Friday, September 5, 2008

Comcast Rant

Is a flood-free yard worth 26 hours without Internet access?

Explanation: Over the past several weeks, I've noticed some serious water in my backyard. As we live in a neighborhood with a lot of water, including the woods behind my house, which I believe are classified as wetlands, I just assumed that I needed to adjust my lawn sprinkler settings. I slowly reduced the amout of watering I was doing in that area, but with no luck. Then I reduced the amount of watering in nearby areas, but again, the mud puddles remained. I can't even mow back there anymore, because it's just disgusting to take the mower through. It has frustrated me to no end and I was wondering how I got suckered into buying a house with a giant mud pit in the backyard.

Wednesday afternoon, Dan, our neighborhood landscaping guy came by my front door. We do not use Dan's lawnmowing services, but a bunch of my neighbors do, and the previous owners of my house did as well. Dan said that I really need to stop watering in the back corner of my yard, because it's just soaking wet back there. I told him I haven't watered there in a month at which point he suggested that I might have a bad sprinkler valve back there. Dan would know our sprinkler system - he installed it for the previous owners about 5 years ago.

So, Dan, his associate, and I went out into the backyard in search of the sprinkler valve. Sprinkler valves should be very easy to find - they have a circular plastic top about four inches in diameter and should be right on the surface of the ground. Over time, however, they have a knack for being overtaken by grass and dirt. After five years, only one of my 6 valves remains uncovered. So, the hunt began. The valves should be just below the surface, so a poke in the ground with a shovel would easily find them. We worked off a map I had of the early plans for the sprinkler system. Unfortunately, it didn't quite match what was actually in the ground.

The map indicated that there was a valve in the back corner, but after much prodding with the shovel, nothing turned up. So, they went deeper until they found the sprinkler main. Then, with numerous shovel pokes (easily cleaned up by a footprint or two) they traced the main toward the offending sprinkler heads. As he was very close to the largest puddle, Dan found a wire, which would indicate that the valve (which is electronic) was nearby. Sure enough, it was, and they were on their way.

At this point, I had been outside unexpectedly for about 45 minutes or so, so I ran back inside to make sure I hadn't missed anything, and to update my Sametime status so people knew I was playing in mud in my backyard. Unfortunately, my IBM network connection had reset. That was no big deal, so I just tried to reconnect. In the meantime, I went to load a web page on my home machine, but the page was hanging. Then my reconnect to the network failed. I tried to open another web page, but with no luck. I put two and two together and realized that my cable must be out. So, I checked my business phone (which is VOIP) and sure enough, there was no dial tone. Running downstairs, I flipped on the television to see that I still had channels, but they had lots of static. Something was wrong with my cable.

I went back outside, where Dan was elbow deep in a mud puddle and politely asked if he had been poking around in the front yard with a shovel, because my cable was out. He said, no, he hadn't. The cable from the street attaches to the front right side of my house and we were on the back right corner, so it didn't make much sense that there'd be any cable in the back. Dan was concerned, though, and looked again at the wire he found about 20 minutes earlier. "You know, I don't think that's a sprinkler wire" he said. This didn't do good things for my blood pressure. Sure enough, the wire had a little shovel damage to it. Time to call Comcast.

Just for the record, if there's one company in the entire world who I am afraid to call for service, it's the cable company. They are almost legendary for being pains in the butt when it comes to service. Just for the record.

So, I sprinted inside, looked up the Comcast number in the yellow pages (eeeeew) and called them up. The automated system thanked me for calling and asked me to input my ten-digit telephone number. So, I did. I worked my way through outage menus until I eventually found something that seemed like it would put me through to an operator. I finally got to talk to a human. "Can you please give me your ten-digit phone number?" This is one of my biggest pet peeves. If the stupid automated system is going to ask me for my number, I would hope that number could be magically transferred to the person who answers the phone. Oh well. I gave her my number, confirmed my name and address, and explained my problem. She was a very nice lady, but said she would have to transfer me to another department, and they would be able to help. The next woman picked up the phone and immediately asked, "Can I have your ten-digit telephone number?" At this point, without any other issues, I was thinking Comcast customer service was as bad as I imagined it. I gathered my composure, confirmed my name and address (again) and explained my problem. She was very polite and friendly and told me that they could have a technician at my house that (Wednesday) afternoon! I couldn't believe my good fortune! She went on to explain that I didn't need to be there because it was an outside issue, but I said I wanted to be around to show the technician the damaged cable and to warn him or her about the mud pit. I asked when they'd be coming and she had to put me on hold for about five minutes while she checked. Mind you, it was about 1:00 at this point. She came back on the line and said someone would be at my house between 1:00 and 5:00. That window didn't help much more than telling me that someone would be at my house "during the afternoon," but I thanked her and continued to marvel at my good fortune.

