I had been subscribing to Comcast's Digital Starter Package + Comcast's slowest and cheapest internet package and had been paying $92+fees+taxes every month. Once Verizon FIOS came to my apartment complex and after the following strongly worded email (reproduced in its entirety for your reading pleasure), that came down to $65+fees+taxes per month.
Vice President, Public Relations,
Eastern Mass, New Hampshire and Maine.
Senior Vice President of Customer Operations.
Journalist and NY-Times best selling author,
Author of "Gotcha Capitalism"
(Bob, I was in the middle of reading your book yesterday)
Before I go into the details of why I'm sending out this email, please allow me get a few of the logistical things out of the way:
Comcast Account number: ***
Home/Service/Billing address: ***
I have been a Comcast cable customer since Mar-2006 and a Comcast internet subscriber since Jan-2010. Apart from the perpetually lingering feeling of overpaying for the services that I subscribe to, I have not had any occasion to be seriously unhappy with the service. To be fair, the latter part could easily be attributed to the low expectations that I had to begin with.
It was against this backdrop that a few weeks back, I received the joyful news of my apartment complex getting wired up for Verizon FIOS. Even though Verizon took almost 8 months (from start to finish) to achieve that feat, it was truly a moment of great thanksgiving and rejoicing. Comcast finally had competition! Almost immediately, I started getting phone calls from Verizon touting the virtues of FIOS and why I should switch. Each time, I nonchalantly brushed off their overtures mainly due to my complete aversion to sales pitches. I believe that I'm intelligent enough to make a decision for myself without being prodded by sales people who have only their interest in mind.
This weekend I finally decided to find out for myself whether switching to FIOS was actually worth it and how much money I would save (or spend) in the process. I went to the FIOS availability webpage and entered my home address (mentioned at the beginning of this email). I had done that a few times last year and each time was disappointed to learn that the only option available was Verizon's "cutting-edge" DSL service. So this time, when the word "FIOS" flashed on the results screen, my joy knew no bounds. The cheapest option presented to me was this:
Verizon FIOS TV Prime HD (with 40+ HD channels)
Verizon FIOS Internet up to 15Mbps(Download)/5Mbps(Upload)
with a two-year agreement plan,
Months 1-6 : $80.98 (excluding fees, taxes, etc)
Months 7-24: $90.98 (excluding fees, taxes, etc)
Monthly charge WITHOUT any lock-in contract : $100.98
It would only be fair to mention what I'm currently paying Comcast each month and what I'm getting (or rather, not getting) for my money's worth:
(Also see my most recent bill from Comcast attached to this email)
Comcast Digital Starter Package (Xfinity TV)
Comcast Economy Internet (Xfinity internet) 1Mbps(Download)/350Kbps(Upload) -> The internet speeds are NOT typos.
Monthly charge (WITHOUT any contract): $92.05 (excluding fees, taxes, franchise-related cost, etc)
I decided that I really had to call Comcast and confront them with this new reality. Not doing so would only question my sanity, intelligence and financial prudence. My first step was the "online-chat" feature with Comcast's customer service department. The reason why I prefer this to calling them is that I actually have a complete transcript of the conversation (attached to this email). I do believe that the customer service representative tried his best but was most likely not authorized to make changes to my cable+internet service. He gave me a 1-800 number and asked me call their "Customer Loyalty Department".
My next step obviously was to call that 1-800 number I was asked to call. After talking to the first customer service rep and mentioning the newly available FIOS service, I was forwarded to another one. The second person identified himself as Nelson and on my asking provided his customer service ID: APS. I asked him specifically if 'APS' was his customer service ID and whether there were numbers following that. He confirmed that those three letter were indeed his ID (I somehow find that a bit hard to believe). Nelson initially was under the impression that I wanted to cancel my service. I soon disabused him of that notion and read out the actually monthly charges from Verizon's webpage for their FIOS service at my home address. I told him very clearly that I would stick with Comcast if they lowered my monthly charges OR upgraded me to a faster internet speed with no increase in my monthly charges. His response to either of my requests were a quick "NO". He also added that I could, for additional monthly charges, get upgraded to a faster internet speed.
There was a pregnant pause on the line when I asked him "Isn't it cheaper for me to just switch to FIOS?".
His reply was "But our service is better"! I asked him in what way was it better. He again repeated that sentence, this time adding that they have been doing it for 50 years (I'm not sure if I heard 50 or 15). I sat there in stunned disbelief wondering whether such a hollow, meaningless and trite remark is the best Comcast can come up with in response to competition. Or does that reply just smack of hubris that such large corporations are used to?
My sole intention in spending more than an hour putting together this email is to enlighten the upper-level executives with the stark realties of competition on the ground. If their only response to good-natured competition is uttering platitudes and cliches (or renaming everything to Xfinity), it does not really bode well for the company and reflects very poorly on the executives running the company.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.