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I just made you read that confusing thing.
May 29, 2011 3:46 AM   Subscribe

Eugene Mirman has unleashed his absurdist wrath upon an unsuspecting telecom (Time Warner Cable) for their lack of customer service, taking out a paid advertisement in the New York Press to do so. This is not the first time (referenced here previously, the mp3s can be found here) this high school commencement speaker has used his bizarre powers to fight the (strange but) good fight against a telecom.
posted by dubitable (49 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Time Warner's corporate blog reacts.
posted by piratebowling at 4:04 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Time Warner's corporate blog reacts.

Now that's some refreshingly good damage control. Their customer service probably won't really improve all that much, but you gotta give 'em credit for at least coming up with a reasonably warm, human response.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:12 AM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I imagine that just makes their customers want to stab them twice as hard.
posted by ryanrs at 4:15 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


That wasn't a "reasonably warm, human response". That was a carefully crafted, group effort that included the input of marketing, the legal office, and two or three behavioral scientists to try and redirect the ire and anger of the millions who are screwed by customer service on a daily basis.

As for the rant...hell, I've done better than that unscripted while on the line with some customer service idiot (and, they didn't understand a word I was saying since they barely spoke english!)
posted by tomswift at 4:33 AM on May 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is referencing Soviet atrocities going to be the next Godwin's?
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:43 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've had both and Verizon DSL makes TWC look like 5 star service.

DirectTVs customer service is excellent in my experience.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:54 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was a carefully crafted, group effort that included the input of marketing, the legal office, and two or three behavioral scientists

Well, I did say "they" came up with the response. And it does indeed at least *appear* reasonably warm and human.

actually, I didn't say they, I said 'em. which happens to be one of my favorite words, along with y'all, ain't, thud and twitch.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:02 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


OMG I love it and I'm mentally filing away the line "Fuck you, I just made you read that confusing thing" for use in future internet flamewars.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:04 AM on May 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm surprised that letter was still readable after TWC threw away half the letters when they re-compressed it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:14 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was pleasantly surprised to see that Time Warner Cable went with this kind of response to Mirman's letter. I assume that TWC gave the bullet pointed corporate response points to their "hip blogger" and let him craft the message to relate better to Mirman's audience. He lays the "I'm hip and get it" thing a bit thick, but it was a good effort.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:21 AM on May 29, 2011


Is referencing Soviet atrocities going to be the next Godwin's?

In this case it may just be because Mirman was born in Russia; his family emigrated to the US when he was very young.
posted by camyram at 5:39 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The writer of that TWC blog post, Jeff Simmermon, has been discussed here before for his Espresso on Ice rant and his Iraqi-Americans Vote in Washington piece.. He's a long time blogger (his own And I Am Not Lying blog goes back to 2004), that has referenced MeFi on at least a few occasions. This Gawker piece refers to him as a TWC executive, but he's probably a bit lower on the totem pole over there. After looking at his blog, I think he may have been given more latitude to create the response to Mirman on his own than I originally thought.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:47 AM on May 29, 2011


Here's what they ('em) should have said, though corporate/marketing wouldn't have gone for it.

"We take customer complaints seriously. We located the employee who had rescheduled Mr. Mirman's appointment and miscommunicated with him (not easy, since we have over 47,000 employees servicing 13 million customers) and not only fired him, but had him drugged and eaten (one of our board members is into this). If this is found insufficient, we invite Mr. Mirman to have sex with his skull."
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:47 AM on May 29, 2011 [18 favorites]


We have over 47,000 employees servicing 13 million customers.

We would totally hire more employees only we are too busy passing out on top of a mountain of $100 bills and blow. I mean, it's not as though 1 in 10 American workers has been out of work for a year and a half and would cut their own mother for any kind of deeply degrading job at a barely-living wage, or anything.
posted by gauche at 5:59 AM on May 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I read about Time Warner Cable in The Consumerist all the time. Here's a brief rundown of some of the best, most recent articles about them:

Liveblogging a TWC installation on Yelp

Time Warner charges Wright-Patt engineer $16.4 million for cable

The Time Warner Cable Tech Will Show Up On Time... If You Pay $190/Month

Saying "downgrade" into the TWC voice recognition bot will result in your call being cut off.

