Time Warner Cable, This Is Why People Get Mad at You (Opinion)

Time Warner Cable, This Is Why People Get Mad at You (Opinion)

Company missed appointments, brought the wrong equipment, and gave me a girl's name

I'm looking at a bill from Time Warner Cable to someone named Kim Molloy, who apparently lives at my address.

America's second-biggest cable company assigning me a girl's name is just the latest joke in my farcical quest for home wi-fi. Am I really complaining about a company's failure to send words and images through air? I guess so. But then again, I'm paying for that miracle – or at least Kim Molloy is. Together, we've lost hours dealing with this.

Also read: Washington Consumer Groups Question Comcast's Reported Bid for Time Warner Cable

It's been my experience that TWC is one of those companies with masterful media relations, but not-so-great customer service. One cleans up after the other. Do I blame the employees who answer calls and install modems? Of course not. The company wastes lots of their time, too, with scripts that make them sound like robots.

Last quarter, compared to the one before, Time Warner lost 306,000 residential video customers – people watching cable. It lost 24,000 residential high-speed data customers – internet users.

Year-over-year, the company is down further in video customers, but it's up in online subscribers. That may be because of a wider trend of people cutting cable for online. Revenue in home high-speed data was up 14.2 percent from the year before, to a little over $1.4 billion – for reasons we'll get into soon.

Also read: Who Won CBS's Fight With Time Warner Cable? DirecTV

TWC knows it can improve. President and COO Robert D. Marcus recently pledged “to fundamentally change the customer experience,” through its new “Max Markets” initiative.

I know this business stuff because besides being Kim Molloy, frustrated customer, I also cover the company as a reporter for TheWrap. You'll be shocked, shocked to learn that when I called the company in my reporter capacity, to see if Kim's experience was typical, lots of nice people suddenly took interest. Until I played the reporter card, Kim got only the promise of $25 credits for missed appointments.

How does this relate to you? Well, if you're a writer at one of America's most beloved entertainment sites, you can do what I did, and probably get great service.

But if you're a lawyer or movie star or veterinarian who doesn't have hours to wait around? Good luck to you, Dr. Nobody.

But back to my dumb life. I had TWC video and internet before and didn't like it: too many service outages. So I decided to sign up for Earthlink. The name sounded friendly. Earthy.

Silly me. It turns out TWC has a near monopoly on large sections of New York – and a deal with Earthlink that ended up bouncing me back to my old friends at TWC. Okay, I said. Sign me up.

On the first day of my scheduled installation, Nov. 24, no one showed. Okay. A friendly technician did appear on the 26th. He installed a cable modem and router, but not the wi-fi one I needed.

And why do I need wi-fi? Because it's 2013.

I'm not a tech snob. I have Yahoo mail. But my three-year-old computer doesn't even have a jack for the cord I would need to connect to cable internet. If I can get free wi-fi at McDonald's and Starbucks and that park where a kid just got shot for his jacket, shouldn't I be able to pay for wi-fi at home?

After installing the wrong modem, the tech informed me I had the wrong modem.

I was confused. “Do you mean…” I tried to put it delicately. “You have the wrong modem?”

He told me I had to call Time Warner to get the right one.

“But… you… are Time Warner,” I didn't say, because I am a coward. I dialed and the TWC rep on the other end said maybe I could rent the right modem… for a price.

(Completely coincidentally: The company's latest earnings report says its increased revenue in high-speed data revenue is largely due “to an increase in equipment rental charges.” Huh!)

Because TWC had already brought the wrong modem once, I asked a customer service person exactly what kind I needed. I found it on eBay. I asked her if I could order it online. She said yes. I ordered.

Another missed appointment later, another tech arrived. (For the sake of timeliness, I'm skipping the whole week when TWC and Earthlink claimed my address didn't exist.) He spent an hour on the phone with another tech person who said I couldn't use my own modem. So the tech left.

Was my situation at all unusual? Nope, according to one of the many TWC employees I talked to, who will remain unidentified for obvious reasons.

I was going to give up. But then I got a bill for the month of internet I haven't been getting.

