… negotiating with terrorists. Okay, so that is hyperbole. But just a bit. I don’t expect them to lob a bomb at me or anything. However, CenturyLink’s business practices have certainly caused me to lean hard into my CBT skills that I learned in order to treat PTSD (caused by actual life-threatening situations). In short: my nervous system equates my experience as a CenturyLink customer to surviving an actual terrorist attack.
Please note that CenturyLink claims that they have no customers.
So let’s start with a little about me as a customer. I sit down at the beginning of each month and go through all my bills, review statements and receipts, make a budget, and make payments. Dealing with a lot of numbers and maths, especially with respect to finances, stresses me out so I set aside a morning to get it all out of the way. For the rest of the month, I can rest assured that everything is paid up on time and that there is no suspicious activity on any of my accounts.
I know that using autopay for everything seems pretty darn convenient, however, there are only a handful of companies I trust with “autopay” feature. I used to trust CenturyLink. I had been a customer since they were called Qwest because they have a monopoly in this area. They are the only landline provider and the only landline based ISP. So a few years back, when CenturyLink had the privilege of access to my bank account for “autopay”, they decided to withdraw more than I owed. When I called to figure out what had happened, I had to argue with them even after they admitted it was their error.
CenturyLink refused to put the money back, “No, No, mam. We will credit your account in the next billing cycle.”
But what if I need that money in my account now? Too bad. If I wouldn’t accept the credit to my account in the next billing cycle they would mail me a check in 8-12 weeks. A sensible person would have canceled the autopay then and there. But I wasn’t sensible and they had given me a $10/month discount in exchange for access to my bank account.
Not long after that, I find out my bank account had over-drafted by hundreds of dollars. I thought I had been robbed. In fact, I had been robbed, by CenturyLink. Though the auto-pay had been set up months prior, CenturyLink claimed my routing number was suddenly wrong and payment didn’t post the month prior so they took away my autopay discount, added some late fees and then charged me all that and two months of service– all without emailing me, calling me, or sending me a notice in the mail. My credit union removed the overdraft fees and after months of hassle CenturyLink “credited“ my account for the fees. When I told them I would no longer be using autopay, CenturyLink told me that because of my history of non-payment (excuse me?!) I was not allowed to use their free online payment option, instead I would need to pay my monthly bill through their Wells Fargo option, which would add an extra $4 to my bill (you know, because that $3.99 “internet recovery fee” just wasn’t enough). I refused, I started sending a check each month, using my credit union’s free bill pay feature– I issue a check online, the bank prints it up and mails it for me and I keep a record on my online account. No stamps and no checks to buy.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2016, when I called CenturyLink to have them update my name. Of all the places I had to call to update my name, CenturyLink was the only place to have zero security oversight. Even my Sally’s Beauty Club card had more security features in place, FFS. I should have been paranoid about this but I was, at that time, relieved to have one less hurdle to deal with. I continued to send my payments as usual. Weeks later I received a check in the mail from CenturyLink, a refund for overpayment. I thought perhaps I had accidentally sent two payments in one month. The next day, I get a disconnect notice from CenturyLink. I called. They said I owed hundreds of dollars. Mass confusion ensues. For weeks I called in trying to unpick the mess– which turned out to be entirely Centurylink’s doing.
Instead of simply updating my name, CenturyLink closed my account and opened a new one with the same number, they took away my customer loyalty discounts, threw in a new line activation fee, installation fees, and all without my prior authorization and without notifying me.
I was sure I felt an aneurysm coming on. I actually had to argue with them to fix this issue. I had to seek out the customer service executive for my region of the country and email him to get anywhere on this issue. I was offered (can you guess?!) credit on my account– and reinstatement of my customer loyalty discount. The credit was supposed to equal the nearly $300 they tried to scam me for… but about halfway into that they tried to take it away. I had to contact that head honcho again to get anywhere– then he tried to scam me with some fuzzy math but I was so pissed I somehow saw through it (like a mother lifting a car off her toddler). The remaining credit was reinstated and I hoped the bullshit would be at an end.
