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Internet service providers have a reputation for being some of the worst, most un-ethically-run companies in the country. I hadn't imagined that a company could be worse than Cox Communications. As a child, pretty much every time my dad had to call them for any problems, they refused to take any responsibility for their poor service, and always blamed the issues on his hardware or on his computer having viruses -- which was only sometimes true. Basically, they would blame his hardware as an excuse to upsell him new hardware that would also only barely work.

When I moved into my own place, I wasn't happy with having to purchase Cox as my internet and television provider. But to their credit, they gave me an affordable price, and the service was pretty reliable. At least, up until a few years ago.

CenturyLink van
Don't do it! It's a trap!

My internet started failing intermittently. It would go out almost every night for minutes or hours at a time. Sometimes resetting the router and/or modem would fix the problem, but only temporarily. I had multiple technicians come out to the house to troubleshoot the problems. They would aknowledge the problem, but would be unable to find the cause. To my surprise, they even told me that it was almost certainly not a problem with my local network set-up. I had thought for sure that they would blame my hardware or network in an attempt to upsell me more hardware. They even ran a new line from the street out to my house. I had my own, dedicated DSL line going into my house! That would be pretty sweet, if it would work. Cox even reimbursed my bill for the disruptions.

Sadly, none of Cox's efforts worked. My internet still failed consistently. My girlfriend was dependent on our internet to do online classes related to her job, and so this was inexcusable.

CenturyLink

Like a predatory evangelist waiting to swoop in and take advantage of a tragedy to sell a grieving person on the "comfort" of Jesus, an opportunistic CenturyLink salesman showed up at our door. He was claiming that CenturyLink had just laid fiber optic lines in our neighborhood and was offering a sweet deal to switch. I had been thinking about switching to CenturyLink, if only to be able to have a reliable service again.

My frustrations with CenturyLink, and my feelings of having been scammed started as soon as the service was set up in my home. The service that was installed was not the service that I thought I had signed up for.

When the sales rep had come to my door, he had specifically asked me what services I was receiving from Cox. I told him that I was getting HDDVR, a second cable receiver, and high-speed broadband internet for about $150 per month (a price that had been locked-in for life). The sales rep told me that I could get all of that for $75 per month. I should have recognized that this was too good to be true, but I made the mistake of signing on the dotted line. When the technician came to install the hardware the following week, I realized that the sales rep had flat-out lied to me. I had fallen victim to a bait-and-switch scam, which is apparently CenturyLink's modus operandi.

The package that I had actually been given a contract for was one of their bare-minimum packages. It was a single standard definition cable box (no DVR), and the slowest broadband internet service that they offered. Who the heck still pays for "standard definition" cable?! Heck, the term "standard definition" should now be considered a misnomer; it's "low definition". And CenturyLink wanted to charge me $120 a month for this.

CenturyLink prices

After the technician left the house, and I realized that what I had been given wasn't what I had thought I had signed up for, we chased down the technician and explained that this wasn't what we were expecting. He told me that he could upgrade me, and went ahead and installed the hardware that I had been expecting to receive. He told us that it would be an extra $30 or $50 per month. That was comparable to what I was paying for Cox's service, so assuming that the internet actually worked, I would be satisfied.

But then I got the first bill, for well over $200.

So I called CenturyLink's customer support and explained the situation to them. The agent said that she would put me on a promotional price of $145 a month and would credit me the difference in my next bill. Again, this was slightly cheaper than what I had been paying with Cox, so I accepted.

Then I got the following month's bill, for (I think) either $166 or $200-something. So I called again, and had to fight with the customer support representative to get the bill lowered back to $145.

Then I got the following month's bill, which had been raised once again to the initial price of the previous bill. CenturyLink was refusing to honor the promotional price that they had promised. I called again, and had the bill reduced again.

Once again, however, when I got the next bill, it was for $166. At this point, I was sick of fighting with CenturyLink every single month, so I just paid it and accepted that the extra $16 was just the price that I would have to pay for reliable service. To CenturyLink's credit, the internet was working somewhat reliably. It still wasn't good enough for me to reliably stream PS4 gameplay to Twitch without being disconnected every 5 or 10 minutes. Other than that, though, the internet was working fine, so I blame Twitch for those issues.

Price increases

Yet every couple months for the next year or two, the bill would creep up ever so slowly. $169, then $170, then $175... I may have called once or twice during this time to complain, and they'd lower the bill for one month. But next month, the bill would just go up even more.

They even told me that if I signed up for auto-pay, it would lock in my price for a period of time. So I did that. Again, this was a lie. The bills continued to creep up every couple months, and it was being automatically deducted from my checking account.

I'm apparently not the only one who's fallen victim to this business practice.

Then, at the end of last year, the last straw fell. CenturyLink billed me for $263. I called once again, and they told me that my promotional price had expired and that I couldn't reduce the price any further. Frustrated, I canceled my television service and disabled the autopay. I wasn't going to let them keep their greedy paws in my bank account. This was supposed to reduce my bill back down to $65 per month. Of course, when the bills actually showed up, they were for more like $85.

CenturyLink Prism cable box
The offending DVR box sat in my house for
two months waiting for a return shipping label.

