Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cable, the final Frontier

As with many people, I've been frustrated by the high cost of cable television, especially since most of what I watch anymore is streaming video through Amazon and Netflixs. I have cable bundled with telephone and Internet through Frontier. I've used their services for about eight years since we moved into our current home (and it was the only option). My cable package has included just about every premium channel out there and I've paid dearly for it over the years.

A few weeks ago I was shocked to see my bill had increased by almost a $100 over the monthly bill I was used to. Reviewing the bill didn't shed any light on why. It was full of service charges, taxes and unintelligible components. So I reached out to Frontier's customer service for an explanation. It launched a saga I'm sure many people who deal with cable companies are familiar with. But here is a sample of my chat sessions with Frontier customer service and tech support. I apologize for how long it is, but I wanted to give a true sense of how bad Frontier's customer service really is. The only customer service I have experienced that is as bad as their's is Boost Mobile.

My first session with Frontier was on July 31, 2018. Frontier's comments are in gray. Mine are in blue. My unarticulated thoughts are in parentheses. 

When you chat with us, you grant us permission to review your services during the chat to offer you the best value. Your current services will not be affected if you refuse permission by not proceeding with chat. Frontier has the duty to protect your information. This is your right under Federal law. For quality and security purposes, your session is recorded and may be monitored or reviewed.
1:17 PMTime H
My bill has increased almost $75 over the past two months. I'm trying to determine why? What is a Directory/Non-Reg charge?
Jade1:18 PM
Thank you for chatting with Frontier, Time. My name is Jade and I'll be assisting you today.
May I confirm your billing telephone number xxxxxxxxxx and this is the account we will be looking at together? 
1:18 PMTime H
Jade1:18 PM
Thank you. 
Please bear with me while I'm reviewing the information on your account.
I see here that you have Phone, Internet, and TV services.
1:22 PMTime H
That is correct.
Jade1:24 PM
I have reviewed the account.
I noticed that your discounts expired in your June statement.
1:25 PMTime H
What discounts were those? I have had this service for eight years.
Jade1:26 PM
They were discounts for Internet, and TV services
While we are taking care of your services I will review your account to make sure you are getting the best value. 

(Translated this means Jade will review my account to see if she can get more money out of me and distract me from the real reason I had contacted Customer Service.)
1:27 PMTime H
The current bill still shows a Frontier Package Cr of $xx and and Fios TriplePlay Bundle credit of $xx.xx
Jade1:28 PM
Right. You have discounts in your plan.
So far, how are your services?
1:29 PMTime H
Phone works. Internet seems slow at times. Television works. What discounts did I lose?
Jade1:29 PM
Also we have faster internet speed available in the area to as fast as 1Gbps.
Mostly discounts for internet and TV, Time.
So I can help provide you a better recommendations for your TV service, May  I know what are your must have channels?
1:34 PMTime H
We stream through Amazon and Netflix most of the time. So I don't need the movie packages. Basic programming would be fine. And I no longer use the DVR.
Jade1:35 PM
I see. So you no longer record shows on your DVR?
1:35 PMTime H
Jade1:36 PM
Do you watch TV sports channels?
1:36 PMTime H
Jade1:36 PM
How about the the rest of your household what channels do they mostly watch?
1:37 PMTime H
Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Jade1:37 PM
Copy that.
Almost done here.
1:38 PMTime H
Can you tell me what Directory/Non-Reg charges are? They have doubled in the past month to $82.98
Jade1:40 PM
Is this in your July statement?
1:40 PMTime H
Jade1:40 PM
1:41 PMTime H
The total bill is $xxx.xx. The bill before that was $xxx. The bills before that were all around $xxx.
Jade1:42 PM
I'm checking.
Im not seeing those charges you mentioned.
But I have here a quote ready for you.
1:49 PMTime H
On page four of the July statement where they break down costs. Directory/Non-Reg $82.98
Jade1:50 PM
I will send you a copy of the bill I have here.
Please check your bill.
I have sent it to your email.
This will be for Phone (Unlimited Local and Long distance),and internet speeds upgraded to FIOS 100/100Mbps and FIOS Prime HD with 1 Set Top Box will be $xxx.xx/mo. before taxes.
1:54 PMTime H
I have two televisions hooked up to FIOS. What is the price after taxes?
1:55 PMTime H
I received the bill you sent. If you look at page four you will see the charge I was asking about four up from the total.
Jade1:56 PM
Based on your current bill your taxes were around $xx.xx, but since we are downgrading your TV plans.
The taxes will also decrease.
1:57 PMTime H
The price you quoted me was for one set top box. Does that cover both televisions?
Jade1:58 PM
I'm sorry that's for 1 Set Top Box.
Adding 1 Set Top Box will be $xxx.xx/mo before taxes.
2:01 PMTime H
Okay. But I am still trying to figure out what the Directory/Non-Reg charge for $xx.xx is.
(At this point I am frustrated because I've just cancelled all of my premium channels and the price I've been quoted is almost as high as my Frontier package originally was before I lost whatever discounts I had. It is also pretty obvious Jade does know what the Directory/Non-Reg charges are for.)

