Charter owes me a latte

We’ve been having huge problems with our broadband service, lately, possibly because all cable companies are run by soul-sucking incompetents, or possibly because my personal electro-magnetic field has thus far managed to disrupt my internet service, on occasion, everywhere I have ever lived. It matters not, I suppose.

And so there have been countless calls to Charter to report the agonizing slowness of our connection speed, and all of the fabulously unrelated questions we get asked when we make those calls. Because, you know, whether or not I have a lot of MUSIC ON MY COMPUTER, that would affect my connection speed, apparently. Also, I have taken to lying and saying that we’ve unhooked our router and have one computer directly hooked into the cable modem, just so that we can skip the part where we spend twenty minutes with them trying to convince me the router is broken. (Hint: It isn’t.)

Look; I understand that there are morons out there, people who will call to complain that their internet is broken when, in fact, their computers aren’t hooked up to the modem. People who will say the connection is slow when it turns out that their computer is a Commodore 64. I get that the service techs have to weed out the idiots and the simple fixes. Fine.

What I DON’T understand are things like an automated menu that says to me “If you wish to speak to an agent at any time, simply say ‘AGENT,'” and then when I—I know, it’s crazy—SAY AGENT, the menu responds, “I think we can handle this without one. Next, I’d like you to—” At that point, I’m sorry, I’ve stopped listening, because why are you offering me an option and then refusing to grant it, like I’m a two-year-old begging for candy before dinner? (For the record, the automated system doesn’t recognize “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE,” either.)

I’m even willing to completely skip the standard complaints about service techs who don’t actually speak English. We all know how annoying it is, we all know companies don’t care, and I’m tired of even talking about it.

This morning our internet didn’t work at all. I threw on some clothes and went to my local coffeehouse, after the most frustrating service call I’ve had to date. My marble-mouthed foreign technician wanted me to power-cycle the modem (already done), reboot my computer (done), and after some other similarly useless exercises, started asking me questions about my computer.

Because, you know, it’s MY COMPUTER’S FAULT that the modem wasn’t receiving a signal. (Note: They can check that from their call center. He can SEE that the modem has no signal. So he is asking me about my computer because…? Maybe I have one of those fancy MODEM-KILLING models?)

Anyway, first he wanted to know what sort of computer I have. A Mac, I told him. “Oooooooh,” he said, as if that was my problem, right there. Then he asked which operating system I was running. I told him I was running System 10. I could hear him typing madly in the background—probably playing Scrabulous with someone.

“Okay, Ma’am,” he finally came back with, “So your operating system, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that, is your operating system Safari, then?”

Me: Safari is not an operating system.
Tech: Yes it is, you are not running Safari Operating System?”
Me: Safari. Is. A. Browser. Are you kidding me? This is your technical support?
Tech: Oh. I’m sorry, ma’am, um, which operating system, then?
Me: System 10. OSX.
Tech: Alright then, thank you. Well, we need to schedule a service appointment for you, would next Monday be okay?
Me: No.
Tech: Ma’am?
Me: No. I need an appointment TODAY.
Tech: Oh. Well let me see….

And then I died of frustration.

So I went and had my fancy coffee and some borrowed wifi and by the time I came home, everything was working again, you know, because I’d removed my big electro-magnetic head and my Safari Operating System from the premises for a while.

The DSL installers come on Monday.


  1. Megan

    I had a service call where, and I do so wish I were inventing this, I went through THREE service technicians and had to assure them SIX times (yes, that’s twice each) that my. computer. was. on. Dudes! I’m looking at the shiny screen, you know, with the words on it? And the pictures? And the cute little arrow that zips around when I manipulate this thing I like to call “a mouse?” YES MY COMPUTER IS ON. Idiots.

  2. Chelle

    You will like DSL a lot better, trust me as I speak from experience. I live outside of Atlanta where Charter was our only option. And our broadband went down All.The.Time. At one point, I called their local office to ask where the technician was that was supposedly on the way to my house and I could barely understand the person on the phone because of the background noise. I finally asked, “What’s all that noise? I can barely hear you.” The response: “Oh, we are having a Karaoke party.” I wish I was kidding.

  3. Aimee

    Yikes. That’s some very tech-y tech support Charter has there. Obviously Time Warner’s getting their tech report from the same pool. That is, the pool that doesn’t know how to circumvent your *snort* big, electro-magnetic head.

  4. liz

    OMG, I felt myself getting frustrated for you while I read this. I hope the latte was good.

