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An Open Letter to Charter Communications

An Open Letter to Charter Communications

Dear Charter,

Dear Dear Dear Charter. Where do I begin?

How about deforestation? Because that is what you’re contributing to with the endless paper bills you mail out to your millions of customers. Your Amazonian-like carbon footprint must really make a splash in our fight to keep global climate change a burgeoning reality.

You see, Charter. Here’s my problem with you. It’s not your apparent contribution to climate change. It’s not the fact that the homes of millions of animals are destroyed each year by way of deforestation that you help create. It’s not even the fact that I received a bloody paper cut just today opening your bill. No, the real and much more sobering problem is that my husband and I are on a path to eliminate paper mail, but companies like yours make this a virtually impossible task. Have you sold out to the Postmaster General who now retains possession of your soul in exchange for keeping the US Postal Service in business? Was some devilish deal made in the fiery depths of USPS hell?

We have been trying for 10 (TEN) months now to enact the paperless bill option you supposedly have online. Each month we click the little button on our account settings to receive only electronic bills, the dreaded “go green” link. The following month we receive a paper bill. We then proceed to call your customer service people who proclaim that “Yes, indeed! We have paperless bills!” They share this integral piece of information while we have the God-forsaken bill in our hands. A voodoo doll now takes up residence in an old shoe box labeled “Charter Communications.” Each month upon receiving your bill, I take a shiny pin and carefully poke it in a precise site on the doll. Your IT person in charge of the “go green” link now has the nickname little prick. 

More importantly, there’s a reason we tenderly call you, dear Charter, the Tree Terminators. Let’s do some fun math.

You have about 29,000,000 customers aka subscribers. Each of your bills contains two (2) pieces of paper: One (1) for the actual bill and one (1) for a rather inane message about how insufficient funds will result in additional fees and how a masked Repo Man will come to our house reclaiming our cable remote through any means necessary included but not limited to waterboarding and dognapping. Okay, that last part I might have exaggerated a little.

Let’s get back to the fun math problem.

Based on my previous calculations, now we’re talking about 58,000,000 pieces of paper mailed out each month.

58,000,000 pieces of paper X 12 months. Here’s where things get tricky. My calculator doesn’t go that high, so now I have to do actual math with my brain. 696,000,000 is the magical number, I think. Again, that is 696 MILLION pieces of paper consumed each year for your bills. This does not include the 348,000,000 envelopes used annually.

1 ream of paper is 500 sheets
696,000,000 pieces of paper = 1,392,000 reams

I ream of paper weighs 3 pounds
Each ream comes from about 8 pounds of wood (aka trees)
1,392,000 reams x 8 pounds = 11,136,000 pounds of wood

An average tree weighs about 1500 pounds
11,136,000 pounds of wood used for paper ÷ 1500 pounds per average tree =

Wait for it. Wait for it.

7424 trees killed each year for your bills.
(7424) trees KILLED each year for your bills.

But wait! What about the envelopes? That makes for another 3000 or so trees (give or take).

Now, Charter, you are up to about 10,000 dead trees annually for the sole purpose of billing. I shudder with anticipation to think what you consume in your offices. But really, 10,000 dead trees. That must feel good. I mean, to make such a significant contribution. That’s like, well, just incredible.

So, again, what’s the problem?

Not all those 10,000 dead trees, because really, who cares? I don’t care that 4 out of 10 trees are chopped down for paper or that 70% of the world’s plants and animals rely on forests for their survival. I don’t even care that over 100 natural remedies come from trees. Sick people can just deal with it. Suck it up. I really don’t care about the fact that 28,000 species are expected to become extinct in the next two decades because of deforestation. I’ll be old by then anyway. Whatever. Who cares that 700 pounds of paper are consumed by the average US citizen each year or that only about 70% of recycled paper actually gets recycled? Not you. Not me.

Charter Communications

The only thing I care about is this: I aim to have a mailbox free of bills or flyers or adverts, and you dear Charter are hindering that objective.

