Steve Schklair wonders why he’s beefed up by cable giant Spectrum.
“It’s been years since I even got a subscription,” he told me.
Nonetheless, the Altadena resident received a strange letter from Spectrum saying that, “as a one-time courtesy,” the company will write off the debt it claims it owes and stop reporting it as a bad debtor to the credit bureaus – if he agrees to resume cable service.
“A well-established credit history will more likely allow you to benefit from lower mortgage rates, better chances of obtaining credit cards and home rental approvals,” the letter says, suggesting that Schklair’s finances could be in serious trouble unless he returns to the fold of the specter.
“You have worked hard to build a great future for yourself and your family,” he says. “We look forward to welcoming you again. “
Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds to the Soprano: “You’ve made a good life. Shame if anything happens to him.
A spokesperson for Spectrum confirmed the letter’s authenticity and called it an “opportunity to reconnect” with the cable company. Spectrum is teaming up with the Los Angeles Times for a nighttime TV show.
All subscription-based businesses work hard to maintain and renew customer relationships. It is common for such businesses to entice old subscribers to come back with discounts and specials.
I’ve never seen a pitch that threatens so blatantly to harm unless you come.
Spectrum’s letter tells Schklair that, despite his alleged fiscal irresponsibility, resuming cable service will allow him “to come back in good standing as a new customer.”
“And when you do become a customer,” he says, “we’ll both remove your debt and stop reporting it to a credit bureau. “
Like me, Schklair took this as a not-so-veiled warning that society will make it difficult for him unless he plays ball.
“It sounds like corporate blackmail,” he said. “The letter is filled with real and implied threats.”
I asked if he owed Spectrum any money.
“No,” replied Schklair. “It’s been years since I’ve been their customer, and they never said anything about my not paying any bills.”
No missed payment notices?
No warning about adverse credit reporting reports?
“No, nothing like that. “
Yet Spectrum’s letter explicitly says that if it resumes cable service, the company will “stop reporting” Schklair’s “past debt” to the credit bureaus. This wording implies that Spectrum has already submitted such reports.
Any negative report on your credit report can lower your credit rating, making it more difficult to borrow at reasonable interest rates or to carry out financial activities such as refinancing a mortgage.
“To take advantage of this special debt reduction offer,” reads the letter from Spectrum, “all you have to do is purchase a Spectrum TV, Internet and / or voice product.”
He specifically encourages him to sign up for an Internet service at an introductory rate of $ 49.99 per month for the first 12 months. After that, the price climbs to $ 74.99 per month, a 50% increase.
At my request, Schklair checked his credit report. He said the only financial misstep shown was late payment by credit card in January 2020, while he was abroad.
“There is no negative success from Spectrum,” he said.
This suggests that the company did not actually report its allegedly unpaid invoices. And if that is the case, it would make Spectrum’s letter not only threatening but also misleading. Maybe “dishonest” is a better word.
Schklair said he called Spectrum twice to see what was going on. The two service representatives, he said, found no outstanding obligations.
I shared all of this with Spectrum and asked for clarification. Dennis Johnson, a company spokesperson, declined to discuss the details of Schklair’s situation.
He said letters like the one Schklair received are being sent to many former customers who may have billing issues. The letters are meant to help those in debt find their way back to financial light, he said.
“The offer clears their outstanding balance and stops reporting that debt to any credit bureau – two good things for the consumer – and, yes, invites them to reconnect to Spectrum Internet at a promotional price,” said Johnson.
By giving the company the benefit of the doubt, it’s laudable that Spectrum is willing to give up its outstanding debts and help people maintain good credit.
But I have read the letter to Schklair several times, and I still wonder why Spectrum’s alleged good intentions are being expressed in such an aggressive and harsh manner.
Here is the key phrase again: “And when you become a customer, we will both remove your debt and stop reporting it to a credit bureau.” “
That is, if you do not return as a Spectrum customer, the company will or continue to take care of your credit score.
This is not a promotional offer. It’s a shakedown.
Even though Schklair Is it that owes Spectrum money, there must be more acceptable ways to handle this than threatening tax harm, unless it makes a commitment to donate money to the company on a regular basis.
The average cable bill is $ 116 per month.
I asked Schklair what he thought of Spectrum’s response to my requests.
“They threatened to destroy my credit,” he replied. “It’s weird.”
Maybe Spectrum just thought it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.