Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Xfinity Short Bus


Recently my parents moved from one apartment to another in the same complex. They are Comcast Xfinity subscribers. You'd think transferring service from one apartment to another only 500 yards away would be a no brainer. But alas, it is not. Below is the email I sent to the local Portland news channels, The Oregonian Newspaper and the FCC when I filed a complaint. 

 I’m writing you all an email with an idea for a story. A story that just simply needs to be heard, that will hopefully generate some change at least on some level. The story is about Comcast and their colossal level of incompetence coupled with their complete and utter lack of empathy. 
 Around February 20th , 2015,  my elderly mother called Comcast to transfer their cable, internet and phone service pending their move on March 20th, 2015,  to a different unit in the same apartment complex. She was well aware that this would probably be a fiasco, which is why she chose to give such a lengthy lead time. Right after she got off the phone, her phones stopped working, then the cable and internet went down. This was because the person taking the order failed to listen carefully to the customer and put the disconnect order in for February 20th instead of March 20th. 
 As I said previously, my parents are elderly, and they are not very tech savvy, so the account is in my name, and I am the one who usually deals with Comcast for their services, although on occasion, they deal with them directly. 
 My father immediately called Comcast back and explained the situation. The person on the  line, somewhere in the Philippines, was able to get the internet and cable back up and running, but had trouble with the phone, and said she would call back. She never did. So I called Comcast, I got someone in the Philippines as well (Because apparently the only thing Comcast ACTUALLY does in the US is sell and install their service). I explained the situation, he put me on hold, for several minutes, then came back on the line, his voice indicating he had absolutely no idea what to do, stuttering and rambling on, and asked me to hold a bit longer. The call transferred back to the queue and I got a message that they were closed, and to call back during business hours. The rep dumped my call to get me off the line! Phone service was not  restored until the next day. Although I received apologies from the reps I spoke with, there was no empathy, no sense of urgency, and absolutely no follow through. I must also mention that my mother is fighting cancer. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma two years ago, which is a kind of bone cancer. She is extremely prone to bone breakage, and uses a Life Alert system:  a device that allows her to press a button anywhere in the apartment and summon the paramedics, should she have an emergency. 
 March 20th, Comcast disconnected her services in preparation for the move. But this was not correct. They were supposed to disconnect everything and reconnect it at the new apartment March 21st. I was very upset when I found this out. So, rather than spend a few hours on the phone with their tech support team in the Philippines, I decided to go directly to the Comcast store in Tanasbourne. I demanded to speak to a manager. I was initially met with light to moderate push-back from the host, but then I was permitted to speak to an assistant manager, who said he could help me. He stepped away for about 15 minutes, then came back and explained that the service should be restored and ready for transfer the next day as scheduled. I expressed my concerns that this transfer would be a fiasco, he assured me he would advocate and even gave me his cell number. Theoretically, this should be a fairly simple transaction:  move the equipment to the new apartment, plug it in, and call the activations number. Done….not so easy it turns out. 
 The next day, I helped my parents move. Then I got all the equipment ready and began installing it. At first I was pretty impressed because it went fairly smoothly. I had a burned out HDMI cable, but that was not really that big of a deal. Then I tried the phone. Didn’t work. I called the activations number as instructed. The rep could not find their service, then asked if I was calling to get service at apartment 43 (they moved to apartment 175) or “was I calling to get new service?” then she transferred me to another rep who advised me there was some kind of “work order” on the account.   She put me on a long hold, then came back and said she had to send a tech out and there would be a cost. Extremely frustrated at this point, I called Sang, who amazingly answered his phone at 8:30pm on a Saturday night. He informed me that he would not be back in the office until Monday, but he would take a look at it first thing. 
I got in touch with him yesterday, he said everything looked right, and he even called the number, but did not get an answer. My parents are still unable to make or receive calls, and the Life Alert unit sits disconnected in a box. Fortunately my father is around, and they both have cell phones, but I cannot even begin to express my fears should something happen when he is gone. 
 The asst. manager agreed to waive the transfer fee and give my parents a $50 credit. I was a little surprised that Comcast was planning to charge my parents $30 to have ME transfer their services. That seems a bit unfair, asinine actually. It felt like he was simply offering to give me back my own money. 
 This is not the first time we have encountered problems with Comcast. And the situation each time is handled in the same manner:  overseas by some incompetent, impersonal representative who has no idea what he or she is doing. There is no compassion, there is no empathy. And the only time you can talk to someone in the United States is when you order the service, or attempt to cancel it. It’s amazing how much personal service you get in those cases. I once got transferred five times when trying to activate my service, gave up, then called back later. I had to schedule a technician that time too. 
 It just seems to me that Comcast takes the attitude that they are so big and so powerful that they don’t need to provide any level of customer service, because the options are limited. Comcast in many areas is still the only cable provider. If you’re lucky, you might have Frontier FiOS available. And satellite services can be very glitchy and unreliable:  ultimately an even bigger headache. And I’ve heard the same poor customer service stories from their subscribers too. I shudder to think what will happen when the merger with Time Warner goes through. I foresee even more problems:  longer hold times; more incompetent employees; less empathy; and sheer indifference in taking care of their customers. It just seems the bigger they get the worse off the customers become. 
I’m hoping this email will inspire you to investigate this situation. I’m hoping you might be able to reach out to other Comcast customers that have had similar horror stories.
I would love to talk to you in person about this. Please feel free to call me:  503-XXX-XXXX.
 Chris Hirsch

