Saturday, March 08, 2014

You are in a weak position when dealing with the monopoly provider of a necessary service

I wrote a post on the conversation I had with a Time Warner Cable (TWC) retention agent, in which I cut nearly $40 from my monthly bill by threatening to cancel my account.

The post was referenced on Slashdot, causing it to be viewed over 45,000 times, and it occurred to me that it might be noticed by someone at TWC, who could reverse my savings in retaliation. To document my promised promotions, I started a chat session with Rueben, a TWC online representative.

It turns out that was a mistake.

The day before the ill-fated chat session, I was getting the following performance:


At one point during the chat (the red line in the transcript below), Rueben said he needed to talk with someone. It seems that they concluded that the representative who gave me a break in the first place had given me too good a break, and they throttled my speed. This is what it looks like now:


When this entire transaction began, I was on a plan with up to 20 mbps download and up to 2 mbps upload. The first representative evidently increased that to 20/5, and Rueben cut it back to 15/1.

So, I am paying less than I was before, but for slower service. The first rep had improved my service level, the second rep reversed that and then some.

TWC’s negotiation policy is opaque and capricious – perhaps expected when haggling at a garage sale, but not in dealing with a professional service provider. But, as the monopoly provider of an essential service, TWC can do whatever they please.

Here is the transcript of my chat with their “analyst:”

User LAURENCE_ has entered room
Analyst Rueben has entered room
Analyst has left room
Rueben>Thank you for contacting Time Warner Cable. At the end of our chat you will be given the option of taking a brief survey. My name is Rueben and I would be happy to help you.
Rueben>Hello Laurence!
Rueben>How can I be of your assistance?
LAURENCE_>Yesterday, your rep gave my account a promotional rate. Can I get the savings pro-rated for the balance of this month?
Rueben>Thank you for sharing the information with me.
Rueben>I will be happy to help you with the information regarding the billing and promotion on your account.
Rueben>Before we begin, I would like to review your account, allow me a moment here.
Rueben>I have checked your account and you are subscribed to Standard Internet and Home phone services for $64.99.
Rueben>The charge for modem is $5.99.
Rueben>There is a credit balance of $15.59 on your account.
LAURENCE_>Right, but my last month's bill was more -- before the promotion. Can that be prorated?
Rueben>Yes, that is correct.
Rueben>I do understand that you are concerned about the "Partial Month" charges reflecting on your bill. Any time a service is added or removed from your account, this line will appear on your bill. Your cable bill charges for one month's service in advance. All services are therefore prepaid prior to usage. The "Partial Month" (known as a Pro Rate) covers the period that you had service in addition to your "Monthly Service" charge. If your service was just installed or you’ve recently changed your service, partial month charges may be shown on your bill. This ensures that you will only be charged for the correct number of days for your service.
Rueben>Previously the charge for phone and internet services on your account was $83.99.
Rueben>Currently you have the same services for $64.99.
Rueben>As the services were changed in between your billing cycle, there are pro-rates applied on your account for the old and new package for phone and internet services.
LAURENCE_>You say my previous rate was $83.99, but I was billed $115 -- why?
Rueben>The charge for Turbo upgrade was $10, Home Wifi was $4.95.
Rueben>The charge for Voice mail was $3.95.
LAURENCE_>The rep told me my Internet service would be the same speed -- is Turbo faster than I currently have?
Rueben>Yes, that is correct.
Rueben>The download speed for Turbo is up to 20 mbps and Standard is up to 15 mbps.
LAURENCE_>So she was incorrect when she told me it would be unchanged?

Rueben>Please give me a moment while I check that for you.

Rueben>Thank you for waiting. I really appreciate that!
Rueben>I have checked the account details and Standard Internet and Home phone package was added on your account.
Rueben>If you wish, I can add Turbo upgrade on your account.
Rueben>The charge for Turbo upgrade is $10/mo, on top of current monthly charge.
LAURENCE_>So she was mistaken?
Rueben>I have checked the order details and Turbo 15 plan was added on your account.
Rueben>With our Turbo 15 Internet plan, you get download speeds up to 15 Mbps, upload speeds up to 2 Mbps.
Rueben>Previously, you had the Turbo plan which had the same download speed as of Standard plan. However, the upload speed is 1 mbps higher than Standard Internet plan.
LAURENCE_>I'm confused -- you said I previously had Turbo at 20mbps, then that it was changed to standard at 15 and now it is Turbo 15, which is the same speed as standard?
Rueben>I apologize for the confusion.
Rueben>We have Turbo 15 and Turbo 20 plan available.
LAURENCE_>So, I now have Turbo 15, not standard -- is that correct?
Rueben>Currently you have Standard plan on your account and Turbo 15 plan was removed from your account.
Rueben>The download speed for both the plans is the same.
Rueben>However, upload speed is 1 mbps higher for Turbo 15 plan.
LAURENCE_>I see -- now both my upload and download speeds are slower than previously. What was my old uplload speed?
Rueben>With our Standard Internet plan, you get download speeds up to 15 Mbps, upload speeds up to 1 Mbps.
Rueben>With our Turbo 15 Internet plan, you get download speeds up to 15 Mbps, upload speeds up to 2 Mbps.
LAURENCE_>And with my previous plane it was 20 down and 3 up?
Rueben>The Turbo 15 plan had 15 mbps download and 2 mbps upload.
LAURENCE_>And my initil Turbo plan was 20 down and 3 up, right?
Rueben>Let me check this for you right away.
Rueben>I am sorry, but we do not have a Turbo plan with 20 mbps down and 3 mbps up.
LAURENCE_>You mentioned turbo 20 above -- is that 20 down and 2 up?
Rueben>Yes, that is correct.
LAURENCE_>And is that what I had previously?
Rueben>Previously you had Turbo 15 - 15 mbps down and 2 mbps up.
LAURENCE_>Sorry, I thought you had said I had turbo 20 before. So, my standard plan is the same download speed as before, but the upload speed is lower. Right?
Rueben>Yes, that is correct.
LAURENCE_>So she was mistaken to say it was the same.
Rueben>Let me explain the plan change order.
Rueben>Previously you had Standard Internet + Home phone package for $83.99, Turbo 15 for $10, Home Wifi for $4.95, Modem for $5.99 and Voice mail for $3.95. Currently you have Standard Internet + Home phone package for $64.99 and Modem for $5.99.
Rueben>The download speeds are not affected by the package change, however, the upload speed is lowered by 1 mbps.
LAURENCE_>I get it now -- she was correct on the download speed, but not the upload speed.
Rueben>I do apologize for this inconvenience caused to you.
LAURENCE_>No inconvenience, just confusion.
Rueben>I apologize for the confusion.
LAURENCE_>I wish your rep had been straight with me.
Rueben>I will take this as a feedback and pass this to our Management. Your feedback is very important to us, as we thrive to improve our services. This will definitely help us to deliver quality services in future.
LAURENCE_>OK.
Rueben>Do you have any further questions I can assist you with?
LAURENCE_>No.
Rueben>Again, my name is Rueben. Thank you for chatting with Time Warner Cable. We value you as a customer and are here to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you would like to take a brief survey, please click on close and the survey will load.