It started out to be a bummer of a day and went downhill from there.

We were not watching the inauguration. Pointedly not watching the inauguration. We had been planning all month to not watch the inauguration, so we hadn’t turned on the television. Meanwhile, in today’s mail I got a notice from Charter that the special, discounted rate that brought our monthly fee down from piratical to merely exorbitant, had expired.

customerservice-dilbertI called customer service. We had a disagreeable conversation about how they couldn’t do anything except reduce our package to 165 channels, 160 of which are shopping channels, religious channels, MTV, and radio stations. None of which we would ever use. It would remove all the sports channels, every movie channel including Turner Classics, leaving us with a hefty bill, the networks, and dyspepsia. I asked to be switched to the “customer retention” department because I was feeling in a very “unplug the bastards” mood.

Customer Retention is the department in charge of keeping folks like us from cutting the cord. They are the designated “let’s make a deal” department. I know the routine. I get to do this every year when they hike up my rates because whatever special deal or discount they gave me last time expired.

The little snot assured me there was absolutely nothing she — or anyone — could do. Assured me that “customer retention” would also be unable (unwilling) to help. I said “How about you connect me with them anyhow?” Still protesting, she transferred me.

Customer Retention offered me a $20 a month discount for a year. I said “thank you” but why couldn’t we just make some kind of arrangement so I don’t have to go through the same routine every January? He thought that was pretty funny. I heaved a deep sigh, thanked him, and hung up. Went to the kitchen to make dinner. Which was going to be almond-crusted salmon, except the salmon was full of bones. I was extracting fish bones with my tweezers when Garry called from the living room. The cable box had no signal. It wasn’t doing anything. I suggested he reboot again. If that didn’t work, I’d call Charter.


I continued extracting salmon bones and Garry informed me he had rebooted twice. Still no signal. I was going to have to call Charter. Pull out my fingernails. Burn me with hot pokers. Stretch me on the rack. Waterboard me. But please, don’t make me call Customer Service.

Yet, there was naught else to be done. I called. Got The Robot. Couldn’t seem to get past the robot, so I called again and tried a different sequence of keys, eventually winding up at Technical Support. Nice guy. Couldn’t figure out what exactly was causing the problem, but he tried to fix it. Couldn’t. Finally said he was transferring me back to Customer Retention. Whatever they’d done had made it impossible for them to access my line.

Back at Customer Retention, some guy named Scott (or maybe it was Sean?) told me the discount he’d put through had, for some reason, failed to complete its journey and was clogging the pipes, so to speak. He did stuff and said he thought he was almost done. Just a minute more, he said … and I waited. And waited. And then, I realized I’d been disconnected. Furthermore, not only was the cable box not working, but now the telephone signal was dead. No dial tone. No TV.

I pulled the cell phone out of my bag. Called Charter Customer Service. Fought my way through the robot, the clueless secretary, eventually winding up back at tech support who transferred me to Customer Retention. They said my phone was working fine. I said no it wasn’t and I would appreciate them giving me back both my cable service and my telephone, please. And would they please try not to turn off the WiFi too?

And this is why I shop at Zappos. Because they say this and they mean it.

And this is why I shop at Zappos. Because they say this and they mean it.

They gave me an additional $50 a month discount for a year. Said they had done all they could from their end. Reconnected me with Tech Support. Who explained they had no idea why it wasn’t working, but it should start working. Any time now.

They couldn’t fix the phone. Not their department. Not to worry, though, it would all be fine. Eventually. Just , well, their servers were slower than usual. National events messing with us, no doubt. I didn’t bother to point out that from my perspective, they actually hadn’t fixed anything yet, but it was good to know that my bill would be lower.

Death customer service

Telephone Service Department guy was very pleasant and had the best voice I’ve listened to in a long time. A rich, deep basso profundo that would put James Earl Jones to shame. He also got the phone working in short order. Not just a pretty voice. Sadly, he was unable to tell me why my cable box was still not working, but he was sure it would be working … maximum another hour. Or two. But maybe we should just not plan on television this evening.

I went back to the kitchen and tossed the salmon in the trash. I’d lost my enthusiasm for extracting fish bones. Garry offered to make a run to MacDonald’s. I said I wasn’t eating anything from anyplace with “Donald” in the name, so we had spaghetti. After we’d eaten and cleaned up, we rebooted the system.

No signal.

I rebooted again.

No signal.

I called Charter Customer Service. This time, the robot said it could tell I’d called before and was this the same problem? I shouted “YES!!” into the phone and was transferred to my favorite live person, the clueless secretary whose job it (apparently) is to prevent customers from talking to people who know something. I said I needed Customer Retention and she said I didn’t. I was getting hoarse and tired. Garry was sitting next to me with his head on the table, face down, gently banging his forehead.

Technical Support checked with Customer Retention. Assured me that everything was right as rain, no problem. I didn’t think I was being unreasonable when I asked how come I still didn’t have a signal? He said he was positive I would have a signal … maximum an hour. I said that was what the last guy said. He said he didn’t know why it was taking so long. I assured him that I had been asking myself that very question.


