Time Warner Cable Has No Idea What It Is Supposed To Charge You

Consumerist reader Stephen is a Time Warner Cable customer who is considering ditching cable TV and opting instead to use services like Hulu and Netflix for his video-based entertainment. So one would think that a simple chat with TWC would inform him of exactly how much his bill would be if he dropped cable and switch to internet-only. One would think that, but one would be mistaken.

What follows is a chat transcript between Stephen and a TWC chat sales rep who seems to be completely unable to offer basic pricing information.

Reader: I’d like to know what my bill would be if I dropped my TV services and just had the¬†10mbps RoadRunner w/o powerboost.

TWC: I would be more than happy to assist you…

If you’d like help in removing services, I recommend calling in to our customer care¬†department. Because, as a Time Warner Cable customer you are able to call in after your promotion has ended and be able to¬†take advantage of any promotional rates we are offering at the time. Unfortunately I would not be able to further assist¬†you as I am in Online Sales and assist new customers in setting up services with us

Reader: I’m unable to call in.

TWC: Okay unfortunately the Customer Care does not have a Chat tool

Reader: You can’t tell me the cost of the 10MB roadrunner w/o powerboost?

I’m not asking you to make any changes to my account… But just to give me the cost of a service.

TWC: I can not as i am in the Online Sales department, i do not have those prices available on my end

Reader: You’re in sales, but you don’t have prices?

Surely you must know what roadrunner costs once a promotional period has expired?

TWC: No because i assist in upgrading or adding services.

Reader: Ok. If I wanted to add roadrunner 10MB, what would it cost?

TWC: I do not have current pricing available in my department

Reader: Just to be clear: You sell products, but do not know what they cost. Is that correct?

TWC: No i sell products to New Customers 

Reader: If I were a new customer

TWC: at a promotional rate

Reader: What would Roadrunner 10MB cost?

TWC: 29.99 which is a New Customer Price

Reader: And after that new customer price?

TWC: I do not have those prices available in my department

Reader: Well thank you for this enlightening conversation. It has been, at the very least,¬†good for a laugh. Maybe it’ll even end up on Consumerist. Who knows. Have a wonderful day.

TWC: Was there any further sales questions i can assist you with today?

Reader: There are no additional questions for you to not help with, no. Thank you. Have a good day.

Meanwhile, this all comes as TWC seeks to raise rates on customers in some areas. The L.A. Times reports that some customers in California are seeing rates going up by more than 25% in the next month. If that doesn’t earn them a slot in March’s Worst Company in America brackets, we don’t know what will.

Comments

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  1. scoutermac says:

    Sounds like AT&T

  2. Cat says:

    Well thank you for this enlightening conversation. It has been, at the very least, good for a laugh. Maybe it’ll even end up on Consumerist. Who knows. Have a wonderful day.

    There are no additional questions for you to not help with, no. Thank you. Have a good day.

    ROTFLOL. Priceless.

    I want TV and internet providers to stop hiding the true cost of their products once the “promo period” is over.

    Full price, no discount, taxes and fees included. Up front. You can send me a bill for it, why can’t you tell me upfront what it’s going to cost me, instead of just “PLUS TAXES AND FEES”?

    • zerogspacecow says:

      That is my biggest pet peeve (aside, of course, from being billed improperly). There is no good reason why they shouldn’t be able to tell you what your complete bill would be. They will only ever let you know what the price is before taxes and fees. If you try to press them for what that cost will be, they never know. They just say it’s local taxes or FCC fees or something. Likes it’s some top secret information they’re not allowed to know. Yet there is never any trouble when it comes time for them to add it your bill.

      Can you imagine if other things were like that? If you went to purchase your groceries, and were only given a “pre-tax” price, with the cost of the tax hidden? It’s like a surprise! You don’t get to know how much they will actually charge you until after you’ve made the purchase. And guess what? It’s non-refundable! Hurray!

      • TheBigWhiteWolf says:

        What grocery store do you go to that shows the price of goods with tax included?

        • zerogspacecow says:

          Publix and Kroger.