They're widely loathed for many reasons, their incompetence with service calls being just part of the picture. We chose DISH nearly 15 years ago at this point, and have never been happier with what we get and the price we pay for it.
posted by hippybear at 6:10 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the guy who writes that blog has about as much influence on these affairs as we have...
posted by Harry at 6:14 AM on May 29, 2011


I think Eugene should save his money.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:26 AM on May 29, 2011


Dear Mister Mirman,

We have received your letter about (CUSTOMER PROBLEMS), sent from Brooklyn, NY 10217. We are sorry that you had such a string of miscommunications with our customer service employees. But Mister Mirman, are you not forgetting something? There is no 10217 zip code in your Brooklyn, or indeed, in your universe. We would like to note that we fulfilled our stated goal of connecting the cable to the apartment of "Eugene Merman" in the 10217 zip code, but it required a trip through our WorldGate in order to go to an alternate universe, where the 10217 zip code exists.

In parallel universe 83-A-64, we did find the 10217 Brooklyn zip code, located in the underwater neighborhood of Port Submergica. There, we met up with your 83-A-64 counterpart, Dr. Eugenides Mer-man, who was all too happy to have us install his cable. Our serviceman, speaking through his underwater breathing appartatus, even made a couple of jokes with Eugenides, though because of some problems with said apparatus, these jokes sounded like the garbled bubbling of a choking fish. He reported, sadly, that Eugenides did not seem to be able to understand him, though Eugenides, to his credit, smiled and nodded out of politeness as he fussed with the seam of his toga.

Moving forward, here is our plan to improve our service.

1. New breathing apparati for all physical environments, whether they be underwater, dry-land, or harsh UV-saturated desert plateaus.

2. Jokes that will be immediately understood across all cultures in all alternate universes, such as:
a. Have you seen my spouse? My spouse is so fat, that the pants I buy for my spouse are extremely large! What a life!
b. The main difference between man and woman is perhaps not as large as the difference between androgyne and hermaphrodite? Makes you think!
c. How can I operate this universe's vehicles? I love to do so.
d. (a funny face, while committing a pratfall)


3. A sign by our WorldGate that reminds employees they MUST wash their hands.

Mister Mirman, we hope that you will see that we take your (CUSTOMER PROBLEMS) very seriously. To ensure that you receive this letter, we are sending it by UPS, with signature required; you may pick this letter up at the UPS Customer Service Center in Maspeth, Queens. In the meantime, please remember that in our industry, we provide cable to over 673 alternate matter-based universes, as well as 12 energy realms. And we're still growing our business to service all kinds of strange new universes and realities! These kinds of mix-ups will certainly occur from time to time. I guess we all just have to grin... "and BEAR it!"

(ATTACH PICTURE OF BEAR BELOW)
sunbear_waving.jpg

Sincerely,
Time Warner Customer Service
Universe 616
New York, NY 10019

posted by Greg Nog at 6:28 AM on May 29, 2011 [34 favorites]


The unfortunately part about the cable television/internet/VOIP system in the US is that often, you're locked into a certain provider due to where you live. I, therefore, could bitch about Time Warner as much as I wanted, but if I want decent internet and cable TV, I'm stuck. I could go for satellite, except my apartment complex won't allow dishes. I could go for DSL, but, I'd like to have decent internet speeds.

I'm aware that my decisions are affecting my choices. I just wish that in this day and age I could actually choose from whom I purchase these utilities. While I've never had a completely out-and-out fight with Time Warner (fingers crossed), if I get pissed off enough, I'm not sure where I'd go.
posted by SNWidget at 6:47 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Imagine if you had to deal with a telecom for a living. I work for a CLEC and Verizon pulls shit like this every time we do an install or have a problem with a copper line.

Their favorite thing to do is to show up to a trouble, fix the problem with their equipment, report 'no trouble found' and then bill us for it. Although they usually don't actually fix it until the 3rd time we've asked them to go out reporting "no trouble found" each time.

