CHICAGO - LaChania Govan said she got bounced around by her cable company when she called to complain. She made dozens of calls and was even transferred to a person who spoke Spanish — a language she doesn't understand.
But when she got her August bill from Comcast she had no trouble understanding she'd made somebody mad. It was addressed to "Bitch Dog."
This story was forwarded to me by my friend Brendan, who noted that he was surprised I never got a letter like this from Time Warner Cable. Time for a walk down memory lane . . .
So the Time Warner cable guy is coming to fix my internet tonight. Most of you don't know the saga of my lost internet. Basically, it started two Sundays ago when, for no apparent reason, my internet wouldn't work. All conventional remedies failed and I called customer service. Time Warner customer service is sort of like waiting in a long line for a beating. I always try to go in calm, but after 7 minutes on hold I feel the rage build inside me.
Anyway, a woman with a southern accent picks up my call and I immediately know that I will not have internet in my home for another week, at least. She is not going to help me solve ANYTHING here. And, true to twang, she does not. I beg her to let me go to the Time Warner service station on 23rd street and let me trade in my old modem for a new one, thinking that that was the problem. She says, "That's not the way we do business." No, the way they do business is more akin to the way a violent hooker does business - rapes you into thinking you're enjoying it then steals your money anyway. So I schedule an appointment for that Saturday and, hoping to quell my rage, hang up the phone and slap around Marissa for a few solid minutes.
Saturday comes and I am prepared to be at my apartment from "10:00 to 2:00" - the designated time for the repair guy to come. I'm up at 9:45, debating whether I should go in the shower or not, terrified that he may show up while I am in the shower and I will never have enough time to towel off before he makes it up to my door. So I sit there, unshowered, hoping I won't get the first hot female Time Warner technician in the history of the company.
Time rolls on and I am wanting more and more to take a shower. 1:00 comes and goes and I smell myself at every turn now. I also get the sinking feeling that this guy isn't coming. So I call Time Warner to "confirm" that I have an appointment today. I get another southern lady on the phone and she reassures me that someone is on their way. I want to say, "Hearing you say that means nothing to me. I could call dunking donuts down the block and, if someone was paying them to do it, they would tell me that my service technician was on the way." But I just say thank you, a phrase I will use less and less in the upcoming dealings with Time Warner cable.
2:00 - no one there yet. I call Time Warner cable. Another 10 minutes on hold. I have it to a science now when to press "0" instead of trying to go through the voice enabled menu. I made the mistake of trying to navigate that the first time I called and almost blew an eye socket the third time the recorded woman’s voice said, "I did not understand your answer; please try again," as I screamed into the phone "INTERNET PROBLEM! INTERNET PROBLEEEEM!" This time a guy picks up the phone and says that a service technician is running late, but still scheduled to show up. I put NO credence in this statement whatsoever. As a rule, I NEVER believe male service technicians in any field. I just feel like if this is their job, they don't care about anything. I simply can't fathom that this guy on the other end of the phone is thinking, "Man, I really want to help this dude out. It's important to me that this guy gets the best. He's a paying customer, man, and he deserves it."
3:00, no technician. Another call. Total of almost 45 minutes on hold so far. Same response. 4:00 rolls around and still no one. I'm starting to twitch as I dial the phone. After ANOTHER 12 minutes on hold, I get a technician who tells me that the service guy tried to call me at 3:34 and there was no answer. The reason? - THEY WERE CALLING THE WRONG NUMBER! I never even bothered to ask why this guy was calling me. Was he calling to say, "Yo dude, sorry but I’m not going to be able to make it?" I mean, why did HE need to call? The only reason I would have wanted to talk to him would have been if he was asking if I wanted him to pick up anything at the store on his way over.
So this is where it gets interesting. I ask this person if it would be possible for me to go get a new modem NOW, because they failed to bring one to me. "Sure," they say. "No problem." I mention, while fighting back the tear of rage, that the first person I spoke with said that wasn't Time Warner's policy. "of course you can, that's your decision." I swear, if there was a puppy in front of me I would have kicked it. Then I ask, "What time do they close?"
So much rage. So much. It's 4:20. I haven't showered all day. They're closed on Sunday. I'm so fucking determined I hang up on the person, throw on clothes and RACE down to 23rd street to get a new modem. I get there at about 4:50, just in time, and I walk into a scene out of a horror movie entitled, "Most ugly people ever congregated into one room." I get a number, apparently the "number" customer I am. It says 179. Wow, that's a lot of people. What number are they up to?
