Our home internet went down yesterday morning sometime, and by the time I woke up this morning, it still wasn’t back up, which meant contacting my provider, Time Warner Cable, to bitch and moan about the service. Mind you, I’ve been a TWC customer since we moved down to NC almost seven years ago, and I’ve been quite happy with them; outages have been few and far between, usually resolved within the hour. I’ve always been a fan of cable internet over DSL, and from other experiences friends & family have had in the area with DSL, I’ve never felt I made the wrong choice.

That isn’t to say that I love Time Warner Cable. I love cable internet. The company behind them? Notsomuch.

When I’ve had to call TWC in the past (most recently to activate a new modem I bought), it’s been wait time hell, and when I’ve gotten to speak to reps, they generally don’t stray from their script, which pisses off those of us who actually know what they’re talking about. See, script readers generally have no actual knowledge of the technology that they’re supporting; they just read their opening statement, listen for key words in your response, repeat back the assumed problem they derived from the keywords you said, and (upon confirmation) turn to the proper page in the script to spit out troubleshooting information. Anyone who has ever programmed can picture the process as a simple flowchart, full of IF…THEN statements. It works great for companies because they don’t have to hire actual technically qualified employees to man the phones – they can outsource until they come up with a voice-prompt program that does the same thing and doesn’t need to get paid anything. It works for callers who don’t know the tech well, because (for the mostpart) the phone support sounds supportive, reassuring, and speaks slowly enough so that they can understand what they need to do, since both sides of the conversation probably know as much about computers as the other.

For those of us who do know the tech though, this drives us bonkers, because (usually) we’ve already gone through steps 1-7 of their script and just want them to do something specific on their side that we don’t have access to. But since we’re saying words that they generally don’t understand, they’re ignoring them and listening for the keywords so that they can go back to the script, even if the words you just said just answered the question that they asked after you said it, because – you know – script.

Since I was at work and SO not going to call anyone, I saw that I could contact TWC through a chat interface. I will always pick a chat interface over a call any time I can, because 1) I can do anything else while I’m waiting for a rep instead of being chained to a phone and 2) because I hate talking on the phone. I hit the chat, knowing that I’m facing a potential issue since I’m not at home (and can’t really physically troubleshoot anything without being there), but all I really want them to do is see if there’s an outage in the area, and potentially check the connection from them to the modem. I’ve already rebooted the modem, wireless router, and computer – these are the cardinal rules of internet troubleshooting and you should NEVER call your internet provider without doing that. Seriously – shut down all three of them for like five minutes, then plug in the modem first, then five minutes, then wireless router, then five minutes, then computer. Do it. It will fix your issue like 95% of the time, and you don’t have to call anyone. It will save you stress, and if you do call, it’s the first thing they’re going to make you do. And don’t lie and say that you did already when you didn’t. I worked for an internet service provider and done various forms of tech support for years, and trust me when I say we know when you’re lying.

Anyway, I get the first guy on the chat, give him my info and let him know the issue. I let him know I’ve already done the reboots (SKIP THAT PAGE). He asks what error message the webpage is getting. I realize he’s true first-level support – he gets to deal with the people who complain that the link that their friend sent them in the FW:FW:FW:FW:FW: OH WOW THIS IS SO TRUE email isn’t working and I feel sad because I know he’s completely dead inside. He quickly sends me to “National Road Runner support” and as I leave, I light a candle for his soul. Never forget.

At “National Road Runner support”, I mean Sean Kenny. I do not know if his last name is “Kenny” or if it’s some kind of bizarre southern attempt at trying to modernize double first names like “Joe Bob”, not that it really matters since we know that it’s not really his name in the first place. What follows is the actual unedited (except for personal information) chat conversation between myself and Sean Kenny (with added commentary, of course).

[8:32:07 AM] Sean Kenny > Hello! Thank you for choosing Road Runner Internet Technical Chat Support. My name is Sean Kenny. I will help you.
[8:32:11 AM] Sean Kenny > Hi Thomas!
[8:32:12 AM] Sean Kenny > How are you doing today?
[8:32:25 AM] Thomas_ > OK I guess
[8:32:51 AM] Sean Kenny > I see that you are having issues with your internet connectivity. Correct?
[8:33:45 AM] Thomas_ > Yes - we've been without Internet access for over 24 hours now. Modems and wireless routers have both been rebooted several times with no luck.
[8:34:03 AM] Sean Kenny > Okay, Thomas. Not to worry. I'm glad that you have contacted us. I'd be more than happy to help you.
[8:34:53 AM] Sean Kenny > Let me tell you. I've just been through your account details. Apart from the no connectivity, YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKIEST CUSTOMERS OF TWC. Let me talk about that once we fix your issue.

