Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Comcast Horror Story

Yes, my name is Stephen King.  I don't, usually, write his kind of story, though.  Horror, I mean.  Usually, instead, I make up stuff about dragons or elves or some such, and I call it fantasy.

Sometimes, though, I write about business and customer service and stuff.  Remember how I discussed the overall experience at Barnes & Noble a while back, and how that's what is causing their slow but steady demise as a retailer?  Yeah, that stuff is true.  Generally, what I talk about in the customer service arena is just a bad idea, or a bad implementation of a good idea.  A teaching tale, in other words.

Tonight?  Sorry, it's horror.  And--sorry for the length.  It's all true, though.

See, the problem was that (silly me) I wanted DVR (Digital Video Recorder) service in my home.  It shouldn't be that hard to do, really; plenty of folks have had that service for plenty of time.  So I (ignored what people told me about the local cable company and) called Comcast and set an order for DVR and a nice high-speed Internet service up.  I even gave in to the "go ahead and buy the modem and router" option because they promised a mail-in rebate for the entire amount.

Who wouldn't want a free modem and router, right?  Especially when Comcast charges $7 a month to rent the modem.

Once we'd established all of the services I'd called for they began their typical litany of up-sells.  You've probably experienced that routine, right?  For only so much I could also get this, or for so much else I could also get that.  I normally have lots of patience and just say no the requisite three times to everything, but I was calling from work and had a meeting to get to.

So I hung up.


That apparently cancelled the extra order for the modem and the router.  Nobody told me that, mind you.  They went ahead and charged my credit card for it.  Then, the day before the tech service visit, when I still hadn't received the order, I called and the nice lady told me that it would be on the technician's truck.  Hey, that was completely different from what the nice lady on the phone earlier had said, but the nice lady on the phone earlier had messed up my last name, my phone number, and my account number too, so I just went with the wisdom of the nice lady on the phone currently.

Only, the tech didn't have the router and modem.  In fact, he laughed at me.  Seems they only bring rental modems, and no routers.  Oh, and he also didn't bring the main thing I wanted: a DVR.  He said the warehouse was empty of them at the time, so he was bringing a nice little non-recording set-top box instead, and he'd call me as soon as the warehouse got one in.

He also, by the way, asked me to wait to call to complain/discuss till after the weekend, when the service call would be completed.  I should've clued in at this point that the whole Comcast customer service system was broken with a capital broke--but I didn't.

When I called several days later they said they'd send me a DVR box, or that they could send the technician back out for an additional fee.  No, I don't want an additional fee, I explained; I'd already paid for him to not bring a DVR box in the first place.  So they mailed it.

Oh, and they told me that the router and modem had been cancelled--by me, ostensibly--and refunded.  I checked my account, and sure enough a credit had been issued, for the amount I'd paid in the first place minus $10.  For, um, something.  Comcast couldn't tell me; that's a third-party vendor, you see.

It took a long while to get here, but finally it arrived.  I was really happy at that point and hooked it up to our TV, and--it didn't work.  I couldn't get a signal on it at all.  I "registered" it like I was supposed to, but when it still didn't work I called and waited for a technician.  Once I finally got one he had me go through and do the things I'd already done, and he also reset the box from afar, but he couldn't get that to work either.  Great.

He offered me the following options: a) he could mail another DVR out to me (keep in mind it had taken a couple of weeks to get the first one), or b) he could send a technician out--for, yes, you guessed it, an additional fee.

At that point I'd been on my cell phone with him for over an hour, and so I confess that I lost my cool when he added that, for an additional few bucks a month, he could sell me a service that would make technician service visits not cost anything.  I believe I said something about how I couldn't believe he was suggesting I give them more money for something that didn't work from the beginning.  I said it kind of loud and in a not-very-nice way, though, so it's no wonder that he apologized and beat his way backward off of the call very quickly.

So I switched.  I've been pleased with the other service (Dish), but I was annoyed that Comcast would send me a $200 bill--which grew somehow to $300 when I called Accounting, and is now apparently close to $400 for some reason, for a service that never really worked right.

