Dear Big Cable Companies, This Is Why Everybody Hates You
It’s no secret cable companies are some of the most hated companies in America. Surveys have proven it year after year. But we don’t need official studies to tell us everyone loves to loathe their cable.
TV is expensive, internet is essential, and hardly anyone is satisfied with their service. Plus, cable companies are losing customers, as people choose streaming services over TV providers. When we get down to why that is, it’s clear these providers have dug their own graves.
Here’s why everyone hates cable companies. We could’ve easily made a more exhaustive list, but for the sake of your blood pressure and overall sanity, we cut it short.
1. They don’t reward loyalty
Actually, they punish loyal customers. Your reward for being a customer for a year or more? An increase in price. That could be considered a loyalty service tactic — on opposite day. Only new customers get those discounted advertised rates you see flashing on pop-up website windows.
Excitement prevails when Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) offers a $29.99 bundle deal, so why are you paying $118 for the same deal? Read the fine print, and you’ll realize this lower price is for new customers only. And that $29.99 only applies to the TV service. What it meant to say was it’s $29.99 for each service, making TV, internet, and phone service $89.97 at least — but that’s still cheaper than what you’re paying.
Next: What customer service?
2. Poor customer service
Again, a survey probably was not needed to confirm what we already know. Customer service is abominable throughout the cable-internet sector. Congratulations to the ones unlucky enough to have Comcast as their area TV and internet provider. It has been a repeat winner of the Worst Company in America, notorious for nightmarish treatment of customers and horror stories that would make even the devil cringe in despair. Dishonest sales representatives, obnoxious cancellation fees, and habitually late service technicians have all contributed to poor ratings and online venting sessions by angry customers.
Next: Shady price hikes
3. Routine price hikes
Long-term TV subscribers are all too familiar with unexpected and sudden price hikes. When DirecTV offers a $50 TV package to its customers, it’s not lying. It does, however, try to disguise in fine print this price is only applicable for a year, at which time the price will skyrocket to the rate of $90 per month for the same service.
The slyest sales reps will paint a lovely scene about low, low prices but neglect to mention the true price after the available promotions expire. Then, your bill suddenly shows a new charge, and you’re forced to call the company with steam shooting from your ears.
Next: Inconsistent channel lineups
4. The most popular channels are listed in higher packages
Smart cable companies have forced upselling by offering the most popular channels in higher-priced packages only. What’s worse is the channel lineups vary from provider to provider. While you can get popular family channels, such as MTV and cartoon networks, in DirecTV’s lowest Select package, Spectrum only lists the same channels in its highest Gold package. This means many families will need to spend more money to get their requested channels, depending on the available provider.
Next: When we take to the law, everybody wins.
5. They’re no stranger to lawsuits
Most days, cable companies get away with conducting shady business deals. Other times, they’re slapped with lawsuits as punishment for their wicked ways. Spectrum was recently sued for providing internet speeds approximately 80% slower than advertised. The lawsuit aims to reimburse customers who paid for 300 megabits per second but only received 85 megabits per second. Comcast was also hit with accusations of wrongful billing charges to customers and was forced to pay a $2.3 million fine after a federal investigation.
Next: When threats don’t work
6. You can get better deals if you threaten to cancel
Cord cutting, or the act of removing TV service altogether, is a phenomenon that’s sweeping the nation. In fact, 25% of Americans have severed ties with the television beasts after years of enduring frustrating customer service. And though some might think those people are crazy, others are envious of their ability to save $125 a month by forgoing cable.
You’d think such rapid decline in service would prompt better package deals, but it seems the only way for customers to get cheaper pricing or additional channels is by threatening to cancel service. Will an hour and a half of staunch negotiation work, or are you just wasting your Sunday morning fighting a losing battle? Either way, make sure you talk to the retention department if you are trying to negotiate, they have the real power to grant you a lower price.
Next: Few options for customization
7. You can’t buy channels a la carte
Wouldn’t it be great if you could “build your own” channel package like you can a burrito or pizza? A recent survey by TiVo’s Digitalsmiths found customers would be willing to pay over $1.50 per channel for a la carte access to certain channels, such as ESPN, PBS, and A&E. Streaming and individual network subscription services have opened the door for these options, but big-name companies have yet to capitalize on this market. Until then, companies will continue to see hate mail from dissatisfied patrons who watch only six channels but pay for 89.
Next: Bundle, bundle, bundle!
