By ROBERT RECTOR
I had to call my cable television company the other day, an exercise that strikes fear in the hearts of all who attempt it.
That's because a call to the cable guy requires you to negotiate an automated call-in system so complicated it could serve as the entrance exam for Caltech.
I don't want to mention which system it is but it starts with a C, ends with an R and has the letters HARTE in between. And I suspect they are typical.
First, you get a sales pitch. Want high speed Internet access? A telephone system? Super whiz bang digital hi def DVR jumbotron with a picture so sharp you can see Jerry Springer's nose hairs? No waiting. Immediate service is available.
If not, it's on to tier two. There, you are greeted by an apologetic voice that suggests they are very busy and this call might take more time that you thought. Since I had blocked half a day to wade through this bleak and humanless landscape, it was indeed daunting news. But onward.
Next, indicate your native tongue. It was odd that they had delivered five minutes worth of information to someone who may not have understood a word of it before they asked for a language preference. And they asked for it in English.
But I digress. Next, enter your phone number. Then, press 2 for options. That directs you to a menu with five more options. If you're lucky, you go to yet another option menu, this requiring you to verbally describe your problem in two words or less into the phone. Yelling "the damn thing doesn't work" isn't an option.
If you're unlucky, you get a message saying they're too busy and call back later.
At this point, if you haven't hurled the phone across the room in disgust, a live person finally comes on the line. And guess what? Before you can discuss your problem, they try to sell you a movie channel that offers a nonstop diet of bad airline-grade films, interspersed with specials like "The Making of 'Deuce Bigalow, European Giggilo.'" Beyond that, you receive assurances that a repair person will be at your residence sometime on a day that ends in Y between the hours of midnight and 11 p.m.
And these guys want me to buy a phone system from them?
At a time with the big telecom boys such as AT&T and Verizon are getting involved in the cable TV game and satellite dishes are becoming more popular, you would think that companies like Charter would be on their best behavior. Indeed, a recent survey they apparently never saw showed that 85 percent of respondents said that even a single bad experience with a customer service representative would provoke them to consider taking their business elsewhere.
On the other hand, do I want my TV delivered by the folks who bring me a cell phone system that sometime works like two tin cans and a string?
In the meantime, I think all Charter executives should be tied to chairs for an entire day and forced to listen to all their phone options until they beg for mercy. In two words or less.