Amazingly, Verizon never seems to find an actual problem with their stuff unless we have one of our own techs on site with their tech and an engineer on a call with them telling them exactly what their problem is and how to fix it.

Every install I've done with them recently, they've botched the order, and these are on 50 meg and 100 meg circuits that we pay a lot of money for. I can't imagine how much worse it is for guys paying $50-100 month.
posted by empath at 6:48 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, Time Warner Cable has customer service?! They are the only cable provider in some spaces, but if they ever get any competition they will go out of business in the space of a few weeks. It took two months for me to get automatic bill pay working. WTGDFF?

Call and write your elected officials. Once I worked in the office of a certain NYS Assemblyman and looked through some of the proposals by other cable companies to wire Brooklyn. Big thick books that detail how these other companies can wire Brooklyn and even put up a wireless net. As far as I can tell, we aren't putting up with TWC for any reason other than they are lining the pockets of legislators.
posted by fuq at 6:58 AM on May 29, 2011


Imagine if you had to deal with a telecom for a living. I work for a CLEC and Verizon pulls shit like this every time we do an install or have a problem with a copper line.

Dealing with Verizon DSL tech support with a line issue is like watching the movie Brazil over and over again...

But the problem I think is that Verizon has essentially depreciated their entire "land-line" network. One of the DSL techs called it something like "America's Greatest Open Air Copper Junkyard." Now that FIOS has failed I assume it's only a matter of time before Wall Street slices and dices Verizon, and someone is left holding the bag for the land lines and someone else owns the lucrative wireless network... wireless, that's where the capital is going.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:06 AM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Get a wireless hotspot from Sprint and a Netflix subscription. Want to watch live sports go to a pub.
posted by humanfont at 7:10 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Minor derail in re: Plague #4, especially the TW rep's response:

It's not all buttered popcorn that smells bad; it's microwave popcorn. I am always amazed and dismayed when someone fills up whatever space they're in with that rancid-butter smell. If you buy butter from a store, it's in a refrigerated case, and when you get home, you put it in your refrigerator, right? Why bother, if you're going to eat a product sprayed with butter that sits around for months unrefrigerated?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:12 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I also work for a CLEC and can probably deduce why the appointment was rescheduled initially.

His previous phone provider likely had a minimum 14 day wait period on port-outs (as referenced in this hilarious Brian Regan bit). This is so they have time to exercise all their customer retention practices before Eugene actually disconnected service.

Typically sales agents are working with antiquated legacy billing systems which require all sorts of hoops to jump through and if you miss one the whole thing has to be re-entered. Of course they won't catch any such mistakes because they've taken like 50 sales calls before anybody even notices.

And the only department that would catch it is populated by data entry types who all exhibit some degree of agoraphobia so there's no way they'd actually held to the responsibility of contacting the customer when the 14 day waiting period has to be initiated again.

Compound that with buck-passing on the individual level and you have a recipe for a very frustrated Eugene Mirman. I understand though.
posted by triceryclops at 7:15 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


who all exhibit some degree of agoraphobia so there's no way they'd actually held to the responsibility of contacting the customer

At least in our company, we try to limit how many people contact the customer so that we don't confuse them with different people telling them different things. So someone has to call customer service who has to call the customer back, but they don't, or they leave a vm and no one listen to it, or they send an email to a distro and nobody picks it up, or they update a ticket that nobody looks at.
posted by empath at 7:21 AM on May 29, 2011


Want to watch live sports go to a pub.

Unfortunately for me, two pub outings to watch a sporting event would equal to what I pay on a monthly to my cable provider.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:22 AM on May 29, 2011


I could go for satellite, except my apartment complex won't allow dishes.

There's actually a law on this, OTARD, that says that if your unit has an area that is within your exclusive use (a balcony or a patio, for instance), you are allowed to install a satellite antenna (dish) in that area. Your apartment complex cannot unilaterally forbid installation of antennas. (If you don't have a balcony, of course, then, yeah, you might be out of luck, since the roof/eaves over your unit are likely not within your exclusive use or control.)