          I was kind of under the impression they all do. They ring you up, the screen shows the sub-total and total with tax. Then you swipe your card or pay cash. I don’t mean on the price tags themselves (if that’s what you thought I meant).

          The problem with Comcast, ATT, T-Mobile, etc. is that you won’t get that final price until you get your actual bill at the end of the month. At which point, you can’t change your mind and decide that $5 tax was too much, because they’re charging you for service you’ve already used.

          • Booboobunnygirl says:

            Most cable companies bill a month in advance. SO you are supposed to get your bill before your service is rendered. Much like a movie theater or a store. Even with the major cable companies the first bill comes within the 1st week of the services being installed and with the 30 day money back thing you should be able to try before you pay for anything.

            • Laughing-man says:

              Is that how it’s done? For the initial bill, I’m usually stuck with double-charged at the end of the billing cycle. I’ve yet to see a itemized compete bill that comes BEFORE they come into my home to do the installation and charge me an arm and a leg and a kidney.

            • zerogspacecow says:

              I seem to always get my bills at the end of the first month. Maybe they bill on a particular day every month, so it just depends on when you had service connected?

              Either way, they should still be able to give you your full monthly bill before you have service installed.

        • allknowingtomato says:

          every single grocery store you shop at discloses the full price, including all taxes, of the items you are buying before you are obliged to pay any money. Cable companies do not disclose these costs until you are contractually obliged to pay them. this is a major difference.

    • allknowingtomato says:

      because it’s easy to get customers by quoting a low “price” knowing that when you call about your higher-than-expected bill, they can always say “oh those are taxes and/or fees, we have no control over that.” Yes, they could have told you the actual cost of their service, but it will ALWAYS be better for sales to make people happy by quoting the portion of the total price that actually goes to the cable co.

      Airlines don’t disclose the full pricing until forced to by the feds, and even then several airlines waited to get fined before begrudgingly acknowledging the actual cost of the ticket to consumers.

      Also, this way, when the promotional period expires, they can name the additional charges they throw on something BS and obtuse like “federal line fee” and people will shrug it off like a tax, even though it goes to cable company. This is how many phone bills were itemized until, again, i think the feds got involved.

      everything in the sales/billing experience is meticulously designed to maximize profit over all else including customer satisfaction. they only care about customer satisfaction to the extent it drives profit. Companies are not your grandmother.

  3. facted says:

    Should be mandatory for an ad for a promotional price to show the post-promo price right next to it in the same size font.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      Wouldn’t that violate their corporate personhood’s right to free speech?

      • zerogspacecow says:

        Not sure if that’s sarcasm or not, but if not:

        People often take the whole “free speech” part of the 1st Amendment out of context. It doesn’t mean “anyone, anywhere, can say anything.” It’s much less “open” than that. In this case, it would be considered “commercial” and therefore is much more limited.

        If companies could just say whatever they wanted, they’d tell you their internet service was 100gbps and would never ever fail. And would come with unicorns.

  4. Screevo says:

    OP here. All I really wanted was a simple price. I worked for TWC for 14 months (06 to 07) and back then this type of thing would have been unheard of. Oh well. All the more reason for me to look to Netflix and Hulu, even if I will miss out on some local sports.

    • Cat says:

      even if I will miss out on some local sports.

      That’s why God invented antennas. Seriously, I even get local HS and college games with an antenna.

      • zerogspacecow says:

        Antennas don’t really work at my house. I get maybe 10 channels that come in poor quality and break up a lot. And half of them are in spanish. But I cancelled cable a long time ago (a couple years ago I believe), and I am content. I just use a Roku and computer. But, I also don’t watch sports, so that’s not an issue for me.

        There have been a couple instances where people wanted to watch football games or whatever while there were at my house, and CBS or ESPN usually had them on their website streaming live.

      • Screevo says:

        Cleveland Indians and Cavaliers games are broadcast only on cable, unfortunately. Fox Sports Ohio and Sports Time Ohio do not broadcast as antenna channels as far as I know. Will probably grab an antenna from Radio Shack tonight and sign up for a Hulu Trial.

        • Laughing-man says:

          Go to a sports bar, grab a drink and bum the large screen TV. Still cheaper than cable. Also, I’m positive that there are services to stream the event, but I’m not sure I am in the liberty of posting it here.