I told the nice lady behind the counter this when I returned the equipment (after waiting for nearly an hour in line at the local service center).  She seemed horrified and gave me the number to accounting.  I almost felt bad for overreacting and canceling my service at that point.  Hey, I figured, somebody here actually cares that I don't think I was well-served as a customer.

So I called the number she gave me.  Nope, they can't do anything.  Can I talk to a supervisor?  Nope, can't talk to a supervisor.  What?  I've never been denied the opportunity to talk to a supervisor.  Sorry, Sir, company policy, can't let you talk to a supervisor.

I found an e-mail on Comcast's site for "The Office of Tom Karinshak," who is apparently the VP of making sure the customer experience is good.  Awesome, I thought!  I'll just e-mail his office with my concerns.  I did, and I wrote a long description of just how horrible my experience had been and how I hoped his office could do something, even something small!, about it.

Nope, at least not via e-mail.  But I received a call on my cell from an escalation person.  A call I returned, I should add, but nobody answered.  I left a voice mail, but after a day or so I ended up calling again, and again leaving a voice mail.  The escalation person called me back during a meeting, of course.  I called him back and got his voice mail again.

After a week of phone tag, his voice mail changed to a notification that he'd be out of the office for a week and a half.  Geez!  I sent an e-mail again, asking that somebody else call me.  She did, but of course it was when I had my phone on silent because I was in a classroom.  I called back and got a voice mail.  And, um, so on.

Tag!  You're it!

A week later I finally gave in and asked, on the lady's voice mail, if she could call my wife instead.  My lovely bride is normally available on the phone, so I figured that would be great.  It was; they connected after just a couple of days.  My wife filled the nice lady in on all the situation, and the nice lady said she needed to research and would call back.

A few days later?  She did call back.  To me.  She'd lost my wife's number.  I sighed and gave the number to her again on her voice mail.

Several days after that, the original guy finally called me back.  This time I caught him.  We discussed the situation.  Finally!  Someone who will--er, no.

It turns out, in a very non-appealable manner, that because I didn't have a technician called to my house (because it costs extra, remember, but the nice guy didn't want to hear that) I officially didn't have any problems with my service.  But I called tech support?  Doesn't matter; that's not proof of problems.  On top of that, he read off two "Pay Per View" movies that had been charged to the account as proof of acceptable service--really?  Wonder Woman?  Nobody at my house would order Wonder Woman on Pay Per View.

Nope, not appealable, because service is cancelled.  And I can trust their service to know that, order it or not, it was ordered by the boxes we had in our home. 

And he kept coming back to the 30 day service guarantee.  Folks, I hope and pray that if you ever hear that, especially from this company, you run as fast as you can.  They managed to drag the issues out to the point that it was over 30 days when I finally got fed up enough to cancel service.

So, apparently, the entire bill is my responsibility.  Service didn't work, but hey, there's no proof of that.

The horror story?  They have millions of customers they're inflicting this "service" attitude upon, every day.

Sorry, guys.


PS--please share.  Customer Service attitudes this horrible deserve to be broadcast.


  1. I apologize for the trouble. It looks like there are many things to address based on your post. I'd like to look into this and reach out to my local colleagues to ensure that your concerns are addressed.

    Please feel free to reach out to me at the email provided below. On your reply, please add the phone number associated with the account and a link to this page for reference.

    Thanks in advance,

    Comcast Corp.
    National Customer Operations

    1. As my post should indicate, I enter the discussion a little bit skeptical, but I'm always willing to try to meet someone else in the middle. I sent a private e-mail with the information you're asking for.

    2. Please contact me about my two-day horror story filled with LIES and misrepresentations... Larry W. Bittner

  2. We cancelled Comcast last month. After standing in one of the famously long customer service lines to return the equipment (before the next bill was due) I was told that there would be a $10.00 balance. Paid it. The next bill came saying I owed $54.00. No wonder I wasn't the only one in the line returning and cancelling...........