RCN Tech Support Keeps Customer On Hold For Seven Hours And Counting

Meredith has been on hold with RCN’s tech support line for over seven hours now. She’s put down the phone and keeps doing other things, but whenever she goes back to see if they’ve finally disconnected her, she hears their “please hold” message and music. Apparently RCN doesn’t think you need tech support over the weekend.

Meredith writes:

I live in Washington, DC, and my boyfriend (with whom I live) has had an RCN subscription in his name for over a year now, without incident. We upgraded our cable service with RCN about a month ago, to include the digital package. Part of the package included a DVR and an HD converter box (so that we can view HD channels). After a month, we finally got our schedules straightened enough to try and set up a time for a technician to come and install it. As RCN’s main number gives no option for “making an installation appointment,” at 2:20 PM, I called RCN’s tech support instead, in hopes of finding a human being to speak to. Upon calling, I entered my account code and was put on hold.

After over an hour on hold, I decided to simply put down the phone and walk away, leaving it on and connected. My reasoning went thus: If somebody picks up and I’m not there to respond, they’ll simply hang up the phone. This will cut off the call, and when I return to check, it should register the length of the call–and thus, the amount of time I’ve spent on hold.

Well, I put the phone down without disconnecting it. I took a nap, watched television, and even went out to a party. As I write this, it is 8:35, and I am still on hold, with the same music and announcements that were playing when I called six hours ago. That is six hours, without a single human answering the phone lines.

I have filed a complaint with the DC Office of Cable Television, which was forwarded to RCN. I’m leaving my phone on indefinitely until somebody picks up, and will let you know the total hold time when it’s done. I plan on using my boyfriend’s phone in the interim to make any necessary calls.

I’m not 100% positive of the legal ramifications of this–but I recently read that a New York state judge declared this practice, when used to deter customers from canceling their service, to be illegal on a number of counts. Any thoughts/advice?

Since you weren’t calling to cancel, we don’t know if it’s illegal, but it’s certainly among the worst customer service RCN could provide. We’d love to hear from RCN about this—why hasn’t someone picked up at this point? Why hasn’t the message changed to tell the customer to call back at another time? Why, if there’s no tech support over the weekend, don’t you tell your customers that in the hold message? Why do you even have this phone number if you’re just using it to waste your customers’ time?

(Photo: Getty)

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  1. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    I once tried to call AT&T (landline, not wireless) to make some sort of change to my service (not cancel). I sat on hold for over 2 hours. I decided to hang up and call again. I got through in a matter of minutes, and when I commented, they told me that “the phones have been slow all night”.

    Don’t know if it was a connection issue or what, but it may be something along those lines…

    • midwestkel says:

      @12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich: Thats what I was thinking, sometimes phones get stuck and the software doesn’t know that there is a call stuck there.

      If I were her I would hang up because no one is going to pick up and then you will be writing when you get your cell phone bill because you were on the phone for 700 hours straight!

  2. agnamus says:

    I know this isn’t 100% topical, and I know Comcast is the devil around these parts, but having just signed up for Comcast (landlord doesn’t allow dishes; can’t live with 6 fuzzy broadcast channels) I can tell you that their wait times are horrible too. But the secret I’ve discovered is that you will not wait 10 minutes most of the time to talk to a warm body via the internet chat feature on their website.

    • SabreDC says:

      @agnamus: You’re absolutely correct; however, for many problems, online chat tech support cannot do anything beyond what you can do yourself through their online management section.

    • SomeoneGNU says:

      @agnamus:

      And there’s the added bonus that chatting with someone on the website yields you a fully documented conversation. I had a situation where an online chat promised me a promo “for life”. Three months later my bill doubled. I called and was told, “The representative didn’t lie to me, the terms just changed.” Long story short, I was on the phone with a Comcast manager who looked over the chat log and agreed that I was lied to.

      In the end, I was given about $200 worth of services for less than $100/month. All meaningless now that I have FIOS, but still a great victory.

    • johnnya2 says:

      @agnamus: little off topic, but it bears noting; your landlord is legally bound to allow dishes. “Under FCC Order 98-273, which went into effect on January 22, 1999, apartment owners cannot unreasonably restrict residents from having a satellite dish on premises under the exclusive use or control of the renter.” Unless you would damage the historical make up of the building, or it can not be done safely, you can put it up. You would be required to remove it and fix any damage caused when you leave.
      When I moved into my condo, I installed a dish, and was warned i must remove it as it was against association policy. I immediately had my lawyer send a letter to the association board and they apologized for the mistake.