“Apart from the no connectivity, YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKIEST CUSTOMERS OF TWC.” Let that sink in. That’s like a ER doctor saying “apart from being shot in the testicles and us forgetting to give you pain meds, YOU ARE ONE OF THE LUCKIEST CUSTOMERS OF THIS HOSPITAL.”

Also, I’m pretty sure that in my “account details” it should say “this guy is a dick who insists he knows everything about computers – PROCEED WITH CAUTION.” If it doesn’t, it probably does now.

[8:35:25 AM] Sean Kenny > Please give me a moment while I check if there is any problem from the server's end.
[8:36:37 AM] Sean Kenny > Is the router connected to the modem, Thomas?

First rule of tech support – it’s probably your fault. In this case, he’s ready to blame it on the wireless router because 1) wireless technology still isn’t all that great, especially in the hands of those who don’t know tech, and 2) because if he can blame it on that he can get off the phone quicker. Not going to work.

[8:36:54 AM] Thomas_ > Yes.
[8:37:20 AM] Thomas_ > But I've plugged a computer directly into the modem as well without connectivity.

IT TECH TIP: If you’ve got a wireless router and you’re having issues connecting to the internet, ALWAYS plug something directly into the modem and bypass the router to check to see if that’s the problem. Or, better yet, do what I did and lie and say that you did (I’m not home, rememeber?)

[8:38:05 AM] Sean Kenny > Okay, Thomas. Can you remove the router and connect directly to the modem?

Tried to beat him to the punch, but that would require looking up from the script.

[8:39:13 AM] Thomas_ > To test connectivity without connecting to the router? I've already tried that as I just said.

This would be when you’d start putting in those “this guy’s a dick” comments in my “account details” I mentioned earlier.

[8:39:33 AM] Sean Kenny > Okay, Thomas. Let me refresh the signals and reset your device from my end. It could help us.

Yeah, that’s what I was going for – stuff I can’t do that you can. It was pretty much the only reason I was talking with these guys (and to see if there was a local outage).

[8:40:51 AM] Sean Kenny > Thomas! I've just made the signal refresh and device reset from the server's end. It should definitely help us now. Please check.

Sean Kenny! Why are you yelling at me!

[8:41:13 AM] Sean Kenny > If this didn't help, please power cycle the modem/router (Un plug and plug In) for 60 sec and again connect to the system.

Somewhere along the line, “power cycle” became a term that replaced “unplug the damn thing, wait, then plug it back in.” It still sounds to me like a crappy 90s X-Men villain.

CYCLOPS: Wolverine! We need to get the Blackbird over to the Hoover Dam - Power Cycle has taken it over and if he harnesses the energy from it he could be UNSTOPPABLE.

WOLVERINE: I don't take orders from you, bub.


[8:43:57 AM] Thomas_ > OK - waiting to hear back from my wife. I'm not at the house currently as I had to go to work. I'd have her contact you but, you know, no Internet.

Snark helps these things go quicker.

[8:44:34 AM] Sean Kenny > Okay, Thomas. Not to worry. Let me create a case on this. 
[8:44:48 AM] Sean Kenny > I'm sure you'd get this fixed as soon as possible.

If I could fix it, it’d be fixed already. (and yes, I know he probably meant to say “you’d like to get this fixed”, but he didn’t.)

[8:44:55 AM] Thomas_ > OK
[8:46:50 AM] Sean Kenny > I'm now writing the case, Thomas. You will be given a case number and local office number. Just one call to them, and your issue is fixed.
[8:47:00 AM] Sean Kenny > Now, let me tell you the good news I was talking about.

That you fixed my internet? Oh, right. No – go ahead.

[8:48:36 AM] Sean Kenny > I really don't want to rush you with this now. But, I'm afraid, this happened to be a one time offer. And this is certainly not for everyone.

Parental Guidance Suggested. May contain material unsuitable for smaller children.

[8:48:37 AM] Sean Kenny > You are really one of the luckiest customers of TWC!

Being without service for 24+ hours? I’M POOPING SHAMROCKS OVER HERE.

[8:48:51 AM] Sean Kenny > I see that you are now in "Standard" plan, where your speeds are 15 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. These speeds are considered as "Faster" speeds. 

I’m both “Standard” and “Faster”, much in the way a drink at McDonalds is both a “small” and a “medium”.

[8:49:02 AM] Sean Kenny > But, while going through your account details, I noticed a wonderful opportunity on your account.
[8:49:15 AM] Sean Kenny > You might have heard about the "Turbo" plan, where the speeds are 20 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload. These speeds are considered as "Fastest speeds". 

There are two plans available faster than the Turbo plan. I’m assuming those are considered the “Fasterest” and “Fastestest” speeds. I’m still holding out for “Fasterestest.”

[8:49:32 AM] Sean Kenny > With this offer(which only you are eligible), you can get Turbo plan, just for 10$ extra per month!!! 


