A surreal Lawrence Welk devil video to go with my Comcast day-from-hell

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?

devil1x

The Comcast devil rears its head.

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).

lowtidex

Beach in Normandy.

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.

They weren’t.

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.

devil-2

Anyone else getting the sense of a runaround?

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.

Holes in the ground from the battle.

Holes in the ground from the battle at Normandy.

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.

devil-3x

Maybe they can dance their way out of this.

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.


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • therling

    Even if you’re not in a one-party consent state, record them and tell them you are recording. I do that any time I call an insurance company. Seems to put the fear of God in them in a way that Lawrence Welk’s Satan couldn’t.

  • FUFatherEisenman

    We cut the cable two weeks ago. Hulu, netflix and amazon prime. It cut our bill 60%.

  • Henson

    When dealing with Comcast, always go to their website and use the chat. Each chat instance has a tracking number, and you can ask to be emailed a transcript (or copy/paste it off the screen – or both).

  • Jafafa Hots

    If you are in a one-party consent state (google to find out) make sure to record all calls.

    Then you have proof. File in small claims court locally. They probably won’t show up, and you’ll get a default judgement.

    Of course collecting may be a whole ‘nother matter.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Yeah they definitely screwed him over, but they have him by the short & curlies. Comcast is his Internet provider. John needs the Internet to make a living. This is what comes of having only one or two lousy choices in a mostly unregulated monopolistic market.

  • Elijah Shalis

    My suggestion to John if they won’t budge would be to go as far as returning the equipment and then a retention specialist will sign him up for a deal. Clearly this agent screwed him over or made a mistake.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Not saying you didn’t. But if you ever need customer service or simply want to walk away, watch your wallet.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Google has been running into some issues, which has delayed Fiber in places they’ve promised it, like Austin. They went behind the backs of the telecom companies, which hold monopolies in individual cities, to try and get those cities to force them to let Google to use their lines. AT&T, for one, didn’t take kindly to that, and essentially rejected it outright. Which is forcing Google to lay all their own fiber.

  • emjayay

    What Were They Thinking? And they say that was the Golden Age of Television.

  • emjayay

    Yeah, you have to ask for their name or ID and demand an email or mailed confirmation.

  • emjayay

    A lot of people probably don’t understand that with HDTV you either get it or not. It’s not like analog where a stronger signal got you a better picture. No special antenna is needed. Fifty year old rabbit ears are as good as anything unless you need more elevation to find a signal. Small flat fractal antennas do the same job.

  • emjayay

    Obviously there are a million such stories…but I had the same experience with Cablevision in Brooklyn. I found out somehow I had an outdated box and had to exchange it at one inconvenient obscure location in all of Brooklyn in an industrial area next to a housing project. I walked in and encountered a line snaking all around a dreary low ceilinged room, where I stood for who knows how long. Later I quit entirely and they said I had to return the equipment. I said if you want it, come get it.

  • pliny

    I went the Twitter route when they bait and switched me. It ended with
    the Comcast twitter people admitting that the agent told me what they
    actually told me, but that they wouldn’t honor the deal.

    I imagine thier attitude will change once Google Fiber comes to town….

  • Elijah Shalis

    Actually I have been getting deals from them for years.

  • jomicur

    Everyone likes Comcast–till they have to deal with what the company smilingly calls “customer service.” As I’ve noted here before, I served a term on Pittsburgh’s cable board. And we fielded more complaints like John’s than I could possibly count or remember. As long as all they have to do is take your money and make enormous profits, they’re a very nice company indeed. But when it comes time to either address complaints or live up to their promises, they have considerably less integrity than used car salesmen. I learned so much about the way they do business, I canceled my Comcast deal the moment my term on the board was up. If you absolutely can’t live without scads of channels, buy a Roku (or one of the other, similar gadgets). Personally, I’ve been using an antenna for years. I get more than 30 channels, and even that is way more than I could ever have any interest in watching.

  • mark_in_toronto

    Here, Rogers (Comcast equivalent) is the same, if not more expensive and evil. They’ve even been accused of throttling-back Netflix on their internet service to discourage people from subscribing to their streaming competition. The CRTC also keeps a watchful eye of these things and actually listens to consumer concerns. We’ve never used Rogers, always going for the smaller ‘indy’ providers and service is dependable and problems rare. Being in Canada’s largest city helps . . . I can’t imagine what people in the outer reaches experience.