  5. Rachel May

    Welcome to the land of the living. We’ve had DSL for four years (two different service providers due to moving across the state) and have never — I repeat NEVER — had a problem. I’m excited for you! Yay!

  6. Bob

    I have to admit, while cable is faster, DSL is more reliable. cable speeds also diminish with how many people up the line from you are using internet.

  7. Jamie AZ

    We had DSL in our past life, too, and are now on cable, but luckily with Cox instead of Charter. (knocking on wood) We haven’t had many issues with it, but I will say their DVR sucks and I had to go and buy a free-standing TIVO to be happy about it again. Glad to hear you’re able to get DSL now since you were previously told you couldn’t.

  8. All Adither

    I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this, but it makes a damn fine blog post.

  9. pam

    funny heidi!!

  10. Patricia

    I find beginning every tech call with the phrase, “Hi, before we begin, I want you to understand that I’m not a computer novice. In fact, I’ve worked for one of the largest internet providers in the nation and my husband has a degree in IT. So, let’s just assume that I’ve done all your “beginner” steps and move on to the point where I tell you this is broken and you tell me how you are going to fix it today.”

    This never works. No, never. But it is oddly satisfying that we get to the point that the tech says, “Yup, it’s broken.” and I go — you remember I told you this an hour ago, right? Listen to me next time, k?

  11. Astrogirl

    Ooohhhhhhh poor Mir, I SO feel your pain right now. We are going through the EXACT same thing with WildBlue, and have had, I believe, the same exact conversation with THE SAME EXACT TECHNICIAN (now how could that be, unless my theory is correct about how there’s just one service tech in the entire world, taking all the calls from Wildblue, Charter, TimeWarner, etc.? Would explain the wait times when you call, anyway).

    And this was AFTER being HUNG UP on FIVE TIMES (yes, you read correctly) by the selfsame satellite company. I don’t even have the words to describe how much WB sucks (and I got a 720 on my verbal SATs, so that gives you an idea).

    Oh and I had to laugh – we do the same thing – “yes, I unplugged the modem for 10 minutes (ten? Why ten? It’s 2008 – does it REALLY take that long to reboot the damn thing? Feh.), and unplugged every appliance in the house, and rebooted my computer, and prayed to Kali, and still no signal.”

    Yeh, and ROFL about the Safari operating system…I have a Mac too, and I get the same “ohhhhh” from the tech guys when I tell them that (“Oh, well of course, THERE’S the problem.” Sheesh). God help me when I tell them it’s a laptop, as well (Laptop! You have a wireless router? You move your computer around? Stop that immediately).

    DSL comes on Tuesday, not a damn day too soon.

  12. Jen

    I feel your pain especially about the Mac issue. You should try telling them that you are using linux on your PC. That really stuns the tech support.

  13. trina


    you make my day. I once said I was using an Apple II c, with photoshop as the operating system. Mostly because I was so done with computer techs, but also because I thought I was incredibly funny. Of course the humour was not appreciated. Of course.

  14. Lady M

    By this point, they owe you a nice T-1, straight to your house for free due to aggravation.

  15. Jennifer

    I speak from experience. . . .When the DSL tech comes, DO NOT LET HIM TOUCH YOUR MAC. Make sure to also tell him that you do not need the crappy software they try to make you install. Only POS windows machines need that software and it will make your beloved Mac behave as if it’s possessed by the devil. Basically tell him to do what he will with the lines and then shove him out and lock the door. After working for Apple for almost ten years, I have heard the horror stories and shoved my fair share of “techs” out my door.

  16. MissAugust

    Oh, the cable companies. We had Adelphia, which sucked. Now we have Time-Warner, which really sucks. Lucky us. When I have problems with cable, whether TV or internet, I go thru the rigamarole of telling the customer service (ha!) person about it and they immediately want to schedule an appointment, for 2 1/2 weeks from now, for which I will have to take off work. I tell them it won’t be necessary, thank them and hang up and then immediately redial. I retell the 2nd rep my same sad story and lo and behold, they’re able to fix it. Now I just expect to have to call twice, but it seems to work. I also thank the rep for their help but make a point of saying that, as a company, Time-Warner’s service is really terrible and after 20-plus years in the business, they really should be much better at it and the fact that they not, or don’t care should be a source of embarassment for them. Obviously, it’s not. Mir, I feel your pain.

