Cable companies! They are about as fun to deal with as your parents divorce. We offered you a chance to vent by telling us your horror stories. Here's the rock bottom of the coaxial carnival ride.
Meet a Gizmodo reader we're just going to call "Mark." Mark hit the cable keno jackpot. Or, whatever the opposite of jackpot is. Virtually every crap thing the cable company does wrong, it did to him. Broken promises. Overbilling. An online offer that wasn't honored on the phone. Grueling appointment windows. Install problems. Repeat visits. And finally, after many phone calls, nine service visits, 51 emails, three faxes, a certified letter and 31 tweets, he had something that worked about as well as U.S. policy in the middle east.
Congratulations, Mark! You're the poster boy for what's wrong with cable.
Here's his story.
I was ready to leave ATT and use Comcast for everything - we had them for TV, but I thought I'd get faster, and maybe cheaper home phone and Internet if I got one of the fancy triple-play situations they're hawking on TV and via junk mail so regularly. I read up on the plans, used their online chat service to talk to a rep and see if I could switch over.
I got all kinds of sweet promises. The new deal was about $50 less a month than the three separate providers I had used previously. A $100 Visa gift card if I switched over right then (I told him I had to go over it with my wife; he said tough luck, basically, and I couldn't get the gift card if I signed up the next day). Still, though, it was a good deal, and the next day I called up to switch over.
I was given an all new price, with new DVR charges and a different monthly rate for a different plan, and told this new rate - $6 more per month than what I was currently paying - was non-negotiable, there was nothing lower, there were no special offers, and I should still switch because the convenience of a single provider was enormous and the Internet was much faster than the ATT DSL I had.
I got a little angry at this point, feeling that I had been the victim of a bait-and-switch, and wrote some complaint letters to Comcast via twitter. Or rather, 140 characters of terse accusations. Then, via email, complaints. Their response: OMG we are so sorry! That shouldn't have happened! We will honor the original offer, gift card and all. Wait for our call.
One week, than another. No call. More emails, more apologies. More waiting.
Finally, I wrote a registered letter, and sent a fax. I heard back via email (they refused to put anything in writing, apparently; it's almost impossible to get them even to commit to anything via email, because - I assume - they're scared of being caught lying) from a woman who purported to be the regional head of customer service, and she was fantastically rude - told me they wouldn't honor anything "because of my attitude," that I had been "harassing" her employees (HER employees? - and I kept all my emails and letters, and none were even slightly threatening, except when I told her I had talked to folks at the FCC's ombudsman office; I guess telling the federal government about bait-and-switch tactics is considered harassment these days). She even said that my having taken screen caps of the initial chat session where the visa card was offered was "harassment."
I documented all of this online, and finally got a response from someone whose job it was - I assume - to "fix" issues when the company is outed online for being, well, so damned crummy.
The fellow I talked to, [REDACTED] was extremely apologetic and promised to fix everything and that he'd honor the original offer. Getting him to schedule installation, though, was really difficult, as he'd disappear for weeks in between promises of "handing me off to the local office" and "getting that price for you."
Three months after my initial chat with Comcast, [REDACTED] sent out an installer, and I had to take a day off work because they wouldn't do this on a weekend. The installer ignored the big sign by my doorbell that said "doorbell broken, please knock," and left without installing anything because I wouldn't answer the (silent) doorbell. I called the local office, which had no idea who I was (apparently, all the requests were coming directly from the corporate office, and they had no record of any installer coming out to my house), but they passed me up the line to [REDACTED]'s colleagues who sent out another installer somehow. This person was, after 5.5 hours, finally able to run all-new coax to my (very urban) house from a telephone pole in the alley behind it, and hook me up.
Then the problems really started.
The Internet was so slow you couldn't watch a Netflix movie, even though the speed test showed 14.1 down; this took 3 visits to fix. The phone service was unusable because of the volume of "ghost" conversations - radio or TV or other phone conversations - overlaying it. This took 3 visits, and a tech who drilled a hole in my 85 year old wooden floors to install new cables, which didn't actually end up working … his supervisor, who came out and spent a full day with another technician, said that the only way they could get it to work was to plug the phone right into the cable modem, so none of my other phone jacks in the house will provide noise-free audio now.
