Is Comcast Actively Trying to Get People to Hate Them?

On a recent trip my dive master said an easy way to feel old is to go into an Apple Store. He then went on to describe how when he asked where the cash register is he was told he could just check out by talking to any employee. Then I went on to say how you do not even need to do that anymore – you can actually checkout now with your iPhone after scanning the barcode of something you want to purchase with its camera. Yes, the world is getting cooler everyday…that is, at least in some places…

I am a Cablevision customer and I recently helped a Comcast customer get a cable box (since the cable companies seem to have a thing against unencrypted signals anymore). Getting the box was relatively easy. Although there is only one Comcast service center that comes up on the location finder on the web the place was luckily not a huge distance away. The people there were friendly and I walked out pretty quickly with a box that I was told would be perfect for the HD TV I wanted to connect it to. I was also told that the box should be giving me channels within five minutes but it could take up to 90 minutes to download the full cable guide into the system. Okay, but what year are we living in? Ninety freakin’ minutes?

So, I brought it to the location. Connected it and… the display was saying something cryptic about not being authorized and it was only tuning channels from 1 to 4 and only channel 3 had something on it. After waiting ten minutes I decided to call something Comcast refers to as ‘Customer Service’ but I do not believe they actually know what that means. After a bit on the phone they said they were going to send another activation signal to the box and after a bit of waiting the data light started blinking and some of the now different cryptic things on the screen seemed to indicate good news. Unauthorized went to “channels should be available shortly.” Hmmm… Maybe we are in the 90 minute wait period now? On the downside, no channels were visible now though I could at least get the taunting “available shortly” message on a whole lot more than the original 5. Thus, I decided to leave the box on overnight and see if everything is working tomorrow.

The next day I had high hopes of seeing all the channels coming in again with the beautiful black box, that really does not fit anywhere well, now attached and…well…nothing changed from yesterday. So, I called again. I must say that it has been years since I have witnessed service this dumb before. What I will only describe in snippets is about 30 minutes of my life I wasted on the phone talking to what seemed to be a bad implementation of Jeopardy’s Watson. I do believe I was speaking to a human and not a computer but the complete lack of emotion combined with completely ignoring anything I said that did not fit the script actually made me wonder.

We talked about what I saw on the screen — that is the Comcast message about the channels should be available soon, how I do get a menu when I hit the OnDemand button on the remote — and then she asks me if I am sure the HDMI selection on the TV is the one I connected the box to? WHAT? [In other words — how would I ever be able to see the Comcast stuff on the TV if it was not connected correctly and in this case with the HDMI cable they were thoughtful enough to provide?]  Then she asks me to try tuning channels less than and more than 100. I said they only have a basic broadcast package and I do not know what channels they are supposed to receive. After I said this the only answer I got back was just tune to any channel over 100. WHAT? [In other words — am I supposed to psychically pick the channels over 100 that are on the account — if there even are any on the account?] Then, after they sent a signal to the box that reset it and turned it off she asked me, here is the really hot one, if my box had a cable connecting it to the wall. WHAT? [In other words — is she just checking if the new Comcast psychic connectivity system reset and turned off the box instead of the coax cable?] I told her at least four times about the Reference Code the message was giving me on the screen and every time it seemed like she did not hear me at all. Where the words really coming out of my mouth? This person, at least what I think was a human, acting like a computer truly made me wonder.

I have a BS in Electrical Engineering from MIT and was able to get absolutely no where on the phone with Comcast support. “We need to send someone out to look at it.” To schedule the appointment we need the last four digits of the account holder’s social security number. WHAT? [In other words — after thirty minutes on the phone trying to get this to work they need more information to send someone out?]

Who am I doing this for? My aunt who turn 100 years old at the beginning of this year. Did this matter at all to Comcast? Not on this call for sure.

So why the reference to Apple in the beginning? Look I am not a huge fan of Cablevision either, but the Comcast customer service made everyone I have talked to previously at Cablevision look like people sitting behind the Genius Bar at Apple. Oh, and I forgot to mention the punch line. The call ended with, “Thank you for choosing Comcast, have a nice day.” WHAT? I chose to be treated this way? When is Google Fiber coming to push them into the 21st century? Please make it soon.