Where this goes, is anybody's guess. But it's high time Comcast becomes accountable to its customers and starts treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve. We cannot allow a conglomerate cable company to slide into a monopoly position and treat us with such indifference and utter lack of respect.

UPDATE - 3/25/2015:

The technician came out to figure out what was wrong with the service. My father told me he was there for about four hours. FOUR HOURS! It must have been like a Three Stooges movie, only short two Stooges. Apparently he spent most of the time on hold or talking to someone overseas in the activations department who had an IQ of about 57. They almost lost their phone number in the process because the activations department told the tech it was "no longer available." Ultimately the tech just gave up and left; told my father that someone would "call him later." My dad said that before he left, the tech told him the service was working, that the follow-up call would be courtesy confirmation call. BULLSHIT!!! The guy just got frustrated and gave up; found himself an easy exit. Hell, I don't know what I'd tell someone if I was there for four hours installing their VoIP phone service.

When I heard this, I was livid! I called the assistant manager and practically screamed at him. He told me he would check it out and call me back. A little while longer he called me back and told me that a tech would be out tomorrow first thing. I told him this was UNACCEPTABLE!!! I told him to fix it today! Fix it NOW! They've had five days to dick around with it! About ten minutes later he called me back and told me that a tech supervisor was on his way out. I told my dad, practically screaming now, "you tell that tech he cannot leave until your service works! I don't care if you have to stand in front of the door!" About an hour later I got a call from my dad. The service works. Then I got a call from the assistant manager confirming everything was done. I apologized to him for being so frustrated, but who wouldn't be. Who would have known that Comcast wouldn't  be able to handle a simple transfer of service?

UPDATE - 3/31/2015:

A tech supervisor was dispatched to fix the problem. He came out  and got the service running. Well, not exactly running. 

My dad called me because he needed help hooking up his printer/fax. I went out there and started working on it. Then I found this bundled mess of phone, cords and Life Alert, all jammed into each other. There was nowhere to plug in the fax line. The wiring made absolutely no sense at all, like it was done by someone who had absolutely no experience in telecommunications. 

So I started pulling things apart and making the proper connections. Long story short, I spent several hours over there trying just to get dial tone. The line quality was atrocious. But I was able to dial out, to my cell phone, and the caller ID displayed properly. I tried to call my parents after I left and it wouldn't even connect. 

I called the assistant manager again the next day. He sent ANOTHER tech supervisor out who told my parents (wait for it) "the problem was that the line was connected to a Froniter FiOS tap." You have got to be kidding me!!! So you're now telling me that two other techs, one of them a supervisor, didn't notice that you connected to the wrong tap? Personally, I think that is a smoke screen. I think they told my parents this story in lieu of telling them what really happened. Because I made several test calls when I was out there. If it was connected to FiOS, how could the test calls show a Comcast phone number? I think something else happened and they're trying to cover their assess.

Stay tuned...there's more to come.