Jade2:03 PM
I actually checked that with the other team.

(By checking with the other team I assume Jade tapped the person seated next to her on the shoulder, interrupting their game of Fortnite and asked them what Directory/Non-Reg charges were. I imagine they shrugged and went back to their game.)

2:03 PMTime H
It was only $xx in June.
Jade2:05 PM
They said that the charge was for Directory Assistance.
2:05 PMTime H
Actually it was $xx in May, then $xx in June. Now it's xx.xx
Jade2:05 PM
Non-Reg means one time charge.
2:07 PMTime H
What kind of directory assistance?
Jade2:08 PM
It's not indicated, but our phone support can track that for you, Time.
Later on after we confirm the changes on the account I can connect you over.
Going back to the order, shall I proceed with the changes? → Phone (Unlimited Local and Long distance),and internet speeds upgraded to FIOS 100/100Mbps and FIOS Prime HD with 2 Set Top Box will be $xxx.xx/mo. before taxes.
2:10 PMTime H
Yes, please
Jade2:10 PM
I will proces the order now
You will be provided with the additional set top box, and you will receive a return mailer for the DVR.
(Note here that she said they would send me an additional set top box.)

2:11 PMTime H
For the Internet will I need a new router?
Jade2:13 PM
A Tech installation will be required, so tech will help you with the upgrade.
But for the TV equipment, its a plug and play equipment and no additional configuration will be needed.
The soonest we can have a tech out is August 7.
Will you be available, Time?
2:15 PMTime H
Yes, I am actually home on August 7.
Jade2:16 PM
Please take note of this important information. To ensure a successful installation of your services, here is what you need to know:  • The Technician will arrive between 1PM and 5PM on AUGUST 7.  • Someone 18 or older must be present at the home during the entire installation period who can authorize work and provide inside access to your property. • Installation typically takes between 2 to 3 hours after the Technician arrives; however, some installations could take longer depending on wiring needed at your home.  • In some cases, we may be required to install additional wiring or jacks, which may result in additional charges. • We will call you with an appointment reminder the day before your installation, and on the day of installation, our technician will contact you prior to his/her arrival.  • If for any reason you need to change or reschedule your installation appointment, please chat or call us at 800-921-8101 and reference your Service Order #: 0xxxxxxxxx
2:18 PMTime H
Jade2:19 PM
Just a quick recap, you will have the new monthly rate of $xxx.xx/mo. before taxes. Phone (Unlimited Local and Long distance),and internet speeds upgraded to FIOS 100/100Mbps and FIOS Prime HD with 2 Set Top Box will be $xxx.xx/mo. before taxes. Proration will appear in your next statement.
Return mailers will be provided for the DVR.
The Service Order #: xxxxxxx will be completed on August 7 with tech visit from 1-5PM.
While I was completing the order I went ahead and inquired about the Directory Assistance, they have informed us about the instances that the Directory Assistance were used from June to July.
This call outs were to the nos. 411 and 413
If you need more indepth information about this call transactions I can still connect  you over to Phone specialist.
Anything else I can help you further from here?
2:26 PMTime H
Please connect me to the Phone Specialist. We don't know anything about calls to 411 or 413.
2:26 PMTime H
Thanks for your help, Jade.
Jade2:27 PM
You're welcome. 
Jade2:28 PM
Let me correct myself, like the 411-413 numbers are directory numbers that are not available on your phone.
Connecting you now.

