My Parents’ Time Warner Cable Installation Will Cost Either $3,000 Or $40

Taylor’s parents can get service from Time Warner Cable. Or maybe they can’t. Or maybe they can. Just calling up TWC the old-fashioned way eventually got her a response that it would cost $3,000 to extend the lines 500 feet to her parents’ house. Unfortunate, so she looked into other options…until typing in her parents’ address on a Time Warner ad, installing Time Warner Cable would be possible for $2,960.00 less than quoted. But a web form is one thing, and dealing with actual techs is another. No one at TWC seems to have any idea what Taylor should do now.

I contacted TWC to get my (elderly) parents hooked up with a decent internet connection. Since the property had never had cable service before, they told me that they would need to send someone out to figure out where their lines were in relation to the house. They say it’ll take a few days, so I wait. They call me back and tell me that since [they’re] ~500 feet away from the existing cable plant, I’ll have to pay about $3000 to have them run the lines the rest of the way. I think that’s a pretty raw deal, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I figure I’ll try AT&T and see what my other options are.

Here’s where things get weird. As I’m looking for other companies to give my money to, I see an ad for Time Warner internet. It prompts me to type in my address and lo and behold, it says I can order service! I make an order through the site and they send me an email with a confirmation order. The best part? The installation fee is $40. What savings over $3000! The email asked me to call TWC and schedule my installation.

When I did that, they gave me the same story about how the address isn’t in their system and they’ll need to send someone out to take a look at things! I asked if my $40 install fee would be honored and the sales people assured me that it would be. The problem is that that was 2 weeks ago — no amount of calling will reach anyone who knows anything about the situation and recently the sales people I’ve called haven’t even been able to pull up any information with my order confirmation number!

Other customers have had experience with using an executive e-mail carpet bomb against Time Warner, especially if they’re able to find the names of their regional executives.

Comments

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  1. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    When I worked at a cable company (rural upstate NY) many moons ago, the franchise agreement called for the company to foot the bill for running plant when the home density was >= 14 dwellings per mile, or anything under 300 feet.

    If the density was less than 14/mile, or a run longer than 300ft was needed, the customer(s) paid the difference.

    Taylor should check with the local government that holds the franchise agreement to see for what the company is and is not responsible. That is the ultimate arbitor of what the charge should be.

  2. yankinwaoz says:

    A few points.
    (1) She can’t really insist that an ad for hook up has to be honored. If there is no cable, there is no cable. One will have to be run. Which leads to the following two points….

    (2) Is that last 500 feet on her parent’s private property? If so, why can’t she get bids to run the cable. It might come in a LOT less than the $3k estimate.

    (3) If the 500 feet is on city property, then she need to check with the city. TWC may be required to run the cable themselves as part of the contract with the city for their cable monopoly.

    • yankinwaoz says:

      “Torgonius wants an edit button” is right. I should have been clearer.

      If her parent’s property is within the city/region that TWC has a contract, then they may be required to run the cable without charge.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I agree — With so many variables in place, it’s impossible to know how reasonable the estimate is.

    • Auron says:

      So if the shelf label at my grocery store says $4 but when I get to the register it rings up at $240, the grocery store store wouldn’t be required to honor the $4 price and I should just suck it up and move on like a good little sheeple?

      • cyberpenguin says:

        Actually yes. Pricing on the shelves is deemed “invitation to bargain”. You don’t have a contract until you get to the register and the cashier tells you the total.

        • cyberpenguin says:

          Whoops. You don’t have a contract until you get to the register and the cashier tells you the total __and__ you accept the total.

        • Auron says:

          ok, i’ll draw up a contract for work done at your house. The contract will specify x amount for y amount of work, with a clause that the contract you signed is only an estimate for the work and that you are responsible for any cost overruns. The final bill comes and it is 60x what the estimate was. Since you agreed to the terms (signing the contract), you are responsible for the entire bill and I wouldn’t be required to remove any of the charges. You would blindly accept that and say “oh well, it’s in the contract”?

          • cyberpenguin says:

            You’re missing the key point from your example and substituting one example with another, with completely different issues.

            There was no contract between you and the retailer. The retailer is not contractually bound to sell you an item for the price on the shelf. The price on the shelf is an invitation to bid, not an offer.

            You can argue deceptive advertising, but in your example, a $240 item mistakenly priced at $4 doesn’t have to be sold.

            In your example, when the clerk rings up your diamond Rolex at $240 you now have an offer, the beginning point of a contract. If you accept and pay you have a contract and a fulfillment.

