Monday, August 30, 2010

Remembrance of Time Warner Past

You can check out of Time Warner any time you want, but you can never leave.

I terminated my account on June 11, but here I am on the phone the penultimate day of August, disputing an $85.90 charge. What am I being charged for nearly three months after discontinuing service? According to the bill, there is an $80 "adjustment charge," as well as nebulous fees and taxes. But what is being adjusted? Let's see how many guesses I can come up with while holding:

1) Time Warner's dignity
2) My faith in other people
3) My patience for corporate deception
4) The validity of contracts
5) The meaning of "say hello to simplicity" (Time Warner's motto)

After 39 minutes, I'm still waiting. Any other guesses?

UPDATE: None of the above. In Time Warner, the word "adjustment" refers to the logic-bending "price lock" covered previously. Secondary definition: "whatever the hell we want." Where is my Time Warner-English dictionary? Get on this, Google Translate!

Important question: has Time Warner surpassed Nautica as the single most incompetent corporation in the Customer Service Circle of Hell? There's probably a way to create a poll.

Time Warner's solution: wave an additional fee, not on the bill. I read to them the following transcript, Time Warner formed sentences that didn't make sense, and I hung up the phone and felt sadness.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

They Call It Hotlanta Because It Is in Hell

The last two times I’ve flown, I’ve spent an unscheduled night in a city unrelated to my destination. My first impression of Atlanta was that a disproportionate number of people there wear shirts with unintelligible mottoes like “If you are giving one hundred percent, give ten percent more!” or “I look like I care but I don’t.” My theory is that these shirts are designed for the Rapture, so the Divine has clear instructions on whom to take, and who can stay.

Of course, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to conduct this sociological experiment had my Airtran flight not landed fifteen minutes after my connecting flight departed. A wise man once told me that it’s important to fly early, so you can take a later flight if your scheduled one is delayed. Unfortunately, on Airtran, the noon flight is the last of the day.

When the delay first snuck onto the screen, I scuttled to a checkout counter, where a woman informed me that the weather was not Airtran’s fault (indisputable) and, accordingly, Airtran had no responsibility to get me to my destination that day (disputable). Time: 11:00 a.m. Post-wedding hangover: violent to very violent. When I asked if there was anyone else I might speak to, she told me I could wait for her manager, a man whose plan was to first avoid me, then avoid eye contact, and ultimately intimate that I was lucky to be speaking to him at all. But I did not feel lucky.

Still, I might have made my connection had Airtran not spent so much time ushering people onto the plane who did not, in fact, have seats. Or, more accurately, people who had the same seat. The man next to me, for example, had the same seat as another man. They were both large men and had never met each other and, as progressive as San Francisco is, it seemed unlikely they would share a seat for five hours. Nevertheless, they were better off than my wife, who did not actually have a seat. Instead, she had a hole where a seat was supposed to be (see above). The first flight attendant greeted my wife’s request for a seat as though this was wholly unreasonable, but the second flight attendant helpfully ripped a cushion off someone else’s seat.

In Hotlanta, a kind but painfully slow man confirmed that the next flight left in the morning, but not before a little comedy routine with the other kind but slow people at the counter. This is how the routine went: my program won’t refresh, and we can’t make reservations—wait, just kidding, the program doesn’t have a refresh function! This routine was so funny, he called in his boss to get in on the joke, who agreed that suggesting the program could refresh was outrageous. Then there was some light banter about how cold the fan was. Then he told me he couldn’t offer a hotel on account of the weather—airtight Airtran logic—but he could give me a phone number, where I could talk to somebody who would give me a reduced rate.

I called the number, spoke to a human being, and hoped against reason this would work. This did not work. I walked to the busy area where shuttles arrive. The first driver with Comfort Suites painted on his van assured me that he was not going to Comfort Suites and, in retrospect, I should have taken this as a dark omen, as my wife did, who was convinced the driver had no idea where he was taking his van. I had a good feeling about the second van with Comfort Suites painted on it, even after the driver was assaulted by a man in one of those people movers that only GOB from Arrested Development uses. Alas, this driver was also not driving to Comfort Suites. At this point, I called the hotel and asked what, exactly, was painted on his driver’s van. He said, unsurprisingly, Comfort Suites. After asking each arriving driver where his van was going, I finally identified the correct van. This is what was painted on his van: Econo Lodge, Ramada Inn, Country Inn.

Comfort Suites is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s difficult to feel comfortable when you’re using every last bit of energy not to attack the man who doesn’t know what is painted on his own van, and it’s sort of a stretch to call a room a suite when it’s made entirely of bathroom tile. I don’t recommend staying there, or flying Airtran, or flying, but I do recommend Jeff and Inga, whose beautiful wedding made the trip well worth it.