approved devices.

I got a postcard in the mail from Time Warner Cable, and that's just never a good thing. I prefer to never hear from TWC. I am content to not be reminded that I pay them money every month despite their wretched customer service. Plus, communication only means that they want more of my money. Either they are letting me know that they're going to be taking more of my money for the same service, or they are trying to sell me something. I receive sales calls every few months from incredulous people who can't believe that anyone wouldn't want cable television.

Oh, the glorious sounds of a company trying to hold on to its increasingly outdated business model in the internet age.

The postcard said that they were going to start charging me $3.95 a month to lease their modem from them. Which is weird, because I've been using that modem for 4 years now. I guess that was some kind of trial period. They also helpfully included a list of approved devices that I could purchase, if I wanted to avoid paying the rental fee. Of course, I jumped at that opportunity. At $80, the modem will pay for itself in saved rental fees after 20 months. But really, the satisfaction of withholding my money from TWC is all that I need. Every month, I will skip to the mailbox to drop my check in, gleefully singing about how they're not getting my $3.95. Or I would, if I didn't use online billpay.

So I bought one of the approved devices. Then I called TWC, because I had to register my new device with them so that they would recognize it on the network and send it all the internets. Actually, I tried using their online chat service first. It took 30 minutes for a CSR to get to me, but I spent the time updating addresses on my wedding guest list. When the guy finally got to me, he told me that I would need to call, because I couldn't chat over the internet and set up a new modem at the same time. Then why do you offer that service on your helpful little postcard? The CSR gave me a special number to call that was different than the regular line, but then he ended the chat, which closed the window and took away my secret number. I had asked to be emailed a transcript of the chat, but of course, I never received that email.

TWC, how I loathe thee.

So I called the regular number and was told that I had a thirty minute wait. I just hung up at that point, because I had other things to do. I waited a couple of days until I had time to wait. The voice cheerfully told me that my call was important to them, but due to unexpected call volume, I was likely to wait for more than thirty minutes. That's quite alright. I washed a giant sinkload of dishes, cleaned the counters, then folded a load of laundry, all while listening to the wait music on speakerphone.

Let's be positive here. The good thing about TWC customer service is that it allows you to get a lot of chores done.

Finally, a real live person answered and then immediately transferred me to another department, which led me to believe that if only I'd had the secret number, I could have avoided doing all those dishes. I waited another five minutes or so, during which time I put away the clothes I folded. Then a fellow came on the line, and we tried to set up my new modem. This consisted of me reading out a special code on the side of the modem. This is the address that the modem sends back to TWC to identify itself, and then TWC looks at it, confirms that the address matches one of their paying customers, and allows access. I read out the code, he read it back to me. But it wasn't coming up on his end. He read it back to me, and I read it back to him a few more times. He apologized for asking me to read it back to him over and over, all the while saying that it's really confusing how sometimes the B's look like 8's, and don't even get him started on how the C's can look like 6's.

After ten minutes of that, he concluded that there was something screwy about the modem's address. He advised me to return it to the store and get a new one. Thank you for calling, is there anything else I can (not) do for you today?

No, no, no, no, no. No. I'm sorry, Mr. CSR, but I've had some experience with both your cable company and Motorola, who makes the modem. I've been carrying a Motorola on my person for the last three years, and I have to say that I am a satisfied customer. So when something is screwy, and it's either TWC or Motorola, I'm putting my money on the monolithic cable company that shows nothing but contempt for its customers because it knows that they can't go anywhere else for their precious internet. You know, the same company that sent the cops to my door because they had my address wrong.

I was going to have to troubleshoot my own issue. "Hold on a sec. Let me reboot the modem and see if that helps." When in doubt, always reboot. It was funny how I was kinda turning around this here service call. I unplugged the modem, waited ten seconds, then plugged it back in and watched the lights come back to life.

"Oh, here it is. It's coming up now." Well, how about that. I guess my brand-freaking-new modem did work after all.

"Oh, good. You ought to add the reboot step to your troubleshooting script." He did not respond to that one. Instead, he told me to reboot my wireless router. I'm not sure if that is in his script, or, having been introduced to the magical power of rebooting, he was going to try it on everything. His next caller was going to be told to try unplugging the microwave.

Internets achieved, we ended the call (58 minutes, with wait time). Five minutes later, I got a survey call. I rated the CSR reasonably well, since it's not his fault he works for a terrible, terrible company. He was helpful and friendly, even if he was working on a bad script. Then they asked me how likely I was to recommend TWC to a friend. I put in 1, for "least likely." This answer was so inconceivable to the nice phone recording lady that she asked me again, did I mean to put that in or was I just confused about the 1 - 10 scale? No, ma'am, I'm sure. While it does seem like anyone would have to be a real moron to be your customer, I assure you that I am not.

I was also given a minute to record a message about my experience, which I used to let them know that hey, rebooting can be a good alternative to sending people back to the store to exchange perfectly good modems. Yeah, I'm sure they'll take that one to heart. They're rewriting the scripts as we speak.

Whatever. Totally worth the $3.95 a month.

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