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Fuck you, Time Warner Cable

I missed a payment on my Time Warner Cable bill. Prior to this, the hostname of my laptop was "yupa" (after Master Yupa, from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, because it's a MBA, get it, air? ok, sorry, that's fucking awful I know). Anyway, look at what my hostname is now:

jordanorelli@auto-prov[0] ~: hostname
auto-prov.rr.com

umm, excuse me, I never changed my hostname. Anyway, let's back the fuck up and see how I even discovered this.

When I got home today, I opened my MBA and fired up Chrome. On startup, it tried to open up all the tabs that were open when I closed it. Some of these included a google.com page. All of them were, instead, redirected to whatever hostname they were talking to, with ap_index tacked on the end. E.g., refreshing a Google page bounced me to google.com/ap_index, which is the automatic provisioning page that a Time Warner Cable tech is supposed to see when they start up the computer. My brother (who is also my roommate) opened the account and has all the info, so I had to wait a few hours for him to get home because I was effectively powerless to fix it. (ok, I could have called him, or searched his room for the paperwork, but he was at work and I wasn't going to invade his privacy so that I could refresh Reddit for the eight billionth time that day). Now, if you're not already pissed off, then you've already been indoctrinated into thinking that such terrible service is acceptable from a cable provider. Realit check: they're the Internet company, my bill is late, I want to connect to the Internet. They have me by the balls. My entire connection to the outside world is in their hands. I know that the bill is late and I want to pay them, but I'm unable to. If I'm not paying for my Internet, put up a fucking credit card form and just let me pay for it right there. If they can't render a credit card form, are they really fit to be the couriers of so many millions of people's information?

Anyway, back to my complainy story: a few hours go by, my brother gets home and calls up Time Warner to pay the bill, and the Internet came back on. Right? Pfft, I only wish the story was as smooth as that.

I could visit new pages, which I verified by checking a page that I've never legitimately visited before: cnn.com (a website that I'm convinced only exists to verify that your Internet connection works). That worked fine. Went back to Google and I was again bounced to google.com/ap_index. At this point, I don't think anything insidious is happening; Chrome can be aggressive about certain caching behaviors, and sometimes this can cause odd behavior. Nine times out of ten this can be fixed by clearing all the browser data and restarting it. I tried that, but the behavior persisted. Tried visiting Google in Safari: same behavior. Now I'm annoyed: they've actually gone and stored some usage data, and they're selectively blocking my access. Fortunately, it's just hostname based, so encrypted.google.com works just fine. At this point, I'm thinking it's DNS caching, so I open up my terminal and clear my DNS cache (sudo dscacheutil -flushcache if you're not aware of that one). Still, the behavior persisted. But I noticed something when I was there: I noticed that my hostname was changed to auto-prov.

ok, fine. The hostname changed during DHCP config or something like that. Ok, Ok. Easy enough. sudo hostname yupa, clear all browser data, and I'm back to normal. But, reality check: all of my own caches were clear. Either the router or Time Warner stored some information about what page I tried to access when my account was past due, and it was still being blocked. How is that not a man in the middle attack? Aside from that, what % of users see that they can't reach Google and go "gee willikers, better put on my nerd pants, file up my UNIX terminal and debug my Internet connection"? Probably 1%, and the 1% of us that actually know what to do in that situation probably only know because it's what we do professionally. If the thought comes across your mind that I somehow shouldn't be miffed because I'm able to fix the problem myself: that's like telling a plumber that he would be happy if he came home to step in a puddle of pee because of a leaky toilet.

If I was 99% of people, I would have had to call Time Warner back a second time, schedule a service call, possibly take a whole day off work because their timeslots are all six hours long for a fifteen minute job, and sit around all day not knowing when a perfect stranger is going to come over to try to fix the problem, or wait until there's a timeslot available that's not during the work day. That's all well and good if you can work from home with a broken Internet connection, but that's very few people. When they actually get to the apartment, they show up and put down a toolbox and then get on the phone because half the work is done remotely anyway, but they won't let you do it yourself, and the chance that a TWC service person will come to your house and be unable to fix the problem is substantial.

All of this, is after we had to have three service calls just to get our Internet set up in the first place. Of course, when I moved into this apartment, I was already aware of the royal clusterfuck that is Time Warner Cable, having dealt with them in the past and having heard numerous horror stories, but TWC services this building, and thus I had no freedom to chose my provider. The choice was this: suffer through Time Warner's bullshit, or don't use the Internet.

So no. That's not fucking acceptable. Sure, I was able to fix the problem myself, but I'm an outlier; a statistical anomaly. The supermajority of people are not professional computer nerds. For many people in New York City, the reality of the situation is that Time Warner has a monopoly on the market, you have absolutely no choice, and you will endure horrible service over, and over, and over again.

They are the worst.

ml242 commented Feb 20, 2014

I'm dealing with the ap_index hijack now, what a pain!

masonje commented May 26, 2017

TW can't change your hostname. It's your distro and reverse hostname lookup. I had a ticket in with Red Hat in on this and the hostname was updating itself based on a reverse lookup. They have a patch in place but I don't know quickly it will populate the other distros.

