Why Won't Time Warner Take This Nice Old Lady's Money?

Steve in northern New York is having a problem with Time Warner. He would like it if they could install service at his mother’s newly constructed house. Time Warner not only doesn’t want to take her money, they can’t give her the best deal available because her house is too new.

My mother is moving to a new home on the lot next to ours. She’s getting older and I’m much more up-to-date on the terminology I’m sure the cable agents would be throwing at her.

I was browsing the Time Warner Cable site looking at the packages available, decided on a package with phone service that would suit her, and attempted to sign up on-line. Unfortunately, when you do this Time Warner must consult a database and not finding the newly built house/address in the database claimed that they didn’t service my area. Since our home is literally 500ft away and have their service just fine, I figured I’d call and someone would help me out.

When I called customer service the agent was happy to take the order for new service – at a higher price than the “web only specials” that I’m unable to sign up for. When I noted this, she said I would have to sign up via the web and she was not authorized to give me that pricing as those are “from a different contractor.” I was annoyed. Knowing I wasn’t going to get anywhere, I said to the agent (and the recording that I dearly hope was happening for someone to review), “I’m simply trying to get service started and it should not be this difficult. It is not my problem that Time Warner is using a different contractor for the web specials. I go to your web page, I see ‘Time Warner’. I call your number and it answers ‘Time Warner’. To me, you’re all the same and you should be able to help.”

Trying a different tact, I figured if I chatting with a live agent via the same website, I might have better luck. I started up the session, chatted with the agent noting the above. I get what amounts to links to the same web page for the specials that I can’t sign up for in the first place and a “is there anything else I can help you with?”

At this point I’m ready to call Dish Network. DirectTV. Have my kids do finger-puppet shows for grandma. Anything.

I cooled down and decided to try one last time. I called the general customer service number and got what turned out to be a very nice rep. When she answered the first thing I said was, “Hello, I’ve been trying for about a hour to give Time Warner money and no one seems interested in taking it. Can you help me?”

I went through all of the drama I experienced above, told her what I wanted, and we got the install scheduled. By then, mom had canceled her existing service by using their phone tree and getting it done easily. Stop for a moment and giggle to yourself that it’s easier to get service terminated with them than it is to start it in this case.

The problem I have with all of this is that I needed to find the right person to speak with. At no time in my call or web conversation was I directed to a phone number where someone could take my service request and “make it happen.” Maybe I was even lucky to find a great person that was willing to help. I could have just as easily have taken my business elsewhere, but given my options I was going with a company that we already have service with and am generally happy with – past Consumerist posts aside.

I hope someone at Time Warner Cable reads this and empowers their reps to do a little more for a customer that is saying, “here is my money! Take it! Please!”

Customer service reps with no power are the reason for so many of the complaints here at Consumerist. At the same time, I wonder whether this is a common problem for newly constructed houses. Do all new homes miss out on the best Web deals? Or is it just Steve’s mother?