Respectful Insolence

I hate you, Comcast.

I really do.

My hatred of Comcast also explains the paucity of activity on this blog over the last few days. You see, over the weekend, I moved to a larger house, and I’ve had no Internet access other than Panera’s or Starbucks for the last three days. Before that, I had lined up a couple of brief posts over the weekend, as well as a rerun for this morning in anticipation of being back up and running this afternoon. Instead, here I am in Panera’s having a tasty lunch but also posting a brief rant and explanation composed right after my encounter with Comcast.

I went from an Optimum Online (Cablevision) area to a Comcast area. Say what you will about Cablevision, but my experiences with the company have been generally good, and Optimum Online provided reliable, blazing fast Internet access. In any case, we were all scheduled and ready to have the Comcast Triple Play (cable, Internet, and phone) installed this morning between 9:30 AM and 12:30 PM. Around 11:30, the cable guy finally showed up. You’ll never guess what he told me.

Comcast was out of remote controls, and he couldn’t do my installation. I kid you not. No phone, no Internet, and no cable. This is why I haven’t moderated some comments until now and why I haven’t been responding to e-mails.

I had never heard of such a thing before as a cable company doing something as lame as letting its supply of remote controls run out, but suffice it to say I was not pleased. Since it wasn’t the cable guy’s fault (and he also agreed with me that it was truly lame), I only did a brief and minimal rant in his presence and unwillingly agreed to reschedule for tomorrow. I’ll have to rearrange other business that I had planned to take care then, but what else could I do? I don’t really have much choice. After the cable installer left, I tried calling Comcast. Guess what? I couldn’t get through to anyone. I’m seriously tempted to head down to the local Comcast office in person to register my extreme displeasure.

After all, I have nothing better left to do today, and this is the sort of thing for which they should give me free installation at least. On the other hand, doing it might raise my blood pressure to dangerous levels, and I’m not a youngster anymore.

I’m supposed to get hooked up tomorrow, and I do have one last post in the pipeline for the AM tomorrow. After that, I’m tapped out. Assuming Comcast doesn’t next run out of cable, cable modems, or cable boxes and can actually manage to get me hooked up, I’ll be back to see the comments you leave here. Feel free to vent about Comcast or any other cable company. Alternatively, you could tell me what a bonehead I’m being for signing up with Comcast and then give me alternate suggestions. Either way, it’s sure to entertain me or infuriate me tomorrow when I check in again.

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    February 11, 2008

    Oh, Elisa have been fine for me (well, after they finally got round t connecting me). Of course, you would have to move to Finland, but is that really a minus?

    Bob

  2. #2 grenouille
    February 11, 2008

    Ohhh…you are preaching to the converted with this post! We have had Comcast call us liars when we reported a service outage, we have had a cable installer who could not use his GPS or understand which way to turn to go N on a road and we got one service tech who told my engineer spouse that “he (meaning my husband) didn’t really understand how a splitter works.”

    To say I loathe Comcast would be an understatement. They are actually in legal trouble in VA for their poor record of customer service.

  3. #3 J-Dog
    February 11, 2008

    Orac -My wife says they have The Worst Customer Service EVAH!

    We switched to WOWWAY, and recommend them to all.

  4. #4 marion
    February 11, 2008

    Comcast recently bought out my local cable company and has been bombarding me with promotional material in the mail trying to get me to switch. Never never never. They’ll have my satellite when they can pry it from my cold dead fingers.

    Very sorry you’re going through this, Orac, especially as I wanted to ask for your take on this: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/short/bmj.39471.430451.BEv1

    Short version, if I understand this correctly: The material at the link appears to indicate that acupuncture improved pregnancy and live birth rates among women undergoing IVF, with women undergoing placebo treatments not reporting the same level of success.

  5. #5 gex
    February 11, 2008

    Welcome to customer service in monopolistic, poorly competitive markets. Wait til your introductory rates go. And I hope you don’t use BitTorrent, because they sometimes block it.

  6. #6 blue collar scientist
    February 11, 2008

    I’m in Anchorage, Alaska, where the monopolistic GCI takes blood from our veins in exchange for remarkably slow “broadband.” I moved about eight months ago, and before I moved, GCI instructed me to take my cable box and cable modem with me from my old house, hook it up to the new house’s wiring, and I’d be good to go.

    I did this, and indeed, I had cable and internet. Awesome!

    It wasn’t to last, though. Sixteen days after the move, I suddenly had no cable, no internet. I called GCI. The reason was that I had to have an installer come over and install my cable box and modem. I told them the stuff was already installed and to turn on my cable. They wouldn’t.