8. Buy a package, or get slapped with higher prices
The average cost of cable TV service is just over $110, according to Leichtman Research Group. This is interesting, considering prices advertised to consumers are much lower. Most cable companies incentivize bigger subscriptions by offering package deals when combining all three services. If you just want basic Comcast TV, or another individual service, your base price would be $29.95 for TV, $39.99 for internet, and $29.99 for voice before other additional fees. The package price, however, is much more affordable at a price of $89.99 per month.
Next: A lack of service providers in your area
9. Monopolies prohibit your ability to choose among services
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about cable companies is your inability to choose among services in your area. Some parts of the country deal with actual monopolies, or near monopolies, from providers who offer the only available service. Rural areas have fewer choices than urban areas. This means though all companies have negative stigmas tied to them, you’re unable to choose between the lesser of two evils. This also means you become a slave to designated prices, no matter how high they get.
Next: Double service charges are the norm.
10. A service charge, plus equipment
Some companies charge you monthly leasing fees for their equipment. DVRs, modems, and cable boxes add up quickly. But in addition to paying for the service, you must pay extra for those boxes to actually receive the service on every TV. The more rooms you have, the higher your bill climbs.
And, surprise, surprise, sometimes they get carried away over in the billing department. According to a U.S. Senate report, Time Warner Cable overbilled customers nationwide an estimated $639,948 between January and April 2016 and was projected to overcharge customers $1.9 million throughout that year.
Next: Falsely advertised internet speeds
11. Internet speeds are nowhere near advertised amounts
Do an internet speed test, and you’ll find you’re not receiving what you pay for. Cable companies can get away with providing slower internet speeds than originally promised just by including two key words into the plan: “up to.”
As demonstrated in this Reddit thread, customers frequently feel scammed by providers who promised 150 megabits per second but actually receive only 50 megabits per second when tested. Nothing triggers your inner rage monster faster than waiting for a movie to buffer on a server that claimed to withstand heavy streaming and multi-device capability. Technicians might blame faulty equipment or user error, but in reality there’s little that can be done to change internet speeds routing into your home.
Next: You’re bound by contracts.
12. Contracts lock you in for a defined time period
Some of us only watch TV at certain times of the year, such as when football is back in season or Hallmark Channel runs its “25 Days of Christmas” movie marathon. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could purchase service for those instances only? Unfortunately, cable companies have made it hard for customers to come and go as they please. For example, both Verizon Fios and DirecTV have two-year agreements all new customers must succumb to unless you want to fork over early termination fees should you have a change of heart.
Next: Sneaky hidden fees fuel anger.
13. Hidden fees are everywhere
Americans hate feeling duped. So when cable companies sneak fees into your monthly bill, it’s bound to send you off the rails. Providers are notorious for tacking on additional rental fees for modems, as well as installation fees. Also, don’t be surprised to find installation fees are different from activation fees. Activating and installing are two separate services from the company’s point of view.
At one point, DirecTV offered a slight discount for customers who went paperless and enrolled in automatic payments. But if you chose paper billing, it charged you an additional fee, as the advertised price assumed customers would always enroll in auto pay.
Next: We hate being sold over the phone.
14. Untrustworthy sales representatives
Some cable sales representatives are more shady than others. They’ll pile on applicable promotions and fail to mention the sticker shock that’s waiting for you three months down the line. Compliance standards try to safeguard against misleading customers, but smooth operators have found ways around the industry lingo. They’re pros at claims that allow the customer to infer one thing, but they really mean something else entirely.
Commission-based representatives will say whatever they can to get you to pull the trigger, as they score credit for the sale regardless of whether you call in later to cancel. Sometimes, you’ll talk with a reputable worker, but cable companies didn’t earn their despicable stigmas due to their abundance of honest employees.
Next: Service technicians are frustrating.
15. They require house calls to diagnose and detect problems
Customer service via online chat rooms is nice but not really effective when most repairs require a technician to resolve. It usually goes like this: You wait 30 minutes on hold for an available representative, spend five minutes relaying account information to said representative, then spend another 20 minutes trying to resolve a problem that will likely end with an in-home appointment with a service technician. Cable companies often charge you anywhere from $50 to $100 plus precious time for these calls, regardless of whether the error is your fault.
Next: You paid for fault equipment.
16. New equipment is not guaranteed
You’d think forking over hundreds of dollars each month for cable service would warrant new equipment. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most providers give new customers old or refurbished modems and boxes. Then, when you call about an equipment breakdown, their first line of defense is to blame the old equipment they gave you. Are we really to blame for complaining about receiving dusty receivers and dented cable boxes?
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.