(Okay, that made absolutely no sense. Thanks for nothing Jade.)

Steven2:37 PM
Hello Time, my name is Steven and I want to thank you for chatting with Frontier Technical Support. I see that you are having issues with your phone.
2:38 PMTime H
Hi Steven, I was inquiring about charges for Directory/Non-Reg over the last several months. We haven't been calling directory assistance.
Steven2:40 PM
I do apologize. Please bear with me while I look into this issue for you.
Thank you. I am not showing that your account dialed 411, I am only showing 10 digit numbers.
2:49 PMTime H
We rarely call from our land line. But I'm showing $xx.xx on the current bill for Directory/Non-Reg. The month before was $xx and the month before that $xx. We haven't been calling for any directory assistance.
Steven2:53 PM
I understand. I am not certain of what that charge would be. All of the numbers are 10 digits i.e, a normal phone number. I am not certain what leads into that charge.
2:53 PMTime H
Is there someone who would know what those charges are for?
Steven2:57 PM
Only customer service would be able to break down that charge to determine why it is so high.
2:57 PMTime H
Okay, could you connect me with customer service please?
Steven3:00 PM
No problem. One moment I will transfer you. I do hope you have a great rest of your evening, thank you for contacting Frontier Communications. Have a great day.
3:01 PMTime H
(I found that the tech people at Frontier are really anxious to bounce people back to customer service.)

Vivian3:02 PM
Thank you for chatting with Frontier. My name is Vivian. I am more than happy to assist you today as I know it is very important to have your issue resolved. I see your chat has been transferred. 
Please allow me just a moment to read the transcript
So I understand you are questioning Directory Assistance charges on your bill is that correct?
3:05 PMTime H
Yes, I just spoke to your telephone services and they don't show and directory assistance calls. We use our cell phones for most of our calls and only use the land line generally when someone calls us.
Vivian3:06 PM
I can understand your concern Time and I am happy to take a look. Just a moment as I access your bill, please.
3:07 PMTime H
I am referring to page four of the statement on the right hand column. The Directory/Non-Reg charge this month is $xx.xx. Last month it was almost $xx and the month before was $xx.
Vivian3:09 PM
Okay give me just a moment please
I understand what you are seeing although you have no Directory Assistance charges on your bill. That column is a breakdown of some charges that ultimately totals to the amount of your balance on current bill.
Jut a moment please
It is a bucket of charges broken down but I am getting more information for a better understanding. Just a moment please.
Thank you for waiting, Time.  That column is for directory assistance or non-regulated services. In your case since you do not have directory assistance, that bucket only has non regulated services.
I haven't heard from you for a few moments. Are you still with me? 