            However, if you’re walking out the door and they come running after you and say “we want the watch back, here’s your $240, it was supposed to be $4000,” you can say “too bad it’s mine.”

      • Southern says:

        The sign in the store says the computer printer is $2.49, but it rang up at $249. Saying it was an error, the store is refusing to honor the posted price.

        The law
        It’s generally a myth that retailers must honor a posted price if it’s simply a mistake, although some stores might do so as a matter of policy or on a case-by-case basis. The issue gets murky if the retailer begins processing the order, something that is more likely to happen online, says Jane Winn, a professor at the University of Washington Law School. But even then, she says, a merchant might be able to cancel the purchase if the price was so low that a buyer should have known it was mistake. An online retailer’s fine print may relieve it of the duty to fulfill orders based on pricing errors.

        You should know
        Businesses that intentionally post false prices or that otherwise engage in bait-and-switch pricing can be liable under federal and state consumer-protection statutes.

        http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2010/09/your-rights-as-a-consumer/index.htm

    • cyberpenguin says:

      It’s more than demanding an ad be accepted. The company made an offer based on their address. The customer accepted the offer. The company confirmed in writing (email) the terms of the offer and acceptance.

      Sounds like the prima facia elements of a contract to me. There is a writing, terms, an offer, an acceptance and an amount.

      While one can’t expect companies to always be held to ads, I would expect them to be held to contracts.

      • Jawaka says:

        The online advertisement wasn’t a binding contract. The offer is clearly based on customers who’s homes are already wired for service. As I said in another post the ad probably uses a service that can tell what neighborhood the customer lives in but clearly can’t see that the customer lives in a home far off of the main road that it hasn’t had lines run to it.

        • cyberpenguin says:

          You’re missing the key point. It wasn’t just an online ad.

          It was an offer that was accepted with an email confirmation. The only way TWC can get out of it was if the email contained conditional clauses.

  3. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Surely there are options other than cable if you are in the sticks.

    • kc2idf says:

      …then you’ve never been there.

      DSL, maybe, but availability is sometimes as iffy as cable. Unlike cable, it generally won’t be extended at any price.

      Satellite, but that is very slow (both in bandwidth and lag), expensive, and usage-capped. Available bandwidth is super-precious, and the lag physically cannot get any better than 600ms round-trip ping time.

      Cellular, if you can get a signal, but that is going to be usage-capped. “No service” becomes a phrase all too familiar if you are in the sticks.

      Terrestrial microwave, sometimes, if and only if you can get a clean line-of-sight to the tower. There is much less leeway about where to put the antenna than there is with satellite. If the tech says it goes here, it goes exactly here, or you just don’t get service.

      Dial-up. No more need be said about the drawbacks here, but you can add the occasional noisy phone line to the usual list of frustrations.

      Those are your options in the sticks.

    • kathygnome says:

      For video yes, you can go to satellite. For internet, no. Chances are if you’re that far out, you can’t get DSL and if you do it will be far slower than cable–not really a compatible product.

  4. sirwired says:

    They aren’t going to honor that $40 fee. They’ll blame it on an error in the computer system, which is certainly the case.

    That said, $3000 isn’t bad for that job, price-wise. Seems fairly in-line with what it’s going to cost.

  5. Guppy06 says:

    Read the fine print on the web form. If it says that the $40 charge is tentative, you’re out of luck. But if it’s a commitment, a signed contract, with the only thing left to do is arranging the installation time, it’s TWC’s problem.

    • MMD says:

      That was my thought – if the confirmation the OP received is really a confirmation with no printed caveats, shouldn’t that be honored?

  6. Saskiatas says:

    I had something similar happen back in 2003- the cable did run by our address, but not up the long hill to the house itself. In our case though, the company website did not show that we had cable access; I had to call and reach a supervisor to explain that the cable did run down our street and they just needed to splice me in. I had to pay about $1500 for 600 feet of cable.

    I seriously doubt that the $40 installation will be honored, unless Time Warner is obligated to provide service to all houses in the area. Hopefully the OP will not get it installed and later receive a $3040 bill with reference to some fine print in an obscure hyperlinked agreement about paying for lines to be run.

  7. dolemite says:

    $3,000? You can buy 100 feet of new coax for $19.99, retail. It takes what…an hour or 2 to run to the house? If you had to run it to all the rooms, maybe another few hours? Where the hell is 3k coming from?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Probably the fact they need to dig up a path in the dirt to run the cable.

