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Submission + - Comcast, Monoplies and FCC mandated Cablecards

sshhhhhh writes: The following email is from a friend in Baltimore to about 100 Comcast executives including Senior Director of National Customer Relations and Baltimore Head as well as business bureaus, consumer groups, and the FCC. After missing work multiple times to resolve this issue and getting NO traction he's not sure what else he can do. He put together the following which is a good read yet very frustrating.

Dear Comcast Customer Service:

I apologize in advance for the e-mail blast, but having contacted every level of customer service I can, from general customer service numbers to your Twitter address, I find myself without any other option.

I write to you as a very dissatisfied and frustrated new customer. A previous Verizon FIOS user, I moved to Baltimore, MD and signed up for your Comcast Triple Play service.

My requirements are (what I thought) simple — I have two televisions, one with an HD box, and one with an HD Tivo for which I use an FCC mandated CableCard. Prior to signing up to Comcast, I had flawless service with Verizon FIOS through the use of my TivoHD. My hope was to continue the same level of service with your company. However, my attempts to do so have resulted in what could *charitably* be described as an unmitigated disaster on every conceivable level.

To date, I have scheduled at least 7 appointments to have a CableCard installed in my Tivo HD. This morning, 9/2's, appointment resulted once again with no working CableCard AND now, no channels on my other television, which has a regular HD box.

I would like to take the time to give you the history of my disastrous experience with your company. While I have been told of nightmares from other customers and have always remained skeptical of such complaints as mere exaggeration, I now no longer question the veracity of these accounts. In addition, everyone who has shared their stories has agreed that this is one of the worst episodes of which they have ever heard.

In the beginning, I didn't think it was necessary to keep a written log of my experience with Comcast, so the following facts are conveyed to the best of my recollection. (I believe there was at least 1 other no-show appointment for which I cannot recall the exact details.)

July 2009:

1. First Appointment
: Scheduled for a Saturday in July — My appointment was somehow downgraded from an Upgrade to a Service Call. The tech that arrived had no idea how to install CableCards. Rescheduled for the next Saturday.

2. Second Appointment
: Next Saturday — Comcast confirmed the night before, no one showed up on Saturday. Did not receive a phone call from anyone canceling the appointment. I phoned the customer service number several times throughout the evening, and I was told that I was still scheduled and the tech was just running late. Ultimately, no one called, no one showed.

Discussion with Customer Service, Mid July: I was told that even though it was not my fault that no one bothered to show up for my scheduled appointment, I now could not get a tech until some time in August. However, if I did not wish to wait, I could pick up my CableCards at a local Comcast service center and install them myself. I explained to the customer service rep that I had experience with CableCards and that this struck me as highly unlikely, as the installation requires matching up of ID numbers on the dispatcher's end and mine. I was told that no, I could self-install.

August 2009:

I (luckily) had not attempted to drive to a Comcast Service center and decided to call customer service to see about a tech. I had been on vacation and was hoping that a tech would still be available for early August.

This Customer Service rep appeared to be the first person I spoke with at the company that had any clue about your company policies and the schedules of your techs, and about CableCards in general. I was told that I cannot pickup a CableCard at a service station, and that it was ridiculous that my previous customer service rep had even entertained the idea. In addition, I was told (for the first time) that CableCard installations could only be accomplished Monday to Friday from 9-5.

By way of brief background, I had just moved into a new condo and, to-date, had taken several days during the week off of work. I could have easily scheduled this appointment several times over had your Customer Service reps just been properly informed of your company policy regarding CableCard installation. Because the availability of CableCards is MANDATED by the FCC, I thought your company would at least ensure a consistent and informed message came from each of your customer service representatives and techs.

In any event, I explained to the rep that I was extremely aggravated at having to take a day off work. I'm an attorney who gets paid hourly based on how I bill my client, and I was going to lose (and now to date, have lost) a lot of money simply because no one bothered to explain the CableCard tech schedules. Nonetheless, I scheduled the appointment for the following Friday and took the day off of work.

In the meantime, I phoned your company and asked to cancel phone service that I had signed up for. We had yet to hook up a phone and were comfortable keeping all calls on our mobile phones. I was told by the rep that because I had another pending service call (the CableCards) I could not make any changes to the account until that was done.

3. First August Appointment
- Friday: I received confirmation of the appointment the night before. No one showed up during the designated window, so I called customer service just to confirm they were still coming. I was told absolutely, they were likely just held up. I received a call several hours later from a number I didn't recognize while I was in a meeting with my building manager. I excused myself to take the call, but whoever phoned had hung up. I immediately called the number back and was greeted with "Yeah?" I asked, "Is this Comcast?" "Yes." I explained that I had received a call and just called back and wanted to confirm with whoever it was I was speaking with that someone was still coming out to install my CableCards. "Yeah, we'll be there."

