Oops, My Time Warner Installer Accidentally Upsold Me!

Alex has a Time Warner DVR, but never asked for one. He tells Consumerist that the installer brought one to his home and connected it to the main TV instead of a cable box, but without installing DVR service. Because Alex and his roommate never asked for it. He’d be inclined to write this off as a simple error on the installer’s part, but he knows three other households in different parts of New York state that have had strangely forgetful cable installers.

Alex writes:

I was wondering if you have had any other readers e-mail you guys about this.

I started a new time warner account for my apartment and ordered 3 regular HD boxes. A few days later, we discovered that the box in the living room didn’t work. Over half an hour later on the phone with them, we found that it was because the installer “left us a DVR box by accident.”

They said that, the easy remedy is to return the box to a Time Warner payment center and receive a regular box. Me and my roommate hold regular working hours, as does a Time Warner payment center, so this wouldn’t be possible. They said that there would be a fee to get it picked up. We managed to get them to waive the fee, and for someone else to come pick it up. Eventually we say, “forget it, we’ll sign up for DVR.” So even after that, our cable box still doesn’t work and we need to have a time warner installer come swap out the box anyways.

My question is this:

Do you get a lot of e-mails about “forgetful” Time Warner installers leaving DVR boxes instead of regular boxes? It seems like a shady upselling practice to me. I’ve checked with friends and they said the same exact thing happened to them.

Have you or someone you know had to deal with this sort of DVR-related memory lapse? It would be an unusual upselling campaign. Maybe some of the DVRs and cable boxes look a lot alike.


Edit Your Comment

  1. ExtraCelestial says:

    My mom had a DVR box installed instead of the normal “cable” box when she first switched to Verizon Fios. They charged her a higher rental fee for the DVR box, but they never attempted to sell her the service. The boxes look completely different, specifically one was black and the other silver and twice as large. I believe the installer did recognize it wasn’t the correct box, but said it was the only one in his truck and getting the normal box installed would require another trip and delay in her service. She complained later on and had them reduce the rental fee, but she still has the same box years later. She’s not in NY.

  2. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    …Eventually we say, “forget it, we’ll sign up for DVR.”

    When you said that, you’ve played into their evil plan.
    Also, not many customers are ordering cable without the DVR these days, so installers carry more DVRs than plain cable boxes. I suspect when they run short, they just throw you the DVR so they can call your installation “complete”

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Shouldn’t an installer have a list of what’s being installed for the day and be able to easily check his inventory at the time? It’s not like he is a door-to-door installer, he has specific orders to fill every day.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        You actually expect common sense from a cable company? After you watched it die?
        Stop making sense, lol

      • DanGarion says:

        It doesn’t work like that, the techs usually only go to the warehouse once a week and they only know about 2 jobs on their route at the start of the day…

  3. tbax929 says:

    When Cox installed my cable modem a few weeks ago they conveniently forgot that I had my own and installed a new one. Since everything is in a media access panel, I didn’t find out until I got my first bill. What irritated me is that they refused to pick it up, even though they made the error. So I had to spend my lunch hour (and, believe me, I spent the entire hour waiting in line) returning the damn thing so I could get it taken off of my bill. I think they’d charged me about $60 for it.

    When I called to complain about the modem issue, the Cox representative told me their modem would probably work better than the one I had since it was specifically engineered for Cox and my modem was a couple of years old. Two problems with that: 1. It’s bullshit. 2. The modem I had was purchased from Cox at my last address, so it was already “engineered” for their system.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    This is like the “sleep on our mattress for 90 days and if you don’t like it, return it” situation.
    They hope that before the end of the 90 day period, you got so used to sleeping on the mattress that even if you didn’t like it at the beginning, you won’t go through the hassle of returning it. Seeing that this is a common ploy, we must assume it works.

  5. Nick says:

    Is it possible that the installer may not have had the required number of HD boxes and used a HDDVR as a “filler” box? This has been known to happen. It’s not a shady upsell technique. The tech simply may not have had the required number of boxes because they will encounter situations during installs that equipment doesn’t work correctly and they have to use their “spare” equipment which cuts into other people’s equipment. I’m sorry, I really find it fascinating that people expect every company’s installers or repair people to have a limitless supply of replacement equipment in their trucks/vans.

    On the flip side, it probably would’ve been a good idea for the installer to mention that he placed in a more expensive piece of equipment in your home.

    • Kingsley says:

      NIck, have you ever heard of an installer leaving a home without turning on the TV to check the reception from his/her installation? A very fair question, I’m not trolling you.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “I really find it fascinating that people expect every company’s installers or repair people to have a limitless supply of replacement equipment in their trucks/vans.”

      No, but they should know what they are installing that day. They get a list of customers and the tasks they are supposed to perform for those orders. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to check their truck inventory before they leave to be sure they have enough of the equipment they need.