One of the Comcast voice guys apparently neglected to rewire the phone line for my alarm system, so I had to take 2 more days off work while another supervisor and more techs came out to fix that problem, and for a few weeks I was without home alarm service. I asked Comcast to pay for the fact that my alarm service was dead during that time yet I still had to pay the bill, all because of a mistake they admitted making. They refused to respond to my request.
They never honored the original quoted price, promised by several people. [REDACTED] mysteriously left the company at one point in the middle there, and neither the free month of service, nor the $100 visa gift card, or any of the free pay per view movies promised to me by various operators ever appeared. Apparently, they "guarantee" that they will fix any problem you have on a single visit, or you'll get some kind of remuneration - discounted service, or a free movie or something. They had a total of 9 service calls to my house, 51 emails, 3 faxes, a certified letter and 31 tweets. No discounts. I guess I should just be happy I have TV service, though, since it's Comcast.
But Mark certainly wasn't the only person to send us a cable disaster story. We expected a hundred. You gave us more than 1000.
You sent us tales of tawdry come-ons by the cable guy (complete with photos that we, sadly, can't run), appointments windows that lasted longer than childhood itself, no shows, faulty equipment, bait and switch promos, billing practices that would shame a repo man. Ripoffs. Scams. Outright fucking lies.
And now that Mark has whet your appetite, dig in. Here are your cable stories, Gizmodo readers; 3,000 words from just a few of the stories that stood out.
I moved 16 miles down the road, and had Comcast triple play. Was told that I moved to a new rate area, had to get a new number, new equipment, etc. Tech came out, had all the wrong equipment, DVR didn't work right, on demand didn't work. Eventually had to replace it all myself after 3 tech visits didn't get it working.
To make matters worse, the contractor that took the original equipment never marked it as turned in. I got a notice from a creditor, took the receipt to Comcast and "had it all straightened out."I then get an alert from my credit monitoring that I had two open delinquencies on my report, from Comcast equipment that wasn't turned in.
Called Comcast, they said it would be taken care of. The only thing that happened was that it was mark paid, now I am left disputing the whole damn thing and can't even get a gas card.
Our house was hit by a tornado last May. We survived, and were able to move out to a nearby apartment complex during the time of rebuilding. We had Time Warner as our ISP. We called, returned the modem, and even had a letter from our insurance adjuster that stated we were hit by a tornado. They still tried to charge us over $150 cancellation fee! We refused, and finally resorted to the only way we knew would get a response - social media. Twitter seemed to speed up the process of getting them to back off. From 3 months to 3 days for response times.
I cancelled TV service with Charter. On the phone, they did not tell me that a visit by their technicians would follow. They came while I was at work. When I got home, I entered through the garage and found that one of my whippets was missing. I searched everywhere, and finally found her baking in the sun on a 100°+ day with no relief from the hot sun or the pavement. She was lucky to have lived.
But I never received a phone call telling me that they had let one of my dogs out. Whippets being what they are, I was lucky she was even at home. She could have been miles away if she'd managed to see a rabbit or some other prey, which are common here.
Last time I moved, DirecTV showed up at the start of my window and was done with the install in 20 minutes. Comcast, which is the only viable internet provider for my building, missed 3 appointments and didn't even bother to show up until someone from the executive customer service team dispatched a team of 3 techs directly to my house. And the techs then made snide comments about DirecTV. To top it off, Comcast then attempted to charge me $50 for the install and didn't want to credit me for the 3 missed appointments. Executive customer service waived the installation fee, but would only credit me for 1 missed appointment. Fortunately, I only wasted 1 work day and a Saturday. The install guys were sent to my place on Sunday.
We contacted Comcast because we pay for their highest download/upload speeds so we can do whatever we please on the Internet without any hiccups. We are graphic designers, we live on the Internet.
