Stores say outage slowed business, no major sales losses

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 15, 2012 

Hargray Communications technicians work to restore service during an outage Saturday after the company's cable was accidentally cut across from Tanger Outlet Center 1 in greater Bluffton.

HARGRAY COMMUNICATIONS

Bluffton businesses affected by a Hargray Communications service outage Saturday say they made the best of a frustrating situation, but haven't noticed financial losses.

The outage, reported mid-day Saturday, affected areas near Tanger Outlet Center 1 and Moss Creek, according to Andrew Rein, vice president of sales and marketing for Hargray. Services were fully restored by about 4 a.m. Sunday. In all, about 75 businesses and 1,000 homes lost service, Rein said.

A company working for Time Warner Cable accidentally cut Hargray fiber cables across from the outlet center near Sawmill Creek Road, Rein said, and it is up to the contractor or Time Warner whether to reimburse customers for the lost cable, telephone and Internet services.

"They were digging without prior location services to identify where underground cables might have been located," Rein said. "Had they done that, they could have clearly identified where the Hargray fiber was. ... It's very frustrating, because these are our customers, and they rely on us for service."

A Time Warner spokeswoman contends the Hargray cable was not properly marked.

"We regret that any customer of ours or one of our competitors would experience any loss of service," Rose Dangerfield, Time Warner's director of communications in South Carolina, said Monday. "In any large construction project, we rely on lines being marked. Unfortunately, this line was unmarked and accidentally cut."

Dangerfield could not say whether Hargray customers would be compensated for lost service, stating, "The investigation into this is continuing at this time."

She said the company was working to improve its reliability of service in the area.

"Fortunately, these businesses have backup plans, but (that) doesn't change the fact that it was a significant inconvenience, which is upsetting," Rein said.

Managers at Tanger stores said the outage slowed business, as sales associates were had to use their cellphones to call 1-800 numbers to authorize credit card payments.

Some shoppers without cash may have been discouraged from making purchases, but stores did not report major sales losses, according to Tanger general manager LaDonna Shamlou, who said she did not have sales figures readily available.

"Any time there's any interruption in business, it's always frustrating for our stores," she said. "But Hargray made a priority to get us back online and did an excellent job of notifying us of their progress."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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