Well, yesterday ended up being a light posting day because… Comcast.
It’s a long story, but I had called Comcast (aka Xfinity) on Thursday night to see if there was any way to get my nearly $200 montly cable TV and Internet bill down to a more reasonable level. Mind you, I don’t even have the premium channels like HBO or Showtime, I just have the regular channels, HD, and the “100″ level channels thrown in, which isn’t exactly premium and they shouldn’t exactly be charging extra for.
Well, Candy the friendly Comcast rep (and she was friendly) spoke with me for an hour, and was able to give me a combined Internet and cable TV package that cost $157 (before taxes and fees), or $20 less a month than what I was already paying. And even better, they were going to throw in free premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and a sport package). How cool is that?
So at the end of the call, I forgot who brought it up first, but I had Candy check if I’d save any more money by adding on the VOIP phone service too. She had mentioned at the beginning of the call that this option existed too, but I initially said no as I already have Vonage. But then I thought, if it gets the price down even further, why not add it too? So, Candy looked it up and told me, what do you know, the bill goes down another $20 if I get the VOIP. The final price would be $131.97 for one whole year, then at the end of the year I could call them back and try to get the same deal again.
Now I’d be saving $40 a month for an entire year, getting free phone service and free premium channels. That’s more services than I have now, and I’m saving around $500 a year. Comcast was looking pretty sweet.
So, Darrell the cable guy came yesterday just as I was preparing a post about D-Day, which was going to include a number of the photos I took of the Normandy beaches a few years back, when the Comcast guy arrived an hour early (which was a pleasant surprise).
Very nice and professional guy, installed the VOIP phone modem, and then gave me a new DVR box, that I have to say is quite amazing. It works on a new platform, a new navigation system for looking up shows and scheduling recording. The platform is called X1, and it’s excellent — I’d even argue that it’s not that far off from the convenience of my old TiVo.
So, I thought, this is great, I’m saving nearly $500 a year, have HBO and Showtime, and I have a new Comcast box that seems pretty amazing. I’m going to write a glowing review about all of this! And I even tweeted out how impressed I was.
Well. Didn’t things change when the cable guy realized my premium movies weren’t coming through. He got on the phone with his boss, Twimon, and Twimon said there was some confusion, but he was going to call me back in a few hours and things would be sorted out.
A few hours later I get a call from someone else at Comcast, informing me that Candy never promised me the package she promised me. The price was $131.97 a month (not including taxes and fees, that another 20 bucks or so), and it most certainly did not include HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and a sport package, which is what I remember Candy telling — I even have the details notes from the call.
Oh, but it gets better. The woman on the phone is running through the charges on my account and asks me if I really need two “digital adapters.” I asked her what a digital adapter was, and told her as I only have one TV, and have only had one TV, I’m not sure why I’d need two of anything. She then told me the digital adapters are the devices you need for old huge mom-and-dad TVs to be able to work on Comcast (and America’s) modern cable tv system. Hmm, I told her, I’ve had an HD TV since I signed up with Comcast in my new apartment a little over 5 years ago, so I’m not sure why any digital adapter is on my account. She checked again, and said, yep, it’s been on there for at least 6 months (her records didn’t go back farther), so she could refund me six months of the charges.
Only six months? Of charges that were mistakenly added to my account years ago? I don’t think so. I told her I expected all the erroneous charges refunded, and she told me that she had no way of verifying whether or not I was charged before six months ago. This seemed a bit odd to me, so I told her I wanted to talk to her supervisor. She put me on hold, came back several minutes later, told me they had in fact found the charges going back until 2010, and were refunding me the $80 or so they charged me by mistake.
This was a precursor of things to come.
She said she couldn’t help on what was now appearing to be a bait-and-switch move by Comcast. So I told her I wanted to someone more senior, and she passed me to Twimon, who was either a manager or a supervisor. Twimon explained that the agent must have made a mistake, and that they can’t give me the premium service for the price they quoted me. Why not, I asked? Because they have certain packages in the computer and can’t click on a package that isn’t there. Hmm, I thought, then just add the premium channels and refund me the difference over the year. Can’t do that, Twimon said, it’s impossible.
Twimon insisted that the agent must have made a mistake in what she quoted me, and that since it was a mistake, that was brought to my attention after they installed the new service mind you, they were under no legal obligation to keep their part of the bargain. I informed Twimon that the DC code, the FCC, and the Attorney General’s office might disagree with him on that, as that thing that Comcast calls “a mistake” is referred to in the law as “bait and switch” fraud, and it’s illegal.
So, Twimon said he was going to have Candy call me back, because apparently an agent can resolve a problem that an agent’s supervisor can’t. So Candy just called me back a few minutes ago and explained that I must have misunderstood because she clearly told me the movies were included. How did she clearly tell me this? By either using, or not using, the phrase “triple play” while speaking with me. Apparently, at Comcast, if you use the phrase “triple play” it means something, even though it doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside of Comcast (or baseball). And, Candy explained, because she either did or didn’t use the phrase triple-play with me at the end of the call, that means she made clear to me that the premium movies were no longer included in my deal.
Hmm, I thought. So, because Comcast used some professional jargon that only exists inside their company, and jargon that no one outside of the company would have any reason to know or understand, that effectively put me on notice that they just changed the deal on me.
Perhaps next time Comcast could simplify things and simply renege on their promises in Chinese.
So, I wasted the entire afternoon with the cable guy, and then Comcast staff, trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting the deal I was promised the night before. And thus you didn’t get any stories from me yesterday past 10am, and I didn’t get to write about D-Day.
It’s funny, because everyone I know hates Comcast. And I really don’t. My Internet service has been pretty impeccable, with lightning fast speeds that I won’t divulge, because Comcast hasn’t quite earned that right at this point. But suffice it to say that I was quite possibly the last American standing who actually liked the company. And I was even going to write a glowing review of their service, I was so impressed. And then this.
I’d come up with a phrase, probably 10+ years ago, called “corporate road-rage.” It was my name for the increasingly surly tone that major American corporations take with their customers when things go wrong. In the old days, you’d ask to speak to a manager, they’d give you the benefit of the doubt, and fix the problem to your satisfaction. Now? The supervisor says he can’t help you, and passes you to his underling, as if they can fix something after he refuses to.
Friends tell me that the reason Comcast came up with the new X1 platform is that the cable industry is in serious trouble due to competition from Netflix, and all the rest. So you’d think companies like Comcast would be bending over backwards to help fix problems, especially for people who actually like them.
Comcast’s twitter folks, who have been remarkably responsive and helpful in the past (btw), are now on the program, and promise to have someone call me on Monday to sort through all of this. Stay tuned.