May 20, 2002
9:04 PM   Subscribe

Imagine you are moving between apartments. Check out this Verizon "How do I..." page. Over 40 questions are answered, but the 2nd most obvious question one might have is strangely absent. Then try to order a basic cable service from Time Warner Cable. Do you have other examples of corporate sites that are less than helpful when what you want is less than what they would like to sell - or when you want to cancel?
posted by edlundart (15 comments total)
(Yes, I know, finding the basic service at TWC is not that hard - but I do feel like they are hiding it behind a language veil)
posted by edlundart at 9:10 PM on May 20, 2002

The goal of any business is to make more money, not less of it. However, that shouldn't be an excuse to give potential or former customers the runaround. It varies from corporation to corporation, so it isn't a fact that there's no one company who operates fairly and clearly... but they are out there.
posted by Down10 at 9:38 PM on May 20, 2002

A client of mine tried to cancel AOL service recently was basically almost gave up trying. Eventually she had the credit card company try to cancel for her, they came back saying AOL had claimed that she'd agreed to a "lifetime committment" and that cancelling, ever (!), wouldn't be possible.

I'm sure she'll be in voicemail hell for at least a coupla hours tomorrow.
posted by Fofer at 12:13 AM on May 21, 2002

Cancelling an AOL account or an Earthlink account will result in a substantial chunk of time listening to cheesy music and occasional cheery voices telling you how fabulous the service that you don't want really is. When cancelling other ISP services, I have never needed to do more than send an e-mail. Both of these companies claim that their "you must call in" scheme is for "your protection" due to spoofed headers and whatnot, but a simple "go to this webpage to verify" kind of thing would eliminate any such concerns -- as if people go around cancelling other people's ISP services for them.

Similarly, AT&T Broadband has absolutely no mechanism by which cable television or internet services can be paid for online. None. You can create an account on their website, but at the moment, there's nothing you can do with it! If you want to set up auto-payment for your cable bill, you have to send a paper form to your local AT&T office, and you can't download that form online or request that one be sent to you, you have to call your local office (phone number not provided) and wait on hold to ask for it. Even my local utilities (right down to water and sewage) can be paid online these days -- with exception of my electricity bill, second highest rates in all the country and they can't figure out how to use a little of that money to have anything more than a brochureware site.

I'd really rather a company have no online presence than one that's completely useless for the purposes of requesting services, attaining assistance or paying bills, the reasons why most people will interact with them to begin with.
posted by Dreama at 12:30 AM on May 21, 2002

Excite does not have a "delete account" page. The only way to get rid of a free account you don't want any more is to contact support. If you haven't updated your personal details since they changed hands they will then ask you to confirm your identity using information they can't verify (such as birthdate -- which wasn't given to the new management).
posted by krisjohn at 12:46 AM on May 21, 2002

I'm curious....what *is* the 2nd most obvious question?
posted by jennak at 5:33 AM on May 21, 2002

she'd agreed to a "lifetime committment"

You can always cancel such an arangement by telling one of your credit card companies your card has been lost (perhaps at the bottom of a lake?). They'll close your account and open a new one (and transfer your balance : ( ).
posted by ParisParamus at 5:38 AM on May 21, 2002

There's a good short article (with a few helpful comments and the usual detritus) on cancelling AOL and Earthlink over at /.
posted by arco at 5:54 AM on May 21, 2002

first most obvious: how do i sign up?
second most obvious: how do i cancel.
i particularly hate attbi which openly pretends to be one company but in fact the cable tv and internet are 2 seperate functions and niether knows anything about the other. i am serious here - recently when we moved less than 2 blocks, those bozos sent TWO guys out on DIFFERENT DAYS to shut each service off (the first guy actually did it all - both cable and internet are fed from the same wire - more on this later) and then TWO DAYS LATER sent TWO MORE INSTALLERS, one for tv and one for internet, to turn things on. Again, the first guy did it all (same wire). i pay my internet automatically via credit card each month, i have to write a check for tv. more mind boggling to me was the fact that they insisted on running a seperate line from the junction box for internet (they put a frigging splitter in the junction box.) when i questioned this, i was told it was so that each service could be interrupted independently of the other in case of non-payment. yet the service remains available on the other drop, you can simply connect a splitter and run a line to your cable modem from the 'tv' feed. or vice versa. when you call the internet number for service, an automated system asks you for your address and account information. then it informs you that the number for internet has changed, and you have to start all over! call the second number, automated system again, punch in the info again, eventually a 'human being' (term used facetiously) will come on the line and require you to give them the same information (for the 3rd time!) verbally before they will discuss ANYTHING. if there are any attbi executives reading this, i just want to say 'YOU ARE A FRIGGING SCHMUCK!'
posted by quonsar at 6:05 AM on May 21, 2002

When I attempted to cancel AOL in 1997, I dealt with a simillar situation -- lots of voice mail.

I would also add that I attempted to do the old 'cancel a credit card' trick (the only thing I was using the credit card for was AOL) and the credit card company continued to send bills, saying they were getting billed by AOL.
posted by brucec at 6:42 AM on May 21, 2002

AT&T Broadband has absolutely no mechanism by which cable television or internet services can be paid for online. None.

I paid my AT&T broadband internet bill online Saturday, with a debit card. Hmmm...

Maybe you're looking at the wrong website? The one I went to is, and after you select the service you're visiting for, just click on the "My Account" link on the left.
posted by schlaager at 8:30 AM on May 21, 2002

Oh, and another bitch about AT&T. I recognize the story about sending out 2 installers as being quite like mine. The cable guy was only there for 10 minutes, he got it set up and showed me how to use it.

But the internet guy was there for 2 hours. He didn't know what he was doing, because I have a macintosh. So i had to show him a few things about how to use them. Now i have people calling my house in the evenings, because they have Macs, and the AT&T internet installer gave up on them, so they call me for assistance in getting the service running. :)
posted by schlaager at 8:37 AM on May 21, 2002

I'd really rather a company have no online presence than one that's completely useless (...)

Time Warner Cable lets you "sign up online!" - which means you fill out some preliminary info on a couple of pages, hit a submit button, and you get a message like "Thanks for signing up! A customer representative will call you."
posted by edlundart at 8:52 AM on May 21, 2002

schlaager, are they calling you because he is giving out your phone number or because you let your local mac community know you're a helpful kind of person.

WRT to Earthlink, I had no problems canceling them (aside from a half hour wait on the phone) about a year ago, the lady I spoke to was courteous and helpful. A couple of years ago my buddy managed to spend a month dialing their 800 number instead of the local access number, they weren't so understanding about that...
posted by mutagen at 9:54 AM on May 21, 2002

My roommate and I have been interested in getting digital cable from AT&T Broadband for over a year, but it's very hard to find out what the plans and options are without listening to an unsolicited sales pitch. If they had a page on their site listing the plan levels and costs, we'd have had digital cable months ago.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:42 PM on May 21, 2002

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