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14 Secrets of Time Warner Cable Employees

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With more than 16 million customers in 29 states, Time Warner Cable is one of the nation’s largest internet and cable TV providers. They’re also one of the most maligned, with frequent appearances on consumer polls tracking the worst customer relations experiences. It’s possible that reputation could change after the recently announced merger with Charter Communications, but it's too soon to say. However, we do know that many of the company’s employees really aren’t trying to get on your nerves. Take a look at what a few current and past Time Warner Cable representatives have to say about marathon calls, little-known services, and the one fib they wish you’d stop telling them.

1. THEY’D APPRECIATE IT IF YOU’D STOP LYING TO THEM.

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Evan—like all of the employees we spoke to, he preferred not to use his last name—spent 18 months as a call center representative for Time Warner in Ohio. His number-one customer beef? Your attempts to fool him. “I ran into my share of customers who said they did the troubleshooting steps, but obviously didn’t,” he says. Callers with wireless modem troubles are usually tasked with unplugging the device for 30 seconds to reboot it as a first-line solution. It often works—but people often lie about trying it. “With the tools we use, we can see if it’s been unplugged or how long it’s been down,” Evan says.

2. THEY’RE NOT THE GEEK SQUAD.

Time-Warner Cable

Lloyd, who works for Time Warner in Texas, says customers can sometimes mistake him for an electronics concierge. “It’s common for people to ask for help with sound systems, game consoles, routers, and computers,” he says. “It’s always a little uncomfortable, and I've helped more than I haven't, but it's really not our job. Sometimes while I'm explaining how a sound bar works, I am thinking to myself, 'This is what I am doing instead of having lunch.’ It makes me want to cry, and that is not hyperbole.”

3. THEY CAN HANG UP ON YOU IF YOU’RE A POTTY MOUTH.

Despite assumptions that a call center operator always has to hang in there to resolve a problem, Evan says that’s not quite true. “If you feel uncomfortable because they’re being verbally abusive, you can hang up. You just have to tell the manager, ‘Hey, this is what happened.’” While Evan rarely invoked that right, he did handle plenty of angry customers. “You try to calm people as much as you can.”

4. THEY’RE AFRAID OF BREAKING YOUR STUFF.

Technicians who need access to the backs of televisions, outlets, or coaxial lines can sometimes find themselves challenged by piles of dirty clothes, massive pieces of furniture, or decorative accents. In the case of the latter, employees could find themselves in debt. “Every time a cable guy moves your belongings, he thinks to himself, ‘Is this when I lose my job?’” Lloyd says. “If something breaks, he's financially responsible. I can't simply refuse to move the furniture though, because I literally have to do it to do my job.”

5. TECHNICIANS HAVE A FEUD WITH CALL CENTERS.

According to Tedd—an installer who began working for Time Warner when his local cable company was absorbed by them four years ago—call center reps can create inaccurate expectations for customers. “Customer service reps often try and tell a customer what their problem is and what the tech will have to do when they get there, which is bad,” he says. “If a customer has a TV issue or internet issue and the CSR tells the customer that it’s just 'the box' and it needs to be replaced, then the customer thinks it should be a simple visit.” These mismanaged expectations can create extra irritation.

6. THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO CALL BACK.

According to Evan, call center operators are measured on a variety of metrics: customer service polls, their availability to take inbound calls, and whether they’ve successfully resolved a customer’s issue in a single call. “It’s what they called ‘first resolution,’” he says. “If you fix a problem or send a tech out and the ticket is closed, [management] will look to see if the customer calls back within a week. They wanted as close to 100 percent [of no callbacks] as possible.”

7. THEY WISH YOU’D THROTTLE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.

Time-Warner Cable

According to Tedd, advertised internet speeds are only as good as the equipment they’re being fed through. “So many customers have unrealistic ideas of what their internet should do versus the equipment they have,” he says. “So many people call in for slow speeds, especially now that we have our Maxx speeds, and when they are told they have 300Mbps internet, they expect to see at least 300 on a speed test coming off of an 8-year-old Linksys router.” Most speed issues, he says, aren’t modem-related, but a product of an old, slow router or computer.

