Has RCN Been Harassing You At The Gas Station?

Have you been approached at a gas station or other public place by someone who claims to be with RCN? Reader Lenka writes in to share an odd encounter she had with a guy in an RCN polo who approached her as she was pumping gas:

I was pumping gas into my car at a Shell station at the intersection of Broadway and Hollywood in Chicago (a very busy intersection, off the north end of Lake Shore Drive) when I was approached at my car by a man wearing a blue RCN polo, carrying a clipboard. He says, “How are you this evening, ma’am? I’m here to see if we can get you signed up for RCN cable tonight.” I find this odd, and I’m annoyed at being accosted while pumping gas (this does happen occasionally at gas stations in town, but usually by homeless people asking for change) and I respond, “I don’t have cable, and I’m not interested.”

His response, “Well, where do you live? I need your address.” To which I respond, “that’s none of your business.”

Has this happened to you? RCN provides phone, cable, and high speed internet access in Boston, New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. Are they pestering you at the pump? Read Lenka’s full email inside.

Lenka writes:

Dear Consumerist –

I wanted to drop you a note about a strange encounter I had yesterday with someone who may (or may not) have been an RCN cable representative. Have you ever heard of a cable company using this unorthodox method to sign up customers?

On May 30th, at approximately 7:00pm, I was pumping gas into my car at a Shell station at the intersection of Broadway and Hollywood in Chicago (a very busy intersection, off the north end of Lake Shore Drive) when I was approached at my car by a man wearing a blue RCN polo, carrying a clipboard. He says, “How are you this evening, ma’am? I’m here to see if we can get you signed up for RCN cable tonight.” I find this odd, and I’m annoyed at being accosted while pumping gas (this does happen occasionally at gas stations in town, but usually by homeless people asking for change) and I respond, “I don’t have cable, and I’m not interested.”

His response, “Well, where do you live? I need your address.” To which I respond, “that’s none of your business.”

He’s a little taken aback, but continues, “Well, I just need your information to verify that we have service in your building.”

I reply, “I’m sure you do, and I’m not interested.”

“Okay, well, how about Internet or phone?”

“I’m not interested in that, either.”

Eventually, he leaves and I watch him walk away – not to the next vehicle – but across the six rows of pumps to a young woman, who seems to engage him in conversation. I looked around the station to see if an RCN vehicle was parked anywhere, but there was none to be seen from my vantage point.

The interaction struck me as suspicious, and I haven’t been able to determine by calling RCN if this is one of their official ways of drumming up business (a very sketchy one at that, and one that has turned me off to their company) – or if this individual was a scam artist and should be reported to police?

By the way, I discovered your site about a 6 weeks ago and I’ve become a big fan – thank you for all the information and tips you provide!

best regards,

Lenka

We have heard of telecom companies sending people door-to-door to solicit customers, but pestering people at the gas station? That just seems wrong. Has this happened to anyone else?

Lenka had the right idea telling this chump to get lost. Don’t give your address to strangers just because they’re wearing a polo shirt! —MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: idee)

Comments

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  1. kcskater says:

    $5 says it wasn’t an RCN employee, but a sex offender!

    I have RCN and love them. Cheap and fast!

  2. mikyrok says:

    It doesn’t sound like this guy was affiliated with RCN.

  3. HannahBethD says:

    Rather odd he only spoke to the women. Sex offender, anyone?

  4. Probably a rapist but it’s also likely he’s some kind of thief who thinks that women are more gullible and/or weaker and therefore less trouble than men. I hope she reports this to the police because he is obviously trying to pull something.

  5. meadowlarkb says:

    Report it to RCN and the police.

  6. gwong says:

    This is some seriously shady, creepy stuff. What scares me more is the one person who actually believes this guy and gives him her (I doubt he’s asking men for info) address.

  7. enm4r says:

    It should be noted that all the RCN guys don’t actually drive RCN branded vans. Seeing as how within the last year I’ve setup, taken down to move, and setup new service at my new apt (not far from where the story took place) I can say that only one of the three times was the van the nice blue looking billboard style van.

    That said, this guy needs to be reported to both RCN and the police.

  8. Pasketti says:

    The gas station probably would not be too pleased with people soliciting their customers on-premises like that.

    Also, ask for his RCN ID. If he’s legit, he’ll show it. If he doesn’t, call the cops.

  9. Sasquatch says:

    Lenka, you shouldn’t avoid RCN because of this encounter. You should avoid them because they provide sub-par cable service at best. My HD coverage (for which I pay extra) works well about 60% of the time. The rest of the time, the coverage breaks up and looks like crap.

    Now it looks like they may be a shady company with questionable sales tactics. All the more reason I can’t wait to switch providers once I move.

  10. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    I haven’t seen the guy at that station, but RCN drives me nuts with at least 5 pieces of junkmail a week, plus at least one hang tag of their ads on my front door a week.
    How the hell can this company make money sending out all this crap?
    And Comcast is right behind them, same amount of junkmail, only no hang tags on the door!
    Sometimes three pieces in one day, FROM EACH OF THEM!

