Category Archives: broadband

Time-Warner Is Always Right, You Idiot

The Customer Is Always Wrong
Time Warner does it again!

But First, The Survey And The Burial

So, sometime day before yesterday our yard was surveyed so the bright-orange cable line that’s been lying across our yard and down the hill to the street-side cable hookup for the past three weeks can finally be buried. Three weeks was long enough, and I’ve gotten tired of mowing around the thing, so we think it’s great to see a little paint on the lawn.

But wait, it’s not great. They only surveyed outside our fence. Why? Fear of a dog in our back yard (we don’t have one)? They also didn’t bother knocking or ringing our obnoxiously-loud doorbell to ask, either, because we were home all day.

So who knows what’s going to happen. We decide to wait and see, since calling anyone at Time-Warner almost always leads to more confusion and delay. And yeah, we know that it’s not Time-Warner’s fault the survey wasn’t done properly, because they’re not the ones that do the surveys. But we also have years of experience interacting with them, and calling Time-Warner to ‘fix’ something is rarely straightforward or simple…as you’ll soon read (again).

A couple of guys showed up yesterday to bury the line. Contractors for Time-Warner. They look like a father-son duo, and they’re certainly nice enough to me. I tell them the area inside our fence hasn’t been surveyed for some reason, so I don’t know what they plan to do. The ‘father’ of the crew whips out his phone, talks to someone, hangs up, then tells me he’s called in a one-hour survey and that he’ll be back in a couple of hours to get the line finally buried.

My jaw nearly dropped. I’m actually astounded that someone related to Time-Warner in any fashion can actually pick up a phone and Make Things Happen, Right Awayâ„¢.

So they leave. Some time goes by. Eventually I’m back outside with our oldest son, and we notice fresh paint lines on our inside-fence lawn. Survey done. Wow, progress! A short while later, the ‘father-son’ team shows up again to finally bury the line. They knock on the door, let us know our cable-related services will be down while they disconnect the line to bury it properly. No problem, I say…go for it. So they get to it. We talk some more a bit later about watering the trench so the grass doesn’t turn brown, and hey, they seem like decent guys. I let them get back to work finishing up packing the trench, reconnecting the street-side connection, etc.

A short while later I hear them loading their trenching machine back onto its trailer. I hear their truck start, and away they go. I figured they might check back with me first about our service to make sure it was turned back on and working correctly, but they didn’t. Weird…

So I run down to my office to verify things are working. I take a look at the cable modem lights. No connection.

Uh-oh. I run back upstairs and flip on the television. No signal. Oh, crap

Would it have been that big of a deal after talking to me several times already to just check in that one last time and make sure everything was working again? In my opinion, verifying everything is working as it should is a must-do upon completion of any service one performs.

Cue Circus Music…

Now the fun begins. I decide to call Time-Warner Customer Service’s 800 number. If you’re a regular reader here, you already know my expectations at this point are very, very low…

Oh, wait, I can’t call Time-Warner because we use Vonage, which requires a broadband connection we no longer have. We’re in-between with cellphones right now, due to our recent move, so nothing to do there. My wife has just come home, however, and has her work cellphone, so I use that to call Time-Warner…even though that phone is a strictly-work-only device as mandated by her employer. Oh well, this is an emergency…

First call to the Time-Warner 800 number gets me “Demetrius”. I explain the situation to him. I tell him that the line-burying guys just left, mere minutes ago, and if someone could simply call them, they should be able to come right back and take care of things right away, as it’s obviously just something they messed up in the street-side box. He puts me on hold for a while. I was probably on the phone with him about 10 minutes, including hold time. He eventually tells me I should be getting a call from a local dispatcher in the next 15-20 minutes. I give him my wife’s work cellphone number as the only way to reach us, which he understands and notes in our account.

I ask what I should do if they don’t call (as this has happened to us more than once before), and he tells me to call back. Of COURSE that’s how it should be… Bzzzt.