On a rage scale of 1-10, 1 being that passing wave of dizziness you get when you're really angry and 10 being justifiable homicide, I am at a 9, approximately "shitting in my hand and throwing it." I am laughing a little and decide to just wait on line. While I am on line I call Time Warner. Another 15 minutes on hold and I get a service technician. At this point, I am starting every conversation with the words, "I know this isn't your fault, but..." I tell this person the whole story the same way a mobster might tell an innocent witness an ironic story before shooting him in the head. "so THEN (would you believe it!) The guy tells me that I could have picked up a new modem all along! Would you believe that? Ain't that a kicker?! BANG!" Then I ask to be transferred to a supervisor - the first conversation with a supervisor. I like talking to them better because, even though it's not rational at all, I feel like they are more responsible for my troubles. I feel like I can use the word 'you" instead of the phrase "Time Warner" when making accusations. "so what you're telling me is that it's your policy to lie to customers and make them schedule appointments they don't need? And then when you fail to send a technician it's my responsibility to clean up your mess?" It's more gratifying.
As the technician is transferring me to the supervisor, though, he cuts me off. That's the 10 right there. I am officially plotting ways to blow up something Time Warner owns. I am also planning my speech for when I call back. I think about calling back right then and there, but I fear that my speech might be too impeded with rage to get a coherent sentence out. I needed to at least slide back down to a 9 before making such a call.
An hour and 20 minutes later (thankfully they had internet there) I made it home with my new modem. Plug it in . . . Fucking thing still doesn't work. I'm just laughing. I mean, you have to. I audibly laughed. But it was that kind of laughter you might hear out of a drunken father before he beat his kids. The dangerous laughter. I needed a shower and a drink. After pouring my second scotch, I sat down and called Time Warner back. I am not shitting you at all; I called Time Warner THIS many times. I got a supervisor on the phone and explained everything to them. I was drained and almost pleading for help. I really thought I might cry if the wrong topic was brought up. I made it short and said I wanted someone to come when I was available, not when THEY were available. They said they couldn't do that and I said, in my most calm tone, "You're going to have to." They put me on hold and say that the best they can do it give me a smaller window of 4:00 to 6:00 on Tuesday. I say I’ll take it, but I also want a free month of service for the inconvenience. They sound confused, but concede, sensing, I think, that I might be dangerous.
Tuesday rolls around and I am going crazy trying to get out of work early. I am LOATHING Time Warner as the stress level is skyrocketing, finding solace only in the fact that in a few short hours the whole ordeal would be over. I make it home at exactly 3:55, get into my apartment and plop onto my couch. I look at my cell phone and there is a message.
"Hi Mr. Murphy, this is Time Warner cable. It's 3:46 right now, I’m outside you're apartment, if you're there please let us up or call back if you want to reschedule."
I've just shattered the rage scale. If I had a hostage from Time Warner cable, I would have killed them right then and there to show Time Warner that I meant business, even though I knew that once you kill a hostage you never make it out alive. Just pure, irrational, homicidal rage. I get someone on the phone from Time Warner and skip them directly to the supervisor. After I tell them the whole back-story, we have this conversation:
Me: "You need to call the technician and tell them to get here before 6:00."
Them: "I’m sorry, we can't do that. We can only reschedule the appointment."
Me (channeling Seinfeld): "I made and appointment between 4:00 and 6:00. It's not 4:30. I HAVE an appointment. Doesn't that mean that I own a timeslot for a technician to come? Isn't that what an appointment does." She tries to speak and I interrupt her. "or is it just that you tell people that someone will come between a certain time to appease them and get them off the phone, is that how you run your business?"
Them: "Um, sir, I’m very sorry..."
Me (interrupting again): "Yes, I know you're sorry, but actually it doesn't matter to me if you are sorry or not. All that matters to me is getting a service technician to my apartment today."
Them: "I’m sorry I cannot do that."
Me: "That is unacceptable."
Silence for about an entire minute. I'm not saying anything, just letting the awkwardness build. They then ask to put me on hold and when they come back on they reiterate that no technician is available. Then I go off on my tirade this is what I actually said:
"your business is as much a joke as it is insulting. Customers pay you a lot of money to provide a service and you disrespect them. That is awful. Just awful." She tries to apologize again and I interrupt her. "I will make another appointment for when you are available because that is how you run your business - the customer accommodates you. I want 3 free months of cable, one for the first missed appointment, one for the second missed appointment and one because the way your company treats its customers is reproachable." She puts me on hold (perhaps to cry) and comes back and tells me that they will give me the three free months. Then I scheduled an appointment for tonight, from 6:00 to 9:00.
