Personal Finance 

Why People Hate Cable Companies

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VerizonHave you ever met someone who said they loved their cable company? I haven’t. We pay them a lot of money to watch television, surf the internet, and give us access to entertainment options we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Most of them hold monopolies and they all act like they do.

One of the best things you can do for yourself, when it comes to negotiating monthly fixed costs, is review your options when it comes to cable and internet services and go with whomever is cheaper. The services are near perfect substitutes so why not pay less for the same thing? The only thing really stopping anyone is how much of a pain in the ass it is to switch. We recently switched from Verizon to Comcast in part because Comcast offered us cheaper service, plus faster internet, and around two hundred and fifty bucks in statement credits. You can’t go wrong with cheaper and free “cash,” so I switched.

With cable bills, you actually prepay for service. So you that bill you received in March goes towards April’s monthly payments. When you cancel, the cable company actually owes you money and you need to get that back (it’s almost like a security deposit on their equipment). I returned their equipment, saw they owed me $135 and now goes the annoying process of getting my own money back.

I called them up, was given the run around, but basically told that the balance would be sent to me in 4-6 weeks. 4-6 weeks pass, no check, so I go online to use chat… and here’s the transcript:

Chat Subject:Payment Arrangement / Final Billing
Your Question:I canceled service and have a balance, Verizon owes me money, how do I get that paid?
A Verizon Service Representative will be with you shortly. To help us handle your request in a timely manner, please have your customer account number ready if available. Thank you.
Agent Shelia has joined. (08:29:07)
Shelia : Chat ID for this session is 04161338655. (08:29:07)
Shelia(08:29:17): Thank you for choosing Verizon’s chat service. You have reached the Payment Center. I will be happy to assist you today. Please provide me with only ONE of the following:
1. Verizon account number
2. Amount of your last payment (to the nearest dollar)
3. Exact amount of your last paid bill in full
4. A contact number you may have listed on your account, such as a cell or work number
JIM(08:29:30): 4. XXX-XXX-XXXX
Shelia(08:30:45): Do you know the account number?
JIM(08:31:06): i can try to find it hold on
JIM(08:31:37): final balance was -xxx.xx

Shelia(08:32:18): Thank you,Jim, for securing your account with me. Please give me a few moments to review your account details.
JIM(08:34:04): ok
Shelia(08:35:50): I am showing your refund was processed on 04/13 in the amount of $134.65 for prior indebtness.
JIM(08:36:07): So I will receive a check in the mail soon?
Shelia(08:36:29): I am not showing check was issued.
JIM(08:36:38): how will I be paid?
Shelia(08:36:58): It went for prior indebtness.
JIM(08:37:06): what is prior indebtness?
Shelia(08:37:26): Did you have another bill with verizon?
JIM(08:37:31): no
Shelia(08:38:06): Please contact our billing department at 1-800-837-4966 about the bill.
JIM(08:38:31): I don’t understand, the balance is negative, so Verizon owes me money right?
Shelia(08:38:56): It show that the credit to prior debt.
JIM(08:39:13): what does that mean?
Shelia(08:39:18): I apologize, it went to a prior debt.
Your session is now closed.
Thank you, have a nice day.

I could’ve been talking to a robot for all I knew but the end result was “call billing.” So I call up billing and the automated system says that my account balance is $0. Fantastic.

After a quick chat with a billing representative, who was very helpful, it turns out there was fraud in 2006 that resulted in a negative balance on an account associated with my name. Here’s the kicker – their fraud department already determined that the account wasn’t mine! We covered this back in 2006 when I discovered it on my credit report and they still tried to put the credit towards that negative balance. It took all of two minutes for the billing representative to release my funds and a check will be here in 3-5 days.

The gist of this is that the reason why people hate cable companies, and this is in addition to the high cost and poor customer service, is that simple things are a hassle. Why is the install window four hours? Why can’t they communicate if they’ll be there at 8 or there at 12? Why do they make you call them when they owe you money?

