Friday, August 28 was truly a momentous day which I will forever remember for accomplishing one of my life’s greatest feats. I’m actually not talking about finishing UW Marching Band Reg Week – which is the most physically demanding tryout week I have ever had to endure (much harder in fact than varsity football two-a-days). I was happy that the days of six hour rehearsals and conditioning in the middle of August were over and regular rehearsal schedules would begin. My much greater accomplishment, however, was managing to free myself of Madison’s own axis of evil, the Fourth Reich – Charter Communications. Here are my own opinions why Charter is a terrible company and as I found, I’m evidently not alone.
- Calling their customer service requires reading minds better than even Miss Cleo is capable. Figuring out what I needed to say to their automated voice recognition software to actually talk to a human being took me 15 minutes.
- I received junk mail about the charter bundle seven days a week – sometimes more than one letter a day – because Charter never removed past customers from my college address. On more than one occasion I even threw away a bill because I thought it was more junk mail. A company that knows anything about marketing should realize that convincing college students that they need a Landline would be an incredible accomplishment.
- Figuring out what all of the charges, sub-charges, and sub-sub-charges on a bill actually mean is more confusing than computer science. I had no idea what I was actually paying for and costs continually increased from month to month without Charter informing me. Disputing these charges requires an hour long phone call (see #1) or threatening to switch to Direct TV.
- Question: How hard is it to remove someone from an account? Answer: Three phone calls and an eventual “required” trip to an actual Charter office. This is something that should be easily done over the phone or the interweb. Instead, we were told by two Charter employees that all I had to do was call and provide my SSN. When I did that, the customer service “expert” told me that “no one would have told me that it was possible over the phone” and “sir, I’ve been working for Charter for 14 years, I think I know how to remove someone from an account.” I think the only thing worse than being a Charter customer would probably be working 14 miserable years for the company…
What if I lived my life like Charter runs their business?
- When people owe me money, provide them with a list of chargeable sub-items which they do not understand. For example, if I bought someone a beer at a bar, I would probably charge them for an intoxication fee, a money handling fee, a non-local beer fee (if it was an Anheuser Busch product), a pint glass renters fee, hangover insurance, and even a falangy fee (made up).
- Schedule appointments with people stating that I will arrive between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
- Constantly tell people how much money they could be saving if they bought two things that they don’t need and one that they actually do.
- Perform with mediocrity at both work and school, treat others as if they are indebted to me for the mediocre work, and then when I’m asked about it, provide people with a recording stating that my work isn’t actually mediocre.
Truthfully, I don’t believe Charter will be around long and hopefully filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 28, 2009 will speed up the process. Much like AOL in the 90s, who once owned a large share of the internet market (cancelling an account with AOL literally took four hours – I remember doing it because my Dad didn’t have time), new players will come along, providing better customer service and a better product. For example, AT&T has started providing cable and internet in Madison at a cheaper rate and seems like a much better option.
Update 1-8-10: If you recall, at the end of August I thought that I had achieved freedom from the Charter slave driver when my roommate and I completed paperwork to completely remove me from our account and transfer it to his name at his new address. However, Charter’s head hunter traveled north and found me, enjoying my new stress free lifestyle. When I returned from Christmas break in New Berlin on the 26th, I was greeted by a notice from a collection agency (I didn’t realize that Scrooge was still stubbornly working on Christmas day). I was flabbergasted by this collection notice for a number of reasons:
- We filled out paperwork to completely remove me from the account back in August.
- I haven’t ever lived at the address where the service is actually used, but Charter still sent it to my current address.
- Charter only seems to send me notices when shit has really hit the fan (i.e. the account is delinquent on a payment) but never sends monthly statements or anything else (giving me a false sense of Charter freedom).
So we had little choice but to visit Charter (becoming one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon) because the only phone number listed for the local Charter Communications location was “1-888-get-charter” and I didn’t have 45 minutes to kill until I could actually speak with a human being. We turned in my roommate’s digital box and paid the remaining balance. So in theory, this time, my life really should be Charter-free. Some Q&A from my enjoyable visit to Charter’s office:
Q: Why is my name still on the account? We filled out paperwork to remove me at the end of August.
A: Your paperwork must have never been processed.
Q: Can you provide me with documentation that my name (or at least my SSN) has been removed from the account today?
A: We can’t do that.
Q: What should I do when I receive a second notice from the collection agency? (I assumed that Charter would not resolve this issue any time soon and that my credit score would continue to suffer for no reason).
A: You could come back in to our office if you really want, but customers typically receive a notice or two after the balance has been paid.