“grandfathered” – You don’t know what it means…

Some ten years ago when I first subscribed to Comcast cable TV, after returning to Denver, they had two basic options. Basic meant the absolute bare bones basic channels (locals), nothing else. For ~ $20 more, the Basic Plus, you got 100 more channels including all the “basic” ones we’re used to. I took the Basic Plus and was content for a long time. Over the years the rates gradually increased and at some point, I realized that the ~ $60 I was paying had turned into ~ $90. That prompted me to call them three or four years ago asking about a lower package.

The representative quickly confirmed that I was paying more than I should, and told me I was on a “grandfathered” package that was no longer available. She offered to switch me to the new package, with the same channels and no additional service, for a much lower rate. I tried to explain the whole “grandfathered” concept, and asked how long I had been paying ~ $30/mo extra, for the same package offered much lower. I don’t recall exactly what she said, but I felt that it had been several years. The conversation went downhill from there as I explained it was essentially fraud. There was no reason to keep charging me extra for the same service offered at a much lower rate. Rather than just taking the normal rate, she offered to give me 6 months at the introductory rate, ~ $30/mo. I argued that did not compensate for years of fraud, and she offered the introductory rate for 1 year. Accepting that, I reminded her that in 1 year I would call and cancel service when they raised the rates. My calendar reminder got set, and I did just that a year later.

Comcast showed no care for a loyal customer. Instead, they charged me extra money every month knowing there was the exact same offering for a better price. When I canceled, I never returned to Comcast. That kind of unethical behavior is not the kind of business I will support.

Jump to earlier this week when I called CenturyLink (who was Qwest when I first subscribed). I called in, as I do every 6 months, asking if a better DSL service was available. I currently enjoy all of 7 megs down, and 80k up. Yes, 80k, not even 1 meg up. Since I routinely trade 5 – 10 meg files with co-workers at the office, that limited upload speed is brutal. Two years ago, CenturyLink put up signs a mile from my house saying up to 40 megs down was available; yet it wasn’t for me. A couple days ago a friend moved 1 block away from me, just 100 yards. His apartment allows him to receive up to 40 megs as well. CenturyLink informed that I was still out of luck.

At this point, the representative said I should bundle services, which he and I both immediately said “wait…”. He realized that I was on a bundled plan, as I knew I was. Like Comcast, he began to explain to me that I was on a “grandfathered” plan, and I started the explanation again. I briefly explained that the term “grandfathered” generally meant a better set of circumstances were held in place, despite newer worse circumstances. In the context of a service provider, it would normally mean that the plan I was on was cheaper than existing, and that due to being a loyal customer, I could keep the original rate. Like Comcast, CenturyLink had it backwards.

A grandfather clause is a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations, while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Frequently, the exemption is limited; it may extend for a set period of time, or it may be lost under certain circumstances. For example, a “grandfathered power plant” might be exempt from new, more restrictive pollution laws, but those rules would not apply if the plant were expanded.

In this case, I had the representative ask around since he was new, and he determined that the new plan was only a couple months old. CenturyLink does account reviews every so often and tries to get you to bundle more services. When doing that, they quickly review your account to ensure you are on the correct plan. I am pretty confident that in less than a year, this would have been fixed, where Comcast did no such thing and fleeced me for years. In each case, my “grandfathered” plan had me paying ~ $90, and the newer plan was closer to ~ $60.

The state of customer service continues to disappoint. The only difference is that in the past years, companies seem perfectly content to fraudulently charge long-time customers. Of course, they don’t call it fraud, they chalk it up to bureaucracy and a mishap, every single time. They are even co-opting an old term, and using it to explain this practice.

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