About 20 minutes later, I get a call from a woman whose name I no longer recall (update: from her voicemails after this incident was finally resolved, her name is Toni). Total time of call was about 15 minutes, including hold time. I explain what’s happened, and how I’d like her to call the contractors and get them right back out to finish their job correctly, as they clearly didn’t.

Welcome To Hell.

And here is where things go the most wrong, death-spiraling into Time-Warner-knows-better-than-you hell. Again.

Toni insists the cable reconnection isn’t the job of the cable-burying crew; she tells me that all they do is bury the lines, and if there’s an issue with my connection, she’ll have to find a regular Time-Warner line technician to come out. She refuses to believe me when I tell her that the line-burying guys DO in fact unhook the cable line so they can bury it, and what this is isn’t a general failure of my cable connection, or anything requiring a technician, but a simple case of a crew that didn’t complete their regular work correctly and should be easily fixed by them, as it IS part of their job. She puts me on hold. She eventually comes back and tells me she’s having trouble finding someone to help me and she’ll call me back in 20 minutes. I say fine, and there I sit again, no closer to resolution than before.

So for the next HOUR, I’m walking around with my wife’s work cellphone in my hand, getting nothing done, waiting for them to call back. At the one-hour mark, I call THEM back at the 800 number again, as I’m thinking I’ve waited long enough. By this time, it’s almost 4 PM, and the day is getting away from all of us. I get another completely different person this time (Rosa?). Total time of call was around 20-25 minutes, going nowhere fast. Our call was peppered with severely long hold times several times as she conferred with people. At one point, Rosa tells me that I was called back and a voicemail was left for me. Umm, no. Apparently Toni–who correctly called my wife’s cellphone number the first time–called back on our regular home line…which is the Vonage line we can’t answer with our cable/broadband connection down. Way to go, Toni.

Our going-nowhere-fast, series-of-loooong-holds call with Rosa was actually cut short by Toni via call waiting, finally and correctly calling me back on my wife’s work phone. At this point, it was an hour and 20 mins since she told me it would be 20 minutes.

Toni’s actually rather snotty about everything. Says she talked to “technicians that installed the cable line” and they’d get a crew to come back out “today”. “Today”? Seriously? She tells me she “called me already about all this” (paraphrased), but makes no mention that she called the wrong number.  Fine, “today” it is, then. I’m clearly not going to get any better answer, so I guess I’m stuck waiting, once again not knowing if/when anything will happen.

About 45 minutes later, the original line-burying duo shows up to fix the line. Turns out when they redid the street-box cable connector, the stinger wasn’t left long enough. The line wasn’t buried quite properly at the enclosure, either. I get the impression the younger guy’s in training. The ‘father’ also tells me he saw me talking to the ‘son’ close to their completion of work, so he thought we’d had a conversation verifying everything was up and running OK… Oops.

And Finally…

Anyway, it’s all working again. The fix was simple, minor, and quickly and easily resolved…just as I expected and explained it would be.

It was down about five hours altogether for what should have been 15-30 mins, max. Not bad for Time-Warner, I suppose, but still ridiculously unacceptable.

And let’s be clear: we don’t have a problem with a single instance of a worker (in training or otherwise) screwing something up. These things happen. What we don’t like is the it’s-not-us, we-know-better-than-you attitude and the presumption of customer stupidity that emanates from Time-Warner’s Customer Service/Support. If they had called the line-burial guys back right away when I first called in, we likely would have been up and running again right away.

In the hour I spent doing nothing but waiting for a callback from Toni, I could have driven around our entire town and found a Time-Warner truck and technician on my own. Never mind the lost productivity (and earnings) from the downtime, which of course Time-Warner never feels is their responsibility even when the outage is their own damn fault.

It’s shocking and ironic that Time-Warner’s in the communication business, when they’re so incredibly poor at it.

All we’ve ever wanted is what we’re paying for to work. When it doesn’t work, we want competent and responsive service. Time-Warner proves time after time that these most-basic customer expectations are almost entirely unreasonable.

