Why Charter sucks and the last week in August was one of the best of my life

The Real Charter BundleFriday, 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. We filled out paperwork to completely remove me from the account back in August.
  2. I haven’t ever lived at the address where the service is actually used, but Charter still sent it to my current address.
  3. 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.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Umatter2Charter


    My name is Eric Ketzer, and I am a Manager with Charter Communications. I am sorry to read that you are unhappy with our services. It appears that a lot of your concerns surround our billing. We do have several packages available with 24 Months Guarantees that would provide rate stability. I would be happy to explain these to you and answer any additional questions you may have. Please send an e-mail to Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com with the name, address, and phone number on the account, as well as a good time to call you.

    We look forward to changing your opinion about us…Eric

    1. Matthew

      Sorry Eric. This would have likely been of some use while I was still a customer.

  2. Badger Pete

    Wow — This sums up Charter in a nutshell. We move to Madison in 2004 and built a home in an “upscale” new subdivision — every home a prime candidate for the fastest internet and most cable channels Charter could sell.

    It took Charter TWO YEARS to get our cable working on all the channels we paid for. We met every service person on the Charter payroll in Dane County plus a few of their better talent brought in just to address our problems. Although they got it fixed ultimately, we went to DirecTV when Charter didn’t quickly pick up the Big Ten Network. Best decision we ever made. My wife’s comment on the first night of DirecTV: “Why didn’t we do this years ago?”

    What you say about calling Charter is dead-on. It took forever to get a live human on the line. Then often the first words out of the person’s mouth would be an attempt to sell me ANOTHER Charter service.

    My response: “I already have two Charter services which are worthless. Why would I want to add another one?!?”

    Eric, who posted the comment above, nothing you say is true. Your company sells garbage and provides garbage service!

  3. jenni

    Insert Time Warner Cable in your article to replace every Charter reference in the Milwaukee market…props to you sir and your well-worded rant. May it allow even more service providers once AT&T turns bunk too (I have it, and very happy…so far).

  4. David K

    It appears you’ve successfully ‘put out the vibe’ here. Kudos!

  5. Zildjean

    I think that filing for bankruptcy was just a ploy for Charter to get their hands on some of that crazy TARP loot that Congress is giving out like Chuck E. Cheese coupons.

    You saw that Comcast is mulling over whether to buy NBC/Universal? The cable TV companies are making insane amounts of money by providing bad service, forcing you to support dozens of channels you don’t want (like HSN and PTL) and lowering the bar on services that USED to be reliable, like phone service.

    Talking to voice recognition software is a useless pain the ass, but Charter knows that. They count on a third of the customers getting so frustrated with the software (perfectly pitched to annoy) that the customer hangs up without talking to an actual human being.

    Do you know what a cost savings that is for Charter? a person who hangs up on the robo-voice is listed as a successfully fixed issue. The robo-voice has a nearly perfect success rate.

    Give that robo-voice’s manager a raise!

    Charter’s latest scheme is to make their actual human helpdesk people flip through blogs like yours in their off time, while robo-voice is crushing their customers’ spirit.

    That’s why you have helpful Eric offering to address your issues. It’s now part of his job to seek out bad publicity on blogs and try to crush it.

    Hey Eric! How many calls did “robo-voice” successfully solve today? How can you tell that they didn’t just hang up in frustration?

    Hey Eric! What’s the percentage of calls that make it past robo-voice?

    Hey Eric! How many of the calls that made it past the robot guardian at the gates of tech support complained about robo-voice?

  6. Water Filter :

    Cable TV is great specially if you got those digital cable boxes that is coupled with TIVO ::

  7. ameyer13

    My services have been great so far since I switched to Dish Network. Since I work and subscribe to Dish I got a lot of information before making my service provider choice. Since there are multiple elements of service that Charter comes up short on, I was really happy I looked around. The biggest thing for me is price and Dish has such a wide array of choices in programming but still comes up cheaper in price. I have free HD programming which is also saving me $10 a month. I’ve been so pleased to have my fiance happy with his NFL Network and Red Zone, it keeps him busy while I can watch my International stations. Dish offers 28 different languages which was amazing to me.

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