When we called to have them figure out why we were getting under half of what we pay for, the woman we spoke with on the phone asked what we were trying to do on the Internet that we needed it to be that fast.
Well first off that shouldn't matter, but we told them at the moment we were trying to play video games and could even get enough of a connection to even connect to Xbox Live, let alone get into the game to play multiplayer online. The lady responded back with well we don't support your gaming habits. This made us pretty angry, I mean I don't care if you agree with how we use our Internet or not, do you not support our movie watching habits, or our website browsing habits either?
I pay you, a service provider, to provide a service and when I am not getting 100% of what I pay for I'm owed. And I especially do not need your personal opinions. To finalize the story they finally had someone come out to look at our hardware and connection. Come to find out when we had recently moved and they had given us a generation of modem (over 10 years old) that they do not even make anymore. One that couldn't even support the speeds we needed.
A few years back, my boyfriend and I moved from our first shared apartment to a house. Both places- the house and the apartment- had their phone, cable, and Internet serviced by Cox. The issue was, our new place was an historic house, built in the 1920s, and so according to the Cox folks, extra work would need to be done to get the house set up for cable. No problem, we were happy to have it done. We set up an appointment day, and waited.
At this point, we hadn't moved out of the apartment complex, yet, so it wasn't a big deal. We called them (remember: Cox supplied the phone line), they apologized, said that their guy wouldn't be able to come out yet, because they checked and still more work needed to be done which required extra supplies. Again, no problem; again, we're happy to have it done. New appointment, this time after the move from the apartment is supposed to have happened. We tell them, "ok, if you need to contact us, here's our cell phone numbers."
The guy never came, again.
This happened a couple more times, and eventually we found ourselves growing tired of it, so we watched broadcast TV and went to the local library for any internet needs. And then the bill came in, charging us for the service that had never been set up. We call them and say, "oh hey, what exactly are you charging us for?" The guy apologizes, immediately credits the bill back to our account, no problem, and sets up another appointment to get hooked up. You can guess what happened, or rather, what didn't.
Seven weeks into waiting for the guy to come- man I wish I were kidding about this- I come home from work to find a note from the cable guy! The elusive, maybe-he's-a-unicorn-and-I-can't-see-him-because-he-thinks-I'm-a-slut cable guy! Turns out, he'd been trying to get ahold of us and the phone kept saying the line had been disconnected so he couldn't get into our back yard to hook up the cables, so he was canceling our call for now and we could call to set up another time. We called (oh, did we ever call). We asked what number the guy had been calling.
He'd been calling the number that was serviced by Cox. The one that had been disconnected after we moved out of the apartment, which should have already been set up at the house we were moving into. The one that guy was supposed to set up. He did not, of course, call the cell phone numbers that we'd supplied. Neither did he call either of our office phone numbers, which we'd also had on record.
The next day was a weekend. He came by and hooked everything up in twenty minutes.
We've since moved out of that house and into a new place that's serviced by Qwest/Century Link. Weirdly enough, everybody I know says that Qwest/Century Link's service is awful, but we've had no problems; the guy came exactly when he said he would- nearly own to the minute- and in the almost two years that we've lived in this place, we've had our cable go out once, and have never had a problem with our internet service or speed. Knock on wood.
So, there you have it. We waited for the cable guy for seven weeks. Sheesh. Hopefully, Cox can get their act together. I don't think we'd go back.
I had Time Warner cable for almost five years while I lived in Los Angeles. When I moved apartments, I called the cable company and had them move my service with me. Only to find out years later — that instead of just moving my services, they left the service connected at the other place and weren't sending me bills for it, instead, they ruined my credit.
As for their service. My cable modem was constantly having problems staying connected and needed to be rebooted on a regular basis. When I asked to have someone come and take a look and see what the problem was, I was told I would have to pay that person to come and fix their service, which was failing daily. And to add insult to injury — I would never hit the speeds which I was paying for (their most expensive package). Time Warner is one of the worst companies I have ever had to deal with.