Prologue

We got a voicemail (during all the aforementioned downtime, go figure) from a Sam Olmsted (sic?), a manager with Time-Warner Business Class Services regarding this very blog. Someone with Time-Warner–somewhere–finally notices. I can’t shake the feeling, however, that it’s probably a sales call instead of real assistance. I half-expect to hear something like “With Biz Class service, you can get real QoS and guaranteed uptime!” I suppose I should call him anyway and see what he wants. Anything’s possible, right?

Two Months Later, Time-Warner Milwaukee Still Hasn’t Apologized

It’s now been TWO MONTHS since we not only voiced our concerns at the local Time-Warner office, but requested someone contact us about this issue.Waiting and Waiting…

They certainly know where we live. They know our phone number. They’ve been given a business card with additional contact information, a link to this very website, and to the Twitter account we’ve used to log disconnects and mini-blog about the situation.

And still, nothing. Not a peep.

The last time we paid our bill in person at the Southridge retail location, I asked the rep if she remembered me. She said she did. I told her that we still had no been contacted by anyone. She seemed surprised. She told me she would make sure someone knew so that it would be taken care of.

That was more than a month ago now…and still not a word from anyone.

Is it really this hard to do even the most basic customer service correctly, Time-Warner? Is taking responsibility too hard for you, Time-Warner? Apparently it is. It’s disgusting and pathetic.

So with that in mind, we are left with no choice but to start escalating this outside Time-Warner’s realm, if only for principle’s sake, because it’s unbelievably sad that such a major presence in Milwaukee can so openly and shoddily treat customers. How overwhelmed are you with the constant Time-Warner and Roadrunner branding around town, at sports events, on television, etc? You can’t escape it. They brag about their products, and they brag about their service. To us, their customer service claims of excellence seem like proposterous, impossible, bold-faced lies.

It’s time someone called them on it all. Openly. For all to see. Time-Warner, if you’ve got time and money to sponsor Summerfest, you’ve probably got a few resources to personally contact us and Finally Do The Right Thing(tm) and make this entire nightmare of the last year right, once and for all.

Time-Warner Milwaukee / Roadrunner Problem May Finally Be Fixed…?

It’s still too early to say with any kind of certainty, but according to the folks at the Southridge Time-Warner retail store location, it might be.

We just don’t want to see any more of this:

2008-04-09 bittorrent download packet loss

820 lost packets, 57% packet loss. In an hour. Booyah!

So I went into the retail location tonight, nervous about blowing up at people there, because, as I’ve explained before, a person can only endure so much and calmly explain a complex problem so many times with sufficient detail to make the true horror of the situation clear before that person simply…can’t anymore.

All in all, I think I handled myself a lot better than I imagined I would….so that’s good. Am I totally pleased with the outcome? Not really. I’ll explain.

First, I want to thank the people there at the Southridge store–Selenthia and Julia in particular, as they were the ones that worked with me and discussed the situation with me. So thank you to the two of you specifically and to the rest of the staff–including the New Guy I probably scared a little initially, sorry!

So I guess we still have some issues, as I mentioned…

I launched into explaining my issue and was quickly told that they had received a memo about the Turbo service (which we’ve had continuously in its various forms since December 2006) not being compatible with Motorola Surfboard cable modems SB4100 and SB4200.

Take a guess what models we’ve had most of the last year and a half. Yep, SB4100/4200s.

We had an SB4200 when this whole situation blew up in December 2006 (boy, doesn’t that date sound familiar…) for the first time, and we swapped it out–numerous times–and ended up with an SB4100 each time after that. I don’t recall ever getting another SB4200 in exchange, and I know we never got anything newer than that.

The problem is that they got this memo, according to Selenthia, about a month and a half ago.

How hard would it be, really, to notify SB4100/4200 users on Turbo? I was told “they should have notified you”, but I have no idea how or when that might have happened. I don’t recall it showing up on any statements, but we’ll be double-checking that.