    Ooooookay.

    Five days later, a cable guy showed up. He looked at my stuff, looked at me, and said, “you are already hooked up.” I said, “yeah, I know.” He called GCI and told them to turn on my cable.

    They turned on my cable.

    So I had a five day unpaid forced vacation (I telecommute and couldn’t work) because, fundamentally, GCI sucks.

  7. #7 Mike O'Risal
    February 11, 2008

    LL and I had Comcast when we lived in North Florida. I’ve had cable service in 5 states at various times but I have never experienced worse service than I did with Comcast. They have a preference for hiring really dumb people. I once had a problem, for instance, with their DNS service not recognizing a domain I owned. I called customer sevice and they insisted that Comcast “does not support DNS.” I asked to talk to a supervisor, and she also insisted that Comcast didn’t support DNS.

    We lost service frequently for three straight years. Each time they sent one person out and the problem would be fixed for a couple of weeks and then start up again. They finally figured out — a couple of weeks before we moved from a house we’d lived in for three years — that they had installed the line to our entire street incorrectly. It took them at least THREE YEARS to track the problem down.

    Comcast is likely the most incompetent cable/internet provider in the country. I never had to rely on them for phone service, thankfully. You have my sympathies. The only happy Comcast customer is a former Comcast customer!

  8. #8 Coin
    February 11, 2008

    The thing that gets me about Comcast’s customer service is that when you call into it, they sometimes play you little ads for other Comcast services while you’re navigating the menu or on hold. Like, here’s what’s on pay-per-view this week and such. Okay, whatever, nothing wrong with that.
    Thing is, our internet goes down with… some frequency, and every single time I call in to ask about this, as soon as I press the number saying “if you are having trouble with your service, press 2″ or whatever, I get a little ad telling me that I can have a special offer whereby I can add Comcast phone service to my plan at a discounted rate.

    Now, I ask you: Let’s say you’re a company and you want to pitch a customer on some new service. Is the best time to do this when they’re specifically calling you, and you know they’re specifically calling you for this because that’s the menu option they selected, to say that their existing service is not functioning? It’s like, wow, I could get the same great quality of service on my phone as I’m currently getting on my internet! …which is offline!

    I can’t help but think when I hear this message, if I had at some point signed up for the comcast phone service, then I wouldn’t be able to call them right now to ask for tech support, would I? Then again, maybe that’s why they’re so keen on selling me on it.

    Unfortunately, my experiences with the local DSL alternative have been even worse, so Comcast it is. I want 802.16/wimax to hurry up and become viable already so bad, it isn’t even funny.

  9. #9 blue collar scientist
    February 11, 2008

    Oh – I probably ought to add…. I was charged for that five days of non-service. I’ve contested the billing, but GCI has still not corrected it.

    I can see how they are so profitable – they charge customers dearly even while delivering no services. If only I could perfect this ability.

  10. #10 qetzal
    February 11, 2008

    Ooooh, I cannot STAND Comcast. Have you seen their little ad campaign where they say they’re “Comcastic!”? I actually use the word ‘comcastic’ fairly often now, but not in a good way.

    We had a guy come out to do an install for Comcast a few years back. Cut big holes in the walls of three different rooms and left it that way. Took who knows how many hours of my wife’s time to get it all taken care of.

    The good news is, my wife is a barracuda when it comes to things like that. We got about 9 months free service out of it. I don’t know how she does it, but if I could figure out how to market her skills effectively, I’m convinced I’d be a millionaire!

  11. #11 Dave L
    February 11, 2008

    I’m confused; out of remote controls? I have Comcast and my internet doesn’t rely on any type of remote control, although I need the modem. Why couldn’t they hook up everything but the TV? I’m no fan of those Comcast idiots either, but their excuse doesn’t even seem to make sense.

  12. #12 speedwell
    February 11, 2008

    Check out this post from Consumerist.com on how to e-mail the corporate execs:

    http://consumerist.com/consumer/executive-customer-service/email-addresses-for-comcast-executives-320438.php

  13. #13 GDwarf
    February 11, 2008

    gex, they don’t sometimes block bitTorrent, they always block it, and some other P2P programs. And they do it by monitoring your internet usage (that’s fine, actually, they need to do that to keep their service running), detect when you start up a P2P program (or, apparently, an FTP one.) and then start flooding the program with false data that says that the person(s) you’re downloading from have just gone offline.

    This is rather like your telephone company running software that scans your calls for keywords and, upon detecting one, tells your phone that the person you’re talking to has hung up, so you get a *click* and a dial-tone.

