By Published on .


c/o James L. Dolan, President and CEO

Dear Jim:

No doubt you've heard that old advertiser's lament, attributed to John Wanamaker, that 50 percent of ad dollars are wasted, and that the trick is figuring out which half. Always eager to help, I think I can tell you precisely which of your advertising dollars you should have turned into a nice paper-mache hat: all of them. That's because all the ads in the world cannot lure and keep customers if you tell them they'll receive a Rolls and you deliver a Daewoo.

Earlier this year, after too many service snafus and billing problems and price hikes, I canceled my account and arranged for Cablevision to pick up the cable box. (Funny thing: It sports the Dolby Digital logo on the front, even though it has no digital outputs and doesn't do surround sound any more than my toaster does. But that's another story, one I will save for our upcoming feature story on false advertising.) On the phone, I was told Cablevision would stop by on April 28, in the morning. So that day, I waited. Over four hours I waited. I missed half a day of work, but fine -- it gave me a chance to read the newspaper. Three times. I know just about everything newsworthy that happened anywhere in the world on April 27. It's weird.

Over the next few weeks, I called Cablevision repeatedly. Every gum-chewing 'customer service expert' who deigned to answer the phone took down my number, yawned, and told me someone would be in touch. Friends called. Relatives called. So did a few hundred telemarketers. Not a peep out of Cablevision, however. So I sent out a certified letter, giving you 10 business days to come pick up your damn box.

I was moved by the swift response, Jim, honest. Cablevision called, with sweet promises of an actual visit. D-Day: June 3rd. You vowed (at least, one of your customer service aces did) that someone would drop by between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Once more, I stayed at home until past 1 p.m., waiting. You didn't visit. You didn't call. (Sorry to sound like your mom.) Nor did I hear a word from Cablevision in the six weeks that followed -- not counting, that is, the two consecutive invoices I received, billing me for $491 in "lost or damaged equipment."

Which reminds me: Have you thought about nominating Cablevision for the Guinness Book of World Records? It'd be hard to beat the competition in the 'Incompetence' category (they say the DMV has that one pretty much locked up), but I think you'd have a real shot at winning in the 'Bluster and Sheer Nerve' department. Hell, I'd support that nomination anytime!

Because I know that deep down inside, in a nether region you probably forgot you had, you're just aching to make this right, I think you should pay me for the eight hours you made me wait. My time is billed at $100 an hour, so a check for $800 will suffice nicely. Please remit payment immediately. FYI, "immediately" is used in a real-world kinda sense here: it means "now," or sometimes "get your fat ass moving." It doesn't refer to Cablevision's special concept of time, where "immediately" means "maybe this year, but probably when Beelzebub gets frostbite."

I look forward to your check, Jim. Hey, it's not like you need the money for

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