(Vivian doesn't really know what non-regulated services are any more than Jade. But she liked throwing around the phrase "bucket of charges" as often as possible.)
3:24 PMTime H
Yes, I'm trying to understand what a non regulated service is and why the charge keeps going up. I've never had a $xxx.xx bill in eight years.
Vivian3:28 PM
Bills for residence customers is broken down into different categories: Basic,Non-basic,Regulated,Non-regulated and so far as you see it on that column. But you would look at your actual billing charges to understand how your bill is for the total amount due not at the different category balance as it can be confusing that is just for the way bucket are broken down
Looking at current bill dated 7/28 and previous bill 6/28 total amount for your services is the same $xxx.xx
The difference is, you had some discounts that have expired 
June's bill had a prorated discount of $xx.xx and $x.xx reason why it was a little higher than May's bill and now July's bill is higher do to no more discounts 
3:34 PMTime H
Was there somewhere that told me discounts were expiring on the past bills? And were they for premium channels? Can you tell me what the dscounts were and why they expired all of a sudden after 8 years?
Vivian3:40 PM
I can understand your concern regarding discount has expired. Please know you have had it for a very long time and it has ended. As I further review your account it indicates an order in place for service change
Said change will be reflected on the next billing statement dated 8/28/18

(Vivian never owns up to the fact that Frontier never said anything about discounts expiring. I eventually get the impression that someone in accounting realized I had had the same Frontier package for eight years without getting shafted by a bill increase.  Vivian's bucket of non-regulated charges is simply the difference between what I was paying with discounts and how much the services were now costing.)
3:40 PMTime H
Jade from you office made changes to my account would change the rate to $xxx.xx/mo. before taxes. Will that have any other fees besides taxes?
Vivian3:41 PM
That is correct and with much higher speed which is a very nice offer
3:42 PMTime H
So no additional "Non regulated" fees? Just $xxx.xx plus taxes.
3:43 PMTime H
And no other discounts that will expire?
Vivian3:43 PM
It will be plus taxes and surcharges like current bill Time. The bucket area will still show the breakdown as buckets 

(Vivian loves her buckets.)
Vivianis typing

We offer different promotions which they do change from time to time. For the new offer please check your bill once it prints as it will list the new sevices and/or any discounts and expiration dates 
I am not sure if you were advise when upgrading your internet speed, we can offer you a $150 savings on the Nest Learning Thermostat (it saves 20% off of your power bill on average and you can control it from your smart phone)! I can ship it out to you and place the $99 plus a one-time shipping charge of $9 (It retails at $249 right now). You can put it right on the Frontier bill.  
The Nest Thermostat saves you 20% on average off of your power bill!  Would you like to take advantage of this great offer today?  

 3:50 PMTime H

(Vivian couldn't let me go without trying to sell me yet one more thing. I also can't wait to see my new bill and try and find my expiration dates on the discounts on my basic package of services. Also note I spent two and a half hours on the Frontier Customer Service chat line).

The Frontier installer arrived as promised and installed my high speed Internet router. He was a very nice young man. He knew nothing about the set top box that Frontier was going to provide me to replace the eight year old DVR box. He said it should be sent by customer service along with a mailer box to return the DVR (I'm not sure what they are going to do with an eight year old DVR).

On August 13, 2018 I received the mailer to return the DVR but no set top cable box to replace it. So once more I entered the Frontier chat zone.

August 13, 2018
(I waited about ten minutes in a queue for Brian)
Brian1:40 PM
When you chat with us, you grant us permission to review your services during the chat to offer you the best value. Your current services will not be affected if you refuse permission by not proceeding with chat. Frontier has the duty to protect your information. This is your right under Federal law. For quality and security purposes, your session is recorded and may be monitored or reviewed.
1:40 PMTime H
I placed an order a couple of weeks ago to change my television service (Service Order #: 0xxxxxx) I changed to FIOS Prime HD with 2 Set Top Box will be $xxx.xx/mo. before taxes. I cancelled a DVR box and have received a mailer to return it, but I haven't received a new set top box to replace it. Currently we haven't been able to view cable television. It keeps saying it is updating and turning on and off.
Brian1:48 PM
Thank you for contacting Frontier Chat Support, my name is Brian, and I will be assisting today! I understand your current situation and know how frustrating this can be for you, but rest assured you're with the right tech and I will do what I can to help today!  First, can I start by verifying your billing telephone number associated with your account as well as a secondary contact for your account?    
Brian1:49 PM
My Apologies, you have contacted Technical Support Chat. I am transferring you to Customer Service so that we can better assist you. Their number is 1-800-921-8101 in case you get disconnected and need to call in.
1:49 PMTime H
Brian1:49 PM
Thank you for being the best part of Frontier. Have a wonderful day! Please hold for your next agent.