      • theblackdog says:

        @johnnya2: Unfortunately that doesn’t help me. The building was built in 1937 and is in a historic area, plus the dish would have to go up on the roof in order to get a signal, and it could be a bit dangerous since the roof is steep.

    • Morac says:

      @agnamus:

      Chatting on the web site is indeed faster, but that’s of little help if you are calling because your service is down (can’t get to web site) or you have any type of problem (they can’t help and tell you to call in).

      If you want to upgrade/downgrade service then web chat is probably the fastest way to go.

  3. humphrmi says:

    I don’t get it – how can it be illegal for me to remain on hold? When am I (legally) supposed to hang up? Huh?

    • agnamus says:

      @humphrmi: I think you have it backwards. If you want to cancel, they have to talk to you.

      • pgh9fan says:

        @agnamus:
        I believe it’s illegal to not allow satellite dishes–federal law. Tell your landlord to shove it and get DirecTV or DishNetwork.

        • leprendun says:

          @pgh9fan: I don’t know if it is federal law, but it is illegal in Indiana, although there are exception. At my last apartment complex we couldn’t have satellite dishes because the apartments didn’t have any yard space that belonged to the individual tenant.

          • cwsterling says:

            @leprendun: they can allow a portion of the roof if there is space up there

          • @leprendun: I once lived next door to a historic building where tenants weren’t allowed to affix satellite dishes to the roof b/c of the historicness. (This was also, incidentally, in Indiana.) It *may* have been before there was a law, though the owner mostly looked the other way if people wanted to precariously mount them in their own windows. (Which looked like ass, but didn’t damage the building.)

            I don’t know that much about it, but I’d assume they can, like, pole-mount them or something in the backyard or next to the building these days? Tho in some cases with historical buildings, there’s either no room around it, or even the grounds may be protected.

  4. nicemarmot617 says:

    RCN was always difficult to contact. They only had 1 readily available phone number and it instantly put you on hold. Then you might get to talk to a person if you were lucky. But yes, there were times where I was left on hold forever and hung up. I never waited longer than half an hour.

    Now I have Time Warner and DirecTV…yeah, they’re just as bad.

  5. Pylon83 says:

    How does the OP know that RCN hadn’t picked up a few times, heard no one there (or heard the background noise), and just put her back on hold?

  6. KelvinLucage says:

    Phone banks have a near-universal policy of hanging up if nobody’s there. I worked in one at hospital billing–you don’t leave people clogging up the phone lines if they’re not there.

  7. purplesun says:

    ^^Is a call center manager.

    She’s not on hold anymore. She’s stuck in a loop, fallen far off the radar. Given that call centers are pretty tetchy about their hold time numbers and ASA’s (average speed of answer’s), if they saw a call on hold in their system for any length of time, the call would have long since been dropped.

    She’s lost in a black hole of dropped calls, nothing more.

    • Pious_Augustus says:

      @purplesun:

      Aye, poor girl. I know all too well as well

    • CrazyMann says:

      Not only is she in a black hole,RCN is paying for the call, all 800 numbers are charged to the called by the min. @purplesun:

      • purplesun says:

        @CrazyMann: A-yup. ;p That’s why it’s so important to keep your software up to date, maintain the switches, and make darn-sure you don’t lose people in holding patterns like the OP is experiencing. It raises the bottom line (and while the management team probably can’t see the problem now, it will be blisteringly apparently come audit time).

        Sad thing is, increased call centers costs are either passed on to the customer in the form of higher bills, or the company can choose to resolve the issue by sending their calls overseas.

        So, OP? Hang up the phone already. :)

    • summerbee says:

      @purplesun: I work at an incoming call center as well, and we also measure average handle time. A hold that’s gone on for THAT long would skew up everyone’s numbers and probably cause a small riot among managers. It’s probably not even registering on their end.

      But it’s still “hold” to the customer. I wonder how long it’s possible to stay locked into the system like that…days? Weeks? I mean, if she really wanted to try…

    • strife1012 says:

      @purplesun: Ah Call Manager, geez Cisco, I thought you would get it right after 6 versions. We have the same problem every once in a while, we will have 0 calls for an hour, then bam, 4 calls at once.

  8. LouisaDawgy says:

    This person needs to hang up and call back, or call back from another phone, they should get through then. Sometimes callers can get stuck in the ACD systems that call centers have and cant get out without hanging up.

    There is no reason to complain, in fact, their systems probably wont even register she called.