In any event, that still wouldn't help you with the internet thing, because you'd end up having to either bundle your satellite TV service with DSL or keep your cable for broadband and voice. And you're right that you probably only have one choice for higher-speed broadband, unless you are lucky enough to live in an area with FiOS or U-Verse. Otherwise, you probably have one big cable provider.
posted by devinemissk at 7:33 AM on May 29, 2011


My recipe for a Frustrated Eugene Mirman:

1/2 gallon vodka
1 ham sandwich (fancy)

Mix well, and for extra frustration be sure to add Hollandaise when he's specifically asked for BĂ©arnaise to go with the ham sandwich. He hates that.
posted by mintcake! at 7:33 AM on May 29, 2011


As someone who just cancelled his Verizon DSL service after 6 calls, 30 customer service representatives, 2 missed appointments and 9 days of lapsed service, I couldn't agree more.

Still bitter that the municpal broadband bill was killed in North Carolina. I've never dealt with a government bureacracy worse than a telco.
posted by Vhanudux at 8:25 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to turn this into a net neutrality thread, but breaking the telco monopolies is way, way, way more important than regulating them, imo.

Everyone takes it for granted that they don't have a choice, so they want to regulate them, but we really need to get more competition into the market place and the net neutrality part of it will take care of itself.

Our company wouldn't even think of metering internet traffic or censoring it or all of the evil stuff that people associate with net neutrality because we'd lose customers in droves. If we were in a position where our customers have no choice, I have no doubt that we'd bend them over the barrel though, regulation or not.
posted by empath at 8:38 AM on May 29, 2011


I'm amazed that no one has mentioned Comcast yet. It took months of frustration involving my calling them almost daily and multiple 'technician' visits to get them to figure out that there was a thirty year old splitter on the line out at the pole that was killing my signal. The fun part is that they kept trying to charge us for those service visits.
posted by octothorpe at 8:41 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is such a thing as great service in the telco world. My California ISP sonic.net is amazing. Independent company but with a pretty significant customer base. Intelligent, well trained customer service. Treating the customer with respect. It's fantastic. They exist because DSL ISPs do not have a 100% monopoly, so they're able to supply Internet service over AT&T's wires.

The problem is big companies treat customer service like a cost center, a necessary but undesirable function to be done as cheaply as possible. When the company has a monopoly, there's no reason for them to do otherwise. Cable companies are largely monopolies in the US. Fortunately streaming video is about three years away from making cable TV entirely irrelevant.
posted by Nelson at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fortunately streaming video is about three years away from making cable TV entirely irrelevant.

Well except that my only two choices for internet access to run streaming video through are Verizon and Comcast.
posted by octothorpe at 9:02 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fortunately streaming video is about three years away from making cable TV entirely irrelevant.

Not as long as over 50% of the households have monthly bandwidth caps it isn't.
posted by hippybear at 9:38 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Empath, breaking the telco monopoly is exactly what the government did in the 70s. Then AT&T reformed like like T-2000 and now even has the Death Star logo again.

It would appear that phone and internet and cable service is an industry with high initial costs (high CAPEX, aka "high barriers to entry"), low running costs (low OPEX, aka "cheap to run once you've got it"), significant economies of scale (more customers makes for much lower prices), and a large amount of value gets created for everyone (has significant positive externalities). Such businesses are referred to as "natural monopolies", meaning that if you leave them be, a monopoly will develop, because it truly is the cheapest way of running things. Businesses with all the criteria I listed are traditionally called "public goods". Most non-phone public goods are utilities - water, power, sewer, trash, etc., and most utilities are regulated monopolies.

I think telecoms are destined to be monopolies - free markets will tend towards efficiency (kinda), but we can try to ensure that they aren't rapacious ones by using legislation.
posted by pmb at 9:54 AM on May 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


They sure sent the S.O.B. the bedbug letter!
posted by longtime_lurker at 11:47 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why bother, if you're going to eat a product sprayed with butter that sits around for months unrefrigerated?

