Friday, June 17, 2011

Dear Comcast...

  On Sunday, June 5, 2011, my husband finally won the argument about me having cable in my home for the first time since 2005.  He was able to sway me from my rabbit ears and Netflix with the promise of faster internet and being able to see first-run episodes of Hoarders.  Plus there’s OWN, which has Judds drama, Fergie drama, and Shania Twain relearning how to sing after her husband had an affair, which I don’t really understand but good for her getting back out there.
  We were supposed to have the cable connected in our living room and our bedroom, but our technician (#8749) informed us that would be “too much effort” (his actual words) for one morning’s work, so we’d have to schedule the bedroom for some other time and pay for a second visit.  No one has followed up with us on this, which would be nice.
  We enjoyed our cable, On Demand, and high-speed internet for eight days.  On Tuesday, June 14, 2011, our cable became detached on the exterior of the house, requiring a technician to come out and repair it.  As of this writing, I am still attempting to make that happen.  In a span of four days, I have logged over three hours of phone conversations and a 35-minute live chat with a total of eleven of your representatives, experienced three appointments where no one has arrived, had a technician arrive on site and declare he was unable to locate a problem, done battle with your automated system and invariably lost, and generally been made to feel that no one in your company is actually capable of reconnecting a dangling cable.
  The experience I have had with Comcast has proven to be the most frustrating I have ever had with a company that did not provide health insurance.  The representatives I’ve spoken with are either lackadaisical to the point of immobility, or are completely hamstrung by an ineffectual organizational structure that does not allow for solutions.  My hope is that, in being as detailed as I possibly can, you will be able to highlight areas for possible improvement, and we will be able to have a fully informed discussion regarding compensation for our downtime.

Clay and I Diagnose the Problem

6/14/11 | 7:13pm

I come home and sit down to watch a little Oprah: Season 25 Behind the Scenes (did y’all see the one with Jennifer Hudson?  That was intense), but I discover my cable and internet are not working.  I text my husband, who is at a Phish concert, but I try not to judge because we all have our hobbies and it’s fun to remember the 90s.  He sends me the account info.  I call Comcast and a nice man named Clay walks me through some steps to determine if the problem was with a device or connection.  When those steps prove ineffective, he schedules a technician to come to the house the next day between 2-5pm.  It’s the last remaining slot on Wednesday, he tells me.  How lucky I feel.  How fortunate. (Call length- 14:01)
I make arrangements to leave work early the next day, and go outside with my dog.  (Her name is Daisy.  She is a Jack Russell Beagle.  They call them Jackabees, but I cannot bring myself to use that term because it sounds like a sex club for bumblebees.)  I find that the coaxial cable running from the house is dangling in the air above my head.  This is a relief, as tomorrow I will be able to show the technician the source of the problem, and I’ll be watching Oprah yelling “I need my shoes” in no time.

Talking to a Computer

6/15/11 |  1:27pm

While in the car driving home from my half-day at work, an automated message calls to confirm my appointment between 2-5pm, but disconnects midway through the message.  This moment of communication breakdown, I would later come to realize, is what dramatists call “foreshadowing.”   (Call length- 0:08)
6/15/11  |  2:02pm
The automated message calls again, and gives me the option of “Press 1 to cancel appointment.  Press 2 to keep the appointment.”  I press 2, very deliberately.  “Thank you for using Comcast,” the voice says, and ends the call.  (Call Length: 0:48)

The Computer and I Disagree On Sequence of Events

6/15/11  |  5:28pm
I call Comcast to find out where the technician is.  I’m told that the appointment was cancelled.  By me.  “No, I would have remembered that,” I say.  “It says that you did,” was the reply.  Alright.  I am not going to argue with her computer, because I am sentient, and it is not, and therefore I feel my own ability to discuss motive and action should carry more weight.  We can work through this.  Some sort of computer glitch.  I explain to the representative that I have a cable hanging from the outside of my house, which needs to be reconnected.  She offers a time slot on Friday from 2-5pm.   I cannot take time away from work again.  I reiterate that the cause of the problem is outside my house, so would I really need to be home for that?  She says since the problem is just outside, we might be able to resolve this tonight. 
I’m transferred to a lovely woman who, after hearing the story, says she can likely get a technician out to the house tonight before 8pm.  We get along quite well, me and this lady.  I tell of my frustration, looking out the window and seeing that damn coaxial cable dangling in the air, wishing I owned a ladder.  (I’m sure I’ll get one eventually.  I just bought mulch for the first time.  Made myself a flower bed.  Being a homeowner changes you in almost imperceptible ways until you barely recognize yourself)  She assures me that she will call back in the next fifteen minutes and let me know either way.   Victory.  We are back on track.  (Call length: 17:32)