8. YES, THEY GET FREE CABLE. JUST NOT FREE EQUIPMENT.

It’s a couch potato’s paradise: all the cable channels you can imagine, plus free internet and phone service. “As employees, we got HBO, all the foreign channels, everything,” Evan says. “But we had to pay to lease the cable box and modem.”

9. WHEN THEY’RE LATE, IT MIGHT BE A CUSTOMER’S FAULT.

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Tedd says appointments can get backed up for a variety of reasons, but one recurring issue is customers using him as a sounding board. “What is really irritating is when people want to just rant about how bad a particular customer service rep was, or how long they have had the problem, or how much they hate Time Warner Cable. I completely understand these issues but there is nothing I can do about it. And honestly, I don’t even mind hearing some complaints, but I cannot tell you how many times I have been late to my next appointment because a customer would not stop complaining about the company.”

10. CALLS CAN LAST A LONG, LONG TIME.

Depending on the issues that came up, Evan took anywhere between 10 and 40 calls per day. There’s no time limit placed on them, which means some calls can take an hour or more to resolve. In one instance, he spent six hours on one customer’s billing hassles. “It was spread over two days,” he says. “And it was a lot of silence, with me doing stuff on the back end.”

11. THEY CAN HELP YOU BLOCK ROBO-CALLS.

Time-Warner Cable

Even though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appears powerless to stop companies from auto-dialing residential numbers using “spoof” (fake) numbers, it’s a little-known fact that Time Warner can intervene on your behalf. If you have their digital phone service, you can request they activate Nomorobo, a free program that scans incoming calls to see if the number has been subject to complaint. If it’s on the “naughty” list, it won’t get past one ring on your phone.

12. THEY CAN WIN PRIZES.

Evan’s call center would sometimes get visits from premium channel representatives as a way of boosting employee morale. “There would be teams, and the team who got the highest customer-satisfaction rating in a two-week period would win a Game of Thrones DVD.” Operators could also get a little something if, in addition to resolving your technical issues, they managed to tack on additional service to your account. “That could make us one dollar.”

13. STOP ASKING FOR FREE CABLE. IT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

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Forget about trying to slip your tech a $50 in exchange for unlimited HBO. “It's very hard to give customers free cable because most channels are encrypted and require a cable card,” Tedd says. “People do mention it sometimes but I really couldn’t give away free channels even if I wanted to.”

14. THEY REALLY DO WANT TO HELP.

Despite the endless flow of complaints filed online, all of the employees we spoke to resisted the idea that anyone is actively trying to make your blood pressure rise. “When you're on the internet and in comment sections it looks like everyone hates the cable company and everyone has problems with their service,” Tedd says. “But most of the homes I go to haven’t had issues in years. And most customers seem to generally be pleased with us. The technicians are almost always going to be on your side because we actually do want to fix your issues and leave you happy because that benefits us, too.”

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9 Scandals that Rocked the Figure Skating World
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Don't let the ornate costumes and beautiful choreography fool you, figure skaters are no strangers to scandal. Here are nine notable ones.

1. TONYA AND NANCY.

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding
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In 1994, a little club-and-run thrust the sport of figure skating into the spotlight. The assault on reigning national champion Nancy Kerrigan (and her subsequent anguished cries) at the 1994 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Detroit was heard round the world, as were the allegations that her main rival, Tonya Harding, may have been behind it all.

The story goes a little something like this: As America's sweetheart (Kerrigan) is preparing to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team bound for Lillehammer, Norway, she gets clubbed in the knee outside the locker room after practice. Kerrigan is forced to withdraw from competition and Harding gets the gold. Details soon emerge that Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, was behind the attack (he hired a hitman). Harding denies any knowledge or involvement, but tanks at the Olympics the following month. She then pleads guilty to hindering prosecution of Gillooly and his co-conspirators, bodyguard Shawn Eckhart and hitman Shane Stant. And then she's banned from figure skating for life.

