All I really want is Internet in my new house.
So I called Comcast in late May and said “I’d like to get Internet in my new house”. We went through the usual dance where they wanted to up-sell me 483 cable channels and we finally settled on a package that got me Internet and home security for cheaper than the same Internet package I wanted. Whatever.
At that point, things descended into a Kafka-esque nightmare.  The technician came out and said they couldn’t install Internet because there was no cable coming up to the house (it’s new construction) and that a cable had to be buried under the road from an access point across the street. So I called and asked for an appointment for the people to come out and bury the cable. It turned out that I couldn’t get that appointment for ten days. Seeing no alternative, I said that would be okay. The date for that appointment came and went – nobody came to bury anything.
I called and eventually got through to a customer care representative. I asked for compensation for the lost time and hassle I’d been through. She said that they don’t provide that because (and I’m not making this up) they use a third-party service to bury the cable so it’s not their responsibility. Of course, I tried to explain to her that from my perspective, it was all Comcast and I had no interest about whether they used in-house staff or a third party to do the actual work. Equally obviously I might as well have been talking to a stone wall.
In the meantime, two days came and went where they were supposed to come out and bury the cable. Neither time did they do it. This resulted in my spending more hours than I really care to think (8? 10? 12?) on hold, getting disconnected, speaking to people who had no control over the situation. It reached a point where the first words out of my mouth would be “Can I please speak to a supervisor?”
Worst of all, at one point, one of the agents said “I will definitely take care of this problem for you, sir.” And I lost it; I raised my voice and said “Honestly, I don’t think you really will, but I have no choice.” I’m pretty sure he hung up on me (or it was the universe giving me my just desserts). I mean, if you know me, you know I almost never raise my voice. I was pretty disgusted with myself – like, how could something stupid like getting Internet bring out that incredibly ugly side of me?
The other fun time was when I ended up with a completely different customer care representative and told him that I wanted a $200 credit for the time and hassle. I mean, suppose it was ten hours of my time – well, you get the point. Anyway, he laughed – literally laughed – and said (I quote) “Nobody ever gets a $200 credit – the very best we can do is $20.” I didn’t even bother – it wasn’t worth losing my dignity for $20 (though of course I’ve already lost my dignity with them anyway).
There was the one where I asked for a way to contact Comcast in writing. “We don’t have such a thing sir, but I can give you the address of the nearest service center – you can go down there and speak to them.” Seriously? Because I’d like to waste more time than I have already? You don’t have a way to communicate in writing? I’ve even tried the Twitter support option. It’s absolutely hysterical – they expect to have conversations via Direct Message – i.e. 140 characters at a whack. I did that a couple of times and then realized if I continued to do it, it was proof that I had completely lost my mind.
So I’m in a Catch-22. In this modern world, it’s almost impossible to live without Internet – certainly my job demands it. But trying to get Internet from Comcast has reduced me to some kind of weird Lord of the Flies state where I behave in a way that demeans and embarrasses me. I’ve found that adopting a passive victim-like affect when on the phone with them keeps me from flipping out. I hate being that sort of person but better that than some phone-rage bully.
If there were a decent alternative, I’d jump at it, but I keep thinking I’ve gone so far down this road I’d be insane to start on another road with a different provider (AT&T?), whose opening gambit would be “Oh, first we have to bury a cable…”
By the way, if anybody from Comcast is reading this, feel free to drop a comment here with a way to contact you and we can have a direct conversation. But not by Twitter or text message, for sure.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for Internet, if you have an alternative to Comcast, use it.
Because all I really wanted was Internet in my new house.
Update on 7/14/15
On Saturday the 11th, I spoke to a supervisor named Samantha at an off-shore customer call center (she wouldn’t tell me where). She promised that somebody would be out to install the Internet at my house by 10:30am the next morning (Sunday the 12th) and that she would call back to confirm that it had happened. That was ticket #030 286 742 if you’re keeping score at home.  Needless to say, neither the technician nor the follow-up call ever happened.
On Monday the 13th, I called, went through the same exercise, the same explanations, the same long hold times, and got Paul in the activation department to promise that somebody would be out to my house by 9:47am on Tuesday the 14th (“9:47?”) to install the Internet. No technician, no Internet, no phone call. Score it ticket #030 300 526.
Interestingly, I got a phone call (a phone call) yesterday from Andrea in the “Executive Customer Support” (is this customer support for executives, or she a customer support executive?). As an aside, I am 100% persuaded that the reason I got this call was because I had tweeted a link to this blog to @ComcastCares. More on that in a minute.
She said “Do you know we have an appointment to bury the cable for you on the 18th?” In fact, somebody had (while I was out of town) buried the cable. But they hadn’t done it correctly. They had run it around the back of the house which meant that (1) there would be signal degradation affecting speed and reliability, and (2) the first time we do any kind of landscaping, that cable is going to be toast.
So I told Andrea all this. Honestly, I don’t think she believed me. She was looking at a ticket to get a cable buried and the customer was telling her that the cable was already buried. Inconceivable!  She said that she would look into it and call me back or that the “technical supervisor” would call me back. It’s been 24 hours and I’ve heard nothing. However, I have Andrea’s phone number. I have called and left her a message once – I will be calling back in four hours.
I am still struggling with my emotional response to this. It’s the frigging Internet we’re talking about, not my child’s liver surgery. However, I think I understand part of what’s going on:
I am incensed about their attitude toward my time. Take my money – please – I can find more of that. But my time is valuable – irreplaceable – and they are squandering it. And it is that careless, sometimes seemingly intentional theft of my time that infuriates me.
Comcast has very cleverly set up a support infrastructure that doesn’t permit written communication. There is no email address to write to. No snail mail address. No internal messaging system. In short, they’ve made it impossible to create a paper trail of the trials and tribulations that their customers endure. Every time you contact them, you’re starting from scratch and have no proof of how long you’ve been at it, what steps you’ve taken, what mistakes they’ve made, promises they’ve broken, etc.
So in fact, this blog has become my paper trail – and I am very sure that its public existence is the only thing that got me a call from “Executive Customer Support” person Andrea. He who shouts the loudest gets heard, and it’s a crappy way to run a railroad.
I have been exchanging Twitter Direct Messages (yes, I’m out of my mind) with the people at @ComcastCares. They tell me they’re getting in touch with the local market, but so far, nobody has called me. I’ve made repeated calls to Andrea in Executive Customer Relations, but I get her voice mail every time.
I’ve just written and printed out a letter to Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast. I’m going to drop it by the post office (god, this feels so 1990′s) and send it certified so I know it’s signed for. Obviously I don’t expect Mr. Roberts to actually read the letter. I do, however, expect somebody on his staff to read it (I reckon they don’t get a lot of snail mail personally addressed to him).
 Okay, maybe it’s not fair to call anything related to getting Internet into your house “Kafka-esque”. This is perhaps the canonical “First World Problem”.
 Back in the old days, baseball geeks used to sit at home, listen to the game on the radio, and keep a box score of all the action. So you might hear an announcer say (after a double play) “That was 4-6-3 if you’re keeping score at home.”
 You all know your line…