Adventures With The Cable Company

charterlogo.gif SATURDAY

“NOOOOOO!!!!” I screamed into the phone, loud enough that the poor Third Customer Service Rep from The Cable Company probably didn’t need his phone to hear it in Bangalore. But it was nearing 10:30 Saturday morning and I’d just been on anger-building hold for 20 minutes (“Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received”).

“I WILL NOT RESCHEDULE MY APPOINTMENT!!! THIS IS YOURRRRR ISSUE!! YOU NEED TO FIX IT!!” Technically, it really wasn’t the Third Customer Service Rep’s issue, it’s just that he got stuck with me just as my asshole-o-meter had gone to 11. I was trembling with righteous fury, storming around my apartment with the cell phone jammed in my ear. I was as angry as I have ever been, and that’s really saying something.

“Please hold, sir, while I try to see what I can do.”

I continued to stomp around my apartment, cursing in that way you curse when deep down you know that what’s pissing you off isn’t really that important in the overall scheme of anything — you’d think that I’d be used to bad customer service by monolithic entities — but you just want the whole situation to be over. That was me. I just wanted to have the Cable Cards installed so I could properly use the TiVo Series 3 I’d purchased.

Yes, I bought a TiVo Series 3. No, this isn’t a review of the Series 3, more of a rant about what it took to get it working, really. I’ll do a review later, after I’ve played with it a little bit.

I realize that I wrote just a couple of weeks ago that it was too expensive. And I was also worried that I would have to interface with the Cable Company in order to get the two Cable Cards — a technology I hadn’t even heard of a couple of months ago — installed in order to experience the full glory of the dual HD tuners offered by the TiVo Series 3. This is what both TiVo and The Cable Company’s website said that I would have to do. Even though installation is as simple as, well, sliding a card into a slot, they would still have to do it. So I’d figured that the Series 3 could wait until next year. That was the plan, anyways.


What I hadn’t counted on was getting one of those dammed Best Buy “no interest for 12 months” offers in the mail. So a week ago last Friday Rox & I walked into Best Buy’s Burbank Branch and I pointed to the floor display of the TiVo Series 3 and said “We’d like one of those, please.”

I didn’t expect them to have one: according to their web site, the only store in California that had any available was in Tracy, a few hundred miles to the north. I had plans that evening. But I figured what the hell — may as well check — and was rewarded for my cheek by two guys carrying a box. “It just came off of the truck 5 minutes ago” one guy said. “You’re very lucky, it’s the only one,” the other guy said. Which, as somebody pointed out later, didn’t make any sense: how does Best Buy get shipments of exactly one? At 6:30 on a Friday night?

But whatever. I knew that there was going to be Karmic payback for this type of luck. But I bought it — even as the Best Buy folks joked that I was going to need an armed escort to my car — because I hate my Cable Company-issued DVR so very very much. And no interest for 12 months.

What I didn’t know was that the Karmic payback was going to happen so soon.


The next morning, I placed my first phone call to The Cable Company. What I wanted to do was this: trade my crap-ass Scientific Atlanta HD-DVR Cable Box for two Cable Cards. That’s it. Turns out that there is nothing in their voicemail menu that corresponds with this type of situation, so I took a guess and landed with a Customer Service Rep in a couple of minutes. Score!!

After explaining what I wanted, the First Customer Service Rep told me that I had made the wrong voicemail menu choice, but instead of helping me herself, she would have to transfer me to another department. So she did. And I waited on hold. For about 15 minutes, until I gave up.

I’m pretty sure she transferred me to some kind of phone-based purgatory dimension, and I was afraid that if I waited any longer, I would be sucked through my cell phone into a giant grey whistling void where the only sounds would be badly-recorded cheesy jazz-funk and echoing voices saying that “your life is very important to us, you will be dealt with in the order in which you arrived.”

A couple hours later, I called back, made the right guesses on the voicemail menu and got through to the Second Customer Service Rep. When I told her what I wanted to make an appointment to get have somebody out and install two Cable Cards (and give back my crappy-ass Scientific Atlanta HD-DVR Cable Box in the process) she had trouble understanding the concept of a Cable Card, much less two. When she did, she said this: “I can’t help you, the computer form only allows me to enter one Cable Card for a service call, not two. You’ll have to take the Cable Box down to The Local Office Of The Cable Company and they will trade you two Cable Cards for it.”

Cool! I thought. I can watch the TiVo HD today!


A couple of hours later — after we had watched a couple of shows that were still lingering on the old, crappy-ass Scientifc Atlanta HD-DVR Cable Box — Rox and I drove down to the dodgy part of town to The Local Office of The Cable Company.

They are renovating The Local Office of The Cable Company, so we waited for about 15 minutes — crappy-ass Scientific Atlanta HD-DVR Cable Box tucked under my arm — in a hallway that pretty much defined “cramped” before we was finally ushered into a very small two-desk office to talk to the Very Nice Man From The Cable Company.

The Very Nice Man From The Cable Company told me that — despite what the Second Customer Service Rep told me over the phone — nope, I couldn’t swap the crappy-ass Scientific Atlanta HD-DVR Cable Box for two Cable Cards. They would have to send a Cable Guy to our apartment after all. When I pointed out that I was only there because of what The Second Customer Rep told me, he said that an email had been sent out that very day, and she must not have read it. But, since she had told me to come all the way down to the Local Office of The Cable Company in person, The Very Nice Man From The Cable Company was going to make sure that they didn’t charge me for the visit.