I sent an email to the good people at TWC PR, asking them for their side. As no one ever could have predicted, someone called the next day, saying my new modem would work just great, and that someone would be by soon to set it up. They said the problems may have had something to do with the Earthlink handoff. Later someone else called, to get the ball rolling. They even agreed to give me back my name.

Kim and I will be waiting.

(Update: The day after this story was published, a TWC technician stopped by and set up wi-fi. After a day, it stopped working. I canceled service. The next month, I got a call from a collection agency wondering why I hadn't paid my bill.)

  • John

    I had a similar experience. I was trying to switch my cable card from my old TiVo to the new improved TiVo (which I might add is pretty fabulous). TiVo told me that I would have to call TWC for them to “pair” the cable card with the new device. So I got everything up and working and called TWC. I spent the next two hours on the phone with dedicated “cable-card” reps who did not seem to know how to do the so-called pairing. I was also disconnected at least 4 times and had to call back, getting a different customer service rep on the line and having to RE-explain the situation to them each time. The last of the reps (who finally didn't disconnect me) told me that there was no record of that cable card in their system. I asked how that could be possible since I merely took it out of the old TiVo which had been working just fine and I've been paying rent for it monthly for at least three years. She simply didn't know and told me that she would have to schedule a service call as the technician would have to bring “special equipment” in order to do the “pair-ing”. Ugh. So I went ahead and made the appointment for 4 days later. Unsatisfied with what had happened, I decided to roll the dice the next day and try calling in again. I got someone on the line who told me ‘sure, no problem'. I gave him the required information (as I had done the previous day during the 2 hour phone ordeal) and in less than 10 minutes the cable card was “paired” and I was receiving all my channels. No “special equipment” required.

    I tried calling back the main service line to cancel my appointment. I was put on hold for 15 minutes at which time…yep…I got disconnected. I did not bother to call back.

    • tim.molloy

      Hahaha. Thanks for sharing that. It seems like the relief of things finally working is so great that we forget how ridiculous the phone calls are along the way.

      • Nancy

        I could say “ditto” to nearly everything both Tim/Kim and John have written (except I got to keep my own name) – including the cable card experience when it became clear to me that TWC is intentionally ignorant about this because they just don't want you using any DVR but theirs. It's beyond frustrating and even more so when, in the entertainment capital of the world, I can't even find a suitable alternative to TWC that serves my urban and somewhat upscale neighborhood. So it's hard to dump them, even. Already a monopoly and that's before the contemplated acquisition by Comcast. I complained to my city councilman and the best he could do is refer me to the FCC. Awesome.

  • TWC=Time Wasted on Cable

    I still remember having my bill raised due to a modem lease increase. It was really disappointing to see that increase at a time when I was not receiving CBS or affiliated stations like Showtime because of the dispute. During a time of dispute and eliminated channels, it would seem everything would be done to lower the bill instead of sending an increased bill to customers, which only added more frustration.

  • Marcko

    Somehow I thought monopolies were illegal but I'm presently living in the 2nd city where if I want cable, it's Time Warner or tough #!#!!. I've tried dishes before & they're even worse so…

    • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Out in the Street Films

      There's always Direct TV. Not that they're any better.

  • rikala

    I, too, had TWC but after 15 months of over-charges that they refused to deduct they shut off my cable and continued to bill me as if I still had it…when I complained about that they then put the account in collections despite my sending them copies of all the bills, over-charges and payments I'd already made…

  • Stuart W

    Tim,

    Think dealing with TWC tough, best think again. Soon you'll be
    confronted with the IRS agent representing “Obamacare” and promise he'll
    be a lot more adept at taking your “information” than the folks at
    TWC. Better than that, you won't have to worry about a single thing as
    your elected government will be taking care of you, right down to the personal health-facts you've provided via e-mail
    (when they get the “system going” which waiting-time will fly by). Good
    thing about TWC you can change your cable or dish-firm anytime you
    like, with or without cause ; plenty of folks looking for your
    business. Specials a daily treat for jumping vendors.

    Who is gonna bail-you-out of The Affordable Health? Their
    representatives know how and where the modem-fits! Certain they'll be
    polite and NEVER misspell your name.

    What a deal huh?

    • hupto

      Another delusional wingnut troll going off-topic. Please go away.