    Main point – Hang up and call back. You’re not on hold now and were not earlier today either.

  9. Kinneas says:

    Sometimes I feel like they purposely put you on infinihold simply because the end of their shift is coming up or they’re not interested in doing any work on the weekend.

    I’ve gotten runarounds like that by my ISP (Rogers) and phone (Bell) once or twice. Either they breeze through some typical silly solutions and then escalate me to being on hold forever, or they escalate me to an office that’s closed and I can’t get back to the other person.

  10. ViperBorg says:

    Was it an 800/877/888 number? If so, keep it on the line, it’s costing them money anyway. Maybe after they see THAT phone bill, they will get their act together.

    Then again, maybe not.

  11. If I were her, I would hang up and call back. I know the urge to run up RCN’s phone bill is strong, but I’m usually not that patient. And if she is dropped then calling back would probably be the best thing to do instead of taking the chance of staying on hold versus being dropped.

    But then again, I hate talking to people and answering the phone so I might would stay on the phone so I could have an excuse for not answering someone calling me at 9 on a Friday evening about some “special” family occasion happening approximately 3 billion years from now.

    OR perhaps the representative has the same feelings as I do and left Ms. Meredith on hold. That would suck.

  12. SuperiorInky says:

    I once called a BlockBuster to inquire about a video-game, and was put on hold for half an hour. I gave up and just went to the store. Got my game though.

    +7 hours is unbelievable. I would of given up after 20-30 minutes and called back. Then again, I try to keep my calls to place in the morning when the locations open. Better service in my opinion.

    • Whyspir says:

      @SuperiorInky:

      I used to work at Blockbuster and I’ve been to dozens upon dozens of stores…and I have to say the employees where you called at must be deaf or it was stupid busy.

      They use the exact same phone system in every store from what I’ve noticed…and if someone is on hold it actually does a quick beepbeep noise about every 30 seconds.

      I would actually ask the customers in the store to wait a moment so I could deal with that God-awful noise.

  13. jonworld says:

    Geez…that’s gotta be one expensive phone bill for the O.P. Hopefully she has an unlimited plan.

    • My keyboard has a typo key says:

      @jonworld:

      Most POTS and VOIP services. Are unlimited for most non-toll/Long Distance calls. VOIP allows for a really high number of minutes for other than local calling.

      I do not go by minutes on my TWC VOIP service. I go by phone charging cycles. I can refer to the phone how many minutes I have used also.

  14. trinidon2k says:

    Here is the phone number for RCN Executive Customer Service: 703-434-8200 x3. There you can complain about service and they’ll either solve your problem or have someone call you!

  15. SomeoneGNU says:

    Two things – if it’s a toll free number, RCN is paying for it, not the consumer.

    What might have happened, this is based on my experience at a similar company, is no one is staffed on the weekends but someone forgot to update the phone system to shutoff. So right now in some call center there’s a call bouncing from phone to phone but no on there.

    I’ve also seen one or two other phone system glitches that I could blame this on. So it could simply be human error and not a malicious attempt to keep from talking to the consumer.

  16. Ajh says:

    In cases like this I usually take my cellphone and call the number too just to make sure I’m not dropped from their system somehow.

    Though I have seen comcast tech support standing around chatting while phones are ringing. They conveniently redesigned the local office so you can’t see the support anymore.

  17. Ben_Q2 says:

    I once picked up the phones to help with Tech support. The person on the other end of the line seem to know more about the unit then I did. After about 10 mins or so the guy told me I did not know anything about what I was talking about. He ask to talk to someone else. I said fine, put him on hold left for a meeting. I told the supervisor of Tech support about him. I come back 6 hours later and the supervisor told me he is still on hold. ??? Seems he was asking for the Head Eng/Programmer. I pickup the phone and the guy is there I say “Hello” he starts about how long he was on hold, I tell him “How to fix his problem” why he is still bitching about the hold time (1 min). He does this and it works. Then he said, you sound just like the 1st guy I talk to today. I told him, YUP that was me. I am the head programmer for this unit. I told him, remember you called us for help, I did not call you. Then again I tell everyone that seems to have a toot for any computer problems they have.

  18. tortcat says:

    Most likely simply stuck in the system. Phone systems are not perfect. If poster wants to tie up her phone line “forever” thats up to her but seems silly to me. As others have said, probably hanging up and calling in she may find someone picking up straight away.