Failure of due-diligence

After cancelling the television service, I was told that CenturyLink would send me a return shipping label for me to send the DVR back. If it wasn't returned within a month, they'd charge me for it. I asked if I could just return it to a local store, and the rep told me that there were no stores in the city that accepted returns. I would find out later that this was also a lie.

After two or three weeks, I still hadn't received the shipping label, so I called customer support to ask what the deal was. They told me that a shipping label had been mailed, but that they would mail out another one just in case. This particular rep also told me that I could, in fact simply take the box down to a local store to return it. I told her that I'd probably go ahead and try that, but to go ahead and re-send the shipping label just in case. I also asked if I was going to be charged for the DVR box, since I hadn't received the label yet. She told me no.

I wasn't able to drop the box off at a store due to work, and family crises (including a death in the family) over the next couple weeks. CenturyLink's stores close at 6 pm on week days, close at 2 pm on Saturdays, and are closed on Sundays. There wasn't exactly much wiggle room in the store hours for me to work with, considering I work a 9-5 job.

After a couple weeks, on this past Thursday, I got an email from CenturyLink with my new bill. This bill was for over $230 and included a fee for not having returned the DVR box. The following night (Friday), when I checked the mail, guess what I found in my mailbox? It was an envelope from CenturyLink containing the return label. I received the return label the day after CenturyLink had already issued the bill with the penalty for failing to return the hardware. How does it take two whole months to send a shipping label to someone?!

The next day (a Saturday), we drove down to the nearest CenturyLink store. The lady inside immediately gave us an attitude, and told us that we couldn't return the box at that store because she was alone on the sales floor and couldn't accept returns when she's alone on the sales floor -- for whatever reason. She said that we could come back on Monday. There was a brief argument, but we conceded to returning on Monday.

So I did [come back on Monday], sacrificing my opportunity to eat lunch because there was no way I'd be making it to the store in time after getting off of work. At this point, the same associate was willing to process my return, which -- guess what? -- did not at any point require her to leave the sales floor. She simply put the hardware under her desk, typed some notes into the computer, and filled out a receipt (which, by the way, does not even include any sort of confirmation number, only a date and signature from the associate), then sent me on my way. I did take the time to apologize to her for our saltiness on Saturday, at which point, she thanked me for the apology and re-affirmed that she couldn't leave the sales floor to process the return, despite the fact that during this entire process, leaving the sales floor is something that she did not at any point actually do. She didn't even have to leave her desk.

CenturyLink dates
I cancelled the service in January. I didn't get the return shipping label until mid-March,
but not until after they'd already charged me the "non-return" penalty.

It still wasn't over though. She said that I would have to call the corporate billing office to remove the charges because she doesn't have access to make billing adjustments. I wasn't able to make that call before their customer service's billing department closes at 6pm. Instead, I had to send an email, and am currently waiting for a return phone call.

To put all this into perspective, when you send a return back to Amazon, you can print the return shipping label yourself. No need to wait weeks for it to show up in your mail box, and worrying about whether it's ever going to show up.

How is this a legitimate business?

So they wouldn't send me the shipping label in a timely enough manner for me to get the hardware shipped out, and they wouldn't accept the return in store, and they still had the gall to bill me. I canceled the TV service at the beginning of January -- I received a letter through the mail, confirming the cancellation on January 18. That shipping label was supposed to arrive within 10-14 business days. It didn't arrive until March 16 -- two whole months later!

I did my due-diligence, CenturyLink! I asked if I could drop it off at a brick-and-mortar store. I called after I hadn't received the shipping label within a couple weeks. I'm not the one who failed to send out a piece of mail. I'm not the one who can't make up my mind about whether or not I can return the hardware to a store. I'm not the one who can't keep my pricing models straight. And I'm not the one who refused to accept the return that was requested. CenturyLink failed to do their due-diligence, and they expect me to pay a fee?!

As far as I'm concerned, CenturyLink's entire business model is based on scamming its customers and cheating them out of money at every opportunity that they can. They wear down your patience with the monthly grind of having to call them to get the services that you asked for, at the prices that they said you'd receive. The worst part is that I'm still on a 2-year contract with them, so even though I want to, I cannot cancel the service outright, as that would entail an additional cancellation fee. At this point, though, it might be worth it.

As much as Cox had annoyed me when I was younger, they look like absolute saints compared to the mud that CenturyLink has dragged me through. I wish I could go back to Cox and get back that locked-in price. I imagine that if I were to switch back to Cox, I'd probably get charged over $200 as well. It's a frustrating no-win-scenario for the poor consumers, and it's a terrible shame that these companies can get away with such shoddy, scammy, scummy, bait-and-switch business practices.

door to door salesman
If a CenturyLink sales rep shows up at your door, I recommend you give them 5 seconds to leave or call the police.

I feel like I've been defrauded. I don't know how else to describe it. And I've felt like it basically since day one. Please do not get your television or internet service through CenturyLink. My advice is that if a CenturyLink sales rep shows up at your door, you should give them 5 seconds to leave your property before you call the police.

From what I've heard though, this is all nothing compared to the shit that people put up with from Comcast... I can't even imagine...

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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