Now, we’ve been saying since the very beginning that it seemed awfully coincidental that all of these problems started shortly after switching/upgrading to the “Turbo” service in December 2006. We have mentioned this to every person we’ve ever talked to about this problem as a possible reason for the issue. We were blown off by everyone.

And here we are, almost a year and a half later, and we were right all along. But no one from Time-Warner / Roadrunner could be bothered to even seriously consider it.

Julia, apparently one of the store managers, worked with me to credit our bill for the recent troubles, but as nice and as helpful as she was, as far as the total effort put forth by Time-Warner Milwaukee / Roadrunner The Giant Faceless Company is concerned, it’s just not enough. We put up with most last year being told the problem was ours. That the problem was our house, our computers, televisions, Tivos, our neighbors, and on and on. No one ever accepted or investigated the possibility that the problem was on the TW side of the pole. Ever.

We were blown off by almost every single TW/RR person we ever communicated with.

So we wasted–completely, totally wasted–entire man-weeks of time reconfiguring our network, moving wiring, moving machines, changing out hardware, driving back and forth swapping out modems, sitting in call queues getting the runaround, putting up with incompetent technicians, gutting and changing every device configuration and setup we have…logging and tracking reboots for hours and hours and days and days, totally frustrated.

Unable to do anything online. No work. No fun. Nothing.

All the things Time-Warner techs and engineers should have been doing, as the problem became increasingly, obviously Not In Our House Anywhere…we were essentially forced to do ourselves. No one else was going to do it!

Much of this effort and frustration is reflected in posts presented here on this site. It has been PAINFUL, exhausting, frustrating, and created so much anger. It has cost us so much in so many ways.

Julia told me she would be passing my business card–which has this website’s address on it–on to her superiors. We hope someone in the higher echelons of Time-Warner Milwaukee / Roadrunner takes the time to come here, reads about all we’ve endured, and does The Right Thing. We want a solid, public apology from someone In Charge. Not some slick handshake from a sales or marketing drone, not some PR person or anyone else programmed to lie and tell people what they want to hear. No form letters.

We want a sincere, honest gesture made to us for all of the crap and pain and tears and work we’ve endured, all the business and social losses. All the work Time-Warner should have been doing all along. All the effort that was never made to help us. For nearly a year and a half, all told.

It’s the very least they can do. More would be even better.

What else can Time-Warner / Roadrunner do? Start monitoring comments online, for starters. Even basic searches will quickly lead you back to this very website. Comcast is monitoring online communications and social networks like Twitter. Time Warner / Roadrunner is, ironically, apparently really bad at being online citizens and monitoring that space for opportunities to improve.

They could really be connecting with their customers more quickly and more positively, and word-of-mouth effects from such encounters would dramatically improve the perception of their interest and their brand, increase customer loyalty, and drive new business.

But even before that, listen to your customers. However they come to you. Take them seriously. Do not tell them the problem is theirs if there’s any chance it is not. Give them some benefit of the doubt. Follow up on promises, too. If you say you’re going to call back, call back. This is incredibly basic, fundamental stuff! Don’t let yourselves get so big or caught up thinking you’re so big that even one customer doesn’t matter. Word of mouth–especially now with the Internet–is incredibly powerful. Use it to your advantage!

So back to the solution…

We’re told the fix is a newer-model cable modem. Go figure. So we were given a Motorola SB5100 that’s supposed to work and correct everything.

It’s hooked up. At a glance, speeds seem better. No reboots so far…

That said, we’ll definitely continue to track our connection and log all details until we’re satisfied this actually fixes the problem. We’ll be running speed tests, doing download tests, and verifying stability, reliability, and speed.

We’ll definitely be raising more hell if this still isn’t resolved; there are plenty of places yet to shout and get people looking more closely at this.

And in the meantime, Time-Warner Corporate, we await your review of the entirety of our long-running nightmare and an appropriate return gesture by you for all the hell you put us through. And when you’re done with us, look around a little, refocus, and start helping all the others out there that need you, too.