Something Ghastly Happened To the Last Operator

6/15/11  |  6:50pm
I call out of concern for the last representative, because something ghastly must have happened to her.  She never called me back.  The latest representative possesses a halting, endearingly limited grasp of the English language, particularly as it relates to caustic wit.  She does express sympathy for my dangling cable, and promises a technician will arrive before 8pm.  (Call length: 10:31)

Back to the Future Moment

6/15/11  |  7:30pm
A monsoon rolls into Atlanta.  Daisy hides under the coffee table.  I know nobody’s going to be plugging cables back together in my yard in these conditions.  It’d be like Christopher Lloyd on the clock tower in Back to the Future.  He’d plug the cable in, get struck by lightning, Daisy and I would be transported back to 1955, where they didn’t particularly like the gays but I understand my neighborhood was much nicer.   I pour myself a vodka tonic and think about which time periods I might like to live in.

Judy Judy Judy

6/16/11  |  8:39am

On my way to work, I call Comcast and get Judy, who is just delightful.  She reminds me of my Aunt Billie Ruth, sort of simultaneously down-home and aristocratic.  It’s a skill I envy.  Judy looks things up and informs me I’m on a 12-hour appointment, so the tech will arrive between 8am-8pm.  I confirm with Judy that I do not need to be home for this.  We share a laugh about something, I forget what, but she’s a real charmer.  I hang up and wish Judy could come over and watch Oprah: Season 25 Behind the Scenes with me.  If I ever get my service back.  I decide the time period I want to live in is the near future, after the technician has repaired my cable.  (Call length: 4:54)

A Series of False Starts

06/16/11  |  5:48pm
I get out of the car with my groceries.  And there’s the dangling coaxial cable.  The technician technically still has two hours, but I don’t trust it.  I’m on the phone with Comcast before I’m even in the door.  As I’m on hold to “Discuss an appointment scheduled for today,” it drops my call.  (Call length: 1:33)
06/16/11  |  5:50pm
My estimated hold time is 24 minutes.  It offers to schedule a callback.  I accept this option.  The first available callback is on June 18th.  Which is two days from now.  I decline this option.  It puts me back on hold.  A few minutes later, it drops my call.  (Call length: 6:55)
06/16/11  |  5:57pm
On hold for the third time, an automated message says “We are unable to complete your call at this time.  Message 12, Switch 252.”  And then it drops my call.  This is infuriating because:  Thing one, how the hell is me knowing the message and switch useful in this situation?  Do I need to call someone and tell them to flip switch 252?  Or did the people who got messages one through eleven already take care of this?  And thing two, the computer voice is lying, because obviously he can complete my call at this time.  He just hung up on me, which fucking completed it.  (Call length: 2:11)
06/16/11  |  6:04pm
It rings twice, and then I get a busy signal.  Which is not how busy signals work.  So the busy signal is lying to me.  At this moment, I can’t even trust a dial tone if it comes from Comcast.

I Want to Believe

06/16/11  |  6:04pm
My fifth attempt connects me with Jenae.  I tell my story again.  She places me on hold for three minutes, and returns to assure me the technician will be there before 8pm.  I tell Jenae I have my doubts about this, but she is confident, and I want to believe her so much.  I feel like I’m dating again.  I hear the same promises, but because the delivery’s slightly different I can convince myself the outcome will improve.  (Call length: 6:37)

