Monday, December 3, 2018

Comcast? Get Real!

Internet plus five lines of mobile for $29 a month?  Not exactly!

I got this flyer in the mail from Comcast, which has such an odious reputation for poor customer service that they changed their name to "Xfinity".   What a crock.

Anyway, this flier has an attention-getting headline - Internet service for $29.99 a month plus five lines of mobile!   Or so I thought, anyway.  I also thought, "this sounds too good to be true" and probably was - but I thought I would call and figure out what the gag was.

What an eyeopener.

To begin with, we have Comcast on the island here.  All I hear about at cocktail parties is people bitching and moaning about Comcast - being put on hold for hours at a time, service calls that never materialize.  People staying home all day waiting for the Comcast guy to come - and he never does.

Oddly enough, we had our own homegrown cable company here on the island.  A headend blockhouse with antennas and huge C-band dishes, buried cables and pedestals throughout the island, and scrolling text channels telling everyone when the next meeting of the Parcheesi Club was going to occur (those old Mattelivision computers had their uses!).  We even had Jerrold "piano keyboard" boxes, which could get HBO for free, if you pressed two adjacent buttons at the same time and used the fine tuning.   Those were the days.

We tore it all out on the premise that Comcast - who previously said that wiring our island wasn't worth it - would come and wire up the place and provide cable to the hotels, motels, and residents.   It seems we made a deal with the devil.

But just to be a sport, I called.  And it was illuminating.  Remember when I said, "When you enter into a business relationship predicated on a lie, no matter how trivial that lie is, it will only go downhill from there"?  Well, Comcast Xfinity uses deception and evasion like a real pro.   But then again, we're talking the cable business.  As I noted before, when we were litigating cable box patents, we tried to locate some "executives" in the cable industry to depose, only to find that some were in jail and others were in the witness protection program.   Fun fellas!

I called their 1-800 number and the automated system asked me for a zip code.  I entered it and it told me they don't offer service here and hung up.   I thought this was odd - why send a flyer to me and then say you don't offer service.  So I called back and pressed "0" a hundred times until I got a human.   A distressed, angry, upset, and overworked human, apparently.  She transferred me to someone in sales - or so she said.  It bounced back to billing.   Apparently the sales channel, when overloaded, reverts to billing.  The next angry overworked human transferred me to sales.   And the sales person wasn't very happy, either.  I can only imagine what their glassdoor ratings are!

Anyway, she told me that they don't offer service on our island.  I explained to her it was otherwise, and then she said they did offer service but I provided the wrong address.  I gave them my address as "Riverview Drive" which they corrected to "North Riverview Drive" and then after correcting the address to Post Office standard, told me that I gave them the wrong address, as their system has it listed as the informal "Riverview Drive" that we all use here on the island (there are no homes on South Riverview Drive, only a water park).

So that out of the way, I asked her to explain the offer, as it wasn't clear from the flyer and the voluminous fine print.   She spent about ten minutes telling me this offer didn't exist, but that I could get internet service for $45 a month.   I told her that their own website offered basic internet for $19.95 a month (promotional only).    And her response was that "We don't always see the internet offers or what promotions they are mailing out!"

Well, how am I suppose to sign up for this? I mean, I called the number they provided on the mailer - is there some secret handshake or code I need to use?  Oh, and the website link they provided on the mailer doesn't list this offer, either.    This company is nuts - the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.  I have to argue with the service rep to get the offer they are promoting.   But perhaps this is by design.   Perhaps they are trained to tell people that the offer on the mailer "isn't available in your area" and then upsell to a higher-priced deal.   Nothing happens by accident.

So then I asked about the mobile part.   I read the thing wrong, of course, the offer is for internet service via cable modem (which is $11 a month to rent) and you can "add up to five lines of mobile" for an additional amount - $45 a month for unlimited service.   You can also add a new car, and the Queen Mary, if you want to - for an additional fee.

It is an odd way to make a price offer.   "This car is for sale for $25,000 + add a new house as well!"   Maybe this is clear on its face, but when you first read it, it sounds like they are bundling the deal together.  Perhaps it is a small deception or misdirection, but it foretells what is to come.

What was really sad was how poorly their phone tree works.   I mean, most of these type of companies have a "press 1 for new customers!" and you are shunted directly to a sales person who answers on the first ring.   When you press "2 for existing customers" you end up on hold for an hour.   We know how that works - they want new business, and go fuck yourself if you have a problem once you sign up.  And if you want to disconnect, go see our disconnect specialist, Helen Waite.

But Comcast can't even get that right (Score ATT: 1  Comcast: 0).

After a half-hour on the phone, I thanked the lady and said goodbye.  She was an unhappy person working for an unhappy company.  And I didn't want to be an unhappy customer.   The bottom line was, their "$29.99" would have been $45 a month plus modem rental, plus $45 a month for each cell phone, or nearly $150 a month overall.  This was not any kind of savings whatsover.  And once the promotional pricing period was over, well, the cost would be even higher.

As for phones, unless I had an iPhone 6 or newer (unlocked, of course) I could not transfer service and would be forced to buy a new phone from them.    Yes, they cannot cut you a new SIM for your Samsung, apparently.   Very odd.  And very expensive.

My gut reaction was to throw this mailer in the trash.  You know, I need to listen to my gut more often!