We chatted pleasantly about this and that and he asked me how many times I’d called and I said honestly, I couldn’t remember, but it seemed like a lot. He repeated that he was sure it would all work itself out and maybe we should just not even try to watch TV this evening? Who’d want to watch it anyway … because … you know … whatsisname being inaugurated and all.

Two hours later, still no signal. We’re watching “Murdoch Mysteries” on AcornTV. Streaming video, the saving grace of modern viewing. We’ll catch up with our regular shows later. If anyone were to ask my about my day, I’d have to tell them my favorite moment was when while allegedly fixing the cable box, they disconnected telephone service. That was special, don’t you think?

I’m going to have to call Charter Customer Service. Again.

In total: eight calls. Six hours without cable service including three hours without telephone service or TV.

Oh, and they gave us an extra $10 credit on the next bill. Whoopee! So … we weren’t going to watch the inauguration, but if we had been tempted, we were saved by Charter unplugging us. Mysterious ways. Very mysterious.


  1. LoL. I wonder if it was really the discount glitch that really clogged the system. I’ve worked at tech support for a while and I haven’t encountered such a thing. But I cant assume that since their system might be running differently.


    • It made no sense to me at the time and I don’t think it made sense to them, either. But they have a very glitchy system and I think they have a lot of people there who don’t know exactly what they are doing. They did it to me again a few days ago. My telephone wasn’t working properly. half the “features” were not working, so they fixed it. And turned it off again. Nothing to blame it on this time, but again, they told me that it was FINE … when it was dead.


        • Yes, and eventually, I got a nice woman who fixed it in about 10 seconds. She said, “OH, I see the problem. Check now. It should be working.” And it was. But before I finally got HER, I had HOURS of telling the same sad story to yet one more kids who had no idea what the problem was or how to fix it. It isn’t the kids’ fault. It’s Charter’s fault for not training them sufficiently or teaching them the meaning of SERVICE.

          Liked by 1 person

        • There are daily outages, often just a few seconds, but enough to take my computer down and force a reboot. Sometimes the wifi is insanely fast, then it will slow down to a crawl and speed up again. Then suddenly go down for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

          My guess? Bad lines (improper installation) and overloaded servers. As well as really cheesy equipment and terrible software.

          When they first came to the area 16 years ago, they were a tiny company. Hired anyone they could find, this area not being a hotbed of techies. They have since gotten big and have some good people, but there are still a fair number of people who really are not sufficiently trained. I know more than they do and that is a sad state of affairs. Wifi and connectivity isn’t my strong suit. I’m great with software, but hardware is not my thing. I do know how it’s supposed to work.

          In 16 years, they have never accepted responsibility for any problem or apologized for the messes they make. It’s bad public relations and they are universally disliked — maybe hated — by their customers. Yet, they never improve. They believe that when in doubt, lie. NEVER admit a mistake. Never give the customer a break. Charge as much as the law allows and take no prisoners. It’s bad business and in the end, it will bring them down. But cable companies have been bullying monopolies for a long time. They haven’t gotten the message that times they are a’changing. By the time they wake up and smell the coffee, it’ll be too late.



  3. I was appalled that the customer service person would argue with you about who you needed to talk to but maybe they get into trouble if they don’t solve your problem themselves or in a certain amount of time. I agree though it is the system. It’s all about the volume of calls dealt with not about whether anything was actually fixed.


  4. I doubt that there is an adult over 55 who doesn’t remember the days of customer service and today. Why is it every year, you have to jump up and down, wave your hands, scream from the rooftop and sometimes they give you the discount and sometimes you have to go through the hassle of switching companies. Then, of course, customer retention calls and asks why you didn’t speak to them. Oh lady, I did, I did. Cable companies have become the joke of the world that the Motor Vehicle Departments use to be. Heck, dealing with MVD is blissful compared to trying to work with a cable company. Here in SC, they have Time Warner. Of all the cable companies, they have to be the armpit of the industry (trying to keep it clean here). Their idea of programming is repeats from the 60’s and 70’s. And, whatever they showed yesterday and last night will be repeated today and tonight. It is like being in TV hell. Hope it’s working by now, Marilyn. 🙂


    • I had a friend who FINALLY had a choice to NOT use Time Warner and she said she didn’t care if it cost her more. As long as it wasn’t TW. You’d think with all the competition moving in from streaming services, they would make some small concessions, but instead, they are trying to squeeze the last few bucks out of their customers before they are overtaken by a newer technology and disappear. No one will mourn. No one will cry for the “good old days” of cable. No one, except all the unemployed people who used to work there.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If you want to hear a basic version of what Marilyn went through, we just finished a new short piece called “Till Death Do Us Not Part”. A guy calls the cable company and tries to cancel his dead father’s cable account. Marilyn can use the laugh.


  6. Marilyn, we’ve been there and what a nightmare. I was so mad I sent a complaint in to the CRTC – the Canadian regulatory board. In less than a day I had a call from head office of the phone company. Now I have a direct line to head office and I have this phone bill that keeps going down. We’ll see how long this lasts. It takes the wrath of an old woman to whip these guys in shape.