Trust Issues

06/16/11  |  7:23pm
It’s getting down to the wire.  Judy and Jenae both felt really good about this happening by 8pm.  But Mama always told me to go with my gut.  So I call again.  And I’m placed on hold for seventeen minutes.  Tannica comes on the line, and I have to tell the story again, describing the dangling coaxial cable.  By this point I have explained this, in detail, to six Comcast representatives.  Do they not take notes?  Because I sure as shit do.   It is worth noting that I have been polite, jovial, and lighthearted with each of these representatives.  I have worked customer service.  I am mindful of not maiming the messenger.  Tannica assures me we will see that technician by 8pm.  (Call length: 20:21)

Waiting for An Alcoholic Housecat

06/16/11  |  8:10pm
Tannica was incorrect.  This time I speak with Tasha.  I ask where the technician is.  She says the appointment was cancelled yesterday.  I tell her, no, it wasn’t, but that’s beside the point.  I’m referring to the 12-hour window that Judy confirmed, Jenae backed her up on, and Tannica set in stone.  Where is THAT technician?  Tasha concedes that she does not know. 
And that would be when I lose my cool.
 I take two days of no internet, no TV, staring at that damn dangling cable, out on poor Tasha.  And then I apologize, I know it’s not her fault personally.  But there’s no communication happening here, this is a horribly run business.  My husband works for the Gap.  If you bought a pair of khakis, and he told you to wait in line while he got them from the stock room, and didn’t come back for three days, someone would say something to about it.  They would not let that slide.  She suggests I schedule an in-home appointment.  I tell her I can’t take the time away from work and have no reason to trust the scheduling anyway.  I want to know where the hell this technician is.  Someone needs to hold this person, this company, accountable.  She places me on hold for five minutes, and I am connected with Catherine.
Catherine is empathetic when I explain the circumstances for the eighth time.  I am not sharing new information- she has heard all of this before from other customers.  This is not comforting.  I ask her to contact dispatch and find out if the technician is coming.  She informs me that customer service reps are no longer able to contact the dispatch or drivers by phone.  There was once a halcyon time where this was possible, but it was determined that they were calling too much, and that privilege was taken away.  The best Catherine can do is email Dispatch, but the response can take up to 24 hours.  This is not how “Dispatch” works.  That is not what the word means.  Call a taxi company.  That is dispatch.  You cannot refer to yourselves as “Dispatch” if no one can call you. 
Catherine says, “If they don’t come tonight, they’re probably comin’ first thing tomorrow.”  I ask her what “first thing” means.  She says that’s between 8 and 2.  I posit to you that the only creatures who would consider two in the afternoon “first thing” are housecats and alcoholics. 
Catherine does have one possible solve:  She emails Dispatch with an instruction to call us directly.  She tells us we will either see them tonight, or they will call within 45 minutes.
I tell Catherine to go ahead and schedule an appointment for tomorrow, and then if they show up tonight I can cancel it.  But my husband, smart man that he is, asks if that will automatically cancel tonight’s visit.  Catherine says it will, so we leave it as is.  She gives us our ticket number:  2192952.  I genuinely believe Catherine did absolutely everything she could to resolve this.  She was friendly, professional, sympathetic, frustrated with her own limitations, and ultimately, accomplished nothing on our behalf.     (Call length: 38:52)

Hoarse of a Different Color

06/17/11  |  7:57am

Katie has lost her voice, which is a terrible hindrance for a customer support representative.  She’s sucking on cough drops, gargling with salt water between calls, and hanging in there, God bless her.  This is not a problem for the beginning of our call, because for the first ten minutes, I do all the talking.  Dispatch never contacted us. Our ticket has not been updated, there are no notes from Dispatch.  For over half an hour, Katie tries valiantly to get any kind of momentum on our ticket.  But she hits a brick wall at every turn.
It breaks my heart, but one of us has to put a stop to this.  I tell Katie it’s time for us to recognize that she, like the eight colleagues who fell before her, is powerless against the Death Star Fortress that is Dispatch.  They are holding us hostage.  We need a new plan of attack.  I need a supervisor to take up this cause.  “Who,” I ask, “handles cases that have gone horribly, horribly wrong?  Who is the Obi-Wan of Customer Support?”
Katie writes a very detailed e-mail to her supervisor, and promises someone will call with an update today.  I ask her to lay out specifically what I am to do if they do not call by 6:00pm.  She says to call back, give the ticket number, and I’ll be connected with a supervisor.  I ask why we can’t just do that now.  She says because the supervisor will need time to investigate.  This makes sense.  I allow for it.  I leave my cell phone number if they have any questions, explaining that my husband cannot answer his cell phone at work.
 (Call length: 48:17)
On the drive into work, I hear an ad guaranteeing that if I order XFINITY from Comcast right now, a technician will be at my house to set it up within twenty-four hours.  The commercial fails to mention what happens after that.