I should like to point out that these people want to also be my Phone Company and my ISP. Why is it that all of the companies that want to converge my all of my services into a giant gray void have trouble doing even a single thing correctly?

Anyways, since I have to you know, work during the week, The Very Nice Man From The Cable Company scheduled me to have The Cable Guy come to my apartment between 8:00am – 10:00am on Saturday.


When 10:00am rolled around, and the Cable Guy hadn’t shown up, I called The Cable Company. After 20 minutes on hold, I got the Third Customer Service Rep, who told me that they would have to reschedule.

So I yelled. And he put me on hold. And I fumed and cursed.

After several minutes, the Third Customer Service Rep told me that, whaddya know?, a Cable Guy — actually, I’m pretty sure that this was a Replacement Cable Guy — was on his way. The Replacement Cable Guy would be there in just a few minutes. If I would just be patient. He was on his way. Meaning, for the love of the gods, please don’t yell again and will you get off the phone already? I grumbled, and said OK, and hung up.

A very short while later, The Replacement Cable Guy showed up, installed the Cable Cards, and was gone within about 30 minutes. He actually spent most of that time on hold with The Cable Company, waiting to talk to an Actual Human Being. That’s right — The Cable Company is so fracked up that their installers have to waste time waiting on hold. How does that make any sense at all? Still, he was great, telling me that he actually liked the crappy-ass Scientific Atlanta HD-DVR Cable Box, but his son preferred the TiVo, and he knew exactly what he was doing.

So far, it’s all working fine, though there was a weird thing yesterday where the TiVo suddenly didn’t get basic cable for a few hours. It was still getting the digital and HD stuff, and the TV was still getting basic cable, but that seems to have cleared up.

9 Responses to “Adventures With The Cable Company”

  1. RMBatenburg says:

    Ok, so we get that cable’s customer service has issues, but why exactly aren’t things changing? Given the choice, most cable users would switch to a service that cares about their experience over a service where they are often required to wait hours for service that can’t be guaranteed. At the level it is now in the industry, customer service is essentially a compilation of empty promises – there simply aren’t enough cable technicians to service the needs of everyone who uses cable. The problem can’t be resolved unless the cable industry changes their methods – and it seems inevitable that competition coming from over builders like Dish and Telco may be the catalyst that finally forces the cable folks to make customer service a priority.

  2. Eric says:

    I am considering getting the TIVo 3 with Charter cablecards. Can you let me know how much the cable cards cost per month?

  3. Jim says:

    Hi Eric, they are actually pretty cheap: our first one comes as part of our service plan (which includes HBO & Cinemax). The second is $1.50.

    The weird thing is, for whatever reason, our cable bill has declined $20 since we got rid of of the HD-DVR and went with the cable cards.

    Of course, we are now paying for the TiVo service every month.

  4. Pat Geiger says:


  5. Tammy says:

    Wow, two years later and Charter Communications still hasn’t fixed thier problem with the Tivo Cable Cards.

    I ordered a DVR from Charter – they were out of stock and I had to be put on a waiting list. Six weeks later, I was tired of waiting and purchased a Tivo. I called Charter and set up an appt for the installation. When the guy showed up, he didn’t have the cards. I was informed that he would have to go back to the office, get the cards and return in 30 minutes. An hour later, I called to reschedule because he never returned. On the day of the second appt, once the tech never showed up, I called the cable company. They RESCHEDULED again because they didn’t have any cable cards in stock. Guess what happend on the third appt????? No tech, no cards in stock. They tried to reschedule again, and I declined to spend another 3 hours sitting here waiting. Charter Communications doesn’t have cable cards in stock and they have no idea when they will get them….six hours, six days, six weeks, six months, six years?????

    I give up! This weekend, I read Charter Communications was in serious financial trouble – I hope another company buys them out!!!!

  6. amber says:

    I’m a fairly new customer and I’m experiencing the very same thing. I made this appt a week ago and I’ve been sitting here waiting on the cable guy to install a simple card that the first rep told me I could pick up and install myself. Apparently that is wrong so I had to call in and make an appt.
    Well he just calls and tells me that there are no cablecards in stock and we will have to reschedule. I just don’t get it…wth


  1. […] In what is starting to become a very common experience for TiVo Series 3 owners, MediaLoper is out with a post today detailing his difficulties getting Charter Communications to give him the cable cards that are necessary to run the new TiVo series 3. ““I WILL NOT RESCHEDULE MY APPOINTMENT!!! THIS IS YOURRRRR ISSUE!! YOU NEED TO FIX IT!!” Technically, it really wasn’t the Third Customer Service Rep’s issue, it’s just that he got stuck with me just as my asshole-o-meter had gone to 11. I was trembling with righteous fury, storming around my apartment with the cell phone jammed in my ear. I was as angry as I have ever been, and that’s really saying something.” […]

  2. […] And to be fair — because I love you and all, for the last couple of years, I was part of that small group that you weren’t reaching. After a couple years of carrying it, my cable company — which I won’t name, but rhymes with “non-STARTER” — stopped offering the Extra Innings package. But I expect my cable company to hate me and treat me with contempt. After all, I only give them $100 per month, so why should they give me any love whatsoever? […]

  3. […] It is of course, no surprise to anybody how totally our local Cable Company, Charter Communications, sucks ass. In the past couple of years, we’ve discussed the absolute lameness of their HD-DVR, how their regular DVR drove Kirk & Kassia away from TV completely, as well as the amazing difficulty their customers have getting their technicians to show up for scheduled appointments […]