  • FLL

    I used to have Comcast here in Fort Lauderdale, but they were just too greedy. I could never get them to settle on a permanent price year after year; they always wanted to raise the price over time. So I dropped cable entirely, which I don’t miss because anything important on cable will get recycled throughout the Internet anyway. I love AT&T at $38 for unlimited Internet and $41 for a good cell phone package. I could even get the cell phone bill lower after September by switching to a pay-as-you-go AT&T cell phone plan, since folks so often communicate through free Facebook messaging rather than cell phone these days. And who needs a land-based line? Google Voice, which is free, turns your computer into a land-based line. Your total bill could get very low.

  • Tatts

    $1800 a year for cable, phone & Internet? Yikes! We cut the cable 3 or 4 years ago and never looked back. We now have high-speed Internet for $45 and each have a cell phone account. My cell phone is $35/mo with Virgin Mobile and has far more minutes than I ever use and unlimited data and text. So my total is $58 (cell and half of Internet). Throw in an $8 Netflix account, and we are well covered. Even if it were just me, my total would be $80 a month (I’d drop Netflix, since I never use it much).

    We had fairly basic cable service at the end, and there was so little that we watched that we couldn’t get over the air that it made cutting the cord easy. I’ve had movie channels in the past, but never used them much. I’m not one for watching TV for extended periods, though.

    On the other hand, I’m never asked to be on CNN and I don’t follow news coverage for a living, so not having those services would probably not be an option for you; it’s part of your job. I just don’t see why regular folks (like me) pay so much to be entertained so badly. I live about a 10-minute walk from Comcast’s corporate HQ. They are just starting construction on a second tower that will be the tallest building in the US outside NY and Chicago. I suppose that funding stream has to pay for something.

  • caphillprof

    Netflix is not $120 a month.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    As ever, the problem is lack of choice and of regulations when, by physical circumstances, choices are limited.

    I live in semi-rural New Mexico. There are no TV broadcast signals here. Hell, our emergency weather radio doesn’t even work except rarely. DSL? The technician said the wires around here are utter crap and the absolute best we could ever hope for is erratic and unreliable 1.5Mbps (in practice, speeds were half that).

    There is no cable. So that’s off the table. Comcast, the usual cable carrier in the area, has said they have no plans to run lines anywhere near our part of the county. TV choices? Dish or DirecTV. That’s it, there is nothing else. So we went with the latter and although they’re sort of okay, both services are ridiculously expensive and the equipment tends to fail. In fact, we’re limping along with a faulty DVR that crashes about once a week until we can get a decent replacement system when our contract cycle comes up again in late July.

    So, how am I online then? Well, we’ve kept the DSL as a backup line, but instead we’re actually going through a small local wireless network company. No idea if they can survive because they’re really shoestring, although I’ll admit the reliability has been good and speeds are okay (about 10-15 Mbps — enough to stream Netflix okay). On the other hand, when I do a system speed ping, it shows the backbone system as being provided by Comcast…

    The common thread through a lot of this is “lack of choice.” Want fast Internet? You may have only one choice — or none. Want to watch TV before Hulu and Netflix secure the rebroadcast rights? Well, again, there may be only satellite to choose from. Want reliable phone service? You might just have to pay for that land line you’d rather not use because cellular coverage is crappy or nonexistent.

    In most countries with a working government — like in Europe — they’ll step in and provide a regulatory environment to ensure people aren’t being mistreated and receive good value for money paid. But that’s not how capitalism works in America. The country that broke up AT&T / Ma Bell in the early 1980s doesn’t exist anymore.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    You got free HBO for a while. And the HD. The problem with Comcast is they have this way of suddenly converting your X-months of free into full-freight billed HBO and HD without notifying you this is happening.

    Still, it’s not like they’re 100% evil. They’re evil when they think they can get away with it, which is most of the time once you’re a captive customer with equipment in your home and a monthly subscription agreement.

    You would not believe the s**t they put me and my wife through when we moved from one house that had cable to another that did not. In addition to charging us for termination fees, they also made it beyond inconvenient to return their equipment. One office in Albuquerque, with a teeny waiting room, and dozens of people all waiting in line to see a couple of bored and aggressively antagonistic clerks. It took us more than an hour just to give them back their own outdated cable boxes and Internet cable modem. And no, there was no option to simply put the equipment into a box and mail it back to them — all the stuff they trucked out to the house and installed had to be uninstalled and driven back to them by us.

    In short, you’ve seen the bait. Watch for the barbed hook, because I can just about guarantee it is there.