  17. D

    Can’t tell you how often because I’ve a Mac it’s *my* bloody fault. Though I had a chuckle at the Safari Operating System. DSL is much better … good luck, Simba. :-)

  18. DR

    Our experience with Charter’s moxie always starts or ends with me asking, “Have you ever seen a moxie box?” I’ve never gotten an affirmative answer! Plus, we have never had a service call that didn’t result in us needing a private tech guy who knows our system. (Can I just say we knew we were in trouble when their tech said, “Man, just look at that picture.” He had never even seen a demo of HD technology when we got ours.)

    We have learned one thing though…when the automated “fix-it-not” robot starts asking for responses, just mumble something totally unrelated to their program
    and you will get an agent without the troubleshooting. It gets quite creative around here when we’re trying to get a sports event in real time and lose the signal!

  19. Kim

    I am laughing with you as a fellow Mac user who is tired of having to deal with IT guys who don’t know what OSX is. Hubby, who is an IT guy is also tired of them. When he has to call support for something, i wait by his side to pick up his head after it explodes from dealing with them.
    There was also the Adobe support guy who told him to go out and buy a PC because and i quote..”NO ONE USES MAC ANYMORE”…um really? Hubby is in the newspaper/art field and finally just hung up on the guy. He had so much fun filling out the customer satisfaction survey that came shortly after….

    Wow, lots of rambling just to say…I feel your pain…and so glad it is working now!

  20. Amy

    Here in another part of the metro area, our service is of the comcastic variety–and not so comcastic either. When I call, I just immediately start asking for higher up and the billing department…because I am not paying for service that does not work. I will say that it is fairly easy to get an actual person (agent?) on the phone but the competency level is usually rather low. It usually works for us, and they always take $ off my bill.

  21. wafelenbak

    Ha ha! I lie about the router too for the exact same reason!
    ComCrap has promised me a technician today, but since they have only half an hour left in the window I requested, I am not holding my breath.
    Anyway, if they actually DO show up same day the universe will collapse.

  22. Sheila

    Safari. Is. A. Browser. And. You (tech guy). Are. A. Moron.

  23. Deputy's Wife

    Why is it when we say “I have a MAC.” there is always a long pause with a long “Ohhhh…” at the end. Like Steve Jobs was the anti-Christ or something.

    Drives me nuts!

  24. Not the Mama

    I have lived this so many times. God I hate tech “support”.

  25. MomCat

    Yep, Macs get blamed for any problems. It’s a Microsoft conspiracy, I tell you!

  26. Stacey

    We have the same problem with our service provider. You get off the phone and almost understand how people end up in clock towers. I loved the little old lady who when to Comcast with a hammer and busted up the place, They are SO frustrating! Then, what really threatens my sanity is when you finally get an appointment (an unacceptable amount of time away), and *poof* miraculously a few hours later it justs starts working again. Arghhh!

  27. arduous

    How is it possible that someone in TECH SUPPORT wouldn’t know that Safari is not an operating system?

    Who the hell do the employ in tech support?

  28. Susan

    I feel your pain. CHARTER SUCKS. S.U.C.K.S. Our electric company was recently approved to offer services and we are standing by, waiting for them to come to our neighborhood. They’ll be cheaper, faster and they won’t be CHARTER. We’ll be moving in a few months, but we HATE CHARTER so much that we’ll switch as soon as we can, even if it’s only for the last 3 weeks.

    I guess this can count for the “Stuck in my craw” I failed to post yesterday. I’m so glad to see your post. Misery loves company!

  29. Wendy

    That is so familiar. I have had the same problem with Cox cable. THEY SUCK BIG TIME. They make me jump through those same fire hoops, and God help them, if I get that stupid ass computer who is NO HELP AT ALL. I have no guilt over giving those customer service reps hell. Just give me the Internet and no one gets hurt.

    I wish we could get DSL, but they would rather not come out to Hicksville. Until then I will curse the cable company and try not to fling myself out of a high window at the mere of thought of calling them.

  30. Otto

    It’s a good thing The Pretty One called Charter. If it were me, I’d have said I use a Golden Delicious and it may have one of those worm things in it … could that be it? Could it have slithered through your cable? Maybe I can coax it back up the wire and into someone else’s house with a little honey drizzled on the connector by the top of the telephone pole?

    Would that violate the terms of service?

    dancing, again, at the thought of DSL

  31. Melisa

    Thanks for the laughs, (Otto too!) but sorry about the problems. Thanks for the Safari education as well. And NO, I’m not in tech support, but apparently I’m qualified.

