Check Your New RCN Bill for This Error

I just got off the phone with RCN, because I got my new RCN bill, the first after they switched completely to digital. They’ve proven better at irking me than even Comcast was.

To review, about a month and a half ago, I got an oversized postcard in the mail from RCN. It said, “You’ll lose programming on: July 22, 2008 [unless you get a digital converter box]. But once installed and the date has passed, you’ll enjoy more entertainment choices than ever before. For a limited time, YOUR FIRST STANDARD CONVERTER BOX IS FREE, and additional boxes are only $2.95 a month per box.” (emphasis in original) So I called right up and got 2 converter boxes.

The first problem is that this bill is $25.03 higher than the last one. (I was expecting something about $3 higher.) WTF? A brief examination showed that that they charged me $2.95 for one box and $5.95 for the other. On top of that, they back-billed me for last month’s rental on the converter boxes. (So double the overcharge amount.) And to sweeten the deal, they charged me for digital cable, which shows up as a $38.49 additional charge. WT-double-F? But more on that in a second.

So I immediately called them. Had to do some creative reading to figure out the number to call (877-RCN-BILL), because the note about how to dispute your bill doesn’t mention which number to call, only that you “can call.” Smart. I’m sure that will cut down on complaints. (NOT!) And make angry customers happier. (Double NOT!)

I talked to a “a Company representative,” whose name I will withhold because it wasn’t his/her fault–I’ll just use “he” from now on, even though it might have been a woman. It wasn’t his fault that he was such a hard-ass. That’s just his job, and if he were actually accommodating to customers, he wouldn’t get paid. (Hint: Get a new job.)

So here I am, pissed as hell and coming down with a stress headache, arguing with him over whether I should get the reduced rate. And he’s telling me about how the reduced rate applies only to new customers. (Well, I guess that puts a value on loyalty, doesn’t it? A negative value. But as I recall, Comcast puts the same negative value on loyalty.) But the notice I got clearly says, “You’ll lose your programming,” so this rate clearly applies to me, because how could I lose my programming if I were a new customer? And thank God I had saved the notice they had sent me. And then he needs to check on whether I had previously had a cable box. (I hadn’t, but he couldn’t figure that out.) And do you know what? I don’t care about any of that shit. That’s his problem, not mine, and I really don’t want it foisted on me. All I know is that I got a notice in the mail, and it said the rental would cost this much, and RCN is overcharging me. So FIX IT ALREADY!

34 minutes later (10:54 AM – 11:28 AM) he finally got it all straightened out. Now, I told him that there was a rate-increase associated with going to digital, and that none of the materials I got mentioned it. At first, I thought the rate increase was $38.49, but– Hold on. That’s not right. Here’s the breakdown. Before digital cable, I was paying $46.99 for analog cable. Now, I’m paying $13 for “basic cable service” plus $38.49 for “Signature cable TV,” which totals $51.49. That’s a rate increase of $4.50, not nearly as bad as I had thought. But they still forgot to mention that in any of their marketing materials or notices, and that sucks.

And it still sucks. How could such a piddling little increase be such a problem. Because they didn’t tell me about it, that’s why. This does not appear to be part of the other rate increases that some RCN customers are seeing, so I expect for those customers, it will be added on top of those. Or maybe not. Who can know what will happen when you’re making it up as you go along? (Not that RCN is making it up as they go along, mind you, only that it looks that way to an outsider.)

It still gets me, though, that I had to argue with him over this piddling 6-dollar-a-month charge, which amounts to less than 5.3% of the services I buy. And truth be told, I was considering (since I have digital now) whether I wanted to upgrade to a more expensive programming package. (Not considering it anymore, strangely enough.) Of course, those are just idle thoughts and not worth anything in $$$ until I actually do it. Still…

Hey. I understand. I’ve done it myself. I’ve said something stupid to piss off a potential client or customer. (I’ll have to tell you the story sometime of… But right now, it’s too fresh in my memory, and I’m not even sure how it will turn out.) What do you do? You cringe. You apologize if you can. And then you go on the best you can. We all make the mistake. But I’m thinking that only the best of us learn from it.

I shouldn’t even have to write these down. But maybe if I do, someone at RCN will get the message. (Or maybe not.) Whatever RCN does, you can take these points away from my experience.

  1. Whatever you told your customer you would do, just do it. Figure out on your own time how you’re going to account for it.
  2. Freely give your loyal customers the same discounts you give new customers, because that makes them more likely to buy your premium offerings.
  3. If you’re going to charge the customer more money than he’s used to for any reason, tell him about it up-front. Do not “forget” to mention it on the theory that you can justify it later.
  4. Always ask yourself, “Would the IRS do this?” And if so, re-assess immediately.
  5. And while I’m thinking about it, make sure you occasionally call your own call centers and place an order, or register a complaint, and see how they handle it. Be creative about thinking up unusual situations for them to handle. Think about anything in the process that could have gone wrong. (Including that the post office lost all your mailings to a particular customer, every single one.) Make sure the call center mentions all the up-sells in the script, and make sure the process is as pleasant and seamless as possible. Then make changes to the call-center scripts to fix the problems you find.

