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Originally posted at Fresh ID June 6. 2012. I’d be curious to know if one thing has changed from the user experience perspective since I wrote this four years ago.

I am about to relate a true story. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences and I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Names will not be changed to protect the guilty, so reveal away.

I have Time Warner Cable at my Kansas City house. I originally signed up for just the Internet, and when I did there were some options for TV of either 29.99 or 39.99 (or maybe both, unsure) for a digital package that has mostly filler stations and no movie channels. (My country house cable is much better, we get 1 HBO, 1 Showtime and 1 Cinemax at least.) I decided not to sign up for the Cable TV after all because I don’t like much that’s on TV and am used to using my Roku/Netflix on nights when I feel I must have non-internet entertainment. I am usually only in the city Monday thru Thursday nights, so I see TV on weekends.

After I moved to this new place, my husband very nicely bought me a new, larger flat screen TV as a surprise, and wanted to pay for my cable TV. He tried to set that up but they wouldn’t let the house have two accounts, so they added it to my bill.

My first experience with TWC and the initial amount I paid had been a pain – they overcharged me, I saw it in my bank account and had to call and they immediately refunded it, so that was fine but still an inconvenience. Now, adding the cable mid-stream, my bill was harder to decipher and it appeared I had been overcharged again, but in reality they had stuck two months worth on one bill (strangely, as I already had the first bill for March.) So for some reason I got one bill for April and May for $197 and that wasn’t at all what I expected. So I finally got that figured out, that indeed I had two bills in one, and then I noticed that the TV part was way too high. Instead of $39.99 it was $21.99 basic + 44.00 digital, for a grand total of $65.99 just for the cable when I don’t even really watch TV much. (The box, etc. was extra but I knew about paying that.)

All of that is boring, but this is where it’s gotten interesting. TWC has a Twitter account – as so many large brands do – which tries to be helpful. However, you often have to email support after conversing with the Twitter account, I had observed and experienced, so I bypassed that channel and went straight to email in which I informed them that episodes of Mary, Mary and the other random reality schlock I have no interest in is NOT worth $65.99 a month, and I didn’t understand why it was so high when I had seen a cheaper price initially. I got a great email back, very helpful, which said they were “So sorry and in fact, you should be able to get the package of 39.99 making the total bill each month just $79 and change instead of $107. Oh, and I hadn’t actually been set up with all the channels I am supposed to get, anyway, so please give them the last 4 digits of my social security so they will make the change, correct the bill, and all will be sunshine and roses from here on out.” (Paraphrasing about the roses.)

So I replied and sent my SS last four digits, thrilled that I would get a cheaper bill AND perhaps something worth watching! And I got another email, saying, “So sorry again, but please send your Pin #, we will make the change, that they in fact could not make the change as you have no SS# on file.” Okay, so I send what I think is the Pin number and explain I don’t recall setting one up but if I did, this is it. And I get another email saying, “Soooo sorry, but in fact we cannot make this change anyway from email, but please call sales and they will be happy to help you get this special deal figured out and everything fixed up for you. We appreciate you being a customer.”

I feel so heart-warmed, indeed. Confusing bills, paying for stuff I didn’t necessarily plan for, multiple emails, being told my account which is at their highest possible rate in fact does not even have all the channels it should, and then given the run-around in email repeatedly thinking I could just get the damn problem handled without sitting on the phone for hours has not exactly made me feel special. Or even particularly decent to deal with now.

So on my calendar Friday morning is a scheduled event to call Time Warner and tell them to please remove their heads from their own rumps and just fix my account, or cancel it and shove off because I honestly don’t care about their survival as a company at this point.

Clearly, they are spending money on customer service, on 3 channels. They have people on Twitter who attempt to be responsive, and people on email who respond quickly enough with the illusion of being able to help, and people who sit on the phone in this and other countries who will no doubt be happy to attempt to change or do something in their sad little system of non-organization. But… why??? Why are they wasting their dollars on Twitter and Email when they could just say “Nothing good will come unless you call us. Sorry Charlie!!”

Save us all some time and just be honest with yourself about the reality of trying to get something done as a customer who is a helpless masochist of the telecom/cable company in a world where we think we need to watch this crap and be online to do our business or we can’t be happy. Honestly, I watch a whopping 3 shows. If I could pay The Voice & Sporting Kansas City directly to see their stuff online I’d gladly do it and never need cable again.

I know this is but one teeny cry in the vast wilderness of seriously unacceptable customer service issues, but if you have a company of any type I implore you to not waste money on channels of complete ineffectiveness and just force customers to use whatever system you will actually support. Asking for you to figure out how to get this done well 90% of the time, even in 2012, is obviously asking too much, so I won’t bother.

What’s your customer service nightmare story?? I know you have one, or ten!

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