(Didn't I tell you the tech support people couldn't wait to pass you on to customer services.)

Lucila1:50 PM
Thank you Time for reaching out to Frontier via CHAT today. I am more than happy to assist you today as I know it is very important to have your issue resolved.    I am going to do 3 things for you today. I am going to do my best to resolve your issue. I am going to ensure you receive the best customer experience ever, and then I am going to ensure you have Frontier's best services for your dollar/value. 
Lucila1:50 PM
Allow me to read previous conversation. 

(Lucila was a bit too peppy for me.)
1:50 PMTime H
Okay, thanks.
Lucila1:50 PM
You're most welcome. 
If I may ask, how many cable boxes do you have right now?
1:52 PMTime H
I have one cable box and one DVR that I just received a mailer to return.
Lucila1:52 PM
Let me check it here.
As what I can see here, you have 2 active cable boxes here on the system. So basically, if you return that boxes you have right now, there will be no cable boxes that will be left, am I right?

(Lucila was pretty astute. If I returned both the boxes I have, I would have none.)
1:55 PMTime H
That is correct. When I contacted Frontier last I was down grading my television and upgrading my Internet. I cancelled the DVR and asked that I have two basic cable boxes. I now have one cable box and one DVR that functions as a cable box on one television.
Lucila1:57 PM
I got that.
What we can do here is when you are adding a cable boxes but since this is just a replacement, I will need to connect you over to Tech Support Dept. for further assistance. 
But before that, talking about your internet service, how are you making sure that you're secured? 

(No, Lucila, not you too. Really, a sales pitch?)

1:59 PMTime H
Not sure I understand. I've got security software on my computers if that is what you are asking.
Lucila1:59 PM
By the way, thank you for authenticating your account via pre-chat survey. 
 While checking your services here, I can see that your connection may not be secured. 

That is great that you have an anti virus like that and I would highly recommend that you get our Identity Seucirty Bundle since you have internet service with us. 
Lucila2:00 PM
This is not the normal anti-virus that you see in the market because it has the following too;- Continuous credit monitoring- Global ID monitoring- Social Security Number Trace- Lost Wallet Service- Identity Theft Restoration 
Identity Security Bundle is very relevant nowadays since frauds and scams scattered online and we should be extra vigilant about it. Most especially if, you are fan of shopping and paying online. This security will fully protect all your personal informations. 
You are not just protecting yourself, but your family who are all fan of using devices. 
 Just to share you my experience, I have been a victim of Identity Theft before and to tell you that was a nightmare and I don't want to go through on that again. I am sharing this to you because I don't want that bad experience happen to you too. 
It is originally $10.99 however, it has a $5 discount especially for you since you are a valued customer and you have internet service and bills $5.99 a month. 
2:01 PMTime H
No thank you. I just want a cable box.
Lucila2:01 PM
I totally understand and respect that. 
Please stay on the line. I will be connecting you now. 

(I sense the Frontier customer service people received commissions for upselling you. I was sent into another 12 person queue for about 15 minutes.)

Shannon2:16 PM
Thank you for contacting Frontier Internet Chat Support, my name is Shannon,please allow me one moment for I believe you have been sent to the dsl not fios department please give me one moment ot tranfer to the correct department.

(Note Shannon didn't even wait for me to respond. He spit me back into a 13 person queue.)

