Well, thanks to johndiii
I once again have a sane interface for my journal entries and can get back to ranting about normal stuff. Thank you.
So, as for the AT&T switch I had originally planned to post about....
About two and a half years ago my wife and I (yes, there really is a woman who puts up with me) moved to a nice little apartment and discovered that the confluence of geography and orbital mechanics sometimes sucks. In other words, we had been getting our TV service through Dish Network and were happy enough with them that we want to keep them after the move; however, our apartment is North facing and because the best place to put a satellite in orbit to provide the greatest coverage puts it in the Southern sky for us, we couldn't get a signal. After much grumbling, we settled on Time Warner cable as our best option (actually the only
, but that does mean that they are at the top of the list).
Right from the get go we had problems; but, TV is mandatory (so sayeth the wife, and as Bill Engval so wisely noted: the one with the boobies has the power) so we put up with Time Warner. The first problem was minor enough, we planned to get a DVR in both the living room and the bed room, and they told us up front that the two would not be able to talk. If we recorded a program in one place, that was where we had to watch it. Really guys? In our old apartment Dish had us working with one box with two tuners, and I could watch my recorded programs either downstairs in the living room or upstairs in the bedroom. And we had that for three years, don't you think you should catch up? No. Ok then, sorry I asked.
The second problem wasn't really Time Warner's fault, but I feel like blaming them anyway. The cable going into our bedroom apparently sucks. In fact the line loss is so bad that we would not be able to put a digital receiver in that room and could only have the standard analog TV channels back there. Grumble, grumble, well not much to do about it, so down to a one box system we go. I guess that makes the "DVR's can't talk" problem kinda moot.
The third problem is really an outgrowth of the second problem. It seems that when we went down to one digital receiver, no one bothered to tell billing, and they were happily charging us for two DVR's. Now, I will admit some culpability here. I wasn't checking the bill as closely as I should, and we went for quite a while paying for both boxes. This carried on until my wife and I were going over our finances one day and I actually bothered to read through the entire cable bill and noticed that it listed two boxes.
I'm going to stop with the problems for a moment and give Time Warner some deserved kudos. Their customer service was actually really good each time we needed it. While I did spend a bit of time on hold, that is going to happen. The folks I talked to were understandable. no heavily accented, "hallo, my name is Steve". Ya, pull the other one, it's got bells attached. They actually seemed to know the product and were nice and helpful. In every case, my problem either got fixed or I went away from the conversation understanding why it was that I couldn't do something. Also, when I did let them know about the over billing, they credited my account for it and we didn't have to pay anything for our service for several months. So, overall customer service gets an 'A'.
Alright, back to problems. The next problem we faced was a bad DVR box. It just flat would not talk to the On Demand system, which included the HBO On Demand which comes with the HBO subscription. Everything else seemed to work, but On Demand was a no-go. After a couple calls trying to fix the box, Time Warner finally declared it dead and setup an exchange for us, that was a little bumpy, but got done.
Problem number whatever number we're on, has to do with the DVR function: It blows, and not in a good way. My wife and I each have a few programs we watch regularly, and for each we have setup a series recording which is only supposed to record new episodes (at least that's what the settings say). Now, I don't know how the box figures out what is a new episode and what isn't, I assume that it is some sort of flag which gets set either by Time Warner or the station itself. But, whoever is doing it is either drunk or stupid. The system does an OK job of knowing when a new episode is new; however, the system also figures that a bunch of reruns are also new. Now, this wouldn't be too much of a problem, we have plenty of hard drive space, but we only have two tuners. And we've ended up with quite a few actually new episodes of shows not being recorder because the system was recording a not new rerun, but it wanted to record it anyway. And the false positives happen at least once a day. This is actually the biggest problem we have with Time Warner, if this wasn't a constant thorn in our TV viewing habits, we probably wouldn't be looking to get rid of them.
The last problem is once again a hardware problem. Pretty much ever since we had Time Warner, the box has a habit of occasionally locking up for a few seconds. For example, we will be paging through the channel guide (which is a horrid mess) and the box will stop responding to commands. We hit the page down button and nothing. So, figuring that the signal didn't cross the three feet, or we didn't hit the button hard enough, we try again; and again nothing. Of course, a third try must be the charm so... no that doesn't work either. Then, as if by magic (or a buffer getting flushed) all three commands get executed on the box and the guide zips down three pages. The other place this crops up is when trying to fast forward during recorded programs. Hit the fast forward once, and it starts going, hit it again and nothing, try it again and nothing again. shout at the TV, "Fuck, stop, stop you goddamn thing!" Because shouting at inanimate objects helps. Hit the play button, so that when the buffer finally flushes we at least get to a stable state. And then watch as the commands finally clear and we're now half way into the next segment of the program and I need to rewind to get back to where we want to be. It's minor, but it's damned annoying every time and it happens frequently.
