Time Warner Cable Gives Superintendents Free Cable If They Snoop On Tenants

The superintendent of a Manhattan condo building says Time Warner Cable offered him a deal that was too evil to accept — get free cable TV service in exchange for, among other things, snooping on tenants to make sure they aren’t stealing cable service.

Like many superintendents around the country, this super had already been getting free cable service from TWC for quite some time. Such breaks on superintendents’ bills are a way to grease the wheels so that service techs have easier access to the buildings when needed and for being the point person when there is a building-wide problem.

But then, he tells the NY Times, he recently received an actual contract from TWC for its Apartment Managers’ Program. When he saw what he was being asked to sign, the super says he just couldn’t agree to the terms.

In addition to the traditional requirements that the super help coordinate TWC tech access to the building, there is the clause that allows “the presentation of new products and services” in the building, which would seem to imply that the super is giving permission for TWC to set up shop in the lobby or do door-to-door marketing. That seems like a deal that needs to be made with building management, not the super, and one that would likely tick off residents.

Then there was the rewards program that would have provided him with a free month of Internet service for every three successful leads that are converted into actual paying TWC customers.

Then there is the real kicker, the requirement that he “identify, discourage and report” instances of cable theft or equipment tampering.

This was too much for this particular super, who refused to sign — and lost his cable access as a result.

A rep for TWC tries to downplay the contract to the Times, saying that agreements with superintendents help things move quickly.

“If there are service issues, customers want those issues fixed yesterday,” said the rep, who apparently didn’t realize that many TWC subscribers will finish that sentence with “but they will have to wait 2-3 weeks only to be blown off by a tech who never materializes.”

The rep says that after years of semi-formalized discount deals with supers, these contracts are being sent out so that the company can provide a better accounting of these discounts to the IRS.

As for the snooping requirement, the TWC rep points out that stealing cable is illegal. This is true, but it seems like the cable company is trying to take advantage of the super’s access to tenants’ homes in order to deputize him on behalf of a company he doesn’t work for.