The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 8, 2008

Charter sends family 2 TVs after prize debacle

By Jean Cole

Chris Lewis says the picture on the brand new, high-definition television her family won is so good, “You can see the sweat on the ballplayers on ESPN.”

“It’s just a beautiful picture,” said Lewis, whose family received a 42-inch and a19-inch high-definition television from Charter Cable as appeasement for mishandling an online Father’s Day contest.

Lewis’15-year-old daughter, Whitney, entered Charter’s online contest for a 65-inch, high-definition television by telling why she thought her dad, Mike, deserved one. Charter marketing official Jeff Hatcher called Whitney June 13 to tell her she had won the television. He also followed up with an e-mail message congratulating her for the win and to set up a time to deliver the television and set up service for high-definition television, telephone and Internet service – a combination of services called a bundle. Four other online contests won free bundle service for a year.

A week later, the marketing official told Lewis that the 65-inch television was not coming and that a 19-inch would be sent in its place.

Angry with Charter for disappointing her daughter, Lewis called The News Courier and shared her story. She also e-mailed a complaint to Charter and called The Better Business Bureau. When Fed Ex delivered the 19-inch TV to their Blackburn Road home, Lewis refused delivery.

When the contest winners were posted online June 12, Charter announced that it had decided to also name several honorable mention winners who would receive smaller televisions. This may have been what the marketing official meant to award to Whitney. However, no one is sure because he would not return telephone calls from Lewis or The News Courier.

Lynne Coker, director of governmental affairs for Charter, called Lewis on Friday and apologized for the mix up.

“When a child gets disappointed, I know how that feels and I appreciate her indulgence,” Coker said. “We have to work harder on how we structure the contest and on having our people call back.”

“I think if he had just explained what happened we would have been OK,” Lewis said.

Charter redressed the grievance by giving the Lewises a 19-inch television, which is now in Whitney’s bedroom, and a 42-inch television, which is in the Lewises’ living room. Charter also threw in digital video recorders for both televisions for a year.

“The lady was extremely nice,” Lewis said of Coker. “She just said there was a miscommunication at the office.”

The two televisions were delivered Monday around 4 p.m.

“They were really great,” Lewis said.