Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A pact with the devil

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I was feeling blessed – extremely blessed – until this afternoon when I called Comcast, the most hated company in America, to arrange for service at the new house to which we’re moving.

Now my head is about to explode.

Every time I write about Comcast, which provides (and I use that word loosely) cable, Internet and phone service to my home  – and I’ve done it often – readers ask why I don’t simply switch to another company.

The answer is: I can’t. We live in a master planned community of 3,500 residences.  When it was laid out in the 1990s, the developers allowed the local cable company to wire it for cable service. That company at some point sold out to Comcast, which now has 3,500 captive customers it can and does treat like shit pond scum. My fellow residents and I complain bitterly but there’s nothing any of us can do about it. For aesthetic reasons, the community doesn’t allow satellite dishes so DISH or Direct TV aren't options. And while CenturyLink offers phone and internet service, it can only deliver snail-speed internet that can’t accommodate streaming media like Netflix or Amazon which many of my neighbors and I watch so we won’t have to pay a penny more to Comcast than we are now paying. In short, Comcast has 3,500 customers by the giblets.

Over the last four years I’ve probably had to call Comcast – I’m guessing – 100 times to complain about slow, intermittent or non-existent service. I’m guessing Comcast technicians have made at least 50 service calls. Despite it all, our service remains iffy. I’ve written letters to Comcast headquarters. I’ve joined Facebook groups like “I Hate Comcast.”  I’ve written blog posts out the ying-yang, one of which was read by a Comcast VP who offered to personally guarantee that my problem would be taken care of –  service was out and the local office said they couldn’t get to it for at least a month. Within a few days it was taken care of. Then it went down again.

Back to my head is about to explode.

Today I called to arrange to have my current service switched over to our new house, which is in the same development.  When I told the automated voice that answered that I wanted to arrange new service, a human picked up almost instantly (as opposed to when I call because of a problem, being placed on hold for a half hour or more and forced to listen to voices telling me how much Comcast values me).

Whenever I talk to a Comcast agent, I remind myself that I'm speaking with someone who isn't personally responsible for his or her company's service and/or my dissatisfaction but I have to admit that I didn't do that today.  I started the conversation by telling the agent that my relationship with Comcast has been the worst, most stressful customer experience of my life and that I wasn’t happy about having to move my service but I had no option other than disconnecting.

She replied that if I did that I’d be charged an early termination fee according to my contract.

“What contract?” I asked.

“The one you agreed to May 18th, ” she said.

"Was this a paper contract?  I have never, and will never, sign a contract with Comcast."

"When you called May 18th you were asked to accept terms of service and you agreed, which constitutes a contract."

"I'm a lawyer," (I lied.) "A verbal agreement over the phone isn't a contract.  I never agreed to anything, much less a contract with Comcast."

“Yes you did, it’s here in my records.”

“Prove it.”

“I'll connect you to my supervisor. She’ll pull up the conversation in which you agreed to a 12-month contract.”

“Fine, you do that.”

Five minutes later she came back on the line. “My supervisor says you refused to authorize the contract we offered so please accept my apologies.”

"So this means I can terminate with no penalty?"


"I wish I could but I can't. I need to move service to my new house, but I'm not about to sign any contract. So what are my options?"

She explained that, because I had no contract, I was entitled to be treated as a new customer and offered a package of 240 cable channels (I have 40 now), 100 gig Internet (I have 20 now) and unlimited long-distance calls for a special low bundle price of $69.99 a month for a year – more than $20 less than I’m now paying.

“That's good!" I said. "And I want to add HBO. How much more for that?”

She said HBO would add $10 but for another $10 more –  $89.99 –  she could offer a bundle including everything in the $69.99 package plus HBO, Starz and Comcast’s version of Netflix. But she cautioned that both packages – the $69.99 and $89.99 – would go up $20 after 12 months.

“I don’t want Starz or Comcast’s version of anything. What if I just buy the same cable package I now have, 100 gig Internet, telephone and add HBO?” I asked.

She said that would be roughly $84 a month.

“Then I want that,” I replied. 

She said that was doable but the phone and Internet would probably each go up $20 per month after 12 months if I chose that option

We continued back and forth for ten minutes or so as she kept suggesting bundle packages that were attractively priced but were sure to go up after a year and I kept asking about a la carte services that were cheaper but sure to go up even more after a year.

I have no clue what I finally agreed to but I think I'll be paying roughly $91 a month for 12 months after which the price goes up to approximately $5,516.20 a month.

I asked her to send an email recapping what I agreed to buy and to acknowledge in the email that I do not have a contract with Comcast and can leave at any time without a termination fee if the service at my new house is as abysmal as it has been at my current house. She said she would send it right after the call to the email address she had on file for me,

“It's Dryden, not driven, and it’s g-mail, not Comcast,” I said.

“Oh, like your last name?”


“OK, I'm sending it now. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for calling Comcast.”

That was two hours ago and I haven’t received the email.

Knowing she has to use Comcast, it's likely her Internet is down. 


Three hours after our conversation ended I still hadn't received the email. So I called Comcast again.

The agent I spoke with this time said she couldn't send me an email but would be happy to tell me the terms the original agent and I had agreed upon by looking "in the system." I said I wanted written confirmation. She said only the "Customer Care" department could handle that. (She apparently works in the "Customer Abuse" department).

She connected me to a gentleman in Customer Care who, after I provided him all the information he requested -- phone, last four digits of my Social Security, the address of my current service, the address of the new service, my account number, etc. -- said it was Comcast's policy not to send emails confirming customer orders and prices. I asked if I could find details of what I agreed to online by looking under "My Account" at He said no and -- get this -- that I wouldn't receive written confirmation of what I had ordered until after the service was installed. 

I asked why, if that was Comcast's policy, the agent I spoke with earlier had promised to email me with the information I had requested. He said she was wrong to do that and didn't even have the ability to send email from her work station, but that he would look up my order and read it back to me. He did and it matched what I had written down during my original conversation. But he was firm that it is Comcast's policy not to put in writing what the customer has ordered and how much the customer will pay until the service is installed.

I asked if he would buy a car that way -- order it over the phone and agree to a price but not see a quote in writing until after he had taken delivery of the car. He said I had thirty days after installation to cancel the service if I found it differed from my understanding. I said that wasn't the point; I didn't want to find out something had been installed that wasn't what I ordered or that didn't cost the price I was quoted.

Amazing that this company is allowed to stay in business, isn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment