Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dear Comcast, Why Are You So Stupid?

Recent dealings with Comcast have convinced me that their reprehensible customer service is no accident. I know one should normally assume incompetence before malice, but now I'm convinced that behind their utter ineptitude lies deliberate hostility toward their customers. They hope that if they tread you badly enough, you'll give up and take up no more of their precious time.

Back in October, I was moving out of my condo into the house my partner and I had purchased. Since I was continuing to rent out the condo to my now-former roommates, and since hitherto I'd been supplying the Internet access, it was necessary to perform some set of steps to get the Comcast service out of my name and into one of theirs.

The first problem is that Comcast is too stupid to do this. They can't start new service at an address until the old service is ordered disconnected (a problem we actually ran into at the new house too, because the former owner hadn't put in a disconnect order by the day the deal closed). They can start new service after the old service is disconnected, but it takes a week to get a technician to visit, even if the equipment is going to be the same and no setup is required. This means no Internet for a week, and it's impossible to coordinate the stopping and starting of service, because the existing service actually has to be switched off before the new service can even be ordered. Dumb, huh?

It turns out there is a workaround. One can physically go to a Comcast office with the soon-to-be-former account holder and the new account holder and have them migrate the account locally. This is what my roommate and I opted to do, to ensure no service disruption.

The problem with this strategy, again, is that Comcast is too stupid to do this right. (In fact, Comcast was even too stupid to figure out which was my roommate's first name and which was his last name: in the course of this nightmare I discovered that they got them backwards on the account. They also randomly removed the extra IPs and greater bandwidth from the account after it was transferred, for no apparent reason. It's like someone received the service order and then just did random things for a while, rather than taking the time to understand what was requested and then to do it.) If there is an opportunity to fail, Comcast will boldly seize the opportunity.

I noticed on my credit card statement today that there was a charge from Comcast for service. This stood out as an anomaly, because the service here is in my partner's name, and we pay for it from our joint account. I made the questionable decision to chat up someone on the Comcast web site to ask for help.

The chat app is kind of a neat idea. It gives the impression that the chat operator can help with billing questions by putting "Billing" in the drop-down for the reason why you need to chat. In actuality, however, the chat operator can only help you with severe constipation, because the conversation you're to have will cause severe bleeding diarrhea.

Then I decided to call. I hate calling Comcast, because every time I call Comcast, something stupid happens. Today was to be no exception. I called and explained to the idiot that they were still charging me even though I had transferred the account to someone else. I wanted them to refund me the incorrect charge and correct the billing information. Seems like a reasonable request, right?

Reasonable, yet utterly impossible. When we tried to get the account transferred from me to him, Comcast managed to migrate the account owner information, but not the billing information. Moreover, they declared that they were completely powerless to do anything about this without the new account holder's name and social security number.

I even got their customer service idiots to acknowledge that they were in fact charging me for someone else's service, but they not only refused to do anything about it, they also didn't feel as though they bore any responsibility. Mind you, this was their screw-up in the first place.

I finally ended up getting the required information from my roommate and spoke to yet another idiot who suggested I cancel automatic payment and get him to pay me back for the service. It was roughly at this point that I completely lost it. Not acceptable, I explained, as this was not my problem to waste my time resolving. This was Comcast's screw-up, and it is for them to fix. The idiot claimed to have submitted a form to have the incorrect charges refunded and also claimed to have removed my name from the account. The latter claim turned out to be false (I checked), so I have my doubts as to whether the former claim was true.

In the end I had to make roughly 9 phone calls over the span of several hours. I had at least 3 customer service idiots either pick up and hang up or pick up and ask how they could help and then hang up. The remainder of the calls were my trying to figure out what was really happening and trying to convince one of their idiots that what they were doing was wrong.

My next step will be to dispute the credit card charges if they are not reversed by Monday.

The degree of stupidity is absolutely overwhelming. It's not that they're just incompetent. They're incompetent with malice. They are trying not to help and to make life as difficult as possible. I hope they get coal in their stockings.

UPDATE, week of 1/4: I contacted Comcast's head of Customer Service via their form and actually got someone to call me back the next day. Unfortunately I was driving so I couldn't completely resolve the situation then and there on the phone. The rep who called me suggested that I dispute the charges through my credit card company (I guess it would have been waaaay too much to expect Comcast to issue a refund for their own screw-up), and promised to call me back after 2 PM the same day. As you might imagine, I have received no return call.

I did dispute the charges with my credit card company. I hope it gives them even a tiny fraction of the frustration that they've given me.

The fact that even their "executive customer service" people won't return phone calls as promised tells me that their problem is systemic from the top down. Comcast does not care one iota about customer service, and never will. Why should they? They have a monopoly in municipalities where they provide service, so why should they care whether you're happy?

The moral of the story is that when a service monopoly screws up its billing, don't even bother trying to correct it with them. Instead, dispute the charges with your credit card company as a FIRST step. Don't waste your time on a company that won't waste its time on you.

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