    • These companies are really EVIL. We don’t even HAVE a regulatory agency. That’s how they get away with so much crap. They woke me up early this morning with a recorded message to tell me my account had been changed in case I hadn’t made the changes myself. In which case, I should call them. I’d rather hang myself.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It really pays to have a regulatory body, otherwise we are just pawns in the realms of the monopolies. The guy from head office practically clicked his heals and saluted when he called me. I told him I was sick to death with all their stupid games.


  7. So many of the places I go have those surveys where you’re asked to rate their customer service. Even the hospital I get my X-rays at has to try calling me in the days after I visit to get my opinion and make sure I received “EXCELLENT” service… and no other word but EXCELLENT will do. If it wasn’t an EXCELLENT experience, they want to know why so that the next time I will be assured an EXCELLENT experience.

    Anyway, it made me think…. cable companies are one (non-government) entity that never gives those customer service surveys in any form. I can’t imagine why….


    • Oh, no, they do give surveys. Multiple surveys after every single encounter. The problem is, they don’t ask the right questions. The whole point of the survey is that if you are not happy, you bag the poor slob whose bad luck it was to answer the phone when you called. That the entire SYSTEM totally sucks and their company’s service has been crap since day one … that’s not ON the survey.


  8. Marilyn–my finger twitched over the ‘like’ key but I just couldn’t do it. Why has this become the norm? I went above and beyond for my clients–then I went out on medical for 6 months. My clients were furious when they were told “Lois is out for awhile.” Then I came back to work and the clients were jubilant. Turns out my department’s constant response to, ‘But Lois always did this for us” was, “Well, she’s not here and we have a new way of doing things.” Welcome to Customer Service 101. But guess what: Lois is back and, quite honestly, screw the ‘new way.’ Customer service is alive and well with me. Your experience was nuts. And totally unacceptable. But you know that….


    • I know. But i don’t really blame the minimum wage people they make do the real work. Bad customer service starts at the top. It’s a choice made by management. They put the systems in place, hire the people, don’t train them properly so they can’t really do their job because they don’t know enough … And I am not trying to get people fired. It’s hard enough to get work around here. It’s Charter that’s at fault. Okay, some of the reps suck too, but mostly, they are doing what they have been told to do. THAT is what’s wrong. The company has created this problem and they have to fix it, but don’t want to bother.


  9. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come. I pulled the plug over a year ago. I don’t watch TV at all anymore save the occasional stream of some PBS show through my computer. If you have other internet options, check out Hulu, Roku, or Netflix.


    • I think this particular sign is already here. Remarkably, Charter is better than they used to be. Hard to imagine, but it’s true. They were worse. It used to be impossible to get anyone on the phone ever for any reason and the people they hired — omg — they were so BAD. They did the original installation in this house and 17 years later, it still doesn’t work right, but no one wants to redo it because it’s such a big job. But there are endless problems that began because the guy they sent to install didn’t know how it should be done and he just sort of guessed. Now, as they gradually upgrade the equipment, they have to rewire piece by piece.

      They don’t train people adequately and I’m sure they don’t pay them decently or treat them with any kind of respect, either. There isn’t a lot of work around here, so Charter is one of the bigger employers. No one dares complain lest they find themselves unemployed. And in the Valley, unemployed can be a lifetime job.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have so been in your shoes before. I’m really sorry this happened to you, but I can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of a company telling you that nothing is wrong when it is very clear that something is most definitely wrong. Personally I would have cancelled my service entirely. I can watch everything I need to on the internet anyway.


  11. I can and have lived without television (dealing with the cable company being one of the reasons). The hubs, however cannot. He absolutely needs to watch his shows. He refuses to use any cable company though, which is why we have a satellite dish. I think he’s slowly moving towards Netflix and other online services though.

    I’d have a difficult time living without the internet though. ^_^


    • We tried a dish, but we have all those trees, so we simply can’t get the signal. I wish we could. Dealing with Charter is … well … maddening. And they are so expensive. AND BAD. We have streaming channels and they are a great alternative. If they had the Red Sox and the Patriots and real news, we’d dump cable. We’d change to some other service, but our town made a deal with Charter, so if you can’t use DISH, you have no choice except Charter. I always wonder who paid who off. They didn’t choose Charter for their great prices or service.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marilyn, I think you deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for your diplomacy with those “Tossers” from Charter. Never in the wide, wide world of sports have I heard so much idiocy and incompetence from an allegedly professional company.

        My mind was a whirling dervish of obscenity as I listened to their sputtering responses to your questions.
        I wanted to send a drone to Charter HQ, attached with the flag of our new White House Administration.

        It probably was a sign from above that we couldn’t watch the evening news coverage of the inauguration.

        Hey, Charter!! Let’s Make America great again!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I kept wondering why they couldn’t answer a simple yes or no question with a simple yes or no answer. Or any answer. It was like they were concealing a crime they had committed. if I were DCI Barnaby, I’d hold them on suspicion.

          Liked by 1 person

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