  11. Gari N. Corp says:

    He was probably collecting for a kids’ basketball team that suffered a horrendous shooting and needs $10 for new uniforms, but it just came out wrong.

  12. jenchicago says:

    Just a clarification to enm4r’s comment: I also live in Chicago and can attest to the fact that RCN vans abound. I live in a high-rise that’s contracted with RCN for bulk cable, and one or more vans are parked outside my building almost every day. (In fact, I’m waiting for an RCN tech to come do repairs right now.)

    Does anyone have suggestions for getting ineffective companies like RCN to actually pony up and provide good service? I feel as if I’m on the phone with them at least a week because my cable’s not working, or my internet keeps going out, or my phone service is down. Since my building buys cable in bulk, I don’t have another tv option (and dish/satellite isn’t doable because of the direction I face). The techs are nice and helpful, but tell me that I’m experiencing a lot of problems because the signal has to travel >10 floors to reach my unit.

  13. Buran says:

    @ereusch: Yes, you should, if their uniformed employees are doing things like this.

  14. Paul D says:

    My local phone company has a subsidiary or something operating under the name Windstream. They’re sending high-school and college kids door-to-door to sell Windstream services like satellite TV, broadband (DSL, blechh…) and phone.

    The kid that came to my door was a cute girl who couldn’t have been a day over 17. She stuttered on her script a lot, and must have gotten at least 6 calls/text messages on her cell phone while she stood babbling on our front porch.

    My wife and I told her we have cable broadband (InsightBB, 10 megabits biatch!), HD digital cable, and we only use cell phones.

    Their DSL service is tiered, with the most expensive level capping out at 6 megabits/second. I told her we got 10 from Insight, to which she replied authoritatively, “oh, you’re not getting 10, I can promise you that.”

    Unfortunately for her, I know for a fact that I’m getting 10 because I do a LOT of (*cough*) downloading and I use a bandwidth monitor. I’ve confirmed it, and I told her as much.

    Then we did a little math and figured out that in order to get the equivalent of our pre-existing services from Windstream (cable, HD, DVR, broadband, etc.), we would pay about 30% more than we already do, and there’s the issue of the aforementioned 6 megabit cap on their DSL.

    We thanked her and sent her on her merry little way.

  15. mac-phisto says:

    i’m currently dealing with two fraud cases that arose out of solicitations at gas stations. essentially, it results in an advanced fee scam, but they’re getting your name & address from solicitors on the street.

    be especially wary of anything that sounds lottery-like. in addition to gaining your mailing info, they might also “plant the seed” that you could be coming into some money. in one of these cases, the fraudster actually sold fake tickets for his scam @ $5 per!

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    So would drenching them with gasoline then flicking lit matches in their general direction be considered rude? Normally, sure, but it is Chicago…

    Seems that’d be worth them adding a “do not solicit people at gas stations” to their sales manual. So it might be worth the $.50 of gas wasted.

  17. enthreeoh says:

    I’ve had RCN service for about 3 years now at 3 different residences, each time, from solicitation to installation, the employee drove an RCN van. I’ve never heard of them soliciting sales like this, so it sounds very shady to me.

    As for RCN quality, I love them after having dealt with Comcast for 5+ years, RCN has been an upgrade in every way.

  18. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    Anyone think of letting the gas station know and having the police get the SOLICITOR’S name and address while escorting him off?

  19. I actually live around the corner from this gas station. Several times I’ve had someone come to my house to “confirm” that I have the best deal with RCN. They’ve worn RCN shirts and they have a print out with my details on it, so I wasn’t that freaked out….but then realized they were only door to door salesmen because the information I was given had their personal name and phone number on it.

    It was probably just a salesman that really needed to hit his numbers for the end of the month!

  20. Chicago7 says:

    @Gary N. Corp

    Every time I see those guys, I ask them “Why are doing this? You are working harder at this than you would at a job. And you have to dodge security, run around all weekend and you get almost no money. Seriously, minimum wage is over $7/hr.”

  21. Chicago7 says:

    @jenchicago,

    I feel your pain. We don’t have RCN in our building, we have Satellite America. EVERY time it rains, not hard rain, ANY rain, we lose half the channels. It’s ridiculous. That light rain we had last night? Lost the Food Channel, MSNBC, Travel Channel, all the MTVs and Cartoon Channels.

    Worse is the few times when a channel gets stuck – it just stays on the same picture all the time, like a freeze frame, the sound still works, though. That can last for weeks.

    TV in Chicago just sucks, what can you say? Somebody’s probably being paid off.

  22. Buran says:

    @jenchicago: Get a signal amplifier.

  23. Chicago7 says:

    You’ll just amplify the noise.

  24. MercuryPDX says:

    @trai_dep: FTW!