Friday, August 13, 2010

Comcast: Don't let the door bump your ass on your way out!

How could a company as inept as Comcast continue to grow? Well, I’m finished trying to figure that out. The Meyer family will soon pull the plug on our cable and move to another carrier.

The last straw? When I started having trouble sending and receiving emails from my Comcast account. In mid-July their “help center” said I would get a call from an IT expert within about 3 days. On the 4th day I called again and asked why no one had called me. “(irritated sigh) Sir, these things take time. You’ll get your call.”

That’s par for the course with Comcast.

When Comcast, by some freak upending of the laws of free enterprise bought Insight in the spring of 2008, I panicked. All my real estate marketing listed an “” address. “Don’t worry,” a Comcast employee cheerfully told me, “the old address will be active for a year.”

Thirty days later my Insight account was locked and I was forced to transfer to a address. I complained to customer service. “A year?” the voice on the other end laughed, “nobody here would have told you that.”

That’s when I should have cancelled my service. But I was caught in the whirlwind of a busy life and couldn’t bother reconstructing TV and Internet service and all my marketing materials at once.

Then came the pixilated TV picture.

A technician came and replaced all our coaxial connectors. I wanted a HDMI cable run through the crawl space between a computer and TV. He told me to buy my own cable (sounds reasonable), run it through the crawl space (I can do that) and he’d return to hook it up.

He gave me his cell number and told me to call when I was done. Then he showed me a small, high-tech device and said with a flourish of importance, “And when I come back, I’ll bring you one of these, the latest digital tuner from Comcast. Half the size of the old one.”

I ran the cable, called the tech guy and left a voice mail. He didn’t call back. I called everyday for 5 business days. No response.

On the 6th day I called Comcast “customer service” (an apparent oxymoron) and was told to go to the Comcast store to pick up a digital box.

The Comcast store is where dreams go to die. Every customer in line is pissed-off, as is everyone behind the counter. A grumpy employee pushed a massive, clunky digital box across the counter. It looked like an early 1980s VCR.

“No, no, no, I said gently, “I want one of those new, small digital boxes.”

“What?” she sneered at me, shaking her head. “Nobody has those boxes yet. I haven’t even seen one.”

I looked over her shoulder, through the chicken-wire glass to the warehouse beyond. Technicians where loading Comcast trucks with equipment. “Look,” I pointed, “I live two miles from here. The guy who came to my house must have loaded his truck here. You must have those boxes.”

Her lips tightened like she was taking a drag on an invisible cigarette. She abruptly pushed the clunky box a couple inches closer to me and barked, “Do you want the box or not?”

I took the box. I just wanted to solve the problem and move on.

When Comcast bought Insight my bill increased by more than 30%. I called to complain. A customer service rep said, “Oh, somehow your service was transferred from Insight ala cart. We can put it in a package and save you money.” Great. My bill went back to just slightly above where it was with Insight.

Six months later it went back up 30%. I called to complain and was told my introductory rate had expired. I explained what the employee told me 6 months earlier. “Sir, there was never anything wrong with the billing. You were simply given a temporary introductory rate in response to your complaint.” I complained until he lowered my rate again. I soon discovered about 20 channels had disappeared from my service. Six months later my bill went back up again.

A month ago ¾ of the channels disappeared from any TV in our house without a digital box. I called and was told we now need a box for every TV. They would give us 2 for free. My wife picked them up and upon returning commented on what a depressing and negative place the Comcast store is. “Everyone there is angry.”

“Tell me something I don’t already know.”

On a recent Friday evening I tried to hook up those new boxes. The moment I connected one to the kitchen TV, all TVs in the house lost their signal and our Internet went down. I called Comcast and was told there was a system outage in our neighborhood. Amazing coincidence.

I finally got 1 box working. I called to get help with the other box. After 20 useless minutes talking to technical support I gave up. That TV remains useless.

And have you seen their commercials? The grainy images of a person maneuvering around an electronic maze while rapping in a monotone? These may be the worst commercials ever produced in advertising history.

How could a company that’s so utterly inept, who routinely misleads their customers, who provides such spotty, sloppy, hostile service be so successful? Comcast just bought NBC Universal for crying out loud. Is this final proof that the best man doesn’t win?

Last week while vacationing on the beach in South Carolina, I came into the house dripping wet from swimming and heard my cell phone ring. It was Comcast. In a foreign accent so thick I could barely understand, a woman (I think) explained that she was calling to help fix my email problems.

The call that was supposed to come in 3 days had taken 3 weeks. It was way too late. I’d already set up a new email account with another provider and begun editing all my marketing materials.

“I’m kinda busy right now,” I told her. “You’ll have to call me back later?”

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