    They’ve also limit your bandwidth (again, that’s fine), but until someone tried to sue them recently they wouldn’t tell you just how much data you could download/upload in a month. In fact, they wouldn’t even admit that they limited it. Now they still don’t tell you what the limit is, but they do admit that they can cut off your connection if you use it too much. (To be fair, apparently they call you first and warn you, but still, you’d figure that something like that should’ve been in their contract from the start, no?)

  14. #14 George
    February 11, 2008

    I have Comcast. Have had for a number of years since they took over AT&T. Things have worked very well, service has been good. We have had a few items die – DVR & modem over time, but we have readily exchanged for new ones without a hitch.

    I may be easier for us since we are close to the Comcast office and can easily stop in to swap equipment without the bother of a visit to the house – that is harder on both sides to coordinate.

    My only concern has been that we lose phone service when th epower goes out – not infrequent for us. But we have cell backups which work barely in our location but enough for emergency.

    I hope your situation works out well in the long run.

  15. #15 The Ridger
    February 11, 2008

    I’m with Dave L: why did you need the remote for your Internet and phone? Couldn’t he have hooked you up and come back tomorrow to drop off the remote?

  16. #16 Moses
    February 11, 2008

    An absolutely true story…

    Me: Dial. [beep] [beep] [beep] hang-up, wrong menu choice.
    Me: Dial. [beep] [beep] [boop]

    wait…

    wait…

    wait…

    Me: My service is out.
    CC: There are no problems! None! Your service is working!
    Me: No. My lights are out. The up-link light is blinking like crazy.
    CC: Our expensive software says everything is working, did you try re-booting your system?
    Me: It’s not the system.
    CC: You don’t know that. You need to boot the system or we can’t help you.
    Me: I’m holding the cable in my hand. The end of it. A tree came down on it.
    CC: Oh.

    That one was more humorous because I knew what was going to happen and I played it for the “Oh.” However, most of the time it’s not that easy to diagnose where there problem are occurring.

    What drives me nuts is how they lie about their own problems. They’ve had other system outages (two of them planned) where they’ve told me I have bad modems (I didn’t), that I needed to re-boot (I didn’t), that my router was bad (it wasn’t). Plus, it took forever to get a chronic weather-related problem. After six-to-nine months of calls, they finally discovered they’d fixed my cable (from a different tree branch incident) wrong and whenever it rained, water got into the system.

    Ironically, they’re better than BellSouth (now ATT) and Earthlink (formerly Mindspring). Bellsouth was off more hours in a day than on and never on more than three.

    Earthlink was better at connecting, but they off-shored their tech support and between the accents and, twice, having Indian-Tech-Support operators hang-up on me because I plug my modem into a router. I guess they think I’m stealing and they were more than happy to treat me rudely and hang up. But after the second time I went with Comcast and bailed out on Earthlink.

  17. #17 PlanetaryGear
    February 11, 2008

    Proving again that everything is relative I am happy with comcast… Because I switched to them from BellSouth DSL which was a lower circle of hell even than where you find yourself now…

    Dont worry, it will get connected and then for the next 18 months everything will work perfectly. Then you’ll have an outage that they wont believe is real and then you’ll be messed up again while they prove their incompetence yet again.

  18. #18 Dave
    February 11, 2008

    Interestingly, I live in Massachusetts and have Comcast service and they’ve been nothing but good as far as the Internet connection goes. The last cable guy who was here was extremely competent, and the tech support I’ve gotten by phone was very good.

    Don’t get me wrong — I still hate them because they charge so damn much for cable TV, but I can’t fault their Internet service. Now that I’ve said this, I’ve probably jinxed myself for life. But I was already considering switching to FIOS once that becomes available to me (probably later this year).

  19. #19 Heather
    February 11, 2008

    Anytime a contractor/service technician comes to my home, I brace myself for the conversation starting with “uh, ma’am, there is a problem…”

    Hope you enjoy your new home once everything is up and running.

  20. #20 shay
    February 11, 2008

    All of my siblings still in the Detroit area have Comcast. Based on their experiences, all I can say is, is it too late to back out?

  21. #21 Alan Kellogg
    February 11, 2008

    Locally AT&T and Cox Cable have been going at it hammer and tongs. Special deals, sliming the competition, that sort of thing. They are essentially saturating the airwaves with ads promising great service and low rates. Competition bears fruit again.

    But, we’re not going to see any real change until the way video is distributed changes drastically. It’s already starting with various PC services available on the Web, and Apple’s MacTV, but full implementation is still years away. When the cable and satellite companies become conduits for content and become regulated as public utilities is when things will improve

  22. #22 ina
    February 11, 2008

    All I can say is, sometimes the Internets run out.
    Deal with it.

