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Time Warner / damage to property and poor service

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Time Warner Cable
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We have both internet access and cable TV through Time-Warner, and we had been experiencing problems with certain cable HD channels that we watch and record programs on with the DVR. When tuning to these channels, we would sometimes get a message stating that the channel was not currently available, and thus programs scheduled to be recorded on those channels would not record. At first, we just assumed that the channels were actually off the air for whatever reason, and we didn’t report it. But there began to be more and more of the channels unavailable and it was happening with greater frequency.

Since T-W offers new movies in HD on a pay-per-view basis, and because our DVD player is in the now-obsolete HD-DVD format (only Blu-Ray HD DVD's are being produced from now on), we had canceled our Netflix account. We figured it would be cheaper to just pay $4.95 to watch a movie in HD on cable whenever we wished. One evening we rented a movie on PPV, and about 2/3 of the way through it, the movie stopped playing. We rebooted the cable box, and tried again, but got the same "channel not available" message, so we placed a call to T-W to report it. Now, any time you call their repair number, you get an automated "friendly" speech-recognition system which asks a series of questions in order to narrow down the problem. For our problem, this non-person prompted me to reboot the cable box. I had already done that, but I tried it again, just in case. (Each time the box is rebooted, the bootup sequence takes about 6 minutes). It didn’t help, so after many frustrating attempts to describe the issue to this "friendly" non-person, I was finally connected to a customer service rep, except that it went immediately to hold and not to the person. After another lengthy wait, I finally got to speak with an actual person. So again, I described the problem, and was told to reboot the cable box. I explained that I had already done that numerous times, but I did it again, anyway. It didn’t help, so the rep rebooted the box remotely. As before, it didn’t help, so they tried reprogramming the box. It didn’t help, so they scheduled a technician to come out. I explained that we work and could not be there until after 5:00, so an appointment was set for the earliest time available, which was 5 days later. So on the appointed day, the tech came out, checked some things, found that the signal strength was weak due to a bad splitter, replaced the splitter, rechecked the signal (which was now closer to specs), but there were still 2 channels that were not available. He called a co-worker who checked those channels at his location, and they were fine there. So he explained that it was probably just in our immediate neighborhood and since those were two of the channels we rarely watched, we accepted his word that the problem had been resolved and that the 2 missing channels would be available at a later date. All of the channels we have had this problem with are the so-called switched digital channels, and the way it works is when you tune to one of those channels, your cable box sends a signal to their server which responds by sending that program stream back to your box. For whatever reason (bad splitter?), the signal was not being received by their server.

Well, two days later, programs that had been set to record didn’t record, and when we checked those channels (all ones we do watch), we got the same "channel not available" message. Out of about 25 channels we checked, 17 were not available. So, another call to the T-W repair service, same frustration with the automated non-person, same delay, more frustration, finally I got through to a real person who said to reboot the cable box. As before, I had already done that, and it didn’t help, so they went through the same procedure as above. It didn’t help, so they scheduled a SENIOR tech to come out…5 days later. When he finally came, he worked for a couple of hours, and then he came in to explain what he had found and what he had done to correct the problem (supposedly). He found that the cable from the junction box, which is in the neighbor's front yard, to our house was an overhead cable, and it was bad. He wasn’t sure why we still had an overhead cable, because they were supposed to be underground. So he replaced it with a temporary cable which he ran across the neighbor’s driveway, and then up to our house just laying across the ground. He explained that this was just temporary and that within the next week to 10 days, someone would come out and bury the cable. He said that we shouldn’t even notice where it would be buried because the machine that buries it just slices a narrow groove to embed the cable less than a foot underground and there’s no trench or anything to tear up the lawn. The channels did all seem to be now available, so he proclaimed that the problem was now fixed.

After about another two weeks, the channels were missing again, just like before. And the cable had STILL not been buried. So, again, I had to go through the same nonsense with the "friendly" non-person to get through to a real person, explained that I was very upset, demanded to speak with a supervisor, was put on hold for 20 minutes (I’m sure this was deliberate), finally spoke with someone who claimed to be a supervisor, went through the entire explanation string for the umpteenth time, and was told to try rebooting the cable box. "I rebooted the damn box already!!" So they said that they would schedule a SUPERVISOR technician who would come out to address the problem…in 5 days. On the appointed day, the supervisor tech came and found that there was a faulty connector. He replaced it and all of the channels seemed to be available...for now. He said that the cable really needed to be buried because the neighbor was driving over it every time they used their driveway which was going to damage it pretty soon, unless it got damaged even sooner by their mowing over it, which they had done at least once. As it had now been about 3 weeks since the "temporary" cable had been connected and it still had not been buried (they had said it would be only 7 to10 days!), he said that he would put in a rush order to have it buried. Great!