      They do not run cable aboveground; it’s typically run underground.

      • dolemite says:

        Ah, the cable in our neighborhood all comes down from the power lines to the houses.

      • dangerp says:

        Depends on the area. In my neighborhood power, phone, and cable all come along on the power poles that run through our backyards

    • scoutermac says:

      Yeah I went to Menards and bought 100 feet of coax for $10.

    • SabreDC says:

      Just like anything, you aren’t just paying for the cost of the goods and the rate of the employees. You’re paying for overhead, liability insurance, fuel for and wear/tear on equipment, etc. You’re paying more to account for added risk: risk of an employee falling out of a bucket truck, risk of hitting an unmarked gas line when trenching, and so on.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      Cable companies don’t run department store coax down the street – that’s just the connection into your house. Add in the cost of junction and signal booster boxes. TWC are always fiddling with the ones on my street.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Obviously, they said they’d honor the $50 not knowing your situation, figured out what your situation was, and now deleted all evidence they promised you cable installation for $40.

  9. scoutermac says:

    I would either go with satellite (Dish or Directv) or run the coax myself. You can buy 100 Feet of Quad shield RG6 cable for about $10 to $20 depending on where you buy it. That is better grade of cable then what the cable company provides anyways. The difficult part would be digging the trench to bury it.

  10. kevinroyalty says:

    look into what it would cost to rent a “ditch witch”. most equipment rental places have the item that can dig the small trench and you can put the cable in the ground yourself cheaply. you should call the local power/phone/water/sewer folks and have them mark their stuff so you don’t cut important cables/pipes.
    once you get the cable run, then call TWC and have them connect you up. should save you a bunch of money.

  11. Cimquito says:

    I’m actually impressed that the OP says that TW will call back and they actually do give a call back. That never happens.

  12. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I think Taylor needs to get a written estimate, delineating exactly what the $3,000 is paying for. It’s impossible to say what’s reasonable and what isn’t without having that in hand.

  13. wkm001 says:

    Ask the city / town you live in for the franchise agreement. The whole thing. Sometimes the local government will put things in there to help customers out. Like, if x amount of people on street y want cable the cable company has to pay for running cable to all the new houses.

    Check to see when the franchise agreement is up for renewal. Sadly I think 10 year commitments are pretty common. You could lobby for a rule just like the above.

  14. Evilguy says:

    I think she is confuse about construction costs and installation cost. Installation cost ($40) is the cost for a tech to go out there and install the equipment. The $3,000 is the construction cost for the 500 feet of coaxial wire needed to extend the network to her parents house. And yes it does cost that much for 500 feet.

    Coaxial wire are very expensive, that why you hear a few time each years where people steal cable wire form the utility pole. Personally I don’t think the rep tell her lie or anything. It just a matter of miscommunication between two party.

  15. Evilguy says:

    I think she is confuse about construction costs and installation cost. Installation cost ($40) is the cost for a tech to go out there and install the equipment. The $3,000 is the construction cost for the 500 feet of coaxial wire needed to extend the network to her parents house. And yes it does cost that much for 500 feet.

    Coaxial wire are very expensive, that why you hear a few time each years where people steal cable wire form the utility pole. Personally I don’t think the rep tell her lie or anything. It just a matter of miscommunication between two party.

  16. Evilguy says:

    I think she is confuse about construction costs and installation cost. Installation cost ($40) is the cost for a tech to go out there and install the equipment. The $3,000 is the construction cost for the 500 feet of coaxial wire needed to extend the network to her parents house. And yes it does cost that much for 500 feet.

    Coaxial wire are very expensive, that why you hear a few time each years where people steal cable wire form the utility pole. Personally I don’t think the rep tell her lie or anything. It just a matter of miscommunication between two party.

  17. Evilguy says:

    I think she is confuse about construction costs and installation cost. Installation cost ($40) is the cost for a tech to go out there and install the equipment. The $3,000 is the construction cost for the 500 feet of coaxial wire needed to extend the network to her parents house. And yes it does cost that much for 500 feet.

    Coaxial wire are very expensive, that why you hear a few time each years where people steal cable wire form the utility pole. Personally I don’t think the rep tell her lie or anything. It just a matter of miscommunication between two party.

    • nishioka says:

      > Coaxial wire are very expensive

      You can get 500′ of burial grade coax on Amazon for $70.

