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Time Warner Cable gets in on the 'curse out your customer' trend

Technically Incorrect: A California woman gets a letter from Time Warner Cable, with her first name changed to the C-word.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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This incident suggests that a customer should "Enjoy Worse." Time Warner Cable; YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When it was announced that Comcast and Time Warner Cable intended to come together, some muttered that the two companies weren't all that different -- and not in a good way.

Those of jaundiced spirit, though, must today be wondering whether Time Warner Cable is desperate to be even more like Comcast than ever.

Just like its soon-to-be-perhaps big brother, Time Warner Cable (Motto: Enjoy Better) has begun to refer to its customers in derogatory terms. In writing.

Esperanza Martinez, who lives in Orange County, Calif., received a letter from Time Warner Cable, lamenting the fact that she'd canceled her service. This was unfortunate, as Martinez told Ars Technica, because she'd done no such thing.

What reached far beyond misfortune and into deep disgrace was that the letter was address to "C*** Martinez."

When Comcast decided to insult its customers recently -- it referred to one in writing as " A**hole" and another as " Super B****" -- those customers had either attempted to cancel their service or had some dispute with the company. (Not that this justified their treatment in any way.)

Here, there is no evidence that Martinez was anything other than a regular customer. How and why did this happen?

A spokeswoman for Time Warner Cable told me: "We are truly sorry for the disgraceful treatment of Ms. Martinez, and have apologized to her directly. Our investigation showed that this was done by an employee at a third-party vendor. We have terminated our agreement with this vendor and are changing our processes to prevent this from happening again."

It's odd that at both Comcast and Time Warner Cable it was so easy to alter a customer's name with the sole intention of insulting them. It's odd that there seemed to be no safeguards to prevent such a thing happening.

But what does it say about those companies that there are people working for them (or their vendors) who feel the need to do such things? What does it say that these people would risk any consequence in order to eke out some personal frustration or mere inner ignorance?

In Martinez's case, Time Warner Cable has offered her a year's Internet and cable for free. This, quite naturally, is the least the company could do.

But what would happen should the merger go through?

As Comcast's senior vice president of customer service, Charlie Herrin, pleads for his staff to show customers basic respect, what kind of customer service horror movie awaits those who would be subject to a merged entity in the middle of what is politely called consolidation?

If you were Direct TV, would you be thinking of ramping up your customer service capabilities?