I have had cable TV and Internet service with Charter since 2006. My phone service is with AT&T. I didn’t want to bundle my phone service with my cable TV because I am a “worst case scenario” kind of guy. Plus, my wife and I got great email addresses that are simply our names.
When AT&T U-Verse came to my neighborhood, I started getting letters two or three times a month from both AT&T and Charter offering me great deals at low, low prices. But, I read the fine print, AT&T's low prices were only for three months. I would have to sign a two-year deal.
Currently, I pay $74 for my expanded cable TV service and Internet. It wasn't always that low. It crept up month by month to more then $100. In April, I drove to the Charter Customer Service Center off of Woods Mill Road carrying one of the latest offers from AT&T. Suddenly, a customer service rep found me a special offer that knocked $30 off my bill. But, I was told the special promotion would be over by August, and my rate would go back up to around $100 a month.
All was good until my Internet service kept going in and out in June. At the same time I was getting $89 a month offers in the mail from Charter, so I stopped by Charter Customer Service on June 20.
I told a customer service rep about losing my Internet connection frequently. She checked my records and said she thought I needed a new modem box. She handed me one and asked that I bring the old one back.
I asked to sign up for the $89-a-month deal for the next two years so I could keep my bill under $100. She explained that I had to change to the new digital service. She handed me a channel lineup card, and a sweep of her hand showed me all the new channels I would get. She had me hooked and was reeling me in. But she couldn’t close the deal. Instead, she had to make a phone call, hand me the phone and then tell me to answer the questions. I was supposed to agree on tape that I would pay a $115 penalty if I discontinued the service. Luckily, I had a 30-day grace period.
The automated prompts apparently could not understand my answers, so I was transferred to a live person. I was standing in front of a live person but had to talk to another live person on the phone—very surreal to say the least.
I left carrying a large bag that contained a computer modem, a cable box with a long piece of coax cable and a power supply and remote control for the cable box.
The new computer modem solved all my problems. The same could not be said about the cable box. The remote did not have the range of the one that came with my TV. If I was at a nearby table, I would have to get up and walk toward the TV to change channels. It was like I had just moved back 50 years. And all those new channels I thought I was getting? It turned out I wasn’t.
I called Charter and learned that I was getting only the channels I had before I agreed to upgrade to digital service. I needed to move up to Digital View Plus, which would cost me only 33 cents a day—$10 a month. I also learned that I was paying $5 a month to rent the cable box, plus taxes. My entire cable bill would not be $89 but $111 a month.
I asked the Charter employee on the phone if Charter's sales and marketing people received paychecks signed by Satan, Lucifer or simply Beelzebub. He laughed and said, “Gee, Mr. Hoffmann, you are funny. This is my best call of the night.”
So, I marched back through the doors of Charter with the bag of stuff. Another customer service rep told me she wanted to keep me as a Charter customer. It was like buying a car. She pounded her computer’s keyboard and gave me a price locked in for one year. It was $82 total for Digital View including taxes and everything in the bag.
I told her that I didn’t want Digital View. She said the upgrade would cheaper than my regular cable bill would be in August. I could just put the bag with the cable box, coax cable, remote, and power box in my closet and not use it. So I did.
This sure seems like an odd way to run a business.