  • ashieuk

    Hmmm…the nearest equivalent in the UK would be SKY. They are well known for offering a deal for a year, then unilaterally ending it a couple of months down the line and denying the annual deal was ever offered. It must be something about industries where there is a virtual monoploy. Funny that.

  • Elijah Shalis

    Hmmm I just got a discounted package and free HBO (Game of Thrones fan) and HD. I got my parents to get 20$ off for 6 months too. I think they have a way of telling how rich you are or likely to pay the higher rates without a discount.

  • kurtsteinbach

    I’m onine writing and typing and making lessons while I watch, so I would have to get another computer and a really big monitor to watch all that because if I put on a TV program or movie on my computer, I cannot watch it while I work on the computer, too. Since I live in a boarding house, my Cable and Internet are included in my rent, but Comcast still sucks. If yiu live in a non-Comcast area, terrific. If not, you’re screwed. I have had, used, and even sold/serviced cable/DSL/satellite. The scenario I described, where you have two computers, or a very big computer with multiple different outputs all doing the same thing and tied together is the future, but it is at least a decade or more away for most….

  • Tone

    Warren and I are recently converted cord cutters. A generation ago we didn’t have a tenth the entertainment choice we have now and yet we somehow found ways to amuse ourselves. We are already watching less video, getting out more, enjoying the sunshine, being citizens in the community instead of just in the living room. And what we do watch is not stuff we will just settle for, it is content that we have genuine interest in seeing.

    Sure we are making some sacrifices, but they are rapidly diminishing. Networks, studios, and advertisers will follow the market. We do not wish to be in front of a TV any longer. Maybe to watch something recorded, or streamed through various services, or maybe even from *gasp* Pirate Bay, but we are no longer tied to the cord, and it feels marvelous.

  • Drew2u

    Complaining about Comcast without posting a link to comment to the FCC?

    “The first thing you need to do is go to the FCC’s public comment page and type in the numbers “14-28″ into the box marked “Proceeding Number.” From there, you need to enter in your name and home address, make sure that the “Type of Filing” box is set to “Comment,” and then attach a Word or TXT document to your submission that explains why you’re opposed to the FCC’s plan. 2ShakesofaLambsTail also recommends that you give your submission a “Custom Description” at the bottom of the page along the lines of “I support net neutrality” so the FCC has an idea of what your filing will say even if it never bothers to open and read it.”

    https://bgr.com/2014/06/03/fcc-net-neutrality-public-comment/

  • Thom Allen

    Anyone else wonder why the Christian right didn’t protest against Lawrence Welk? The video clearly shows witches, shows Satan as a good dancer and promotes that gayest and most pagan celebration of Halloween.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Well John, you may not want to read this, but I was offered the package that you were offered, and I got it. I have had it for over a year. The only problem is I’m locked in for three years, and I have a telephone line I don’t use. I had called them about my bill, and I had a few things that I knew I didn’t need. It was only after I said I needed the NFL Redzone, that they made the deal. I did sign an electronic agreement.

  • keirmeister

    We cut the cable cord…and you know? We haven’t really missed it at all. For the few shows we really enjoy, there are a myriad other ways to get them.

  • kurtsteinbach

    Well, Why do you think their computers are down….

  • kurtsteinbach

    Comcast has many new plans, all for new customers. They care less about keeping customers and more about attracting new customers. Besides, they figure you’ll come back after leaving and finding out that satelitte is much worse than Cable. I used to pay $200 on Internet, Phone, and Cable, but I had all the premium channels, and it was Time Warner. Then Comcast bought out TW in my area, and Internet and Cable went to hell. I switched to Satellite, and that was worse. They wouldn’t do anything, since the equipment was all the customers. You must pay a contractor to fix problems. It’s somewhat like Electrician or Plumber expensive. Check out Comcast’s prices, and then look at Direct TV for comparison, but like I said, satellite sucks. There is no competition in Cable TV/Internet. They all have local monopolies the way the Baby Bells used to…. Whatever you do, do not go to AT & T, they’re the worst in quality, service, and customer service. Their taxes and fees are also 3 or 4 times higher than everyone else as well….