Questions about Harding's guilt remain two decades later, and the event is still a topic of conversation today. Recently, both an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary and the Oscar-nominated film I, Tonya revisited the saga, proving we can't get enough of a little figure skating scandal.

2. HAND-PICKED FOR GOLD.

Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner at the podium
Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

Usually it's the top three medalists at the U.S. Nationals that compete for America at the Winter Olympics every four years. But in 2014, gold medalist Gracie Gold (no pun intended), silver medalist Polina Edmunds, and ... "pewter" medalist Ashley Wagner were destined for Sochi.

What about the bronze medalist, you ask? Mirai Nagasu, despite out-skating Wagner by a landslide in Boston and despite being the only skater with prior Olympic experience (she placed fourth at Vancouver in 2010) had to watch it all on television. The decision by the country's governing body of figure skating (United States Figure Skating Association, or USFS) deeply divided the skating community as to whether it was the right choice to pass over Nagasu in favor of Wagner, who hadn't skated so great, and it put a global spotlight on the selection process.

In reality, the athletes that we send to the Olympics are not chosen solely on their performance at Nationals—it's one of many criteria taken into consideration, including performance in international competition over the previous year, difficulty of each skater's technical elements, and, to some degree, their marketability to a world audience. This has happened before to other skaters—most notably Michelle Kwan was relegated to being an alternate in 1994 after Nancy Kerrigan was granted a medical bye after the leg-clubbing heard round the world. Nagasu had the right to appeal the decision, and was encouraged to do so by mobs of angry skating fans, but she elected not to.

3. SALT LAKE CITY, 2002.

Pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada and Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia perform in the figure skating exhibition during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the Salt Lake Ice Center in Salt Lake City, Utah
Brian Bahr, Getty Images

Objectively, this scandal rocked the skating world the hardest, because the end result was a shattering of the competitive sport's very structure. When Canadian pairs team Jamie Sale and David Pelletier found themselves in second place after a flawless freeskate at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, something wasn't right. The Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze placed first, despite a technically flawed performance.

An investigation into the result revealed that judges had conspired to fix the results of the pairs and dance events—a French judge admitted to being pressured to vote for the Russian pair in exchange for a boost for the French dance team (who won that event). In the end, both pairs teams were awarded a gold medal, and the entire system of judging figure skating competition was thrown out and rebuilt.

4. AGENT OF STYLE.

Jackson Haines was an American figure skater in the mid-1800s who had some crazy ideas about the sport. He had this absolutely ludicrous notion of skating to music (music!), waltzing on ice, as well as incorporating balletic movements, athletic jumps, and spins into competition. His brand new style of skating was in complete contrast to the rigid, traditional, and formal (read: awkward) standard of tracing figure-eights into the ice. Needless to say, it was not well received by the skating world in America, so he was forced to take his talents to the Old World.

His new “international style” did eventually catch on around the globe, and Haines is now hailed as the father of modern figure skating. He also invented the sit spin, a technical element now required in almost every level and discipline of the sport.

5. LADIES LAST.

In 1902, competitive figure skating was a gentlemen's pursuit. Ladies simply didn't compete by themselves on the world stage (though they did compete in pairs events). But a British skater named Madge Syers flouted that standard, entering the World Figure Skating Championships in 1902. She ruffled a lot of feathers, but was ultimately allowed to compete and beat the pants off every man save one, earning the silver medal.

Her actions sparked a controversy that spurred the International Skating Union to create a separate competitive world event for women in 1906. Madge went on to win that twice, and became Olympic champion at the 1908 summer games [PDF] in London—the first “winter” Olympics weren't held until 1924 in France, several years after Madge died in 1917.