      The more likely scenario is that they receive a bonus for each customer they get to upgrade.

      • DanGarion says:

        That’s no the way it works, techs are routed from their home nowadays and they only go to the warehouse once a week.

  6. Kingsley says:

    This is bogus. Installers would always check that the tv is getting the cable. All 3 in the OP’s circumstance. I’ve never, ever heard of an installer leaving a home without checking reception.

    Someone should seriously call them on this. If the OP has 3 friends, that’s 4 who should contact the AG and the cable tv franchise administration.

    • Scurvythepirate says:

      Especially it took a FEW days to realize it wasn’t working??? It was the box in the friggin living room. Probably the most used box of all!

    • xspook says:

      When I had my Time Warner install, they sent a sub-contractor. He installed the DVR and made sure we could watch TV, but didn’t check the DVR functionality.

      The hard drive had apparently crashed in the unit, but he didn’t know/care to check it out.

      After he left, I tried to pause live TV and got a blank screen. I was new to the technology, so I wasn’t sure how to troubleshoot it or if I was doing something wrong.

      After a call to support, they sent out an actual Bright House employee and he knew right away what was wrong.

  7. Brunette Bookworm says:

    Well this story is totally opposite of how it happened when I had Comcast installed years ago. I ordered a DVR and the installer didn’t bring it with him. He showed up late, said he didn’t have the right box and wanted to know if he should just install the one he had or go get the correct one. Um, the correct one? The one I have to pay more for? And, at least with Comcast, the HD boxes and the DVR boxes look nearly the same.

    • tbax929 says:

      Interesting you should say that. The last time I had Comcast, they tried the something similar. The installer didn’t have an HD DVR box and wondered if I would just accept the standard DVR box. He promised he’d bring me the correct box “later”. Yeah, right. I refused to accept the standard DVR box, and he had to go get me the right one.

  8. Goatweed says:

    When I had TWC, we used to have a DVR box but didn’t have the DVR service and it worked just fine. Currently I have Fios and two of our HD boxes are DVRs but I only have the service turned on for one of the boxes.

    My point is the boxes should work regardless of DVR capability. The DVR is just a harddrive and the recording feature switched to “on”. The boxes should still function outside of that.

  9. MedicallyNeedy says:

    Years ago Comcast tried to stick me with with a cigarette resin stained HD box with the 5 RCA jacks instead of an HDMI output.
    I said “forget it.” …see that other cable. It’s goes to the satellite dish on the roof and the old receiver is right here.
    Miracle! The installer finds a brand new Motorola box on his truck before he gets out of my driveway!

  10. marc6065 says:

    Why would you not want the DVR!!! It is simpy the greatest invention since toliet paper!!!!!!!

    • MrEvil says:

      perhaps he had one of the myriad of roll your own DVR solutions that work perfectly fine with a set top box? Ceton currently has CableCARD PCI Express tuners so folks can roll their own HD DVR.

  11. Ocyrus says:

    Anyone that complains about other cable companies has never been forced to buy service from Time Warner.
    They hire high school dropouts for their installers/technicians.

    • AK47 - Now with longer screen name! says:

      Perhaps, but Comcast clearly hires the techs who aren’t good enough to get hired by Time Warner.

  12. Losiris says:

    Most cable companys have a lot more HDDVR’s in stuck that HD Boxes, so when a customer needs and HD box and the supply of HD boxes is low, they just throw an HDDVR on there and provision it as an HD box. Same situation when someone was a SD DVR. Plus, if the customer wants to upgrade later it can be done over the phone…

  13. dush says:

    Well if they really left a DVR on accident then they probably don’t have a record of that device being given to you.
    Free DVR!

  14. annalisa says:

    This happened to me with Charter. When I signed up, I asked for HBO/Cinemax, not DVR. Instead I got the DVR box and was missing the channels. I had to bring the box back and swap it out for a new one, one that didn’t get HD (which I was also paying for) and gave every channel a lovely purple hue. After three weeks, though, I got the right box.

  15. GrimJack says:

    I have TWC and when I needed to add a second box for an additional TV, I went down to the local office to pick one up. The office was completely out of HD boxes, so they gave me a an HD DVR. When I set it up, it received it’s programming from the office and has worked perfectly for more than 3 years… as an HD converter box.

    If you wanted DVR and they gave you a plain jane converter, or if you wanted HD and they gave you an SD box, then that’s an issue. DVRs are perfectly functional as converters – they just disable the DVR function at the head end.

  16. DanGarion says:

    Actually DVRs can be used as Cable Boxes with the DVR service disabled. This allows an easy upgrade in the future if the customer wants to get DVR service. But the boxes do cost more so it usually isn’t done unless they are low on supply of stand alone cable boxes.