AN OPEN LETTER TO CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS

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. 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 2.0 rating.

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.

Piss off,
Ed

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59 Responses to “AN OPEN LETTER TO CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS”

  1. Khaled Says:

    @ Sarah-

    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.

  2. 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?

    //bb

  3. 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.

  4. Desargues Says:

    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.

  5. Sarah Says:

    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.

    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 assholes taxpaying 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 assholes taxpaying 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.

  6. dan Says:

    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.

  7. Vinny Says:

    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.
    http://www.bbb.org/council/

  8. bs Says:

    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.
    bs

  9. Kaleberg Says:

    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.