6. AGENT OF STYLE, PART 2.

A picture of Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie
Keystone/Getty Images

Norwegian skater Sonja Henie was the darling of the figure skating world in the first half of the 20th century. The flirtatious blonde was a three-time Olympic champion, a movie star, and the role model of countless aspiring skaters. She brought sexy back to skating—or rather, introduced it. She was the first skater to wear scandalously short skirts and white skates. Prior to her bold fashion choices, ladies wore black skates and long, conservative skirts. During WWII, a fabric shortage hiked up the skirts even further than Henie's typical length, and the ladies of figure skating have never looked back.

7. TOO SEXY FOR HER SKATES.

Katarina Witt displaying her gold medal
DANIEL JANIN, AFP/Getty Images

A buxom young beauty from the former Democratic German Republic dominated ladies figure skating in the mid- to late 1980s. A two-time Olympic champion, and one of the most decorated female skaters in history, Katarina Witt was just too sexy for her shirt—she tended to wear scandalously revealing costumes (one of which resulted in a wardrobe malfunction during a show), and was criticized for attempting to flirt with the judges to earn higher scores.

The ISU put the kibosh on the controversial outfits soon afterward, inserting a rule that all competitive female skaters “must not give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for an athletic sport.” The outrage forced Witt to add some fabric to her competitive outfits in the late '80s. But 10 years later she took it all off, posing naked for a 1998 issue of Playboy.

8. MORE COSTUME CONTROVERSY.

For the 2010 competitive year, the ISU's annual theme for the original dance segment (since defunct and replaced by the “short dance”) was “country/folk.” That meant competitors had to create a routine that explored some aspect of it, in both music and costume as well as in maneuvers. The top Russian pair chose to emulate Aboriginal tribal dancing in their program, decked in full bodysuits adorned with their interpretation of Aboriginal body paint (and a loincloth).

Their debut performance at the European Championships drew heavy criticism from Aboriginal groups in both Australia and Canada, who were greatly offended by the inaccuracy of the costumes and the routine. The Russian pair, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, were quick to dial down the costumes and dial up the accuracy in time for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but the judges were not impressed. They ended up with the bronze, ending decades of Russian dominance in the discipline. (With the glaring exception of 2002, of course.)

9. IN MEMORIAM.

While not a scandal, this event bears mentioning because it has rocked the figure skating world arguably more than anything else. In February of 1961, the American figure skating team boarded a flight to Belgium from New York, en route to the World Championships in Prague. The plane went down mysteriously (cause still questioned today) as it tried to land in Brussels, killing all 72 passengers. America's top skaters and coaches had been aboard, including nine-time U.S. Champion and Olympic bronze medalist-turned-coach Maribel Vinson-Owen and her daughter Laurence Owen, a 16-year-old who had been heavily favored to win the ladies event that year.

The ISU canceled the competition upon the news of the crash and the United States lost its long-held dominance in the sport for almost a decade. The United States Figure Skating Association (USFS) soon after established a memorial fund that helped support the skating careers of competitors in need of financial assistance, including future Olympic champions like Scott Hamilton and Peggy Fleming.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Chinese New Year
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Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning February 16, China will welcome the Year of the Dog, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. THE HOLIDAY WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO SCARE OFF A MONSTER.

Nian at Chinese New Year
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As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A LOT OF FAMILIES USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CLEAN THE HOUSE.

woman ready to clean a home
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While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. IT WILL PROMPT BILLIONS OF TRIPS.

Man waiting for a train.
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Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS.

Colorful pills and medications
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While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. SOME PEOPLE RENT BOYFRIENDS OR GIRLFRIENDS TO SOOTHE PARENTS.

Young Asian couple smiling
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In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. RED ENVELOPES ARE EVERYWHERE.

a person accepting a red envelope
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An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. IT CAN CREATE RECORD LEVELS OF SMOG.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
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Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. BLACK CLOTHES ARE A BAD OMEN.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
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So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. IT LEADS TO PLANES BEING STUFFED FULL OF CHERRIES.

Bowl of cherries
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Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand—last year Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. PANDA EXPRESS IS HOPING IT'LL CATCH ON IN THE STATES.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

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