  • kurtsteinbach

    All the big corporations are acting like this, McDonald’s Walmart, Comcast, etc are doing this. They have enough customers, that they can charge whatever they want and ignore customer service. When you have a problem and want to go somewhere else, they’ve picked up 10 customers to your one loss. So they don’t care. It’s Comcast and Cable, where are you going to go anyway, Satellite? They’re even slower when it comes to Internet, and if you have a problem, you’re screwed. If resetting the system doesn’t fix it, they’re not sending anyone out. I have problems with ComCast often, but they will at least troubleshoot, evem if the problem recurrs often. By the way, you should have gotten more discounts with Triple Play, which is Internet, Phone, and Cable together. Comcast redid their Internet. 100 Mbps is $90. Bundle Phone with it, and when there is an outage, you lose TV, Internet, and Phone. I live in a boarding house, and cannot switch without moving, but having had Dish, Direct, and Comcast, I can tell you, Comcast is the least of all evils. You cannot get away from Comcast, even alternatives like Earthlink use Comcast’s stuff. By the way, Comcast is consistently ranked in the bottom 10 in Customer Service and quality, all those problems. So giving them a great rating would probably be ignored, and may hurt your reputation, certainly no one else in or out of the industry rates them well because they are so bug, they don’t have to care. When I was in college and working CSR, we never would have told a customer we’d hanf up on them. If they yelled at us, we put it on speaker, turned the volume down, and let them rant. Once they’re done ranting, then we could help the customer with his/her problem. We never hung up, and we never threatened to. We never talked to customers rudely. Then again, we were paid twice the minimum wage back then. Now CSR makes less than $10 per hour….

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    That’s the thing. I need to seriously give some thought as to whether I’d really spend more than $120 a month on renting movies and tv shows. I doubt I would.

  • Indigo

    It’s a sign of the times . . . no service is our new service policy. I’m convinced it’s a Republican-backed whisper campaign to reduce services, misrepresent sales deals, and generate enough incompetence in the system to create dissatisfaction with . . . the current administration. In the Congress, it’s easy to spot because the obstructionists are both visible and vocal. In the everyday services that we depend on, bait-and-switch, dithering and misrepresentation are the tools of the Devil.

  • keirmeister

    We had Comcast, and couldn’t understand how we could be spending $200 on phone, cable (no premium channels), and internet. We finally killed all of that and stayed with the internet-only plan (which is still ridiculously expensive).

    But I was happy that we could still get basic network TV channels….that is, until Comcast decided to encrypt that as well (thanks FCC). And Comcast had the NERVE to say it was for our own good!

    Yes, there is a reason everyone hates them.

  • usagi

    Don’t worry. Once Net Neutrality (AKA Cable Company Anti-Fuckery) is gone, you’ll just have to pay whatever it is they want to bill you. It’s more or less like that now, but it should be official sometime soon. They don’t care because they figure you won’t have any choice soon enough.

  • olandp

    I had my limit with DirecTV about three or four years ago and cancelled my service. When I moved two years ago, the TV was put in the spare bedroom for about 6 months, unused, then it was in the way so I had it mounted on the wall in the living room, 6-9 months before I even plugged it in! Not even local service, it doesn’t have an internal tuner, but I have Netflix (streaming only), Hulu, and Apple TV. You know, I don’t miss it at all. Before, the TV was on whenever I was home although I couldn’t tell you what I watched.

  • Hue-Man

    My favorite phone/internet/TV response is “Our computers are down.” These are the same tech geniuses who are handing over all your communications to the NSA!

  • bkmn

    For what it is worth I was told a couple of years ago that you have to go speak to an agent at one of their service centers, as the phone agents don’t have authority to give the deals the service center agents can. For years I had to go to the service center and I got my rates lowered.

    Late last year I went in to get the bill adjusted and the agent I had dealt with the last couple of years was not there. The agent that helped me was able to knock all of $5 off the bill. I can only assume they put the kibosh on the service center agent’s abilities.

    When we move this year I expect we will just go with internet access alone as we are spending a hell of a lot on cable and only watching maybe a tenth of the channels available. We already purchased an HD antena for over the air channels and have Netflix, and will like re-up with Hulu. That will be less than $20/month for TV compared to the gouging that Comcrap wants.

  • pricknick

    Dropped the cable (satellite) subscription over a year ago and couldn’t be happier. Put up an antenna for local channels and subscribed to hulu and netflix. We only have dsl so it can be spotty at times but the 100 plus we’re saving every month is better spent on the garden and other things that are healthier than sitting in front of the boob tube watching continuos reruns.

  • pappyvet

    Went through something similar here John. Apparently all of the phrases used when talking about my premium package were not that one correct phrase that actually meant that I was going to get it at that price. I was dizzy by the end.

  • UncleBucky

    Oh my gosh.

  • WilmRoget

    And that’s why I always get deals like that in writing.

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