  32. parodie

    Ooooo, technical service which is technically incompetent and not inclined to provide service drives me up the wall. Lots of sympathy. As for the fact that they often don’t speak English, I don’t understand how we manage to put up with that. I have actually taken to call the number for service in French (since I live up in the Great White North where we do that kind of thing), which will send me to a call centre somewhere in this country (what a novel idea!) rather than on another continent. Which has the double bonus of putting me in touch with someone who speaks the language _and_ who understands the cultural referents – which is sometimes important. If I’m calling to ask to unmerge accounts because “my husband left me,” that actually implies I don’t want to keep paying for his account. This is something I want them to understand without a lengthy explanation. Grrrr.

    (hm, that turned into venting. Hope you don’t mind. Sorry to hear about your interaction with frustrating incompetents…)

  33. Susan

    I just had a deja vous flashback to Monday and my hour on the phone with the automated Verizon bitch. Who the f&@( has an automated phone system that doesn’t understand English and instead repeats 5,000 times “I’m sorry I didn’t get that, could you repeat your response?” The phone company of course! I’m totally over it now though. Really.

  34. Jen

    Welcome to the wonderful world of the MAC-illiterates! We have only ever had macs and we have learned over the years to tell them right up front that we have a Mac. Sometimes it helps, usually…..not so much. But MACs are SOOOOO worth it! :-) Hope the DSL works better for you. We had cable internet for a while and it was a JOKE. I LOVE my wireless and wouldn’t go back for the world!

  35. Traci

    I have a Mac also. After all the frustrating calls to our cable company, etc. I’ve started calling the Apple service techs for EVERYTHING. They are much more helpful, even if it isn’t their problem they try and find a way to help you fix it. All of the Apple tech people I’ve spoken to speak English and they understand that Safari isn’t an operating system. You might want to give it a try if you have a problem in the future. It has saved me some sanity.

  36. Cele

    Outsourcing. It was going to take three days because they were going to have to fly the tech there from India.

  37. Shalet

    I have a Mac and was thinking of switching to cable service. But now I’m thinking maybe not. At least you got a good cup of coffee out of the deal!

  38. Suebob

    I used to live in a town with Charter and I swore NEVER AGAIN. So when they bought my lovely little cable company (WAVE, where people actually answer the phone within a minute!! Live people! In the U.S.!), I went out and got a wireless air card for my Mac. It is blazing fast, goes anywhere there is cell coverage and, at $60 a month, is the same as Charter was going to charge me. I am taking my cable modem back tonight, yippee!

    When I called to cancel, the CSR was laughing as he was typing in as the reason “Customer has prior experience with Charter.”

  39. carmie

    Once, I called our local public transportation service line to ask for directions to a particular bus stop as their automated map system was down. When the rep came on the phone, I apologized for taking up their time but the web-based service was down. He proceeded to ask me if I was using Google. I told him no…..Firefox. He said, “Well, that’s your problem right there. Our website only works in Google browsers.”

    At least he knew how to give directions.

  40. Randi

    Oh – OH – this is NOT exclusive to internet companies, but to anyone who works with compute equipment. I had a friggin Lynksys POS for our first wireless router. After the internet kept dying over and over on my laptop, I called customer service. Mr. BuddahBuddahBuddah answered and walked me through a billion steps, then proceeded to tell me it was the fault of MY BRAND NEW LAPTOP.

    A few days later, I chose to go the way of chat with their tech support, because the language barrier drops a little bit over the chat lines, and after TWO HOURS of chatting with a technician, FINALLY got her to agree that it was broken. I bought a NetGear and never did send the Linksys back to get my money back…I just wanted to hear that I WAS RIGHT.

  41. Heather

    Well that is incredibly frustrated! (But fun to read about :P)

  42. Chuck

    I’ve been happier with DSL than I was with cable (and I was with cable for YEARS, going back to 1998.) Plus, since it’s through AT&T, I get free WiFi anywhere they are the provider of said WiFi (which includes both major airports near where I live.) And on the very rare occasions I’ve had to deal with tech support, I’ve dealt with intelligent techs who spoke English as their primary language. Good luck, Mir!