I moved into a just-renovated fourth floor walkup in Cleveland, Ohio. During the renovation all the installed cable lines had inexplicably been removed. I called Time Warner and explained the situation and they gave me one of those four hour windows. The contracted installer showed up, took one look at the building layout, and told me he couldn't do it.
I called Time Warner again, and they send another contractor out (with another four hour window). He also takes a look at the building and says he can't do it either.
I call Time Warner for the third time and kick up a ruckus. They assure me the next person they send out would be able to complete the install. So I take more time off work to wait for another four hours. The contractor takes one look at the building (notice a pattern?) and says he can't do it and that Time Warner needs to send a specialized installer with a bucket truck thanks to my place being on the fourth floor. He tells me that he'll call Time Warner, explain the situation, and make sure the next installer will have the right equipment.
I call Time Warner again, verify that they know they need to send this special equipment out, and schedule yet another four hour install block. When the guy arrives I ask him where his bucket truck is. He looks at me like I'm crazy and then tells me he can't do the install and that I need to call Time Warner.
By this point I would have settled for any other ISP but naturally there was no other option available in my area. So I call Time Warner for the sixth time. I schedule another appointment. I take more time off work. And the sixth installer to show up takes one look at my apartment, and refuses to do the install.
I call Time Warner, again. I escalate as high as I can get. I verify and reverify that they will send the right person. I schedule a seventh install appointment. And the guy that shows up? Another contractor. I'm obviously frustrated as hell so he asks whats up. I tell him the whole story and I guess he decided to take pity on me and he takes a second look at the job. And he figures out a way to do it! And it only takes half an hour! I couldn't believe it. I got his name and called Time Warner again, this time to excoriate their terrible internal communication, demand incentives for wasting 28 hours of my vacation time at work, and praise the installer who decided to just do his job. I was ignored.
I tried to sign up for service from MediaComm.
Initially they gave me the standard 4-hour window, 12pm - 4pm on Thursday. I was ok with that, as my wife was expecting to be at home that day. When I came home at 6pm not only had no one shown up, but no one had called either of us about it.
I called their 800 number, the cubical drone on the other end apologized and rescheduled for 12-4 the next day (Friday). Now I had to take off work, as my wife had a doctor's appointment that she couldn't change. So what happens, 5pm comes around, nothing.
I call them up again, and again the cubical drone apologizes and informs me that the technician was on his way and should be there in the next hour. An hour and thirty minutes later, I call back again.
After a lengthy discussion on how they've missed two appointments (really three, but I'm letting the last one slide), wasted my time, and really pissed me off; I get a $80 credit to my bill, free installation (was going to be $40 as I needed cable pulled), and they'll be there before noon Saturday.
1pm Saturday, still nothing. Call again, as I'm on the phone, finally the tech pulls up in the driveway.
As the tech comes in the house, I point him to where the TV is and inform him of the extra line that needs to be ran so that I can have my cable modem hooked up (I was getting their triple package of TV, data, and phone), he instructs me that that's a "custom installation" and that I would have to pay $80 for him to run the line. I hadn't even gotten to the other one that I was planning for the bed room, and already I'm being told that I would have to pay more for something that a) I was told was only going to be $40 for the whole install b) not supposed to pay for at all anymore because they've screwed me twice.
I informed him of the previous issues and how I was supposed to be receiving a free installation. His response, "I'm not authorized to do an install without payment."
So, back to the 800 number I go. He gets on his phone to call his boss as well. Before I can get past the mindless, "Press 1 to speak to a representative." He's back at my door, informing me that his boss will not authorize him to pull any cable without me paying him and that the best he can do is come back Monday (as he apparently didn't have any cable with him in the first place).
At this point I'm livid, I inform him that he has 30 seconds to get off my property and that his services are no longer needed. I'm still on the phone, so I wait for the representative to pick up and I let them have it.
I cancel my service, which I never even received.
I really wish that I could have stuck it to them more. I'm out two days (Friday and Saturday), have no service, and later found out that they tried to charge my credit card. I had the foresight to inform the bank that no charges from the company were authorized, and they honored it (very nice of them).