Monday, October 26, 2009

The Ghost of Time Warner

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, it wasn’t China, it was waiting for service from Time Warner.

For one long week, my wife and I lived in our new apartment without the telephone, television and Internet service—“the triple package”—we ordered from Time Warner twelve days earlier. In spite of Jean’s repeated calls to customer service, her patient demeanor and sweet implorations, we had no evidence, nary a trace, of the actual existence of the world’s largest entertainment company, Time Warner Inc.

To the contrary, I began incrementally to confirm that the corridors and cubicles of the 114 billion dollar mega corp that occupies mega space in a mega building overlooking Manhattan’s Columbus Circle are occupied, as in possessed, by the Ghost of Time Warner Customer Service, an ungodly assembly of bunglers and prevaricators who swear by everything holy that you’re scheduled and they’re showing up, as they proceed to stand you up hour by hour day after day. A long week of no service call—“Someone will be there today”—and no return phone calls— “In a half hour, I promise”—for a job scheduled well in advance in a building that occupies an entire city block at an intersection so central it’s difficult to avoid. It was AOL that used to be the company everyone for good reason loved to hate. Now it’s AOL’s parent company, Time-Warner Inc., that incurs the amply-earned wrath and curses. The Ghost of Time-Warner Customer Service haunts the denizens of Manhattan. And it isn’t yet Halloween.

Sunday morning I had it with Time Warner Non-Service Inc. I called (by cell phone), coolly unloaded on Non-Service Customer Relations representative Miguel and insisted on speaking to someone who could get the job done TODAY. I emphasized, repeated and broke it down into five letters: T-O-D-A-Y. “I want someone here TODAY.”

Miguel, trying to be helpful, asked if I could go to Queens to pick up the modem the serviceman he’d yet to acquire would require for the job. I asked Miguel: “Did you ever hear of a Bad Customer Relations Department? Anywhere in the world?” Since Time Warner Non-Service Inc. apparently doesn’t teach its employees too much more than how to avoid the truth, I thought I could further Miguel’s career. “Customer Relations implies good customer relations, Miguel, not deceitful customer relations, or incapable or inept ones.” I continued the lesson by citing the obvious: "Your company has men in trucks; I, like most Manhattanites, don’t have a car. Your men are on your payroll, I am not. You’re Time-Warner and I’m…

"I’m at 79th and Broadway, 20 blocks from Time Warner headquarters. Walking distance! 79th and Broadway, Miguel. If your offices are on fire, odds are the fire-engines will pass through 79th and Broadway on their way to put out your fire, it’s that tough to avoid. I’m not calling from a farm, Miguel. Major subway and bus lines cross through here all day and night. And your installation man can’t find his way here, even by accident?"

Miguel connected me to his director, Osvaldo. In the fleeting magical moments that I had not one but two Ghosts of Time-Warner Customer Service on the phone, I told them not a single person has called back. Ever! “It must be in the manual," I said. "No matter what the problem is or what the customer says, you tell them you’ll call back in a half hour. A Footnote tells you, *Don’t bother. They’ll never be able to find you again.”

Osvaldo offered to try to get a service person for me “today” and call me back. I rationally opted to wait on the phone. Forty-five minutes later Osvaldo returned to the phone to tell me he was sorry, but he could not find anyone available “today.” To make up for it, he’d offer me two months of free service. I said we’d already been given one month of free service. And now, two more months of free service... for service we don’t have and can’t get! How can you beat that?

Before the word “tomorrow” could come out of his mouth, I asked Osvaldo to put himself in my shoes. I told him that if the situation were reversed and he need a comma or period and it were my job to supply him with punctuation, I’d leave my desk and come to his office. If no one else from Time Warner Non-Service was available, I thought either Miguel or Osvaldo should leave his desk and come to me.

Osvaldo offered again to work further on it and call me back. Having gained nothing, I had nothing left to lose.

Hours passed without a call. Naturally, I couldn’t reach Osvaldo, so I tore into the man I did reach, whose name I never heard because I was screaming over every word he uttered.

When I entered the world of having to “do business” for myself, I quickly learned that the best way to get attention—sometimes the only way—was to punctuate the important sentence with an obscenity. That’s when I learned to curse. It took me years to learn to scream. Sadly, most people don’t really hear you unless you curse or scream. (I don’t recommend doing both at the same time.) That, sadly, is the way the world works.

By and large, I gave Time Warner Non-Service Inc. the courtesy of the considered scream. Not loudly, but articulately. Yes, that’s what works: screaming articulately.

I got results.

Every story has its heroes. This one’s are Miguel and Osvaldo. Osvaldo eventually called me back. And Osvaldo delivered! All right, the day after, but he went where no one prior had tread. A service call!

I’m posting this via my newly-installed Internet service. I learned today that I have VIP status with Time Warner. Isn’t that a scream?

I want to thank Time Warner Inc., not for the service, too arduously obtained, but for the story. This will probably blow my VIP status.


  1. Right out of Amazing Stories! For some reason, we have had no trouble with TWC, but then, we have also required no special service from that renowned company, either. Good luck, and yes, we were beginning to wonder where you had gone. But knowing that you had a big move coming up, we were quiet and just waited.

  2. That is too funny and alas it's too just can't make this crap up, right...!!! I have learned to really enjoy a good dose of yelling and screaming in these situations....although frustrating, in a weird way, it's kind of theraputic....and you are right about screaming AND can scream all day long but throw in a curse word and all of a sudden they get all righteous on you and shut down (and hang up)....bad combination...LOL! I just had the pleasure of "teeing off" on a T-Mobile rep yesterday in fact and I am still feeling the glow....LOL! My worst ever "non-customer" service experience was the year we had AT&T cellular (non-service)....that horrendous experience made your recent Time Warner episode seem like a welcome relief.
    Thanks for the laughs,
    Tony Baarda

  3. sad to say, I can totally relate!

  4. You have clearly missed the main point, this fiasco is/was the fault of George Bush

  5. Ghost, you say? Well, I can tell you exactly where they are...the ghosts I mean. They're making phone calls during the night to sleeping unsuspecting TWC customers and non-TWC people from my phone! I have had countless calls from people who have had calls from my phone, of which I had not made. They tell me that my caller ID shows up so they call me back (as I would too if someone called me at 3am!)I have reported these "Ghost-calls" to TWC many, many times yet they have no idea how to correct it. I have spoken with people I do not know at 2, 3, & 4 am who, like me, was hoping to get a full night's rest. When speaking with TWC they see no where on my records of the out-going calls. However, the incoming call records of the TWC customers indeed show my phone calling them. There has even been "collect call" requests! The only offer of compensation has been for $9.81. This amount was quoted because of the three days I have constantly called stating that I had no use of my phone...which was because of one of their service people coming out to "check-on-things"...the guy moved some equiptment around and while doing so something was unplugged. Hense, I was without service of any kind! At this point I think I know how to fix the problem...I'm changing companies before one of my unsuspecting phone-buddies gets mad enough to do their own investigating and come to my home!