  18. framitz says:

    In the late 70’s I had a customer that lived 5 miles from the nearest cable.
    I was a TV tech and he was complaining about reception via antenna. I suggested he try to get cable installed.
    The cost was quoted at that time as $1 per foot. He decided he could live without cable TV.

    The cable is inexpensive, but installing it can involve a lot of labor and materials.

    In that area I noticed that the main cable ran over head, right next to the road and I saw a lot of TV antennas mounted near the cable and feeding into the homes nearby. The cable leaked enough signal that not of the people on that route payed, they just picked up leakage and had TV with no fees! Antennas were not on the right of way so it was perfectly legal! I bet those are paying today… it is the digital age.

  19. FLConsumer says:

    Option C: Just don’t bother with Cable TV. It’s amazing how much better one’s life can be without this modern “necessity”.

  20. Jawaka says:

    Really? This is a story?

    The web form probably uses a GPS like service to determine where the customer lives. It can identify that his parent lives in a neighborhood where they offer service (hence the $40 installation quote) but it can’t tell that she lives so far off the road that new lines would need to be run (resulting in a $3000 installation fee).

    In this case I think that I’d trust the human beings that did the investigation.

  21. soj4life says:

    $3000 to run coax 500 feet? The cost of coax is about $100 or 200. Labor at what $50 hour would run maybe $100 or $200 is they need a second man. Then they would need to wire the house. Really it would be maybe $500, but not even close to the $3000 price quote. Also I am assuming that that they have poles from the street to the house for the power and phone lines already installed.

  22. thatsiebguy says:

    We ran into this when we wanted TWC to run cable to one of our city facilities. They quoted us 3 grand to tap it into their infrastructure. Since this was just so the service guys could get the weather channel, I hooked up a Slingbox in my office (across town, where we do have cable) and piped it across our network to them instead.

  23. gman863 says:

    Had the same thing happen with Comcast a year ago when I opened my PC repair shop.

    Initially, Comcast’s “Business Class” rep was more than happy to offer me an Internet/Phone combo at $79.99/month. Two days later, he called back and said Comcast had to do a “site survey” the following week. After another week (and three days before grand opening), the rep stated there would be an additional $1500 charge to run cable wiring to the strip mall I’m located in.

    Screw that. I called AT&T and had service installed within two days.

  24. LostClan02 says:

    The costs being quoted are for construction and extension of the mainline coaxial plant. Standard RG-6 (your normal inhouse cable) and RG-11 (a thicker and heavier gauge service drop [line to you house]) have specific db (decibel) loss rates per foot. This means the signal strength will not be adequate if these types of cable are used to reach the house. Instead the cable plant must be redesigned, new hardline cable is much more expensive than standard service wire. This redesign may also call for active devices (amplifiers and larger power supplies) to be installed into the system.

    Add onto this permits, labor, insurance, ect and the cost of 3000 for 500 feet is not outrageous. I did read a comment saying that the person mentioned in the article should contract the job out or perform the work themselves. This is inadvisable, as a cable provider does not have to allow foreign connections to be tied into their network, and would be able to reject the labor performed for nearly any reason. Unfortunately in this case it is pay what the company is asking, or go with a different option.

    The language on any online ad, even with conformation, would include clauses stating that price would be dependent upon serviceability of the address in question and that additional construction costs may be required.

  25. LostClan02 says:

    The costs being quoted are for construction and extension of the mainline coaxial plant. Standard RG-6 (your normal inhouse cable) and RG-11 (a thicker and heavier gauge service drop [line to you house]) have specific db (decibel) loss rates per foot. This means the signal strength will not be adequate if these types of cable are used to reach the house. Instead the cable plant must be redesigned, new hardline cable is much more expensive than standard service wire. This redesign may also call for active devices (amplifiers and larger power supplies) to be installed into the system.

    Add onto this permits, labor, insurance, ect and the cost of 3000 for 500 feet is not outrageous. I did read a comment saying that the person mentioned in the article should contract the job out or perform the work themselves. This is inadvisable, as a cable provider does not have to allow foreign connections to be tied into their network, and would be able to reject the labor performed for nearly any reason. Unfortunately in this case it is pay what the company is asking, or go with a different option.

    The language on any online ad, even with conformation, would include clauses stating that price would be dependent upon serviceability of the address in question and that additional construction costs may be required.

  26. ttraybandit says:

    Actually if you go to a store and they have a product labeled at one price and you get to the register and it comes up another. They have to honor the price on the shelf. It is standard company policy to avoid lawsuits.