      • racermd says:

        If one is interested in the major sports (NHL, NFL, MLB, etc), there are packages available to watch those sports online. They’re not exactly cheap, but they’re cheaper than a full TV package from cable or a satellite provider.

        If your thing is more college, high school, or just some beer-league sport, better go OTA or in-person.

    • umbriago says:

      Can’t hardly blame you, I cut the cord four years ago and watch more TV than ever, it seems. I use Netflix a lot less since the public libraries where I live have extensive catalogs (Breaking Bad? Sure!), I can purchase the sports I want to watch (baseball, hockey) and find “other sources” for the other things I want to see.

      And don’t overlook Over-the-air TV anymore either. More choices than ever in most large cities.

    • Jawaka says:

      The chat guy said that he didn’t have the prices on hand. I don’t understand why you had to keep busting his balls and asking over and over again. It may not make sense that the online chat agents don’t have these prices but it isn’t his fault.

      • zerogspacecow says:

        Because the rep’s job was to sell service. So he should be able to tell a potential new customer at the very least two things: 1) how much the service costs initially with the promotional rate, and 2) how much the service will cost when that promotion is over.

        The OP wanted to know the latter, which the rep should have been able to provide.

    • Losiris says:

      If you worked for Customer service/Sales/Support at TWC you should then know that local standard rate prices vary across regions, but promotional prices are done company wide. Even within a state different areas can have different prices based on competition and other factors, but promo prices are the same everywhere.

    • kc2idf says:

      I made a deal with them, but I called in. You mentioned you can’t do that (curious why?) but . . .

      In making the deal with them, I mentioned the competition (FiOS is available around here for a much better rate) and told them that I wanted a comparable service for a comparable price. Voilà! I knew the price I was getting, and I knew it was better than what I would have otherwise gotten.

  5. BrightShopperGettingBrighter says:

    This is awesome… the OP Chris definitely got the wrong department, leading to hilarious results. It’s so much easier to sell something if you aren’t aware of the hidden costs of the back end. It seems like TWC is keeping TWC sales staff in the dark. It’s all very Best Buy, here.

    • Screevo says:

      OP here: I went to the “change services” page of their website, found that you can’t remove services on the website (only add) and clicked the “Chat Now” link from that page. If it put me in the wrong department, that’s yet another error on their part.

      • scoutermac says:

        Just one more way to help prevent you from downgrading your service.

      • BrightShopperGettingBrighter says:

        OP! That was hilarious! I didn’t mean to imply you intentionally called the wrong department. Thanks for making me laugh my ass off.

  6. umbriago says:

    You don’t hear TV being referred to as “video-based entertainment” all that much, but perhaps the terminology can be applied to other areas!

    Paper-based entertainment: newspapers, magazines, books
    Audio-based entertainment: Fibber McGee and Molly
    Vegetation-based entertainment: watching grass grow, smoking pot
    Gasoline-based entertainment: driving, setting fires
    Grain-based entertainment: baking bread
    Meat-based entertainment: burgers, meat fight

    Bored? yeah I am.

  7. scoutermac says:

    Customer: Why is my cable bill over $100
    CSR: But you have to much entertainment value.

  8. Hi_Hello says:

    I don’t understand why it’s a problem. The guy only works on sales..for new customers.

    I’m more curious why the Reader can’t call in.

    If you read the fine prints, after promotional price, you see that there’s a price range for how much it cost (some contracts). There is many factor for that. If someone is grandfather in or if they join through a special promotion, the customer services might be able to keep extending or something.

    The person in sales isn’t allow to tell you that if you call after promotional and complain about the price, they can adjust it back to the promo price. Or if you call to cancel, they will give you a deal.

    • shanelee24 says:

      The only voice of reason so far. They have different departments for different things. Im assuming the OP told the sales guy that he couldnt call in because he didnt want to call in.

    • humphrmi says:

      I’ve gotten caught up in this, it’s not too hard to understand. You go to the company website, and start searching around for answers. At some point, you run into a page with a teaser or banner saying “Still have questions? Can’t find what you’re looking for? Click here for instant chat with a real person!” Then you click on it and you get a chat session with new customer sales, which can’t help you with anything unless you’re a new customer.