I was browsing the Comcast channel lineups and price guides even while still on the phone with RCN. Seriously. What else was I to do while waiting on hold? (The Internet is so kewl.) I’m thinking now I should call Comcast and say, “Hi. I’m an RCN customer, and I’m wondering what kind of a deal you can give me for switching?”

-TimK

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Comments

[…] There’s more to the story. There actually was an implicit rate increase, which I guess they must have forgotten to tell me […]

Check out the link above. My last day of RCN service was a week ago today. As you can see my RCN bill went up by 41%, but they did it over two months. Nice guys.

Bill Wood

[Click here to read about Bill’s travail and his letter to the Attorney General. -TimK]

Oy vey! See, this is exactly what I was talking about. RCN could have made this whole going-digital thing a marketing coup. Instead, they turned it into a nightmare (at least for some of us).

Me? I’m looking forward to the day I can move out of my townhouse and get a real house, and subscribe again to DirecTV. Back in the day, when I lived in a house, I did have a DirecTV satellite dish, and I never had any problems with them. (Okay, once there was the time the dish came off the stump to which I had it bolted. That’s a different story.) Don’t know that DirecTV is still better than RCN or Comcast–and I’d still have to work out a broadband Internet solution–but I’m at least looking forward to giving them a try.

-TimK

I too have just spent a great amount of time on the phone with the infamous RCN, when I should have been helping my son with his homework. I could call later in the day, but their billing and customer service department is not open then. Nice!

So, here’s my rant. I was perfectly happy with RCN for five years, so when I received a promotion for a wonderful package that had a 2 year contract attached I saw no problems. I even convinced a friend of mine to leave Comcast and sign a contract with RCN. I thought I would be a content customer for more years to come. This is how I’ve been thanked.

BANG! Not two months after I enter into this contract do they “stop offering” their “free service” of cable without a cable converter box according to their floor manager Amber. But why didn’t they tell me at the time I entered into this contract that I would need these boxes which would be an additional monthly rental charge? Were they afraid I might not sign on the dotted line and pledge my undying loyalty to their company? Well, they would have been right. Maybe I would have shopped around a little more, kept my account open to cancelation at any time, or (God forbid) changed over to their competetors Comcast or Verizon.

Oh, and RCN doesn’t accept any kind of coupons or aid that the government is giving out to try to keep people from raising a stink over the analog to digital change. You can’t buy a box for a one time fee, and the only place you can get said box to convert RCN’s “special” signal is from their very own company, for an additional fee of course. I received another slap in the face when I was told that customers who used to receive cheap analog service get a free box now. After 5 years of my loyalty, and the additional two years I just got snowballed into this is how they repay me and their other customers (with additional charges).

The floor manager and tech support operator assured me there was nothing they could do. I cannot believe these customer service reps are unable to offer me a way to keep my bill at the same rate that I agreed to a signed off on in August. I have the premium package, the one with all the bells and whistles; however, now for the next 24 months I have to pay to rent additional converter boxes plus tax.

I assured the floor manager that it was not the additional charge that annoyed me and prompted me to call, but the principle behind entering into a contract under false assumptions. Again, she told me they were allowed to cancel “free” services at any time. She told me they were not altering my contract, but that I would definitely have to pay additionally for these boxes on top of my contract. I am fit to be tied. I’d like to know if there’s anyone out there who is receiving more than one digital box in their package. I know my best friend and aunt are, but mysteriously that promo ended on September 30th. How flipping convenient for RCN.

I URGE ANYONE OUT THERE THAT STILL HAS THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE TO STAY AS FAR AWAY FROM RCN AS POSSIBLE– THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT THEIR PROFIT MARGIN!

I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY ACCOUNT BUT SOMETHING IS BEING ADDED MONTHLY THAT I AM NOT AWARE OF. I REALLY NEED CUSTOMER SERVICE HELP. I HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO REACH YOU BY PHONE WHILE MY BILL CLIMBS TO AN UNAFFORDABLE RATE MY ONLY OPTION IS TO SEEK A NEW COMPANY. MAYBE MY ORIGINAL ACCOUNT EXPIRED?

I got SCREWED ALSO!!! What a f***in PLOY!! Now my bill is $20 average higher…because “I won’t have programming after their digital switch” AND paying for a upgrade I didn’t want in the first place.

They GET “THE MARKETING LIAR’s AWARD OF THE DECADE”..the award one stip under the BUSH ADMINISTRATION!

so how is rcn is it a good cable company is it like timewaner cable is it better or the same will i be happy with rcn cable

THIS IS THE WORST COMPANY I HAVE EVER HAD. I SWITCHED FROM MY PREVIOUS COMPANY BECAUSE I WAS WOOED WITH A VARIETY OF FEATURES FOR THE SAME PRICE AS I WAS PAYING. NEEDLESS TO SAY, I HAVE NEVER RECIEVED A BILL THAT WAS UNDER $200 PER MONTH. MY TIVO BOXES ARE CONSTANTLY FREEZING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE DOES NOT CARE AT ALL ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. I AM SO GLAD SOMEONE IS WRITING ABOUT THIS HORRIBLE COMPANY. MORE PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW JUST HOW SHADY THIS COMPANY IS. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND RCN TO ANYONE.

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