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MLS + Cable Companies = Anger

You don't need to be a fan of soccer to loathe cable companies and their customer service reps. I got this email from David Calevski, a reader in Drew Carey-country, aka Northeast, Ohio about his plight trying to order MLS Direct Kick.

Maddening to say the least.

Hopefully someone at MLS HQ is paying attention.

"To whom it may concern (inadvertently rhetorical, since I'm convinced my experience doesn't actually worry anyone at Time Warner),

I'm writing because at this point I have spent approximately 6 hours on the phone with various "customer service" representatives over a three week period trying to order and receive the MLS Direct Kick Soccer Sports Package. When I first contacted Time Warner about why a "free preview" of the Direct Kick Package wasn't appearing on my television on April 7th, I was told that no such "free preview" existed, even though Time Warner's own website directed me to the indemand.com website, which clearly indicated that the free preview was to appear on April 7th. I had intentionally called an hour before the Columbus Crew game so that I could be sure that it would appear by the time the game started. I spent the first half hour on hold and then by the time I actually spoke to someone they denied that a "free preview" existed and explained that I would have to order the sports package if I wanted to watch the game. I reluctantly agreed (figuring that I was going to order the package anyway, but wanted an extra week to think about it) and was told that the game would appear within minutes.

Of course the game never appeared, and by 7pm (game time) I found my way back to the nail on chalkboard sound of the Time Warner hold line. I was on hold for another 45 min before someone else attempted to help me. This round of incompetence included connecting the NHL Center Ice Package for me...I then had to explain the difference between hockey and soccer and ice and grass. Obviously I didn't want the Center Ice Package. I was put on hold another 3 or 4 times and spent 30 more minutes on the phone before I was transferred. Where to, you ask? How about the cable internet technical help line! I'm wondering if at this point I'm intentionally being jerked around. As if this is some brilliantly orchestrated, belated April Fool’s Day joke. The guy at the internet help number laughed and noted the call and then agreed to transfer me back to "customer service." My cell phone, dying at this point, had to be connected to the charger. I was placed back on hold and spent 35 minutes or so again listening to the telephone trailer for "Open Season." I am now convinced; this is what prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are forced to listen to. Eventually I somehow get hung up on or disconnected and after having initially called at 6pm, my Time Warner "customer service" experience mercifully ends at 9pm. I waved the white towel and figured I'd live to fight another day. No soccer, no progress.

Later that week I called customer service again and asked to speak to a supervisor. Eventually I was connected to a woman who told me that to make the situation "right" she was willing to give me an extra converter box. What? How would giving me an extra converter box compensate me for spending 3 hours on the phone trying to get a Soccer Sports Package to appear? Does this extra converter box somehow come pre-programmed with the Direct Kick package? That's like offering someone a band-aid who is suffering from migraines (which by the way I'm sure are around the corner for me after this experience). So eventually I was told that another supervisor would phone me back and perhaps this person would be willing to do more for me. Our phone time is pushing 4 hour total now, and by the way, I never got that call back.

Tonight, April 21, against my better judgment, I called customer service back after having received my cable bill earlier in the day. I spent a couple hours meditating in preparation for the torture that was bound to follow. So around 7pm or so, I made the call. After spending 20 mins waiting my turn, my call was answered by a guy who tells me that I've reached "customer service" and I needed "customer care." You have to be kidding me...this is a joke. I was placed on hold for another 35 mins and finally spoke to a young lady who was more helpful that the other 5 persons I had spoken with combined. I explained to her that not only was I charged for the Direct Kick Package (labeled as "Special Screening" on my bill $69.00), but I was also billed for some mystery charge (titled" Partial Month Charges" $39.10). The customer service representative seemed compassionate (a first during this miserable experience), but said that she was limited to crediting me $40. $40 doesn't even make up for the "Special Screening" charged let alone the mystery "Partial Month Charge."

Have I mentioned that I STILL DON'T HAVE THE DIRECT KICK PACKAGE? I was told that a customer care supervisor would contact me in the next 24 hours. At 9:32pm I received a call, but was at a restaurant, and asked for a call back in 5 min. I received that call back at 10:07pm. After spending another 20 min on the phone explaining my predicament, I was greeted with the same compassion that a decked out Florida Gators fan would get at an Ohio State game. This kind soul offered to give me what amounted to 5 weeks worth of discount on the Direct Kick package. The season is now three weeks old and she offered me a 2-month discount (approx. $20 value). While considering her "generous offer" I informed her that I still wasn't able to tune in to the Salt Lake v. Chivas game. She now attempts to do what 4 other people before her couldn't and reset my converter box and somehow shake it out of its anti-soccer disposition. Not surprisingly, she wasn't successful. She now tells me that she can schedule a technician to come out and take a look at the converter on Wednesday. Three weeks into this personal cable hell, she now suggests having a technician take a look. The irony of having to put my faith in a notoriously customer un-friendly branch of the cable company makes me shake my head.

I am sure that Time Warner would not miss my $110 monthly contribution to Jane Fonda's alimony settlement, but I have to believe that someone, at some level, might care that I've been jerked around for 3 weeks. Time Warner might not care, financially speaking, if they lose my business, but I also don't think that they would be hurt financially to go out of their way to give me a season’s worth of MLS Soccer. I mean, the $79 annual Direct Kick package is significantly less than a drop in the billion-dollar Time Warner bucket. To compensate me for this miserable experience and attempt to win back my trust via a $79 credit seems too easy to make sense for Time Warner. How important is it to work towards generating a good rapport with their customers to Time Warner? Is it worth $79?

Have I mentioned that I STILL DON'T HAVE THE DIRECT KICK PACKAGE? Please write back to me and let me know if/when I should cancel my cable service. I'm reluctant to do this, due to the inconvenience that comes with the initial transition, but if Time Warner isn't willing to make this wrong right, I couldn't live with myself if I ignored this experience and kept paying my cable bill.

Regards,

David J. Calevski"


** Don't forget, Tuesday 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2) AC Milan v. Manchester United. Rumour has it that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost will be playing center back for the Mancs.

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Don't blame us, we voted for Karl Pilkington.

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