A couple of days later, a guy came with a big machine to bury the cable. Early in the afternoon, my wife went home from work for lunch, and as she was leaving to go back to the office, the guy came running out to the car to inform her that in the process of burying the cable, he had accidentally severed the water line to our house. He had shut off the water at the street, he explained, and he was going to have to go get some parts to repair the water line. He told her that he should have it repaired in about an hour. That was about 2:00 PM. My wife called me right away to tell me what happened, and I decided that I'd better swing by the house to check on the situation. So about 3:15, I left work and went by, but the guy was nowhere to be found. In the middle of the yard was a big hole about two and a half feet deep full of muddy water, under which was obviously the broken water line, and there was a shovel stuck in the ground beside it like a grave marker. I checked the faucet and there was no water. I WAS LIVID!! I called the T-W repair number, and when I got the "friendly" non-person, I responded to every automated question with the foulest obscenity that I could possibly think of until it finally switched me over to a live person. I said, "Look, we've had a lot of problems with our cable service but now we have no water and it is all Time-Warner's fault and I'm not going to waste my time explaining to you why, I'm not going to reboot the damn box, and I want to speak with your supervisor right now or I'll be filing a lawsuit!" After about another five minutes on hold, someone who claimed to have some authority, but wouldn't give me his name, listened as I explained what had happened. He promised that a customer service supervisor would call me back within one hour. OK, they'd sure as hell better call me back!

Now confident that the situation would only get worse, I went back to work. After work, when I got home, Everett Gopher had returned and was frantically bailing water out of the hole with the bottom half of a plastic water bottle, and he was not having much success. I apparently spooked him when I approached because he saw my company photo ID clipped to my belt and asked, "Who are you?"
"I'm the homeowner."
"Whew! I thought you might be the city water inspector".

I asked if he was a licensed plumber, and he said that he wasn’t, but not to worry, he would get it fixed. He said that he had to go to several different places to find the plastic fittings to fix the line, and that's what took so long. I stood back and watched as he finally got most of the water bailed out. He then proceeded to over-tighten one of the clamps, which cracked the cheap plastic fitting. To test his repairs, he went down to the meter and turned the water back on, and immediately a small geyser began to erupt from the soggy pit. He went back to his truck for more fittings and somehow did manage to get it to stop resembling a whale surfacing to exhale when the shutoff was opened. He told me that we should have water now, and he filled up the hole with more mud to cover the "repaired" water line. He connected the soggy cable to the junction box and the other end to our house. However, there was one little problem: he failed to properly flush the muddy water from the lines by turning on the outside spigots. So when we turned on the water inside, a lot of mud, rocks and various bugs and water creatures came surging through the faucets and toilets. I removed the faucet aerator screens and ran the water in a vain attempt to flush the lines, but the kitchen faucet flow barely exceeded a trickle. There was dark mud in the toilet bowl and tank. We had plans for that evening, and we just didn’t have time to deal with this mess. The guy apologized profusely, making excuses like "the machine had a new blade that was too long, " and "I guess I should have checked to see where the water line was first." He finally departed about 6:30, leaving behind a muddy sink hole. It had been now been about 3 hours since I had spoken with the customer service person at T-W, and I still hadn't heard from the "supervisor" who, as promised, was to call me back "within one hour". So we now had no cold water in the kitchen and the toilet looked as if we had been panning for gold in it. We turned on the TV to see if that was at least working, and guess what, - most of the switched HD channels had that familiar "channel not available" message. And to make matters even worse (yes, it gets worse), we had NO INTERNET ACCESS AT ALL. Fuming, I called T-W customer service again, and ultimately was told that they would get someone out to fix the cable problem… in 4 days. Through clenched teeth, I told them that was not acceptable, that someone had better call me by 9:00 AM the next morning, or else! Then I hung up. My wife made me sit down and relax, and try not to have a stroke or heart attack. I calmed a little and we went out for the evening and tried to temporarily forget about it. I didn’t sleep very well that night.

The next morning, still not having heard from anyone at T-W, I called the only number that anyone would give me, which was the same one that gets you to the “friendly” non-person. Having no patience, rather than scream obscenities into the phone, I just kept hitting “0” until I got connected to a person (why didn’t I think of that before?). As calmly and briefly as possible, I explained the situation and asked to please speak with the customer service manager, if indeed they actually had someone to manage their “customer service”. After maybe 10 minutes, I actually did get the manager. After I explained the situation while making no attempt to conceal my anger, she apologized and said that when Dirk Disaster cut the water line, he should have stopped and called in a licensed plumber to fix it rather than trying to do it himself. She assured me that T-W would cover the damage and that I should go ahead and call a plumber, which I did. She told me to pay the plumber when they were done, send them a copy of the bill, and she assured me that T-W would reimburse me for the cost of repairs “in a timely manner”. She also said that she would make sure a technician would be there that afternoon to fix the problem with the cable and internet access. I had to take a vacation day so that I could be there when the plumbers arrived.

Only 30 minutes after I called them, the plumbers arrived. I explained what had happened, and they dug up the “repaired” water line and properly repaired it with brass and copper fittings. After that, they came in and repaired the faucet by replacing the cartridge and the cold supply hose. When they were done, I wrote them a check for the repairs in the amount of $482.00. As instructed, I immediately sent a copy of the paid receipt to T-W along with a letter stating the agreement with the customer service manager to fully reimburse me for the repairs. Early that afternoon, the cable tech came by and had to replace a section at the end of the cable that Karl had mangled when he connected it after digging up the yard with his slingblade. So at least now we have our internet (and e-mail) service back. The jury is still out on the cable HD channels.

Even though I was promised that Time-Warner would take care of this "in a timely manner", it has now been almost a month since I sent the copy of the plumbing bill and I’m still waiting for reimbursement of the $482.00. I have made several calls to find out when I will receive it, but each time I call, the person responsible for sending it is not in. I have asked repeatedly for someone to call me back, but no one has. We are looking into satellite and have reactivated our Netflix account.

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