bill at the time of his death was paid in full.
If you want action, try the Better Business Bureau.
It's easy to file a complaint, which I have done for my daughter to get her promised refund from a major US Airline.
This is the fourth story of service cancellation with continued billing (It's anecdata!), by Charter, Comcast, even PG&E (electricity, not an inessential service). I'm convinced the new business model is that cancellations are only passed to the service department, but not accounting. Enough people just pay the bill to avoid collections to make it worth the ill will, or the area's a monopoly so this south park clip applies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVhLQIBCckE.
I actually had the opposite thing happen to me maybe 25 or 30 years ago. I had a new job, lots going on and had moved into a new apartment. I did plan to call the electric company and tell them to turn the power on, but somehow or another I never got around to it. It didn't help that the lights and everything else worked anyway.
A year or two later, I was ready to move out and called the electric company to turn off the power. It turns out that the representative couldn't help me. I had never turned the power on. (Yes, I should have noticed not getting a power bill, but I was even more of a space cadet back then than I am now.) I actually had my old notebook with the action item, "turn the electricity on", complete with the meter reading, so I offered to pay the bill based on some kind of pro-rating. The representative basically said it was water under the bridge now. I don't think she had a mechanism for dealing with this kind of thing.
So, nowadays, when I wind up paying for an extra week or two of something or lose my money when I have to cancel a flight or two, I think back to my free power days, and it comforts me.
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