Sunday, March 5, 2017

Visiting Dante's Inferno: The Time-Warner / Spectrum Service Center

They just opened their cable bill!
Last Friday, March 3rd, was a rather miserable day. There were the blood tests missed the day before that required 11 vials of blood (I asked the nurse if I had any left), the rescheduled court date and the due date of my cable bill from Time-Warner / Spectrum.
     Having been to the TWC center about once a month since last December, I knew that it would be a wait but I figured that by late morning the long lines there before they opened at 9 am would be gone. Silly boy! When I walked in around 11 am they were serving #39 and I had #54 from their number machine standing prominently in the lobby. There was only one free chair and I took it though a few naively standing thought they would be there a few minutes and leave. They didn't.
     There are 5 or 6 windows possible to serve customers but, as usual, only 2 were open, par for the course. I have no idea what the two already there were doing but they didn't leave for 15 minutes. Even though I had come prepared with James Lee Burke's latest book, like Pavlov's
dog, I kept focusing on the number up on the wall hoping to get out of there quickly. This went on for 70 minutes. At one point an employee came out, asked if anyone was replacing their remotes, got no response then made a circle of the room and realizing we needed something more than a remote disappeared never to be seen again. Kind of like the post office where someone asks you why you're there, notes it on a piece of paper you are told to give to the clerk who, once you get to him, also an hour later, asks exactly the same questions. Why don't they get behind the counter and help their customers? Novel idea I know.
     I wondered what Teddy Roosevelt would think of the way the world has changed. He is the president, a Progressive Republican, in 1904, that proposed and implemented many of the agencies that govern our lives today. He was the man who summoned the richest man in the world to the White House, dressed him down and told him to dismantle his monopolistic Northern Trust or he would personally see to it that he would become bankrupt. Morgan blinked and did as he was told.
The 7 Circles of Hell. Dante had it right
and they didn't even have cable then!
    What a sad state of affairs we see today. Just as TWC was actually getting better, they merged with Charter, maybe the worst cable company in America, though watching Frontier Communications losing all 911 telephone service for every emergency venue in the Coachella Valley, you have to wonder.
     The various agencies who were set up to protect us are now protecting the very people and companies they are supposed to monitor. President Trump replaced the FCC Chairman who was striving for net neutrality and forcing the cable companies to create Apps for smart TV's so we wouldn't need to rent cable boxes chose a man, a Mr. Pais, who was a lawyer for Verizon, surely one of the most predatory entities out there today. These agencies could care less about us, they are now ensuring companies keep and even make more profits. A word to the wise ... your bills are definitely going to go up.
     There was an interesting article in the LOS ANGELES TIMES today regarding the toxic workplace. I would add, they should also cover toxic customer service. One of the factors in this article was how consumers were reacting to companies like Über who have been proven to have a toxic workplace culture for women. I would add there is little difference in our shopping experience either. Hundreds of thousands of Über customers deleted their App when this became known as other companies are also now learning that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated. After all, a bit more than half of the United States is female. "People and analysts, in particular, are starting to say how a company treats its employees needs to be factored into valuations of the company," says Brian Kropp a consulting leader at CEB. I would add that the way consumers are being treated by these same companies will definitely reflect in their bottom line. For every action there is a definite, and equal reaction.
      Finally, my number came up and I went to the window of a young man who had obviously not missed many meals and moved as little as possible. I explained that I had moved from one side of my complex to the other in December, had their technicians move my equipment as I didn't want to try to figure out new passwords, etc., all over again. I had changed from two DVR's to one and had the "package," telephone, wif-fi and cable. I handed him the flyer I got in the mail and he immediately dismissed that as a "promotion" for new customers. I asked, "So, if had cancelled and then renewed at my new residence I would have gotten this promotion?" Looking at me he finally nodded yes.
     Next I asked what I was paying for. I had a $168.00 bill last month, more than I was paying for two boxes and had made changes that would reduce my bill. Now it was back to the mid $150's and I hadn't done a thing. Well, that's the cost now. No explanation, it just was to him. I said, let's see what we can do to reduce this. Basically I watch ABC, mostly CBS and rarely NBC because your signal is so bad. We went round and round over this. The upshot after 30 minutes? I would save $5.00.
     When I had made the change in December I asked about the phone. I have a cell phone and use it for everything but since I was paying for a phone asked the technician how to connect it. If I had had a phone, he would have connected it for me but since I didn't he told me I needed to talk to the office. Today my "Customer Service" employees advice? Its on YouTube. "Well, what about using my cell phone to watch TWC anywhere that has wi-fi, " I asked. You'll have to watch it on the Internet he replied again. Pulling out my iPhone, I explained that I was told that I needed to talk to someone, him today, to be shown how to use the App on my phone. He refused. Reaching a dead end, I left, wrote a check to pay my bill and dropped it in their outside drop box and walked home.
    Telling my neighbor about this experience he told me that they were planning on getting rid of DirecTV for the exact same reason. Prices were going up, then they cut all service for CBS over a pay dispute that stopped every American who had Direct from watching The Super Bowl that was broadcast on CBS because they had blocked all CBS signals. When I asked them what they were going to do he said, "A friend was going to hook up a digital TV antennae so they could watch the local channels (about 26 he thought) and use their wi-fi to watch Amazon Prime, Netflix or any of the other Internet providers. Local TV would be free and the others cost in a year what one month of cable costs. When we went to dinner that night, I spoke to the computer consultant friend and said, after you do my neighbors set up and I understand it, I want you to come over and set me up too. He laughed and said he would.
Can cutting the cord be worse than this?
Hell? We may soon find out.
      I know the millennials are all doing this. My daughter years ago watched everything she wanted to watch on her laptop ... had never paid a cable bill. At 71 it isn't so easy for me anymore. When I first got my 50" LED TV between the TV remote, the cable and wi-fi plus the Bluetooth speaker system I purchased, this same neighbor was coming over almost nightly for a month before I finally figured it out. I remember laughing when I was younger over a cartoon that showed the "man's" VCR covered with switches and buttons and the "woman's" VCR that had two switches, ON and OFF. Its not so funny today. Just to watch something I have 4 remotes that control the TV, the cable box, the DVD player and the Soundbar. Trust me, at times I just pick up my iPad and watch the shows I want there.
      Again, my oft repeated litany is the wisdom of William Gladstone who said in 1795 no less, "For evil to persist, good men need do nothing."
     While we still need wi-fi to get on the Internet, city after city across this country is cutting the cord to irksome providers, who are NOT happy about this development, but the citizens of the cities that have this service are. Just like everything else in this world, change or die. Ask Polaroid, Kodak, Enron, Bear Sterns and all the failed banks and thrifts, steel, electronic companies ... ask our car companies! Provide newer and better service and features or be left in the dust. Another philosopher, George Santana summed it up best, "Those that forget history, are condemned to relive it!" As the Chinese curse says, "May you live in interesting times!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio!

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