  19. STrRedWolf says:

    Hang up, and call the DC Public Utilities Commission. File a complaint there for the hold times. Maryland/DC/Virginia area ISP’s have agreements with the areas they bring service into saying they MUST pick up the phone within a few seconds AND get a live human within a few minutes. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    • 2719 says:

      @STrRedWolf:

      Oh please…

      She got stuck in the system. It happens. I always tell people if you’re on hold longer than 30 min just hang up and try again. No big deal.

      • mobiuschic42 says:

        @2719: “Oh please” nothing.

        If she got stuck in the system, there’s a software problem that should be fixed to prevent this kind of error. I don’t think it’s appropriate that people keep excusing the wait times based on computer software error. Sure, bugs exist, but they *can* be fixed, but only if someone chooses to. They don’t magically get better.

        Software engineer, here.

  20. Roclawzi says:

    My favorite when I was working customer service for a call center was the supervisor we had who used to go for a smoke or have dinner while someone was on hold, but only because he didn’t like the person he was dealing with it since is was escalated to him, he wasn’t accountable for the hold times.

  21. Hayes says:

    I live in the Washington, DC area and have had RCN for about 2 years. I’ve never experienced what the OP has. I’ve never been on hold for more than 5 minutes when I call in. I’ve had DirecTV, DishNetwork, Comcast, and Time-Warner. RCN has been the best service provider out of all of those companies.

  22. SilverStar95 says:

    I do tech support for a totally different company, and I’ve actually heard of this before.

    What seems to be happening, is the call she placed, wound up getting routed through the automated system, into a dead split, by software error. If she were to try calling in again, from her boyfriend’s phone for example, and follow all the same steps, she’d wind up getting through to someone. As it is, the computer control systems behind the call routing, simply routed the call to a split that doesn’t have anyone assigned to it.

  23. LoadStar says:

    We actually have a number that we can transfer a caller to that puts them into infinite hold, with absolutely no way to retrieve them. We developed it to test out our music-on-hold, and kept it around to transfer the really obnoxious telemarketers that repeatedly cold-call asking for “the director of IT” trying to sell toner or something.

    I don’t think that’s what happened here, of course. What was said above is correct – the call just slipped into a black hole in the phone system by accident.

  24. kaylabear says:

    Sometimes, I just pick any other option, even if it doesn’t pertain to what I’m asking about (within reason), and once I get someone on the line, I ask to be connected to the appropriate department. For example: if I’m having a hard time getting through to the claims department at my HMO, I just dial the extension for the billing department and ask to be connected to claims. Depending on the company and the choices offered, I’ve found this round-about way to be more effective than dialing the suggested extensions.

    • Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

      @kaylabear: The problem with this is a lot of call centres have limits for transfers per agent per month.

      I used to work in General Billing for an energy supplier here in the UK (Full disclosure: Laid off as of Oct 6th but currently off sick as I’m in and out of hospital) and I had some of the highest transfers in my department. The reason? I actually TRANSFERRED people to the right dept instead of just giving the customer the number, as I happened to believe in service more than my call handling times.

  25. smokinfoo says:

    There’s only one word for someone who stays on hold for seven hours: moron.

  26. RCNMAN says:

    My Name is Jason Nealis and I’m the Sr. Director of Operations here at RCN. I can assure you by no means would this be intentional. I had the engineers check the call queue and at this time we don’t even have any calls in queue. Most likely what happened was (although) very unfortunate was this customers call caused some sort of technical glitch and the call was lost in limbo on the support tree. I whole heartedly apologize for the inconvienance but assure you this was not by design but rather a technical glitch if indeed this is a valid claim. I hope to reach this customer and based on her call originating number we can certainly track down where the call ended up.

    Should you need to reach me, we are always tracking the pulse of the RCN forum at DSL Reports.

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/rcn

    But your best bet is to hang up and call back as I’m sure you will get an answer :

    Jason Nealis
    RCN

  27. cecilsaxon says:

    I am pretty certain this is a simple telephony error. If you choose to sit and hold forever know yourself out. Either your were left in a queue that had no one skilled adn no one is watching or you ended up in a loop. BE smart and end your call, call back and get help. Seriously.

  28. charodon says:

    I used to have Starpower/RCN in DC; when we first signed up (2000) their customer service was horrible, with huge wait times (we never let it go more than an hour or so, but an hour was a common wait time). With the service conking out regularly and the whole unified bill debacle, we were on the phone a lot. Gradually it got better though. When we left in 2005 things seemed to actually be OK. Various comments here, including Jason Nealis’s above, point to this being some sort of weird glitch.