At about 5:45, with no sign of any technician, I stopped marveling and called Comcast again. In an effort to avoid the three people asking for my ten-digit phone number, I dialed the service number off of my cable bill instead of the 1-800 number. After entering my ten-digit phone number, I chose the "To confirm an appointment" menu, which happily explained to me that I had an appointment on Monday, September 8th. This was quite a shock, as I had just spent the last five hours offline, waiting for a technician to arrive. I worked my way back through the menus and after several minutes I managed to find one that would transfer me to a human... only it hung up on me.

I called the local number again, this time going directly for the same service menu I had used with the 1-800 number. Instead of transferring me to a human, it somehow connected me to the automated billing service, which told me that my recurring credit card billing was still working fabulously. I worked backward through the menus and tried again, only to find out AGAIN that my credit card billing was working. So, I hung up.

At this point I stopped and wrote down everything I could about what had happened up to this point. I was going to send a nasty letter to Comcast, but decided they wouldn't care and that it would be more productive to just post all of this on the internet. So here it is.

Let's recap: My yard is flooded, my sprinkler is broken, my Internet is down, my cable wire is cut, five hours of my life were wasted, Comcast gave me an appointment that never existed, I'm homicidal, but my credit card billing is just dandy. Good for me. Moving right along...

I went back to the 1-800 number, input my ten-digit phone number, and worked my way to a human. I gave her my ten-digit phone number, confirmed my name and address, and explained to her that I had been lied to, I had just wasted five hours of my day, I needed internet to work, and that I was about to summon up a posse to go hunt her down. She apologized profusely for the misunderstanding and told me that the first available appointment time for service was on Tuesday, September 9th. I explained again, more clearly, that the appointment I already had and DIDN'T WANT was for September 8th. September 9th, being AFTER September 8th, would not make me any happier. In my second explanation, I also may have included fun words and phrases like "livid," "seething," "incompetent," and "lying scumbag." After eventually getting my point across that I was willing to come to their office and do unholy things to them with their own office supplies, she eventually talked to her manager and managed to get me an appointment for Thursday afternoon, also between 1:00 and 5:00, where I would get a temporary fix. Then on my next appointment, which may or may not be on September 8th, they will give me a more permanent fix.

Yesterday the nice man showed up and performed the "temporary repair" which amounts to (this is amusing) running a really long cable from the street hook-up on the front left side of my house along the ground to the house hook-up on the front right side of my house. That's right - it's just laying on my front lawn, runs across my driveway, and runs along the mulch on the side of my driveway. It's not pretty, but it works.

So, I have internet, I hate Comcast, and my yard is now flood-free. Why the cable runs behind my house is still a mystery, which I will take up with Comcast if and when they try to bill me for this fiasco. Is a flood-free yard worth 26 hours without Internet access? It probably is, but you probably shouldn't ask me about it for a few more weeks.


Z said...

Here is something handy for the future:

Willie Y said...

Your go round with Comcast sounds a little like the time I tried to fix a problem with my car insurance. I was transferred 6 times to someone who would try to help me. The last transfer was back to the first person I talked to. Customer service,in my experience, sucks.

ComcastCares1 said...

I apologize for the entire experience.

I work for Comcast and I would like to offer my assistance to make sure everthing is addressed.

Please send me the phone number on your account so that I can assist further.

Thanks for sharing this post and I appreciate you proving the opportunity to assist.

Mark C.
Comcast Corp.

Heather said...

In every Evanovich book (the Stephanie Plum books) they seem to mention the cable company with the phrase, "F---ing cable company! I hate those guys!" In one book a fugitive refuses to go to court because he as been waiting for two months for a "five-hour window" appointment.