  23. #23 DuWayne
    February 12, 2008

    I have had my own issues with comcast, as has the guy who works for me on occasion. But the worse, was what they did to one of my homeowners, a 65 year old women, who is rather easily rattled. They had her convinced that her phone lines were all screwed up, because she couldn’t get any of the jacks to work. The installer had failed to ever connect the router to the phone lines after saying she did. Comcast kept insisting that her lines must be screwed up and that she needed to call an electrician to deal with it.

    Then, when I straightened that out for her, the damned thing kept cutting out on her. This being out of my realm (mainly, outside the house) she got them to send someone, who insisted that it was, again, her phone lines. Even after I pointed out that the phone plugged directly into the router did the same thing, they insisted it was her problem. I had a friend who works for the power company swing by and look at the connection at the pole. The connection wasn’t screwed in properly. It was intermittent enough that it didn’t mess up the internet badly and she didn’t have cable tee vee, but it played hell on the phone connection, occasionally dropping calls. The rub was, they still tried to charge her for the service call. Took me better than an hour on the phone and a bit of temper, but I got that one dealt with. Couldn’t get them to cover my time though.

  24. #24 DLC
    February 12, 2008

    I wouldn’t go with comcast if they were paying me to use it.
    Here in AZ I have QWEST DSL, which does sometimes go out, but it’s on 97% of the time I want to use it.
    I’m sure plenty of people have horror stories with just about any telecom/internet service out there, though.
    Face it, 90% of CSRs are just wage slaves reading from a
    flowchart style script. When the script says it’s an end-user issue, that’s what they tell the customer.

  25. #25 isles
    February 12, 2008

    Comcast out of remote controls?

    That’s like the time we went to a Wienerschnitzel restaurant and they admitted sheepishly they’d run out of wieners.

  26. #26 Ranson
    February 12, 2008

    We have Time Warner/Roadrunner, one of the lowest-rated companies for service. When we moved into our new home, we decided that the cable/broadband/phone package they offered was for us. After three months of delays and obfuscation, lacking all three services (yes, three months with no phone!) they finally told us that the reason they were delaying was because the phone service wasn’t available in our area yet, and they were waiting so they could set up the whole package at once. If I could kill through a phone line (my mother-in-law’s), a river of blood would have been washing through the halls of Time Warner. They were told to give me the damned services that were available (no competition)and to never contact me with a sales pitch ever again. Even more fun, because we were new construction and waaaaaaaay off the road, they had to lay underground cable to even get near us, so that was another delay. The plus on that, though, was that the distance from the main line was so great that they had to lay extra-thick lines and a custom tap just so data could get to us. The result is that my one little house has a broadband pipline equivalent to a large residential neighborhood.

    I’m fast, like a marsupial.

  27. #27 inkadu
    February 12, 2008

    I’ll never understand how “free market” enthusiasts seem to be completely happy with natural monopolies. A competitive free-market is an unnatural thing and needs constant government regulation.

    Dude, unless you can go to the comcast office and throw their box at them and say, “I’m going to Surly Joe’s Internet Service,” don’t bother. It’s just going to make you feel even more powerless.

  28. #28 Tim
    February 12, 2008

    Sorry to hear about your comcast woes. They’ve been ok for us, but we haven’t had to call customer service yet. Instead of complaining about them, I’ll complain about the fact that in our area our internet options are limited to dial-up, comcast, and satellite. Our cable options are comcast. So clearly this will foster low prices through the free-market. If comcast screws us over we can always, um, move to another region where there’s another telecom in charge.

  29. #29 Oldfart
    February 12, 2008

    We have cable TV, cable modem and cable phone via Time Warner. We have an intermittent and random problem where (1) I pick up the phone and get no dial tone – lasting 30 seconds to several minutes, (2) my phone reports being out of service or not connected when I dial home on rare occasions, and (3) my computer cannot “find” a well-known site (like google) from time to time for a period of up to 30 seconds.

    It is IMPOSSIBLE to convince Time-Warner that this is THEIR problem. Impossible. So, I just deal with it hoping for the day I can switch to something else. DSL is slower but, in my experience, much more reliable. I just can’t afford to switch at the moment.

  30. #30 TheProbe
    February 12, 2008

    I live where Verizon and Cabvlevision co-exist. When Verizon first showed up, the service was excellent. Installation by appointment. Heck of a nice guy tech.

    Before switching, I called Cablevision and asked them if they planned to match the rates. Nope, they said.

    When I called to disconnet, they offered me a competitive rate. Dumb timing.

    When my one year contract with Verizon was up, they offered me their standard rate, until I mentioned the rate at Cablevision, which was the same I was paying. Result was a two year extension at the intro rate. Not bad.

    Service has always been good. The online techies know what they are doing, and do not just read from a book.

  31. #31 Doug
    February 12, 2008

    Yes, I have a keen dislike for comcast as well. I put the blame not on Comcast as much as a lack of competition. I wonder if competition is actually viable on home broadband, or if more regulation is necessary? If there were competition, shouldn’t there just be a big broadband pipe to your home and all your services a la cart – telephone, digital TV, email, etc? And prices should be going down, not up.

    I canceled Comcast years ago because they wanted to charge me ~$100 for analog cable TV + Internet. I didn’t think it worth it, so I switched to Yahoo! Version DSL and ATSC (over the air digital TV). My bill was a paltry $15/mo, and the HDTV was sweet (I got the HDTV to pick up the ATSC signal).

    I am back to Comcast as of last week because of a nice local deal spawned by the coming of Verizon Fios in my region. Comcast Triple Play Plus (Digital Cable w/HDTV, Telephone, Internet + HBO, Showtime, Starz) for $74.99. After a year it will become $180/mo and I will drop it again. That’s almost a car payment, thank you very much!

    Of course Comcast screwed up in multiple ways. They were late showing up at the home (we were the first customer of the day too!), and they didn’t get us our premium channels.

    Sigh.

  32. #32 Cathy W
    February 12, 2008

    A friend of mine applied for a job with Comcast. He was required to take a “personality test” and a technical test on the computer. While he was waiting for his results on the “personality test”, he noticed the people who had already passed that were having trouble with the computers they were taking the technical test on. He fixed those computers. He did not, however, get to take the technical test at all, because apparently Comcast didn’t like his personality.

    That explains so much about Comcast, doesn’t it?

  33. #33 skidoo
    February 12, 2008

    Orac said:

    You’ll never guess what he told me.

    Oh, I bet I could. Give me 947 guesses. Poor Comcast customer service? Say it ain’t so! :-)

  34. #34 blf
    February 13, 2008

    I read the comments suggesting there is a general lack of competition with my mouth so open an elephant could have crawled inside and I wouldn’t have noticed — WTF!? No competition! That’s insane.

    I’ve no idea how many ISPs compete in the area I live in here in France. I know for certain three do: TPC (see The President’s Analyst if you don’t know what that means), and two small outfits; one sent me a flyer, and the other one is the one I use. So I also assume several of the larger outfits do as well.

    The ISP I’m with I kept during a recent relocation, for a variety of reasons, including offering a package that is almost ideal to my needs. Admittedly, they never responded to the one and only technical issue I had, but it wasn’t a Big Deal since I was able to crack the problem with a bit of lateral thinking and a few searches of Teh Internets. Price is reasonable albeit not a bargain.

  35. #35 Fragano Ledgister
    February 14, 2008

    My wife and I generally say ‘It’s Comcastic!’ every time we have an outage. Since we’ve moved, to a new house in a new subdivision, we’ve had fewer problems, but for a long time we had Comcast on speed dial and outages on a regular basis. I feel your pain, Dr G.

  36. #36 Tim
    February 14, 2008

    Another thing I’ve never figured out about Comcast. They advertise their cable TV service on, um, their cable TV service. I’m sure they can get a great deal on the ad rates, but why?

  37. #37 Angel
    February 14, 2008

    Well, I may have just stepped in it by changing from Dish Network to ATT U-Verse (phone-internet-cable). Not sure yet because it has only been a month. The big issue I have is that you can only record and watch recordings on the DVR from 1 TV in the house. With Dish, you can record and watch from any TV. And U-verse doesn’t have the IFC or AMC channels which I have already voiced a vehement protest about. No Henry Rollins show on IFC? I cannot fathom it. On the plus side, they gave me $100 for switching, $50 for something else (not sure — didn’t question it) and free HBO for 3 months. Oh, and for BBC fans, I have discovered that the Free On Demand series contain old school Dr. Who episodes(in B&W no less), Day of the Triffids series, and a Neil Gaiman series I had never seen called Neverwhere. Seems worth it for now — they are adding the expanded DVR capabilities in June according to them. Internet seems fast and reliable but it has only been 1 month.

  38. #38 Azkyroth
    February 17, 2008

    I believe I have SBC Yahoo DSL and I’ve had very few complaints.

    Comcast, and AT&T during the year or two when they took over the cable here, was fucking atrocious.

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