Over the next several hours, I called customer service 2-3 times to find out why no one had showed and just to confirm I was still on the list. I was finally told that the account read that the tech had come, but no one was home. I explained that that was 100% false, that I had been at home all day and had taken the day off of work. In addition, I live in a secure building, and anyone who enters would have to check in with the front desk and/or doorman. There was no record of Comcast coming to our unit. Further, I confirmed the appointment with several reps throughout the day, who told me I was on the schedule. The person I was on the phone with said they would send a message to the dispatcher to get the technician back out.

Still no one showed, and by 7 PM and during ANOTHER phone call to your company, the rep said they couldn't get a hold of the tech. I said, "That probably means they just decided to go home." The rep agreed. I demanded to speak with a supervisor.

The supervisor I finally spoke with, named Jerry, was very helpful and very apologetic. I went through the sordid history, and I explained to him that, once again, another tech had just never bothered to show up or call, that I was paying for a phone service that I didn't want and couldn't cancel until the CableCard was installed, and that I was STILL without television on my main TV after more than a month of paying for your service. Jerry canceled the phone service and credited my account and said he would personally call the dispatcher to ensure a tech could come out. He said that the CableCard techs were very experienced and senior, and as a result, chose not to work weekends. I would — once again — be forced to take off work.

I find this approach to customer service extremely frustrating. Myself and 20 million other customers (who haven't left for FIOS yet) pay a high monthly premium that keeps all of your techs, reps and executives employed. In my opinion, frankly, you should be working around my schedule. I should not have to be continuously inconvenienced because the few people that understand a federally-mandated service only *want* to work during the week. There should be a knowledgeable technician for every service that you offer available during ALL business hours.

I later confirmed an appointment with Jerry for the next week.

4. Second August Appointment
: Tech arrived within the slotted window, installed a Multi-Stream CableCard. Local channels in standard and Hi-Def showed up on my TV, but nothing else. The tech, who was very helpful and pleasant to deal with, told me that this was normal and that it could take up to 24 hours for all of my channels to appear.

24 hours later, I had no new channels.

Jerry luckily followed up with me (and has diligently continued to do so after every appointment, but I have not yet heard from him today) and I explained the situation to him — I really couldn't take another day off work. Jerry said he understood and that he would send a tech out that understood CableCards, and that a dispatcher would be available who also understood CableCards on a Saturday to get the problem fixed.

5. Third August Appointment
: That tech showed up and spent approximately 2 hours trying to figure out what was wrong. He could not fix the problem and said that I needed an appointment during the time when someone who *really* knew how CableCards worked was available. He explained that no one in the company is really familiar with them and that's why I was having all of these problems.

Since he was basically telling me that it would have to be a weekday, we scheduled the appointment for Yesterday, 9/1, and my girlfriend, who I live with, stayed home from work. Jerry called me to follow up and I explained the situation to him. He apologized again and credited my account once more for the inconvenience.

September 2009:

6. First September Appointment, 9/1:
Two extremely helpful techs came. The main tech, Darnell, was working from the moment he walked in to the moment he left, trying every possible fix he could think of. The appointment lasted for approximately 3 hours. Ultimately, however, the technicians were unsuccessful and said I needed to schedule another appointment for techs to try different CableCards. Darnell called the dispatcher directly, explained what we needed, and scheduled us another appointment for this morning, 9/2, from 7-10, with instructions that we needed to be the first appointment of the day so that my girlfriend did not have to miss another day of work. Darnell left his cell phone number and told us to call him if we had any other problems. To date, he has been the most forthcoming and helpful technician we have dealt with.

7. Second September Appointment, 9/2:
A tech who did not even know what a CableCard was arrived approximately 7:15. He was unhelpful and rude. He was there for approximately 15 minutes, said he couldn't get his supervisor on the phone to assist, and that the "only person who knows about CableCards isn't working today." He left, and after he left, we realized that now, nothing on the OTHER television is working either — my Cable box is telling me that I am not subscribed to any channels.

The above summarizes my experience with Comcast to date. I believe that your company is the most incompetent, disorganized and unreasonably difficult organization with which I have ever dealt. I am now in my 4th month of service, and I still can't watch my main television. Now, in addition, I only have local channels on my bedroom television. To frustrate matters worse, your company has a veritable monopoly over the local market, without a competitor such as FIOS to offer comparable service.

In my opinion, you need to spend less money advertising about your superiority to Verizon FIOS and more money ensuring that you live up to these assertions. To date, I have been disappointed and dissatisfied on nearly every level.

These incidents are not the failure of one individual that works at your company. Rather, I view them as a failure of your company as a whole and its inability to live up to the standard of customer service and technical support that you promise.

I would appreciate, at the very least, the courtesy of a phone call from SOMEONE who is able to get all of my problems fixed. In addition, I would like a technician and dispatcher with knowledge of CableCards to be assigned to tackle this problem and put these issues to bed so that I can use the service to which I have been subscribed for 4 months.

I can be reached at ***-***-**** or at this e-mail address.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to resolving these ongoing issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Very unhappily,

CC: Angie Barnett, President, Maryland Better Business Bureau
Julius Genachowski: Chairman, FCC
Meredith Baker: Commissioner, FCC
The Consumerist

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