If It Was a Snake, It Would Have Bit Ya

06/17/11  |  10:08am
My husband calls, in a rage.
 “I just missed a call from the Comcast service tech.  Why did they call my cell?  I thought you gave them your number!”
“I did, I swear.  What did the tech say?”
“That he couldn’t locate the problem.  He doesn’t think the cable hanging in front of our bedroom window is a problem?”
“Did he leave a number?”
“Yeah.  404-COMCAST.”
“Oh, hell.”

And I Am Telling You You're Not Going

06/17/11  |  10:10am
I would like to take back the disdain I insinuated earlier regarding representatives for whom English is not their first language.  Gerardo and I do not hail from the same homeland, but we found common ground in our mutual hatred for Dispatch.  This proves my theory that all it really takes to unite the masses is a common enemy.
“Gerardo,” I said, “We have to work quickly.  If he leaves the area we’ll never get him back to the house.  It’s like the Rapture.  If you’re not ready, you’re screwed.”
“You are not to worry, Mr. Payne,” said Gerardo.  “If he leaves, we will make sure he goes back.  I do not know how he could not see a problem that you or I could see very easily.”
I like how Gerardo phrases things.  It makes me feel we are in this together.
According to the notes on the account, at 10:04am, the Field Supervisor was dispatched to our home, and was unable to locate our lock box.  I do not know what this means.  Gerardo is also at a loss, because it seems as though one does not achieve supervisor status without being able to troubleshoot advanced problems like seeing a cable hanging freely in front of a window.
Gerardo types like the wind, explaining exactly where the coaxial cable is dangling in front of my house.  He notes the time elapsed, that he is the tenth representative to handle this case, and that they ignored the clear notation from Katie (whom I hope is taking care of her voice) to call my cell phone.
Gerardo and I are presenting a united front.  I feel foolishly hopeful.  I am not to worry.
(Call length: 15:45)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Oh Come On, Come On, Emmanuel.

6/17/11 | 3:05pm

A transcript of my live chat.

analyst Emmanuel John has entered room

efamaBLD: Hello Topher, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Emmanuel John. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Topher: We have a disconnected cable dangling in front of our house. The tech has not honored the last 3 scheduled appointments. I have spoken with ten service reps for a total of over 3 hours in four days.
efamaBLD: Welcome to Comcast! I hope your day is going well. How may I help you?

efamaBLD: It seems that you have a request today. I would be glad to help you with that, Topher.

Topher: Hi Emmanuel. I’m hoping you can help me resolve this. I've been without internet/cable since Tuesday.
efamaBLD: My apologies for the frustration this issue has caused you. I'm going to do everything I can to resolve this with you today.

efamaBLD: Just to verify, Topher, do you have problems with your internet service right now?

Topher: Yes. I'm contacting you from work. We have no cable or internet at the house.

efamaBLD: I'm sorry to hear about the issue you are having with our service. I'm not going to waste any time here, let's get right to fixing it.
efamaBLD: To ensure the protection of your account and so I could asssit you further, I need to verify some information:
efamaBLD: Account number please.

Topher: (Account Number)
efamaBLD: Thank you for the information. Please give me a minute or two while I pull up your account.

efamaBLD: While waiting, I'd also like to tell you that music lovers and enthusiasts can now enjoy original shows, interviews, music videos organized by genre, 16 video and forty six audio channels,create customized playlists and music channels. To access all these simply log-on to

Topher: That’s great. I just want someone to fix the cable hanging outside my house.
efamaBLD: May I ask if when did you subscribe to our internet service?

Topher: We became Comcast customers on June 5th. Services were installed on that date.

efamaBLD: Just to verify, is it June 5, 2011?

Topher: That is correct. The services were installed in our home on June 5th.

efamaBLD: Was it a self install Topher?

