Can you Satirize Poor Customer Service from Big Cable Companies - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 130

Given all the horrible experiences people have had over the telephone with massive cable companies, it isn't clear that one can design a skit to parody such a conversation. Each time someone calls one of these companies is a parody in and of itself. However, given that this is a holiday week, we decided to have some fun and record two such conversations using some of real interactions we have had. 

The first call is reflective of many attempts we have had in trying to ascertain prices for common services from cable and telephone companies. The second call, starting at about 10:30 into the show, involves someone calling in to have a repair scheduled, this was inspired by and fairly closely mimics what he went through after a neighbor's tree fell on his cable line, severing it from his house. 

Just before posting this show, a colleague shared a hilarious comic from Pearls and Swine covering cable sales practices. Next week, we will have a year-end conversation that itself ends with some predictions for 2015. After that, we will back to normal guests and our normal format. Enjoy the holidays! 

This show is 15 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here

Thanks to Dickey F for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Florida Mama." We also use a dial tone sound in this recording from Sound Bible.


Chris: Oh, we're recording, what do you know?

Lisa: Yes, we are recording. 

Chris: So, we have ...

Lisa: A special treat for everybody today. 

Chris: Right. We just wanted to introduce it quickly and awkwardly. Basically, today because it's one of those days when some people are working but a lot of people are already starting to think about the holidays and taking some time off, we wanted to just do something a little bit lighter and more fun.

Lisa: What we did is we created a couple of scenarios. One has a customer calling to ask about service to a cable company ...

Chris: Right, and that customer sounds a lot like you.

Lisa: Oh, I guess she does, doesn't she? Actually you'll notice this sound (honk) and every time you hear that sound there will be something said in the conversation that is from an actual conversation with a sales representative.

Chris: From one of the cable telephone companies.

Lisa: From one of the cable companies.

Chris: We've had a fair amount of these conversations and sometimes they're a little bit nuts. What we did was we decided that we'd have a short conversation and we scripted it based on real events and then a little bit of hyperbole. 

Lisa: Yeah, we went a little bit past that but we did use actual language.

Chris: We did, but I think you'll find that if you look at the range of calls, I mean if you just do a search for Comcast conversations that people have reported, the things that we exaggerated have gone far beyond by the cable companies and some of their poor support.

Lisa: I would also be willing to bet, Chris, that people listening to this podcast have had similar conversations. 

Chris: Right, so the first one is a person that calls in and asks for help and wants to set up a new account. The second one is a person calling in for help. This is based on a true story that a friend of mine experienced when he had a service interruption at his house and he got a call center in the Philippines. It was just incredibly crazy the fact that he had to go through this rigamaragamarole to get his connection repaired. That's our second conversation. 

Lisa: We've actually probably scaled that down from what he actually had to go through. 

Chris: Yeah, I think it was probably a bit worse for what he had to go through. 

Lisa: Enjoy the conversations, and ...

Chris: That's right, and in one week, we're going to put up a show with some year end review type stuff and some predictions, and then we'll be back in early January on the regular schedule with a show back on our normal schedule of things, not any of this fluff and fun stuff. We'll get that out of our system and go back to the normal shows. Thank you everyone!

Lisa: Thanks, have a great holiday!

Cable Recording: Congratulations! You have reached National Consolidated Cable. We pride ourselves on our customer service. Your call may be recorded for use on your permanent record. Please enter your account number, then press pound.

If you want to set up a new account, please say "sales." If you have a technical support question, please say "technical support." If you want to disconnect your service, please hang up and call back in a few months.

Stella: Sales. 

Cable Recording: Thank you. I will put you right through. As a courtesy, please do not lose your temper with our agents. We pay them the bare minimum and treat them quite poorly already.

Have you tried our website? It won't answer your questions, but the wait is shorter. 

Troy: Thank you for calling Cable Co. today, where we have some amazing deals. My name is Troy, and what's your name?

Stella: Hi Troy, my name is Stella. 

Troy:  Hi Stella. Did I mention that we have some amazing deals today?

Stella: Yes you did, thanks. 

Troy:  We are the home of the best Triple Play offer. 

Stella: That's good to know, thanks Troy.

Troy: (honks) Stella, we now have a package of television. When you hook up one television with HD and DVR service, well that's typically $93.99 a month, but I can get it locked in today at only $54.99 a month for 12 months!

Stella: But I don't want to get ...

Troy: I can even waive the $300 installation and activation fee for you and give you three free months of Starz, HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.

Stella: But I don't want ...

Troy:  You might even qualify to get an upgrade to a whole home HD DVR. This thing is great with over 800 hours of recording space, picture in picture, the ability to record five shows at once, and it recommends shows to watch based on what you watch, Stella. 

