“Dear Time Warner Cable. On April 23rd I moved and had an appointment with Time Warner Cable to come and install cable, Internet and phone service and no one showed up,” begins the open letter from comedian Eugene Mirman published in neighborhood mini-papers the New York Press and Greenpoint Gazette last week detailing the saga of wiring his new Brooklyn apartment.
Mr. Mirman was given five different appointment times in total by mutually-oblivious customer service representatives in a back-and-forth that escalated to the level of dystopian absurdity; when a tech finally showed up, it was discovered by coincidence that the company had been erroneously charging Mr. Mirman for months for a second cable box he didn’t have.
“It feels like their problem is just very high up in infrastucture because there were plenty of people who were totally nice and helpful but somewhat powerless. But what a terrible company,” Mr. Mirman told The Observer. “I’ve just rarely dealt with a company where you’re like ‘this happened!’ and they’re like ‘Yeah. That’s a thing we do.’ They’re so big and monolithic that they feel like a state-owned entity. A state-owned entity that is giant and not fully competent.”
The letter includes references to Joseph Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, Time Warner’s one-and-a-half star rating on Yelp and “a controlling, abusive husband on an episode of Law and Order.”
The Observer asked Time Warner spokesman Bobby Amirshahi whether he felt Mr. Mirman’s comparison of Time Warner to “an ill-run Soviet factory” was appropriate, given the company’s virtual monopoly in parts of the city and its special reputation for gross ineptitude delivered with a fatalistic apathy. “I’m not going to get into some of those colorful descriptive things, but suffice to say I think we’re a great company that’s working really hard to get better,” he said.
“I might end up taking out more ads,” said Mr. Mirman, who spent $1,100 on the campaign. “I don’t know that I want to be a spokesman, but I do feel like this is a problem that they could fix, and this is also a universal thing. Like, everyone is of one mind about Time Warner,” he said. An informal survey conducted among The Observer’s friends and on Twitter supported this. “I’ve just never seen a company that is so disliked in such a specific way that also provides a thing you want and provides it very well. I am happy to have made fun of them in a public way that is actually getting out there. I feel like there’s a tiny chance that someone will notice and try to fix this a little.”
Any advice for how the company can repair its image? “I would say that one of the things they could do is if they say they’re going to come during a certain time, to maybe come during that time and ring people’s doorbells like any other thing you would ever order,” he said, objecting to the company’s policy of rescheduling appointments if a customer doesn’t answer his or her phone. “I think if they showed up, half the complaints that people have about them would go away.”
Mr. Mirman dealt with several helpful Time Warner employees, he qualified, and has been enjoying Dr. Who and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations following a successful installation on May 6.