Um, that's not butter.

Now back to our regularly scheduled (and well-deserved) bashing of the telecom industry.
posted by TedW at 1:36 PM on May 29, 2011


Um, that's not butter.

That's not butter?!?!? I can't believe it!
posted by hippybear at 1:50 PM on May 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


ennui.bz: "Now that FIOS has failed I assume it's only a matter of time before Wall Street slices and dices Verizon"

Fios has failed? We just had verizon lay fios to our house, and I had it for almost a decade at my last one. It's been fantastic speed and service, where have you read that it's failed? (Cause they were the only real option out here for fast internet, it would suck if it were to go away.)
posted by dejah420 at 1:58 PM on May 29, 2011


That's not butter?!?!? I can't believe it!

Wait 'til Mother Nature finds out she's been fooled!
posted by TedW at 1:59 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]



I'm amazed that no one has mentioned Comcast yet.


Probably because Comcast customers can't even mention the name without sputtering in incoherent rage.

Although I will say that the field technicians I've dealt with have been very helpful and super nice. Like the guy they sent over to disconnect my internet service(!) when all I had asked for was a change in my TV service (because of that stupid "Xfinity" crap.)

It took five or six phone calls and three internet chats to get him here. I was assured that my end of the conversation sounded like Bob Newhart in Purgatory.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:12 PM on May 29, 2011


we are working very, very hard to overhaul our customer care efforts

Warner Bros. opened their first theater in 1903. Time Magazine was founded in 1923. No doubt both organizations were working very, very hard... for quite some time. They merged in 1990, and apparently in the ecstasy of that merger (no doubt comparable to the Willard Decker and Ilia merger in Star Trek the movie) they simply undid nearly a century of working very, very hard...

Your assignment: If both of them have been working very, very hard.... ever since that time ... what's the chance of them succeeding in the lifetime of the solar system? (Feel free to consult any resource you choose.)
posted by Twang at 3:08 PM on May 29, 2011


Which half of him is fish? The head, or the legs/tail?
posted by Eideteker at 4:02 PM on May 29, 2011


Exactly which papers printed the letter, and exactly how many of them are owned by Time Warner?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:11 PM on May 29, 2011


Um, that's not butter.

Except when it is.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:47 AM on May 30, 2011


I can not describe what it was like when Comcast took over the Memphis market from Time Warner without Godwining the thread.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:48 AM on May 30, 2011


I once worked for a company that included TWC as a client, specifically in matters related to customer service. They spend a metric fuckton (or perhaps an imperal shitload) of cash trying to improve customer service. They spend so much money trying to make the customer experience better that it has somehow managed to warp the very fabric of reality so that it wraps back around to suckage.

My favorite part of this clusterfuck is the one where they rely heavily on outsourced call centers at the first tier of customer service, then rely on outsourced quality control companies to provide them with accurate metrics. The call centers are allowed to control what calls are sent to the QC firms for evaluation, so they do this neat little trick where they pull calls only from the top 10% of their agents and send them to QC under different operator numbers.

There is no mechanism in place for the QC firm to tell TWC that they're being cheated by their call center contractor, and when you're dealing with some of the smaller outsourcers no one really gives a shit as long as the client with the deep pockets is paying its invoices on time. So, TWC gets a distorted picture of what's happening and then is occasionally blindsided by a Consumerist post about how they're actually failing, which they believe must be a true anomaly because lookie here, these reports we get from our contractors say we're doing better than ever!

So in closing, fuck you, I just made you read that whole thing, TWC spends a lot of money to suck.
posted by dantsea at 10:36 AM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hi guys - this may well be after the fact, but I am just seeing this after a long weekend. I'm glad that some of you appreciated my response to Mr. Mirman on TWC's corporate blog.

And @Slack-a-go-go, I really appreciate you making the connection between my day job and my personal blog.

I pretty much came up with this response on my own and ran it past our head of care (who gave me the bullet points) and then my boss as a heads-up. He gave me zero edits.

That's what this is, no more, no less. It's a job.
posted by jeffsimmermonTWC at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2011


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