David2:21 PM
Hello Time, my name is David and I want to thank you for chatting with Frontier Technical Support. I see that you are having issues with your services. To get started I will need your Billing Telephone Number.
2:21 PMTime H
David2:22 PM
I want to start by apologizing for any inconvenience we may have caused. Rest assured, I am going to do everything in my power to assist you today.
One moment while I get your account pulled up.
Okay, so right now you only have 1 cable box?
2:26 PMTime H
Hi David, I basically need a basic cable box to replace the DVR box I am returning since I cancelled DVR service.
I have two televisions. One is connected to a basic cable box. The other is connected to the DVR. I need to send the DVR back so I need another basic cable box.

David2:29 PM
I do apologize Time, but I am not sure why you were transferred to me. We are only able to replace boxes here in Technical support. If I replaced your DVR box, the system would just send a new DVR box out. You are wanting to downgrade services, so Customer service needs to but the order in to do so.
2:30 PMTime H
The order was placed two weeks ago. It says it is completed and today I received a mailer to return the DVR. But I don't have a cable box to replace it with. I went from tech support to customer service and back to tech support.
2:30 PMTime H
Service Order #: 0xxxxxxxxx
David2:32 PM
Yes, that is a Service Order, this order is handled by our Customer Service Department. When they put the Service Order in it should have sent you out a basic cable box. If it did not, then they will need to fix it.
2:33 PMTime H
Okay, but do they understand that? They just tried to sell me security software and sent me to tech support.
2:33 PMTime H
Please connect me with Customer Service again
David2:34 PM
Okay, one moment please.
David2:36 PM
Customer Service: This customer downgraded from DVR to a basic STB. The Service Order did not send out a basic STB. Technical Support is only able to replace non-working equipment. We cannot replace a DVR with a STB. If we replace the DVR it will only send out a new DVR. PLEASE do not sent customer back to Technical Support.

(David, a tech support person, really didn't want me sent back to tech support by customer service. I think they keep score and whoever bounces a customer more wins.)

Jethro2:37 PM
Thank you for reaching out to Frontier via CHAT today. I am more than happy to assist you today as I know it is very important to have your issue resolved.I am going to do 3 things for you today. I am going to do my best to resolve your issue. I am going to ensure you receive the best customer experience ever, and then I am going to ensure you have Frontier's best services for your dollar/value.
2:38 PMTime H
I will just be happy if you send me a basic cable box to replace the DVR I am sending back. Service Order #: 0xxxxxxxxxx

(I think Jethro sensed I was on the verge of tears here.)

Jethro2:39 PM
Hi Time. Thanks for validating the account via pre-chat survey. I can see you are connected from a different department. Let me check the previous chats to see what their findings so that I can better help you.

(I have to say that Jethro was not a quick reader. My screen was silent for seven minutes before he returned. I imagine he was actually on Tinder cruising profiles.)
Jethro2:46 PM
Hi Time.

(I felt Jethro was just toying with me at this point.)
2:47 PMTime H
Yes, can you help me?

(I know I sounded desperate at this point, but I just wanted my cable box.)

Jethro2:47 PM
I will process an order now to send you a replacement STB.
2:48 PMTime H
Thank you.

Jethro2:48 PM
Please allow me more time to work the order.

(I imagined Jethro returned to Tinder at that point.)                                                                                                
Thanks for waiting Time. Here is the order number 038217652. It should arrive in 3-5 days. Basically you only need a total of 2 set top box right since you will be returning the DVR.
2:59 PMTime H
Great, thanks.
Jethro2:59 PM
Anything else for today?
2:59 PMTime H
No, I appreciate you taking care of it

(I also appreciated that he didn't try to sell me anything or send me back to tech support. I don't think Jethro's heart is in being a customer service person at Frontier.)

I spent an hour and forty minutes on the chat line the second time just to get someone to send me a frigging cable box. Let's see if I actually get one. Until then you'll be happy to know I no longer have any premium channels.

I'll let you know what the next bill looks like.

I hate Frontier.


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