TV Crush

Comcast: The Fleecing of a Subscriber

6/16/2007 4:52 PM

Yesterday, my long-time cable provider, Comcast, told me to go to hell.  Sure, they were nice about it, sort of.  I was reasonable, too.  I didn’t raise my voice and didn’t use expletives, in spite of their coercive tactics.   

Customer retention?  Apparently, not a Comcast priority. 

I’ve put up with a lot from Comcast.  I’ve praised them when they weren’t altogether deserving of the kudos.  But no more Ms. Nice Blogger.  Read on for how they’re trying to fleece me by holding my HD channels hostage.  It’s time to throw the book at Comcast.

I’m currently shelling out over $2,000/year to Comcast:

$102.99 for the DIGITAL GOLD Package which includes: standard cable (limited basic and expanded basic), digital special interest channels, music choice, Starz, Starz Plex, Encore, Encore Plex, HBO, HBO Plex, Showtime, Showtime Plex, and Digital Converter and Remote where applicable;
$11.95 for DVR with HDTV;
$45.95 for high speed Internet.

Last January, Comcast raised my rates by $10 (around 11%) for the Digital Gold package and another $2 (or 20%) for the DVR/HDTV service.  I didn’t complain.

Now, my grand monthly total is: $168.46 (incl. tax) or $2,021.52 per year.

A few weeks ago, I noted here on my blog Comcast’s Motorola DVR problems and the failure to deliver the full complement of HD Channels.  Universal HD was live, then mysteriously shifted to "not authorized."

I first added HD in December 2005 and I’ve carried the digital gold package for years.  Currently, several HD channels are "not authorized" on my system but ought to be, since the networks and/or shows are part of my regular cable line-up.  This includes: Universal HD, National Geographic HD, and A&E HD and possibly others.

Like most people, I can’t spare the time to deal with this level of minutiae, especially since any call to Comcast involves navigating their Byzantine vm-hell (voicemail hell) and waiting on hold for a customer service rep.  But I finally decided to bite the bullet and track down my missing HD channels.

A few weeks ago, Comcast stated I should be receiving the channels and something must be amiss with my wiring.  But Comcast never deployed a technician to the house to inspect.

Yesterday (Friday) morning I made one last, valiant attempt to get to the bottom of my HD problem.  Instead, Comcast delivered a double whammy: here’s how they wasted one hour and twenty minutes of my time while simultaneously trying to bilk me.

Friday, 9:18 a.m. Immediately, the vm system hits me with the following promo: "Live on pay-pe-view!  For $39.95.  UFC72 Victory! To hear more details press 5."  It takes close to two minutes to slog through the system, and drill down to the appropriate department.

I’m finally there, on hold, after listening to a recorded lecture about how the Comcast website can solve my oh-so-many problems.  The music selection? Banal classical favorites, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  Kill me now.  I swear they make you sit and listen to this stuff in hopes the music will calm the savage consumer beast.  The choices are so blandly corporate that the selections only to serve to heighten the sense that you’ve entered a netherworld right out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

NCSR (Nice customer service rep) picks up pretty quickly - maybe two to three minutes. (Well, they’re all trained to be nice and lend a sympathetic ear while stubbornly doing nothing to solve the problem, something TV Remote’s Steve Safran has also observed.

Okay - now I’m five minutes into the call.  Much discussion ensues.  First, NCSR tells me that Universal HD is a "special event" channel.

No, it’s not, I say. It’s NBC Universal.  They air Monk, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate Atlantis.  I offer to load the Universal HD website and read him the schedule.

Oh, okay. He gets it.  So, he sends a signal to my box.   We tried this a few weeks ago, I remind him. Still, nothing.

Finally, NCSR reveals the real problem.  My cable package (already a bloated $102.99 per month) is grandfathered-in from AT&T.  Oh, boy.  They just love to trot out this excuse.  Comcast tries to maneuver me out of this package at every opportunity.

"Don’t start with the AT&T excuse  It’s a hot button for me," I explain.  I ask to speak to a supervisor. 

9: 40 a.m.: Priscilla the Supervisor picks up.  Oh, dear.  My brain immediately supplies the word "Cruella" from One-Hundred and One Dalmatians.

"Cruella" tells me: in order to receive the missing HD channels, along with all the other cable channels in my existing line-up (which is just about everything), I will have to upgrade to a costlier package.

"Okay, how much is that?" I ask.

$50, I’m told.

A year?

No…a month.  A month!!

This is classic bait and switch, I tell "Cruella."   End call, finally, at 9:56 a.m.

A glutton for punishment - and thinking that "Cruella" was surely mistaken - I decide to give Comcast one last chance to make good.  I call them again this afternoon (Saturday.)  Another relentlessly nice customer service rep. answers. "Oh," he sneers, "you must have talked to our Morgan Hill [California] office.  I’m not supposed to say anything but…"

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