SO, this is a ridiculously long email and perhaps utterly uninteresting, but my therapist told me that it was good to talk about it to help alleviate the rage. So we'll see what happens tonight. I fear that if the guy can't fix it tonight, I might knock him on the head with a frying pan and call Time Warner telling them I have a their technician and they're not getting him back until I can connect to the internet. Maybe it's the dependency of technology that our modern culture has foisted upon us that is driving me to such dire straits, but I think it's more about old fashioned respect, and feeling like you're getting something for your money. That and a man's god given right to new porn. No man should have to look at 3 week old porn. No man.
The resolution to the whole matter was even more amazing . . .
I've realized that what hurts the most is that it is supposedly designed to help us, so when it hurts us the wound is doubly deep - the difference between a stranger stealing your girlfriend and your best friend stealing your girlfriend. I also partly blame the invention of the telephone. These customer service representatives are at too safe a distance from the callers. Like the saying goes, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." We need to be on a line, in person, in front of a customer service representative with sticks and stones in hand. I have a feeling they would listen more if that were the case.
Anyway, onto the continuation of the Time Warner saga:
Tuesday afternoon, I get home from work, pour myself a scotch, and call Time Warner the first time in order to confirm my appointment. This time around, I am wise and take down the names of the representatives I speak to. Not because I will use those names in the future, but taking down their names scares them - it shatters the glass wall of anonymity and lets them know that you could call back and ask for "Sarah" and get "Sarah" in trouble if you had to. I considered asking for their home address and the names of their children too, just to let them know that I wasn't playing around.
The appointment is set up for 6:00 - 9:00. I order Chinese food around 7:00 and patiently wait. 8:00 rolls around and I decide to call Time Warner again. The tone of my voice is mildly psychotic, and I have decided that it shows desperation when you don't use subjects in your sentences: "Just making sure someone's coming! Had them cancel a few appointments on me! Don't want to miss them this time!" I can only imagine what my "Time Warner file" looks like at this point; every representative I have spoken to (a total of about 15) jotting down notes like, "He's crazy!" or "Don't share personal information!" or, as I envisioned my current representative typing, "Please, please don't skip him this time. He knows my name!"
Finally around 7:30 my buzzer rings. I buzz the guy up and open up my front door. My customary practice is to kind of hang out my front door when someone new is coming up, because it's not clear that my apartment is on the fourth floor. So I’m standing there and waiting . . . And waiting . . . And waiting . . . Every so often hearing a voice that might be considered a footstep. Finally I see his Time Warner hat rise up above the horizon of the stairway . . . . . Very slowly. Turns out he is limping horribly and not really bending his right leg. Curious...
He comes in the apartment and I have conveniently rolled out the entertainment cart so he would have easy access to the modem. I point it out to him and, abandoning all attempts at bending down to look at it, he half bends his left knee and then somewhat clumsily falls to the floor onto his side. Then he stretches out so he is lying completely spread out on my floor (please see attached picture for clarification).
This whole scene is blowing my mind. I'm sitting on the edge of my bed trying to make like I’m busy with something, when really all I want is to get the piece of cake and glass of milk that I poured for myself in the kitchen. But doing so would require me literally stepping over this man sprawled out on my floor. So instead I rustle through ATM receipts that I have been meaning to throw away, acting as though I have seen something new and interesting on each one.
He is making noises that indicate he is not happy with what he sees. For a solid five minutes he is motionless on the floor and I am afraid he has fallen asleep. However, every so often I see a branch from the Christmas tree rustle that indicates he is still moving at least. Finally, he moves into a sitting position (think how an infant might sit, both legs straight out in front of him), brushes a good amount of pine needles out of his hair and tells me that there is a problem with the cable on the roof and I’ll have to make another appointment for someone to go up there. At this point, I don't even care - I am just afraid that this man will ask if I have some liniment oil for his wooden leg. I graciously thank him and he goes on his way.
So this Sunday, between 10:00 and 2:00 is the time of reckoning. Who knows what will happen next. But stay tuned to find out....
Finally, the next visit, they got my internet working again. I didn’t pay for cable for four months after that. I haven’t come to a steadfast conclusion yet whether or not four free months of cable is an equal trade-off for a few degrees of sanity. I mean, I get the premium package, plus on-demand. So yeah, maybe . . .