[8:49:34 AM] Sean Kenny > You don't NEED any NEW EQUIPMENT. NO NEED OF ANY INSTALLATION. And the offer has NO CONTRACT absolutely. There is no cancellation fee as well. You can cancel the offer any time, if you feel it is not worth.

…what? Not worth what? The time? A farthing? A damn? It’s weight in gold? DON’T LEAVE ME HANGING, SEAN KENNY.

[8:49:43 AM] Sean Kenny > And not only these. You can have many more advantages with this! 


[8:49:46 AM] Sean Kenny > *** You can connect multiple devices (Wireless/Wifi) with dashing speeds.

That’s why I have a wireless router – to connect more than one thing. (Also: “dashing speeds”? How does “dashing” rate on the “fastest” scale?)

*** You can create multiple email addresses upto 24 email addresses.

How much was I paying you for email addresses before? Can I have money back if I don’t want any?

*** Your email storage quota increases from 2 GB to 5 GB.

Gmail gives me 10 GB. Just sayin’.

*** And no contract again!
[8:49:55 AM] Sean Kenny > You don't have to pay anything now. The upgrade is just a click away. All I need is a YES from you!! 
[8:49:58 AM] Sean Kenny > This is unfortunately a one time offer (Usually, customers get this chance for 34$ or 50$ or more extra per month. Being so lucky, you can get this upgrade just for 10$ extra per month). And with NO CONTRACT and NO CANCELLATION FEE. So I suggest you to try this for some days, and you can cancel it if you do not wish to continue.

This is where I got a little irked. Hyperbole is one thing; this is a flat-out lie. To upgrade from “Standard” to “Turbo”, if you are a TWC customer and go to their regular website and try to upgrade, costs an extra $10 a month. It always has. Calling it a “one time offer” is solely a pressure sales tactic, and saying customers pay $34 or $50 or more extra a month for Turbo is a flat out LIE. Upgrading even to their highest available service (two levels above Turbo) is only $30 more a month.

[8:50:04 AM] Sean Kenny > I personally suggest you not to miss such a wonderful opportunity. 
[8:51:21 AM] Sean Kenny > Just a "YES", Thomas. We are literally a button away from the upgrade.


[8:51:57 AM] Thomas_ > No.

I could have really been dickish, but I decided to let it go.

[8:52:08 AM] Sean Kenny > That's understandable. But please don't sense this as a sales pitch and me trying to make compensation. Please think of it as me, an internet expert, trying to maximize your internet speeds with a non contract and nominal upgrade. Worth a shot.

AN INTERNET EXPERT. Well crap, when professional internetests tell me to do something, they MUST know what they’re talking about, right? Much in the same way that a car salesman is actually a movement expert who is trying to maximize your travel speeds from your Honda POS to a Corvette for a nominal upgrade. To help *you*.

[8:52:17 AM] Sean Kenny > Really not to force you. As this happened to be a limited offer, you can try this offer atleast for a month and check if it satisfies you. If not, you can cancel it any time, as there is no cancellation fee and contract!


[8:54:31 AM] Sean Kenny > Shall we make the upgrade now, Thomas?

…because if you don’t tell me no soon I’m just going to do it anyway because I’m an internet expert, damn it, and I know what you need, and I’m going to give it to you whether you want it or not.

[8:56:07 AM] Thomas_ > Sorry, Internet Expert. The answer is no.

Yeah – I couldn’t let that one go.

[8:56:27 AM] Sean Kenny > It's okay, Thomas. I can understand. No problem.
[8:57:05 AM] Sean Kenny > Here, THomas. Your case number is: ########
[8:57:14 AM] Sean Kenny > Let me share the local office number now.
[8:57:17 AM] Sean Kenny > Office Number: (XXX) XXX-XXXX
Toll Free: (XXX) XXX-XXXX
[8:57:20 AM] Sean Kenny > Let me also send a copy of our chat transcript to your email address. It could be useful.

Could be? You KNOW it will be.

[8:57:57 AM] Sean Kenny > I hope you'd get this fixed as soon as possible, Thomas.
[8:58:27 AM] Sean Kenny > Would you like me to provide you with any other information?
[8:58:44 AM] Thomas_ > No, I think that's it.
[8:59:12 AM] Sean Kenny > Thank you, THomas.
[8:59:29 AM] Sean Kenny > It was really nice talking to you.
[8:59:35 AM] Sean Kenny > You have a wonderful day!
[8:59:39 AM] Sean Kenny > Take care!
[8:59:44 AM] Sean Kenny > Bye!
[8:59:50 AM] Sean Kenny > Have a nice weekend, Thomas!

I cut it off here, otherwise I was sure Sean Kenny would have kept going in an infinite loop until he exploded. I still have to head home and see if the Internet is working, but even if it isn’t, I’ll still have the knowledge that I’m ONE OF THE LUCKIEST CUSTOMERS OF TWC.

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