Less Than Optimum: One Man’s Quest to Get a Refund

Less Than Optimum
Dan Rattiner

For over a year now, the Wi-Fi at our house in East Hampton has gone down almost every afternoon at 6 p.m.

It’s down for about an hour. Could be in the middle of a Zoom meeting or answering email, doing a podcast. It’s a problem.

At first I thought it was just me. But then friends told me this 6 p.m. collapse was happening to them too. I write for a newspaper.  I read the news. We have important people out here. And if the local Wi-Fi service is losing its grip, this could be a disaster.

Optimum, now owned by Altice, is the dominant internet option on the East End.  Years ago, under another name, it bought its competitors and cornered the market.   Today, you either get Optimum’s Wi-Fi or you’re left with unreliable alternatives.  And it’s not cheap.  For basic 200 Mbps Wi-Fi at my house, Optimum charges $97.20 a month.     

Back in July, amidst the continuing periodic breakdowns, I looked out the window and saw a man in a yellow hard hat high up in an elevated bucket threading new wires on our  telephone pole. Below him was a white Optimum truck.   Soon it left. But over the next ten days, the truck was back at the same pole six times to tighten, loosen or add further wires. Furthermore, elsewhere in the area we saw dozens more of these trucks. What was this?

In August, rain and high winds of Tropical Storm Isaias barreled through, knocking down trees and overhead wires.   We never lost power at our house, but after the storm, we were without Wi-Fi for two ays.   

Then a miracle happened. A week later, a letter arrived in my mailbox from Optimum. It said due to the Wi-Fi outages caused by the storm Isaias, credits would be posted to my bill so I wouldn’t be charged for what I didn’t get.   I didn’t have to do anything. They’d just do it. Great, I thought.

Except the months went by and the bills still came in at $97.20, while the Wi-Fi continued to spookily crash at 6 p.m.   

Well, I waited and waited, and then, finally, just before Christmas, I decided to try to find out where my credits were. 

The mechanical voice answers right away. It wants to know if this is really you, so this goes back and forth awhile. Then the mechanical voice asks you to say in a few words why you called.

I said “I want to know where my credit is.”

The voice said “we’ll try it another way. Press 1 to make a payment, 2 for service issues, 3 appointments, 4 become a customer, 5 to make changes or cancel your service, or 6 if you are calling about Altice Mobile.”

I tried 2 for service issues.  Then I got another voice.

“Welcome to Altice. Don’t get tied down with your mobile plan. Take control with Altice Mobile now with flexible data options. Press 1 anytime.”    

This was said over and over for 22 minutes until, finally, a person in service answered. Or so I thought. After explaining my question about the credit I was owed, I was told I had been transferred to a different company called Suddenlink, and he’d transfer me to Altice. He then put me on hold and disconnected me.

Well, I would not give up. I dialed again and went through the routine, and this time, did get through to a service person. 

Patiently, I explained about the credit I had not gotten.

In reply he asked me a question.   

“How much are you paying for your current cell phone service?” he asked.

“$150 a month,” I said.  “It’s AT&T.”

“What if I told you I could get you Wi-Fi and phone with Altice for only $85 a month?”

I told him I was calling because I wasn’t getting my Wi-Fi credits.   

On and on he went about the Altice plan, and then, when I said I’d hang up, he said, “So you DO want me to change your plan to Altice for just $85 a month.  I’ll press the button.”

“No, no!”

“I don’t do credits,” he finally admitted, “you need to call sales for credits.”A half-hour later, sales answered and in answer to my question went through the exact same routine as service.   This time I answered his question.

“Why would I want to sign on to a service that shuts down all the time?” I said.

Finally, the representative said, I needed to talk to customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction went through the same routine services that sales did. This was unbelievable.

Thus ended that Friday afternoon. But the next day, Saturday, I was back at it. And struck gold. Using a service called Fair Shake, I got the names, bios and photographs of the eight highest higher-ups at Altice. A nice-looking Raphael Bourreau is listed as executive vice president for customer service and on Monday when he returns to work I’m going to call him about not getting the credits promised. 

I’m sure he’ll take care of this. 

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