That said, I'm still having issues with the google.com/ap_index redirect... working on figuring out this one.

sethbergman commented May 29, 2017 edited

I've had the same problem with them. Here's some feedback I left after an annoying chat with their support:

I have been trying to pay my bill for months with a credit card and have been promised that I will be able to. Your Account Solutions team has failed me twice. They have told me that I'll be able to use my CC the next week, yet the restriction is still in place. The restriction is completely unfounded in the first place. Your company would charge my card one day successfully, then the next day for the same amount and get declined. This has caused many late fees, and TONS of frustration on my part. I'm having to contact your company multiple times with no resolution. I JUST WANT TO PAY MY BILL ONLINE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!!!!!

Your customer service is the worst I've ever experienced in my life, and I understand the other side because I used to work in tech support. I am only looking to pay my bill, and that's it. What company makes it difficult for their customers to pay them? Then I get fees on top of fees for my inability to reconcile my bill. It should be illegal. I'd like to know where in your TOS that it says you have the ability to scam your customers by causing them to acquire late fees due to their inability to pay through methods that every other company allow. I should't have to pay these late fees because you have disabled my ability to pay you. This is extremely frustrating, and I have wasted many hours trying to resolve this ridiculous issue.

Here's the chat log:

Agent.:
Hello.
Agent.:
How are you doing today?
You:
I'm unable to pay my bill
Agent.:
I have read your query.
You:
The system won't let me use my credit card
Agent.:
I would like to inform you that IVR payment via phone is free of cost and there will be no extra charge for it.
Agent.:
Call 1-800-892-4357.
Agent.:
Say "pay my bill" when asked why you are calling.
Agent.:
Follow the voice-activated prompts to complete the bill pay transaction.
You:
I've tried that also
Agent.:
You can pay your bills through a variety of options - online, in person, by phone or by mail. Please visit the link below for detailed information on alternate payment options:
http://www.timewarnercable.com/en/support/account-and-billing/topics/bill-explanation-and-payments.html
You:

Your account is restricted to only accept payments by bank account due to your payment history. Please
make a payment with checking or saving account. If you have questions please call 1-800-TWC-HELP (1-
800-892-4357).

Agent.:
Oh I see!!
Agent.:
Thank you for the information.
Agent.:
You can make the payment at the nearest Spectrum payment section as there is restriction on your account by payment services.
You:
I've chatted with you a few days ago, the case was escalated and I was promised a callback. I haven't received a call and I would like to check on this case. I wasn't given a case number. There is no reason that I should be suspended from paying you with a credit card.

Agent.:
Okay. Let me check this for you please wait.
You:
If you look at my payment history, my card was charged successfully one day, and then unsuccessfully the next day for the same amount. This makes no sense.
Agent.:
I have checked and I can see that the account request cancelled.
You:
The account request cancelled? What does this mean?
Agent.:
It means the ticket raised previously is declined.
You:
For what reason?
Agent.:
It is mentioned you have to contact Account Solution team to lift the restriction.
Agent.:
I will provide you with Customer Solutions team contact number, please call 1800-892-4357 for further assistance. Office hours are Monday - Friday 8:00am - 9pm: Saturday 8:00am - 8:00pm (C.S.T).
You:
I've tried that also
Agent.:
You had word with the Account solution team?
Agent.:
on call?
You:
I've gone above and beyond to resolve this matter and I keep getting the run around.
You:
Yes I've spoken to account solutions. They promised that the restriction would be lifted the next week. It's still there and that was months ago.
Agent.:
I would like to inform you that you are now connected to billing team.
Agent.:
Being billing team we have restrictions and cannot make the changes on the account.
Agent.:
The only option is to process it on call with the account solution team.
You:
I'd like to know when my service is scheduled for interruption.
Agent.:
I can see that your service interruption is scheduled for 05/31 for the past due amount of 119.17.
You:
I'd like you to extend this given the current circumstances. Is that something you can do?
Agent.:
I apologize I can see that you are given 55 days to clear the past due amount on the account and currently you are at 53rd day.
You:
I can pay the full balance with a credit card.
You:
Your company won't let me.
You:
This is bullshit.
You:
I was promised a callback about this matter a few days ago. I have not received a call.
You:
I can pay the full balance right now with a credit card.
Agent.:
No worries I will arrange a callback for you.
Agent.:
Please provide me with the date and time when you would like to receive a call back along with the preferred phone number.
You:
Are you open tomorrow?
Agent.:
It is Memorial day so we are closed on this monday.
Agent.:
I can arrange a callback for you for 29th March.
You:
I'd like the Account Solutions team to call me on Tuesday, May 30th 11:30 AM. I'd like to pay my bill with a credit card and clear this ridiculousness once and for all.
Agent.:
Please choose anytime between 7Am - 7:45 Pm.
Agent.:
Great.
Agent.:
Thank you for the information. Kindly allow me 2-3 minutes, while I schedule the call back for you.
Agent.:
Call back request is confirmed for 11:30 AM on Tuesday 05/30. The call back will display 1-800-892-2253 and you must confirm by pressing 1 after you answer the call. We'll try to connect with you 3 times and if it's unsuccessful after 3 times, the request will be canceled.
Agent.:
Is there anything else I can help you with?

WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE I'VE EVER EXPERIENCED!
This has been going on for months! It's absolutely unacceptable. 😡

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