So, lately, we've started to notice that AT&T is inundating our area with advertisements for Uverse. And, we decided that we might as well give them a try. After all, the only reason we chose Time Warner was that they were the only option, which isn't exactly a good reason to stay with them. So, go on the website and start pricing packages. After a little while, we figure out that we can bundle our TV, phone and internet service under one umbrella and save a little bit of money (though the web interface doesn't have an option for a static IP address, and I like having one so that I can have a server with a domain name to use as my playground. Yes, I know about DynDNS, and I know that DHCP addresses tend to be stable; but it's a hassle and I'm willing to pay to not have to deal with it.
Since the web interface didn't have the static IP option, I figure I'll just give AT&T a call and sign up over the phone. Now, maybe I'm out of touch, but I would think that a company which is trying to penetrate a new market (AT&T is fairly new to the TV market in our area) would make it as easy as possible to sign up for service with them in as many ways as possible; but, finding a phone number on that site was like searching for a needle in a haystack. I did finally find it, but it took some doing. Not a great way to start out, but whatever, onward.
So, call sales, talk to the rep and get the bundle I want configured. Even with the static IP it is still an overall savings, so that's good. So, I ask the question, "do I need to cancel my current DSL service?" And the rep asks me if it is through AT&T or another ISP. Well, it's through DSLExtreme, so it's third party. I figured that I would have to go deal with the cancellation myself, but, "no" says the rep, "we can take care if it. We'll just have to have you talk to an agent to get authorization for us to cancel it." I'm skeptical, but it's been a few years since I changed my DSL service, so I figure I am just out of touch. The rep then goes on to say that we should not have any downtime and that I would be contacted in a couple of days to schedule the install. Great, hang up, all happy. A few minutes latter the rep calls back with a very official sounding man on the phone to get my authorization to cancel my old DSL service. Yes, yes, kill it, ok, good thanks, bye.
A few days passed, and no call. I started the process on a Monday, and when it gets to Friday I finally figure it's time to find out what is going on. So, call AT&T. I get a sales rep who kindly tells me that I have to talk to dispatch to get my install scheduled, and she'll transfer me. At dispatch, I talk to a very helpful gentleman who gives me my account number (something which I didn't have at that point) and tells me that the order is stuck in sales and I'll have to talk to the sales back office (SBO) to get it cleared before he can schedule the install. Boing! Over to SBO I go. After a while on hold, I finally get to talk to a guy at SBO who is so kind as to inform me that my order is "Pending" and that I need to cancel my current DSL service before it can go through. Um, but the rep said... oh fuck it, I knew I shouldn't have trusted him. Right, so I cancel and call you guys back, right? Yup. Good. Thank you.
This being the start of a weekend, my wife asked me to hold off canceling the DSL until Monday. So, on Monday, hop on DSLExtreme's website, go through the cancel process, and call AT&T to let them know and figure out what's next. I get a fairly nice, though hard to understand lady who informs me that there is no order on my account. Erm, no order, what about the one I placed last week. Oh, that was canceled. Canceled, really, ok so what do I need to do to get it going again. Well sir, you need to submit a new order. If you'll hold on I'll get you over to sales...
Now, I view myself as a patient man. I may swear up a storm internally, and I may then post that storm here in my journal. But, when dealing with people on the phone or face to face, I stay calm and professional, I usually just get quieter. You gain nothing by pissing off the one person in the world who has the power to help you. Of course, I don't deal well with stupid, and this whole process really seemed to be a case of stupid. Had my wife not been there to convince me to go through with it, I would have just canceled the whole thing and told the sales rep that if this is how they treat a potential customer, I don't want to know how they are going to treat me once they have my money. But again, the holder of the boobies has the power; so, I ground my teeth and waited for the sales rep to come on.
The sales rep turned out to be a higher level rep, I missed the exact title, but she actually made enough money to be able to make decisions. After explaining what had occurred to her, in detail, with names (yes, I keep notes when I do this type of thing); she became very apologetic and threw in a few freebies to thank me for putting up with what had happened; so, that at least was something. She also explained to me that yes, she really couldn't put the order though until my current DSL service was gone. That's fine, I'd put in the cancel order, it's now just a waiting game until DSLExtreme unhooks my curcuit. The rep even went so far as to promise to keep checking on it herself and put the order though as requested as soon as the line cleared, and that she would then contact me to schedule the install.
So, that's where it is now. My current DSL service is still working; but, that should go away soon, I hope. And we'll see if the rep follows though and really does initiate the order by herself (though if I notice that the current DSL service is gone, I may just call in anyway).
Sigh, all of this just to hopefully get a DVR in the bedroom which understands the difference between a new episode and a rerun.