      I’d bet dollars for donuts that the interface that led to that chat session didn’t give the OP any option to choose what department he chatted with.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But the customer service rep said their role was to “assist in upgrading or adding services.” How do you upgrade or add if you’re a new customer? There’s no account for which to upgrade or add services!

    • Cat says:

      there’s a price range for how much it cost

      No, this will not do. I want an exact price, not a range between $45 and $67. A $22 isn’t even a rough guess. There is no reason for them to be secretive other than they can be.

      Because in most cases, they’re the only game in town.

      • Cat says:

        “A $22 range isn’t even a rough guess”

        Where did I leave that edit button?

      • Hi_Hello says:

        How much does gas cost? let say from BP ?
        How much does a gym membership cost?

        I don’t setup cable and sell internet so I don’t know how much it cost to run a business.

        I read somewhere, in some suburb neighborhood, they couldn’t get cable internet. There was no line to them. If they wanted to get cable the neighborhood would have to agree to sign up and pay a few grand for the infrastructure. How would the price be set for that? It’s $50 bucks a month if everyone sign up. $60 a month if two houses don’t sign up. $55 if enough people get HBO.

        I do know if I’m not happy with a price, I don’t pay for it.

        • SmokeyBacon says:

          Well, as I drove by BP this morning it was 3.41/gallon for regular.
          They gym near my office is $20/month.

          I was able to get both of these prices up front – there is no variance. Sure this is the regular price and there is no promotional rate first – so it is the same rate you would normally pay, much like the rate you would pay on your cable after the promotional period has ended. The rate after the promotion is a fixed rate so they should be able to give you that information.

        • zerogspacecow says:

          That’s almost never how ISPs work (I’m speaking from experience). Occasionally there are HOA agreements and such, but that is usually with small ISPs. And even in those cases, the way it works is that they agree to be the exclusive provider in that neighborhood, so that if the residents want internet, they have to go through that company. I have never heard of an ISP that requires residents to commit to service before they’ll install the infrastructure.

          In the vast majority of cases, they ISP decides that there are enough potential customers in a particular area, and installs the infrastructure there. Then, they sell the service at whatever price they decide. But, it’s still not a “well, you’ll pay $30 if we get 60 customers, but only $25 if we get 100 customers!”

    • Screevo says:

      Let’s pretend that I have a disability that prevents me from using the phone, or I’m hard enough of hearing that phone conversations are difficult. What then? Even if I were a new customer, how am I supposed to sign up for a service when I don’t know what the cost will be AFTER the promotional period? Do I just count on being eligible for another promotion?

      • Jawaka says:

        Then you have a family member or whoever else would help you manage from day to day call for you. Since we’re pretending lets pretend that Time Warned didn’t have online chat for NEW customers. What would you do?

      • bd_ says:

        There are government-subsidized free TDD interpreters for exactly this reason. You type, they relay it to the other person, and type back the other person’s response. In fact, you can even access TDD services online without any special equipment, so there’s no excuse.

        • MMD says:

          Have you ever tried to conduct business this way? My sister’s in-laws are deaf and they frequently get hung up on when they try to conduct business over the phone with businesses that aren’t used to TDD. They’re also pretty inept with computers, so my brother-in-law ends up doing most of their business for them.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I guess I am the only idiot who would want to know what the “real” price would be after the promo period. I guess this CSR wouldn’t be able to help me.

  9. Accountery says:

    I’ve had a similar experience with Time Warner and their pricing. I have a sneaking suspicion that they won’t give you this information over chat because they want to give different prices to different customers, and don’t want consumers to be able to compare notes with each other, as a chat log would allow them to easily do.

    For example, I called about a price increase and the CSR knocked $10 off of my bill for no other reason than I called and complained. If I were to somehow be able to share this information with other consumers, wouldn’t they understandably be miffed that they because they didn’t feel like they could complain, they were stuck with the price increase.

    Seems super shady to me.

  10. dush says:

    How is that basic pricing info not even on the TWC website?