Surely most sensible people give up on the prospect of receiving your bills electronically after the first try (if they try at all), because they have more important things to do (like working and eating) then hang out on the phone wading through the muck of your system. Not us. We’re total suckers for the contact we’re clearly lacking with your customer service folks. The ringing of our calendar reminder each month to call you and pretend to discontinue paper bills fills us with the ecstasy of two children on the threshold of a brilliantly-lit candy store. We can barely contain ourselves and at times fight for who gets to call you. I was once caught dialing your number to make “the call to Charter” when my husband grabbed the phone from my trembling, sweaty palms bellowing “Wait! Kenda! the bill hasn’t arrived in our mailbox yet!” We struggled with the phone. I, clutching, with a fierce Jaws-like grip until he managed to pry it away, each of my white knuckles snapping with a reluctant release. He then held my head in his hands as I wept unable to abandon the troubling notion that it was not yet time to call Charter.

Ten months into this circus show we received yet another bill. Today. Your customer service folks told us, today, that they changed things “on their end” and that these changes should reflect in the next billing cycle. A familiar song and dance not too dissimilar to 90’s techno music blasting out our eardrums.

I see your mission is: To integrate the highest quality service with clearly superior entertainment and communications products that consistently exceed the expectations of our growing customer base.

You have definitely exceeded our expectations. I mean, 10,000 dead trees is extraordinary. I see you have a growing customer base. Good for you and all those totally worthless trees. Yeah baby. And now you have a near-monopoly on the industry after the Time Warner merger. Well, all I can say is that good things are happening.

Charter, here’s a wild request:

Make it so easy for folks to get paperless bills that they have to call to get paper bills. Wouldn’t that be an interesting concept? You see what I’m saying here? It’s like a switch-a-roo of sorts. Like, people only receive electronic bills unless they call to receive paper bills. How cool is that?

I’m not going to hold my breath, because, well, that would be idiotic. I rather enjoy life. Just not the part when I have to take time out of my busy days to eliminate paper mail. If it weren’t for the Charter bill, our household would only be receiving one paper bill each month from our small-town water company. One day they, too, will get with the program.

Call me if you’d like to discuss other ways to make your organization more eco-friendly. I hear they’re doing great things with coal-powered electricity.

I’m going to light your bill on fire now.

Nearly sincerely,

Kenda Swartz Pepper
Jacksonville, Oregon

Charter Communications kills trees

Update August 16, 2016

I have news! After another three hours on the phone, two reps, and two supervisors later, absolutely nothing has changed. I didn’t say good news. Shockingly enough, there were basically no notes on our account from all the previous calls. Each rep passed the buck back to us saying that we must be doing something wrong. We must be doing something wrong. Wow. The reps tried to educate us -again- on the process of “going green” because clearly it’s our lack of technical skills, our ineptitude to find the words “go green” and click the button. They really should call that button the go to hell first then go green. Finally, one supervisor said, “Okay, you think this button is automatically bumping you back to paper billing? I am going to check it and call you back on Friday if I see your account moved back from paperless to paper billing.” This was after he verified our umpteenth attempt to go paperless online. Surprise. The following Friday he actually called us back and was like, “oh yeah. how weird. I guess I’ll escalate this now.” You see, our word was not quite good enough for you, Charter.

Now, today, the husband called back TEN days after receiving that call from Kevin, the supervisor who escalated, because we haven’t heard a PEEP since then. Turns out, Charter, you DROPPED the ball AGAIN. The tech support people were like, “Dude. I just don’t know.” And no one had the courtesy to inform us.

Now what? We still don’t want to participate in your treeocide. Now what? We wait. Again. As a new supervisor looks into the matter. Riiiiight.


  1. JOAN B. COY


    1. Kenda

      Hi Mrs. C,

      Thanks for your continued support! Very interesting suggestion about the FTC. I’ll have to check into that. I love trees too, and ginormous companies like Charter need to be more responsible. xo

    1. Kenda

      Oh yeah. I still have lots of sauce. My next open letter (turns out I really like writing these) will be to United for a very grumpy customer experience we had a few days ago. That said, the pay raise/mature CS rep correlation is a good one. That sounds like a good problem to solve in a philosophy class. If a CS agent makes less than 10 dollars/hour does he pee in the woods?

    1. Kenda

      Zesty zeal. Now that sounds yummy. It was one of your recent posts that gave me the idea to turn this regular letter into an open letter. So, thanks for that! Totally. I don’t expect Charter to pay $15.00/hour tho. 🙁

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