Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Great Charter Junk Mail Experiment

(Oh wait.  I'm not going silent just yet.)

Last year, I decided to conduct an experiment -- I wanted to count how many pieces of junk mail I received from Charter Communications, my former cable company.

Years ago, I quite liked Charter, when they were small and tech support was locally-based.  When they got bigger, attempted to sell us on stuff of lesser quality, and contracted out tech support, it seemed that their goals switched to "selling more people more stuff" rather than "keeping customers happy with the stuff we sell them."  At that point, things went downhill, and we ended up with things like three people in my condo complex complaining about the cable modem cutting out, and Charter admitting they wouldn't do a building-wide trouble ticket unless four people complained, so they just kept swapping out our individual modems, which didn't do a damn bit of good.

One of the things I was extremely happy about when buying the house was that it had a satellite dish, rather than cable TV.  (I ended up getting my internet access through Verizon, which has earned a whole different pile of hate, but that's not the point.)  The point is:  No more Charter, ever ever ever.  

Charter does not see it that way.  Charter is unaware that "the person who bought this house" is "the same person we totally dicked around when she owned that condo."  Charter just sees me as a homeowner without Charter.  Oh, the humanity.

Therefore, Charter peppers me with junk mail, hoping that this time, I will dump my satellite TV, DSL provider, and home phone service, in order to get the awesome products Charter is selling.

I now have a complete count of Charter junk mail received in 2013.  (I may be one off, as there was one waiting for me when I returned from London, and I can't say for certain whether it was delivered in 2013 or 2014, but I'm going with the odds and adding it to the 2013 total.)

And that number is ... 26.  That's one every two weeks!

Interestingly, the first 6 did not identify on the outside of the envelope that they came from Charter.  They were just stamped as "Dated Material," "Important Information Enclosed," "Special Offer for Your Address," or, my personal favorite "Activation Notice" (amusing because not a damn thing was being activated). 

After those 6, all of the envelopes clearly identified that they were from Charter.  I wonder if people complained about unidentified mail.

I am also impressed that several of them contain a credit-card sized piece of plastic (which isn't a credit card, but just feels like one to encourage you to open the envelope and learn about the great deal inside -- it also makes shredding it unopened more difficult).

You know what else?  Even though they all talk about being a "Special Offer" or "Dated Material," each of the 26 envelopes has offered me exactly the same deal (which is going to expire really soon, really it is) of $29.99 for each of the three services when I get all three (for the first year). For a few weeks in there, they offered a slightly different deal ($29.99 for internet and $39.99 for TV, and screw phone service), but then they quickly went back to $29.99 for each of the three services bundled.

So, the offer I got two weeks ago, in the envelope with a big read "Official Time Sensitive" sticker on it, right underneath the "Important Information Enclosed," was for this $29.99 per service deal, but I should hurry, because the offer was only good through January 16.  But the one I just received (no sticker, but the fake credit card inside) offered me the same deal, now good through January 30.  How lucky am I, that you extended the offer another two weeks?  And that (except for those three times you offered me the deal without home phone service), you have so generously extended the term in which I could respond to that special offer by two weeks every two weeks for the past year?

I can't help but think that if Charter had put any effort at all into customer retention, they wouldn't have to keep killing trees in the name of customer acquisition

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