  • Newzheimer

    First, Kim, stop whining. Buy your own modem and stop paying TWC modem rent. And buy your own wifi router. I bought my own router from the get-go and when TWC said they were going to start charging modem rent, bought a modem.

    There are plenty of reasons to hate TWC (and I could write a book of them) but sitting on your arse and whining about modems and routers ain't them. If you allow yourself to be steamrolled by TWC, you will be. That's how they roll.

    • tim.molloy

      I did buy my own. See article, above

    • Guest Services

      Learn to read thoroughly, Newmanseinfeld. Kim/Tim tried using his own modem.

  • MellyMel

    Oh I feel your pain. Everytime I ask for a change to my cable, they want to confirm my social security #. The first time I gave it, they said “No, that's not it.” Um sorry but I think I know my SS#. I've had it for a few decades so I'm pretty sure you entered it into the system wrong. I can verify a million other pieces of information but they won't make any changes until I go to their office, show my driver's license and other information to change it in their system. Yes that is exactly how I want to spend my lunch hour….in a huge line waiting to fix an error you obviously made. When will they learn about customer service?? Perhaps they'll have to soon with so many other distribution channels finally biting into their cut.

    • tim.molloy

      Ha! At one point Earthlink couldn't find my account and tried to use my “security question,” even though I had never given them security questions. So the poor guy is like “What is the name of your first pet? Your first pet? What's your first pet's name?” and I had to keep telling him it wouldn't help. Finally he entered it in, and voila: They don't know the name of my first pet.

  • Jenny

    Kim is a boys name as well. Not common, but it is.

  • jennyweasly

    I have a cable company called Wow (formerly Knology) which exists along with TWC in Pinellas Cty, FL. Best service ever. It could be a little thing called competition

  • Jimvanhise

    You missed one of Time Warner's time honored bits of business where they drop channels without any kind of user surveys that I know of. They used to have radio channels on 752 through 758 but they not only suddenly eliminted them in August 2012, but they were not replaced with anything and those numbers no longer exist in the channel lineup. I called and complained and someone was supposed to call me back and explain this change, but no one ever did. The G4 channel was also recently dropped, and again that channel number no longer exists.

    • hupto

      Yeah, they'll tell you they adding seven “exciting” new channels–most of them foreign-language–but don't mention that they're dropping 21 in exchange.

  • Gluserty

    I'm a New York State Time Warner Cable customer as well, and have had the same type of issues with their high speed equipment (not to mention the cable remotes and receivers). Lately though, my issue has been with the bill (.43 for the cable guide, really?). We'd switch to satellite, but their are too many trees on this property for that to be feasible.

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Out in the Street Films

    Cable service is the most not-ready-for-prime-time technology in existence. Just try scrolling through the VOD channels to see what's playing. Make sure you set aside half an hour to do so. Unplug your cable box and wait 15 minutes for the “this channel will be available shortly” message to disappear before you can actually see what channel you're looking at.

    This is like cars in the 1900s when you had to hand crank to get the engine started. No wonder people download stuff on the net.

  • Tommy_Fitz

    I'm not sure if this question is appropriate for this particular web page but, why did TWC change the Font on the “info” box at the bottom of the TV screen. I can't read the information that describes what the show I'm watching is about. It was fine the way it was but now I need a magnifying glass just to read the caption. Why was this changed and have there been many complaints about this issue other than mine?

  • Missing Direct TV

    My husband just called to tell me we have an over due bill (he had a voice message) He tokd me the amount due and the amount overdue. Which is funny bc we only had it installed about 6 wks ago and never recieved a bill. The over due amount is about twice the amount of the package we ordered. (We are supposed to get free dvr for three months and free installatiin, had a coupon for the latter.)
    He is going to call when he gets home. Everytime I call with a problem, I get someone who can't solve it. Or assures me it part of the way the service works-until he cals back and they fix it. +Getting someone off the phone is not really the same as solvibg the problem.
    Missing direct TV

  • KB

    Tim, your title is incorrectly saying “(opinion)”, in my opinion. This is a FACT that the schmucks are horrible. I'm having similar problems and counting the days until Google Fiber replaces all of Time Warner's business in Johnson County, Kansas!