This is why these types of companies win Worst Company in America (though Electronic Arts has won it two years running…)

Please feel free to add your own personal cable company rant below. You’ll feel better, I promise.

(Credit: Phu Son)

{ 9 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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9 Responses to “Why People Hate Cable Companies”

  1. Oh, my gosh, we ended up with a SNAFU where Comcast overbilled us by $20 that took a YEAR to clear up. I had a dozen conversations like the one you have above. I flatly refused to pay $20 I didn’t owe, though. I ended up carpetbombing the CEO and others with an email about the crappy customer service to make it go away.

  2. Wow, talk about a bad experience! I think a lot of it comes down to incredibly poor service offered by many cable companies and you can’t pick what you want. So, you’re paying outrageous fees and will likely not watch 95% of the channels offered.

  3. Emily says:

    I fired ’em.

    I hated both Comcast and Verizon, the only players in my town. Now I just have “dry DSL” to get internet without a phone. This I get through an intermediary so I don’t have to deal with Verizon myself, having experienced similar situations to yours. I pay for Hulu Plus to queue up my favorite shows, and I stream from YouTube, and I occasionally rent a movie from Amazon or Vudu. I don’t miss the cable AT ALL!

    Way back when, when the cable companies were selling their product as an improvement over free over the air TV, we were promised that we could cut back on those annoying commercials if we paid for the content. Now most cable programming consists of 30-35% advertisement time. I think they broke their promise big time.

    Cut the cord. You can do it!

    (I do feel better.)

  4. Wilma says:

    Emily is so right. We all need to cut the cord. We should see way less commercials if we’re paying for service. If we don’t all stand up and cut that cord they will just keep doing what they’re doing. I dropped cable 20 years ago. I have internet & phone through Verizon. I’m not understanding why I can’t watch the sports I like on the internet. It’s time for a change. Give me a la carte pricing at a price that’s reasonable or you can shove it.

  5. CrazyRcPilot says:

    I agree with Elma and Wilma, its time to cut the chord, but hanging on by a string sounds a little easier to break at will. Here is my idea: Why can’t we pay for the channels we watch?? I’m not talking about streaming hulu or signing up for HBO or ShowTime, I mean LIVE TV. If I only watch 13 networks on 75 channels, why should I pay for the additional 62 channels I don’t need!? We can stream individual shows from the internet, why not whole channels?

    There is an aspect of live tv that you just can’t get with streaming. I don’t always go looking for science/history showns on the net, but I’ll definitely stop on one channel surfing if I see a WWII bomber appear. Cable companies prey on our need for variety, but what about those of us who exactly what we want and are willing to pay for?

    • CrazyRcPilot says:

      I’m very sorry Emily, proof reading doesn’t do me justice until after its posted. My apologies for confusing your name.

      • Emily says:

        No problem Crz! It’s actually my initials run together – MLE.

        I would pay a la carte as well, but the cable companies all claim that they just don’t have the technology to provide that. Hmm. Don’t believe it.

  6. jestjack says:

    Gonna make a prediction…You’ll be writing a story about Comcast in a year or two. Comcast just “jacked” my bill 35% and upon calling customer service was offered a $15 per month discount….No Thank You…To make matters worse couldn’t get someone to help me “downgrade my service”. Evidently they’re not fond of that. So I packed up their gear …bought my own modem and drove to the local Comcast office…where a very kind rep allowed me to reduce my package AND my bill to almost half what it once was. I did notice at the Comcast Office a lot of folks just ceasing service…returning the equipment…don’t know if this is out of frutration or the economy. BUT if these fine folks jack the rates again…we’re done…

  7. huskervball says:

    Actually I think I am treated very well by Cox. There is competition in Omaha between Qwest and Cox, maybe that is why. I agree the costs are too high because of our TV addiction and my need for speed on the Internet. However, I get a human to speak to–almost instaneously. I have never had an incorrect bill. I like them.

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