Topher: No. Services were installed by technician #8749.

efamaBLD: Thank you.

efamaBLD: Let me now check your account and pinpoint what the problem may be.

Topher: You may find additional information on ticket #2192952.
efamaBLD: Topher, I may ask you to troubleshoot or check the connection of the internet in your home but it seems that this is not possible since you are not at home.

Topher: Emmanuel, do you have access to the records of the conversations and steps taken with the previous ten reps?

Topher: I will make this very plain: We have a line down. No one will fix it. No one will tell me why. Can you tell me why?

efamaBLD: I apologize Topher, but our system cannot pull up previous chat records that you had with other representatives. We only have access to your account.

Topher: These were not chats. These were phone calls, with service tickets issued. Is there currently a work order on my account?

efamaBLD: I apologize but we do not have access to the previous phone conversations that you had with our representatives Topher. But I am here to help you today. I can see here that there is still a scheduled technician to go to your home on 06/20/2011 at 11:00AM-2:00PM. It seems that the best thing you can do now is to be there when the technician will come so you can discuss your issues with the technician.

Topher: Whoa whoa whoa. ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS? Three days from now? Why has no one alerted me of this appointment? How is it acceptable to have no service for a week?

Topher: This is absolutely preposterous.

efamaBLD: This may have been scheduled when you called for support previously Topher. I really apologize for the inconvenience of you having to contact us for this.

Topher: Tell me who to call, Emmanuel. I've tried customer support since Tuesday. Give me a number, a department. If I were applying for new service, they guarantee install in 24 hours. I have been a customer less than two weeks. Help me resolve this.

efamaBLD: Sure Topher, I would be glad to provide you our support number. Here is our support number: 800-934-6489 (XFINITY)

Topher: That is the number I've been calling for four days. I feel that you are not acknowledging the horrific lack of customer service happening here. I've spoken on the phone with your reps for three hours, it has accomplished nothing. Please tell me what my other options are.

efamaBLD: Topher, I would be glad to assist you in troubleshooting your internet issue but it seems that it not possible right now since you are not yet at home. The option you have is to contact us through phone when you are at home so we can assist you in troubleshooting your internet issue or you can also wait for the technician to go to your home so you can inquire with the technician.

Topher: Are you saying the line that is disconnected and hanging in the air outside is not the cause of the internet being down? Those are unrelated?

efamaBLD: I apologize but I cannot be sure since I have not seen the set up of your cable lines. It would be the technician who can best check it out for you Topher since the technician can see the physical set up of your cables.

Topher: I was not aware that this chat was exclusively reserved for internet connection problems. Is that the case?

efamaBLD: Topher, in this chat we only support internet and phone issues. I am glad that I was able to assist and inform you today. Will there be anything else that you want me to assist you with?

Topher: Yes. My internet is not currently working due to a disconnected cable. Can you tell me the best method for resolving this in a timely manner?

efamaBLD: May I ask if you are still in front of your computer? Please acknowledge if you are still there and needs further assistance.

Topher: I'm here. I require further assistance.

efamaBLD: Topher,since you are not at home right now, we may not be able to troubleshoot this right now. The only option you have now is to contact us via phone when you are at home so we can troubleshoot this or you can wait for the technician on 06/20/2011.

Topher: I see. And what is the number I would call to communicate with Dispatch?

efamaBLD: Topher, I believe you have provided your contact number when you previously requested for the technician. Just to inform you, it will be the technician who will be calling you on your given number.

efamaBLD: Will there be anything else that you want me to assist you with?

Topher: In your experience, will customers whose service appointments have been ignored be given priority in rescheduling?

efamaBLD: Topher, the technician will be there according to the date that you have scheduled with us.
Topher: Oh, you’re funny. You’re a very funny person.

efamaBLD: Rest assured that the technician will be there on the scheduled date Topher. Again, I apologize for he inconvenience of you having to contact us for this. I am glad that I was able to assist you today. Will there be anything else that you want me to assist you with?

Topher: Please stop saying you assisted me. We know that isn't true. I'll accept the laughable customer support, but I cannot bear to think that you're walking away feeling we accomplished something.

analyst Emmanuel John has left room

Topher: May I ask if you are still in front of your computer?