Stella: No, I don't think that I want that ...

Troy:  Stella, if you'd like to just give me your credit card number, I can sign you up for that deal today before it expires.

Stella: Well, I'm not really sure that I want that.

Troy: Tick tock, Stella. Tick tock.

Stella: I'm not really much of a TV watcher, I'm primarily interested in just signing up for internet access. 

Troy:  Standalone internet access, Stella? No bundle at all? 

Stella: Yes. 

Troy: (honks) You know, Stella, I'm just going to give you some advice to help you out. The best way to go is with bundled services because you save on all of the services.

Stella: Thanks for the advice, Troy, but I just want standalone internet access today.

Troy:  No, you don't want that. 

Stella: Yes I do.

Troy:  No, you don't, Stella.

Stella: Yes I do.

Troy: No, you don't, Stella. 

Stella: Yes, I do. Look, I think I know what I want.

Troy: Stella, you have to understand. I'm a professional and I understand what you need and what's going to help you out the best. 

Stella: Just give me pricing for standalone internet access, please, Troy. 

Troy: All right, let me take a look and see what we have. All right, why don't you just give me your address and we'll take a look at what deals are available.

Stella: 24 Sycamore in Springfield.

Troy: As I look at our system, I see that you're in luck. We have some incredible, fantastic, one time only introductory prices available for you today, Stella. We can get you a basic package at $19.99 a month for 12 months or standard at $49.99 a month for 12 months. Turbo's going to roll in at $69.99 a month for 12 months, but you could also go up to Extreme Turbo at $89.99 a month for 12 months, or if you're really really looking for the fastest speeds, Ultimate Extreme Turbo at $115 and $99 a month for 12 months. 

Stella: What are the prices after the introductory rates?

Troy: (honks) The price will be the same for all 12 months. Because our promotions change frequently I would not be able to give you prices after the promotion. What we suggest you do, Stella, is to contact us around your 10th or 11th month to see if we can roll you into another offer or promotional price at that time. This will ensure you're always getting the very best price for your services, Stella.

Stella: What are other people paying for those speeds after the introductory rates are done?

Troy: (honks) It depends on the area. I can't give you an amount, not even an approximate amount. That's why we tell the customers to call us so we can enroll them in new promotions. 

Stella: I can't really plan or commit to Cable Co. if I don't know what my rate will be.

Troy: (honks) I'm sorry, Stella, I can't give you accurate information and I don't want to tell you an amount because it's going to be a lie. I prefer to be honest with you, Stella, and tell you that it's better to call us before your promotion expires. Anyway, there's no contract over here. You can cancel with no cancellation fees if you don't like the price afterwards. I'll tell you what, Stella, you give me your credit card number and I can sign you up for our ultimate service.

Stella: I'm not so sure.

Troy:  Tick tock, Stella.

Stella: I don't like the fact that you won't tell me what I'll be paying after the first 12 months. What am I supposed to do if the price doubles or triples? 

Troy: You can always cancel and obtain services elsewhere, Stella. You're not bound by a contract when the introductory period's over. After all, this is a very competitive industry.

Stella: You're the only cable provider in town!

Troy:  There's always DSL, you could do satellite or dial-up.

Stella: I don't like your attitude, Troy.

Troy: No, don't hang up. (whispering) You don't know what it's like here. I have to make two more sales before I get a bathroom break. Please, lady. I drank three cups of coffee this morning!

Stella: All right, sign me up for the middle tier. 

Troy: Great. You're not going to regret this. I'll get you a great deal. The Turbo internet at $69.99 a month ... Though, I do have to say that if you added a few video channels to that package, I can lower the price to $64.99 a month.

Stella: That doesn't even make sense! Why would I pay less if I agreed to add channels? 

Troy: Stella, that's how Comcast does it, so we do it that way too.

Stella: Why is it that my friend over in Shelbyville pays even less for that same package?

Troy:  Our prices are based on a variety of factors, Stella.

Stella: Doesn't Shelbyville have a municipal network? Over there I'd at least have some choice.

Troy:  The decisions about the rates are made above my pay grade, but let's get you signed up for that Turbo connection. Can you tell me what your address is again?

Stella: 24 Sycamore St. in Springfield. 

Troy:  Okay, give me a second to look that up in our system so I can enroll you in the product. Oh man. God bless America. Stella.

Stella: Yes.

Troy: It seems like our system ... There's just something that's a little off. I originally checked your address in a different system, that's the one we use to tell the state where we offer services, and when I looked to placed this order I found out that we don't actually serve your house yet.

Stella: Huh?