  43. meg

    funny funny funny! My friend Dot has waited months for our local isp to fix her broadband. But she made a discovery. When they had her laptop at the store they must have put their password on it. If she sits at the neighbouring cafe on the table nearest their wall she can use their wireless for free!! just proves there’s nothing wrong with her computer either…

  44. Jodie

    soul-sucking incompetents…..I love that line. I think their cousins money-grubbing bastards also work for the oil-gas company :)

  45. Kathy

    I hate to tell you this – Bellsouth/AT&T DSL isn’t much better (I am guessing if you are outside ATl that this is what you will have)- or I guess I should say their customer service isn’t any better than Charter (been there, done that with Charter!)
    Oh and thanks to Chuck (comment above) for letting me know about free wifi with AT&T, I didn’t know that!!

    Good luck on Monday!

  46. Dani

    “People who will say the connection is slow when it turns out that their computer is a Commodore 64.”

    OMG. Now THAT was funny!

  47. LA Blogger Gal

    You know, we have a similar problem here with our Mac and our modem. For some reason, the modem just dies. Or the Airport dies. I dont’ know which. Either way, the Macs can SEE a wifi connection, but it’s rarely ours and even when it can see our network, it won’t connect. For no real reason. Then suddenly, it connects again. Out of the blue.

    We did upgrade our modem. That fixed the problem for all of…um, 5 hours. Then it all started all over again. Oddly, this only seems to bother my iBook, and the two desktop Macs. My husband seems to be just fine and dandy on his PowerBook. Go figure!

    Good luck with things.

  48. tiffany

    HaHaHa, I have SOO been there with Charter. I tore into one of the techs one time because of the automated lady that was B.S. to use.ours wouldnt work and they kept me for days without service and finally showed at 9pm one night to fix it….never knew what was wrong either.
    We’re still being billed for service from when we moved LAST JUNE to TEXAS from SC…sigh they are terrible. Timewarner isnt much better, im not a fan of roadrunner service which is what we have…but at least when i want something done they can come the same day to do it.

  49. Windy

    This reminds me of the fun I had with T-mobile once. (I also have a Mac, and cable internet that isn’t so comcastic.)

    I was attempting to use my new cellphone as a modem to get online (like I had with the previous one). That’s complicated enough, but we never got that far.

    My favorite part was when I told her I’d already used the bluetooth between my phone and Mac, and she insisted I needed a USB-Bluetooth thing. I told her my Mac had Bluetooth. She still insisted I needed the thing. I gave up after a couple of times.

    Funny how it works without one. Every time. Why? Because the computer. already. has. Bluetooth. Grr.

    I feel your pain. I really do.

  50. Little Bird

    Wow. I have to say I love my DSL, and hate my TV cable. Comcastic is just another way of saing craptacular. I had a tech guy come in to install a digital converter over the summer. He managed to break a buddha head (decorative, people, decorative. And orange!) and this started about 2 months worth of calling back and forth. Demanding to speak with supervisors. I ended up with 6 months of free HBO and Showtime. I got hooked, and pay for it now.
    I am computer illiterate, but even I know more about a MAC than most of the phone-in-tech supports. Luckily everyone in my immediate family has one. And if it’s really bad, the Apple store is 5 blocks away.

  51. emma

    Yeah, been there. Except the “service guys” had no idea what to ask me and it turned out that I was one of those idiots who had unplugged something, but the service guys forgot to ask me that. They never explained about three different cords plugged into the box or the fact that it has a reset button that I can push myself. They knew less than me! And I didn’t know that was possible!

  52. Jessica

    That is hilarious about listening to that recording and saying agent… I have the same problem with V***** and when I try to get to talk to some one I am literally cursing nad screaming at the phone and hoping that no one is recording this comversation for training purposes LOL..

    And then when you get done with the phone call you feel like such an idiot for screaming at a recording. Talk about your Phone Rage. That is when I decide to take a drive in rush hour traffic AHAHAHHAHAHHAA

  53. Jenny

    Arrgh, Charter. My favorite part is after you’ve wasted part of your life on the phone with them, and you’re finally done, they launch into the “let me tell you about our other services” schpiel. At what point during our hour-long conversation, the conversation wherein it became painfully clear that your company had royally screwed up, did it occur to you that I might possibly want to purchase even more of your services? (I know it’s a script and that’s how they are paid to end the phone call, but COME ON.)

  54. Rachel

    Poor Mir :( I refuse to call tech support for everything, so I am lucky that my hubby used to do tech support for a large office and can fix most things. Also- we have FIOS, which is the best internet service ever. Get FIOS, you’ll thank me.

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