  11. KenZ33 says:

    One thing that Europe does well is regulate this stuff. Anyone selling to consumers in the EU is required to show the all in price with taxes, fees, etc. As you can imagine they have to work extra hard to make sure the price you see ends in a 9.

  12. wetrat says:

    What’s really funny is that TWC actually DOES have a price list on their web site. It’s strange that the chat agent couldn’t just go to http://www.timewarnercable.com/East/shop/pricing.html and tell Stephen that RoadRunner 10 Mbps standard is $57.95/mo standalone.

    Note– I am not blaming the OP for not being able to find the price list, as it took me a couple of minutes (it’s on the bottom of the page, under “Products and Services”). More like the chat agent should have been able to at least point him to the page that spells out all the prices!

    • wetrat says:

      (BTW, prices may vary as I had to put in my ZIP code– hence the “East” in the URL)

    • scoosdad says:

      Thanks. Now can someone come up with a link for prices for internet-only service for Charter? I haven’t found anywhere on any of their sites that posts their non-promotional, non-bundled rates. That ought to be a violation of some kind of advertising or FTC rules if it isn’t already.

      You ask that question on a forum like DSL Reports and you get five different answers. I’m interested primarily in their “Express” (15/3) or “Plus” (30/4) plans. I’m currently a TV-only customer of Charter but I plan to drop that once I beef up my current (lousy) DSL internet connection.

    • Screevo says:

      I’m not in the “East” region. The “Midwest” region doesn’t offer pricing on their website. Also, the price in the MidWest is different. It’s $53.95.

  13. temporaryerror says:

    I use Cox, and the price they give you is the price on your bill. No added taxes/fees. My service is 33.99/month, and my final bill total is 33.99/month. I do remember having ATT DSL/Phone, and while my service total was something like 59.99/month, the total due on my bill every month was around 72.53/month.

    • tbax929 says:

      That’s true. I pay Cox $29.99 every month. Nothing more, nothing less. They are one of my favorite cable companies, although I do wish they’d honor my repeated requests that they stop sending me junk mail.

  14. SmokeyBacon says:

    I am bugged by the fact that if I were a new customer signing up I wouldn’t be able to find out from the new customer sales guy what my cost would be after the promotion period was over. Because as a new customer I would want to know that information before I signed up and got stuck in a contract that is longer than the promotional period.

    Also I doubt this was an actual person – it sounds too much like canned responses to be a live human.

  15. Screevo says:

    OP Again: Literally on hold with TWC right now, trying to charge me to CANCEL my cable.

  16. andre nickatina says:

    I pay just over $60 per month for this service from TWC. No cable or anything else. If there was a decent alternative I’d switch in a heartbeat

  17. diagoro says:

    Want real answers? The only way is to visit an actual store. I’ve received four different quotes/answers from four different reps over the phone. In store they can make management decisions, right there face to face.

  18. SnatchTease says:

    Comcast will just pull money out of your Bank of America account, whenever it feels like it. I’ve seen it happen.

  19. Nannyd says:

    I live in Maine and have Time Warner cable..the same thing happened to me.. I had a promotion for a year and could not get the company to give me a price when it ended.
    My bill went from $72.80 to $115.50 and needless to say, I finally had to cancel and go with just the basic…$22.30..of couse there are only a few channels and no sports…that was unexceptable!
    I use my computer and phone, through Fairpoint and use to Hulu . Most things I can get online.
    I live in an apartment house with 25 units and we have all compared our bills and when the packages are the same the prices are not. We all pay something different.

    TWC company has no competition in my area so it is hard to get any good deals.
    I am trying to get my apartment company to let us have a satellite dish so we can all use it….

    Does anyone on this site have any input on the the satellite companies? We have Dish and Direct to choose from.

    TWC is missing out, because if they were in the business of giving good service instead of cheating their customers it would make a big difference all around.

    I had to pay Time Warner $25.00 to have the cable box picked up or pay to mail it back to them..Horrible customer service.

    I am usually able to find humor in most things, but this is not funny in any sense of the word.
    If I had my way, I would have a package geared for the Seniors and include sports. TWC is clueless.