My service with CenturyLink is supposed to be a whopping 20 mbps ($70/month). Except, it’s almost never 20 mbps. With an ethernet connection, one device turned on, and I am lucky to have 8-10 mbps. Often, way too often, it’s too low for the test to work, let alone streaming video. Do I complain– yes. But only because I have more time than money. What does CenturyLink say, “It’s your router. You need to rent our router.” Why is it that I can do NOTHING to my modem/router and magically have the internet speeds go back up to those lightening fast 8mbps? Could it be CenturyLink? Well yes. Yes, it can be. Case in point: I had a crazy busy month at the end of which I realize I’d used a LOT of mobile data… turns out my wifi hadn’t been working. For the entire month. The initial CenturyLink customer service tech said as much on the phone. He apologized and offered me a month’s credit and to send out a tech… in ten days. When the tech failed to arrive, in ten days, I called back. I was told it was my router. I disagreed. They said they would send a tech out in five days, “But if we find it’s something in your apartment, we’re going to charge you $90 for the tech to come out there.” I called their bluff. It was like high stakes gambling. I am happy to say that it wasn’t an issue inside my apartment. The cable that feeds sweet sweet internet into my building was disconnected outside at the utility box and once it was plugged in somehow my modem/router magically started working again! A miracle!
So we have come to 2018. At this point in my long and fraught (abusive) relationship with CenturyLink, I start to develop the shakes around the start of the month. I need reliable internet at home and CenturyLink was my only option. But month to month I wasn’t sure of what I would find in my next bill and the stress of having to call and argue and go through stacks of paperwork consuming hours and hours of my life– (deep breath). Then this Spring I felt myself starting to relax. It had been months since my last CenturyLink related clusterfuck. I thought maybe this class action lawsuits I have been reading about shook up management. Maybe CenturyLink was going to be a better company now! Maybe the system works!!!!!
(Sit down Jimmy.)
The April bill was $9 more than I expect due to a late fee. Why is there a late fee? I checked with my credit union, the check was mailed on the 2nd of the month and should have arrived on or before the 6th, my payment wasn’t due until the 22nd. So what the fuck happened? I checked to see when they deposited the check… they didn’t deposit it until the 30th. I felt myself slipping into insanity: Is it MY fault if they don’t process my payment in time? How could I have avoided this– I cannot send a payment before the first of the month (when I am paid). Then it dawned on me: I am dealing with Sata–CenturyLink. This wasn’t an accident. I called to have them remove the late fee, which they did, being sure to emphasize that I should use their autopay to avoid this kind of situation. ha-HA!
CenturyLink was deliberately withholding my payment until it was late in order to charge me late fees.
May was more of the same… and June. So I filed a formal complaint with the FCC for fraud. In my opinion, CenturyLink was either trying to sneak late fees under the radar and/or they were trying to bully me into agreeing to autopay so they could just take as much as they wanted. I contacted my credit union asking if there could be a delivery notification option on the bill pay feature (they are working on it). After a little back and forth with CenturyLink and the FCC, CenturyLink credited my account for one month (in the documents below you can see that I didn’t mail a check in July) but of course, they claimed they were not deliberately withholding my payments. I submitted my payment history to the FCC, showing that between August of 2017 and March of 2018 my checks were processed by CenturyLink in 1-8 days, leaving almost two weeks before my payment was due. Suddenly that changed this spring when CenturyLink started taking over 25 days to process my payments.
Every month, including the month I was credited for, I have had to spend hours of my time contacting CenturyLink to remove fraudulent late fees and it’s getting worse. They are withholding my payment until the next statement comes out so that I have a late fee and a past due balance. Just imagine the look on the customer service agent’s face when I say, “But I mailed the check weeks ago!” Suurrreeee. Can this fall under the category of “gaslighting”? Fortunately, my credit union is involved and has my back. I would hate to think this might be affecting my credit in some way– it has certainly affected my sleep.
I lay awake in dread of the next CenturyLink hassle, their next scheme to shatter my delicate budget, and the fact that I am dependent on the service (shitty as it is) they provide. I need the internet. I use it for every aspect of my life and moreso because I am medically disabled and often housebound. But my quality of life has been so damaged by CenturyLink that I would rather live without internet access than continue to be their customer.
This month CenturyLink has removed my customer loyalty discount (effectively doubling my bill) charged me another late fee, and hasn’t processed last month’s payment. I have finally had enough. Tomorrow I am canceling my account with CenturyLink. I won’t have access to internet at home, beyond my mobile carrier (Google Fi, which I highly recommend). I am worried about how isolated I will become, especially as winter comes on. I really hope that another landline-based internet provider becomes available in my area soon.
I want to hear from you, what are your Centurylink horror stories? Let’s commiserate! I would like to know if anyone has tips for managing online work using mobile data only. And in an upcoming post, I will be giving my top tips for being a CenturyLink customer if you’re still stuck with them due to a contract or other unfortunate circumstances. I would be happy to feature some reader tips.