Time Warner Doesn’t Know Your Secret Question

Sometimes, we like getting emails that just jettison the reasonable consumerist tone and plunge right into bilious, invective-laced ranting. Emails like consumerist S.K.’s account of a recent dialogue he had with Time Warner’s clueless Roadrunner CSRs.

What was S.K. expecting when he called up Time Warner? “Some kind of Bullshitting-Assholism,” he pricelessly explains. And he was not disappointed: the CSR wasted no time in asking S.K. for his secret security question. But note: she didn’t ask for his secret security answer. In order to access his account, she wanted him to guess not only the question he was to be asked, but all possible permutations of answers.

Priceless, casual incompetence from Time Warner. S.K.’s email after the jump.

2005: So I had this TimeWarner Road Runner internet connection. I used to pay my bills online for that service using their PayXpress service. Email ID is required for an online profile and bill payments, right? Right! So everything went fine until I had to cancel the service a few months back when I moved out. All gold unto here.

2006: New apartment, new Road Runner connection, new bill to pay. Logged in to my old PayXpress account. Good news: it’s still operational. Bad news: It doesn’t allow me to delete the old RoadRunner account and/or add a new one to that user profile. Doesn’t allow me to create a new profile with old ID for the new account. Called up tech-support. Given past experience with TW’s extremely painful cust-support and the gold points they’ve been earning on Consumerist lately, I was fully expecting to meet what was coming my way. Some kind of Bullshitting-Assholism.

I was not entirely wrong.

It seems the CSR can’t handle it herself. She has to file a request to delete(release) my email-ID from that old account and send it somewhere higher-up who would then complete the job. Fine, I gave her my ID to be released. She asks for my “secret question” which was used while creating the account. Well, I politely told her the service is supposed to let me know the “secret question”, in response to which I would give my “secret answer”, not to a human, and that’s how “secret handshakes” work all over the web. Apparently not in its-head-twisted-up-its-hernia’ed-ass TW.

She says I should remember the secret question. Obviously I don’t remember what secret question I had selected a year back. Doh! me. So I asked her “okay, what all secret questions you have?”

CSR: “Name of pet”, “place of birth”, “mother’s maiden name”.

(Me thinking: Never owned a pet. But apparently I was born, and I ain’t birthed from a m**f**king gay father.. Yes, it was definitely a mother).

Me: Secret question could be either of the last two. I don’t remember.
CSR: Ok, and what are your answers to these questions?
Me: Excuse me?
CSR: Your answers to these two secret questions?

At this point, I knew arguing with CSR was not an option, coz she was clearly doing her job of serving some bullshit MBA type who didn’t even bother to verify from whatever cheap-ass third-party outsourced firm they got the online account system made, that these basic webby thinglings were taken care of.

Anyways, since it’s an ID I use only for all online services and spam, I gave the answers to both the questions. All the while the CSR — which I must add to their credit and to my surprise, was polite and not incoherent — was dutifuly rattling off keystrokes @90 wpm a la the airport scene in Meet The Parents where Ben Stiller is taking in all frustru from the airlines staff.

And to their credit, they did resolve my problem and the next day I received a personal response, (would you believe that?) with direct email/phone numbers from an actual human flesh-n-bones employee confirming the same. Oh and the wait time on phone was only around 15 mins compared to the 30 mins+ wait time in all earlier calls.

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  1. Triteon says:

    A similar thing has happened to me recently while dealing with TransUnion credit. To verify my identity the CSR asked for my last address and my last job. I should mention the reason I needed the report was because I had an ID theft, with my name set up under a false address.

    I gave them my last 4 real addresses (no match, and I’ve been at the current one for over 10 years) and last 4 jobs– again, no match. Apparently I was to know that they last job they showed for me was for Dairy Queen in the late 80′s.

  2. Boo says:

    I have something similar happening to me when I do phone banking now. They ask me for my answer to the secret question but have never told me what the question is. Apparently they can’t let me know what the question is in case I am not me and guess the answer.

  3. Anonymously says:

    I don’t like the Secret Question / Answer thing. A vast majority of times, knowing the answer to the secret question gives you far more access to your account than knowing a login password, but this fact isn’t adequately disclosed to the user. So the user chooses “what is your favorite color” “red” without realizing how much peril they’ve put account in.

    Not asking the Secret Question prevents people from guessing an easy answer.

  4. Boo says:
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