Troy: We could set you up if you just wanted to pay a one time fee, and then we'd build the network out to you. 

Stella: I wish I lived in Shelbyville. I'd rather put my money in a community network. 

Troy: Look, I can't just make this offer to anyone, but because you're really quite close to our network already, we'd only charge you $7500 to expand the network to you, so it's really quite a deal. Stella? Stella? Stella? Hey Fred, pass me that Coke bottle, will you?

Cable Recording: Congratulations! You have reached National Consolidated Cable. We pride ourselves on our customer service. Your call may be recorded for use on your permanent record. Please enter your account number, then press pound.

Customer 2: I never use this anyway, I don't even know why they ask.

Cable Recording: If you want to set up a new account, please say "sales." If you have a technical support question, please say "technical support." If you want to dis-

Customer 2: Technical support.

Agent 2: Hello, this is [inaudible 00:11:04]! How can I help you while also trying to sell you more services?

Customer 2: We had a bad storm an hour ago. My neighbor's tree blew down in my yard; it fell on my cable wire and it ripped it off my house.

Agent 2: I'm sorry to hear that. What can I do for you?

Customer 2: I'd like you to send someone out to reattach it.

Agent 2: All right. Let me see what my system says. Can you tell you my account number?

Customer 2: Didn't I already give that to you at the beginning of the call?

Agent 2: I'm sure you did, ma'am, but we only have you put that in as part of strict policy of delaying you at least 10 minutes on the phone prior to you speaking to a human.

Customer 2: Okay, my account number is 123465441337.

Agent 2: All right, that's coming up. To verify your identity, I need you to tell me what sites you were visiting last night. 

Customer 2: What? 

Agent 2: We closely monitor your surfing to build a profile for advertising and I see that you were quite active last night, so I want to verify your identity and make sure you are who you say you are. I just need you to tell me one of the sites you visited last night at about 1am. 

Customer 2: I'm not going to do that.

Agent 2: Okay, well, alternatively you can lean out your south facing dining room and hold three fingers up in the air.

Customer 2: What will that prove?

Agent 2: I'm not really at liberty to discuss our partnership with the NSA.

Customer 2: Oh wow. Okay. 

Agent 2: There I see you on the monitor. That's a lovely turtleneck you're wearing. While I'm bringing up your account, would you mind verifying that your cable modem is plugged in? 

Customer 2: Plugged into what? Your wire runs from a pole outside my house into a bush as of sixty minutes ago. 

Agent 2: Okay, I understand, but I have to use this checklist, so please verify that your cable modem is turned on.

Customer 2: This is absurd. Nothing will work until the cable is attached to my house.

Agent 2: Have you verified that it's turned on now? 

Customer 2: Yeah, sure, it is on. 

Agent 2: Okay, please turn it off and then turn it back on. 

Customer 2: Seriously?

Agent 2: I'm in our system now. I see you're not taking advantage of our bundle deals. I'd be happy to fix that for you. 

Customer 2: Can you just send a tech my way to reattach the wire?

Agent 2: I understand what you're asking, but I do have to follow my checklist. Now, about those bundles. We have some really good deals to bundle your service. You can add video and it would only cost you an extra ...

Customer 2: Look, I want the same service I had yesterday, I just want it to work.

Agent 2: Okay, I'll schedule a time for one of our technicians to visit you.

Customer 2: When?

Agent 2: Because this is a priority, I think I can get you in next Wednesday. 

Customer 2: Six days from now? This is an emergency.

Agent 2: Many people have to wait a lot longer for a technician. Can I schedule a time for you between 10am and 2pm that day? 

Customer 2: I just can't believe you get away with this. The electric company is coming out in a few hours. You want to take a week?

Agent 2: Yes, well, the electric company is regulated, and you wouldn't want that for the cable industry, would you? We wouldn't be nearly as innovative if we had to fix things so quickly. Now can I set you up with a 10am to 2pm slot?

Customer 2: Yes.

Agent 2: Excellent. Just to be safe, I'd probably be ready for our tech to arrive anytime between 5am and 10pm. We aim for the four hour window, but achieve it a vanishingly small percent of the time. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Customer 2: Anything else? You haven't done anything but waste an hour of my day and refuse to give me timely service.

Agent 2: I'm sorry you feel that way, but let's talk one more time about how much you could save with a bundle.

Lisa: Thank you again for listening to the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We hope you enjoyed this podcast as much as we enjoyed producing it for you. Don't forget to send us your ideas for the show. Email us at podcast at Follow us on Twitter, our handle is @communitynets. Thanks again to Dickey F for his song, "Florida Mama," licensed through Creative Commons.