Ever wonder just how bad Comcast is? Well, I got the chance to experience Comcast up close and personal the other day and let me tell you it was not fun and it was not pretty. I was taking back a DVR for a friend. So I enter the office and am immediately awestruck at how many people are sitting and standing around waiting for Comcast to help them. I quickly count 37 unhappy people. Next I notice that there are now serving number signs all over the place. I locate the take a ticket box which has three large buttons on it. There is a fourth button but it is covered up for some reason with paper and scotch tape. They are labeled Internet, Cable TV, and Telephone. I push the Cable TV button and am rewarded by a letter and number combination printed in lovely thermal ink. You know the stuff, you touch it and you get ink all over your fingers. One of the best technologies ever, oh wait, no it isn’t, it sucks.
So there are all these people waiting around now numbering about 40 people. There are seven CSR stations only two of which have people actually doing any work. There are these sort of hatches that go to a back room where one or more nerds are working away on the hardware. I notice that some of the people waiting are older and some have handicaps. Most of the younger people like myself give up their seats so the older people are able to site down while waiting. I notice there is a sofa an flat screen TV on the other side of the room. So I start to wander over to it. The TV is off. This being a Comcast office I figure all of us suffering can at least watch a bit TV to escape the boredom. I turn on the TV, nothing. I turn on the DVR, nothing. At this point everyone is watching me, there really is nothing else to do, so I’m fully committed to getting this thing working. I find that they are using component cables to give the TV a 1080i signal. Never mind the fact that both the TV and DVR have a DVI port and an HDMI port. Go figure? Only one of the three component cables is plugged in and it is not in the right spot. I plug in all the cables in the right order and I get a screen that shows the hideous Comcast GUI with an error message.
Now I see why the TV is off. The DVR is non-responsive to any input. Both the front panel and remote are useless. I unplug the DVR. Plug it back in. It starts to reboot. I wait a few minutes. I get a GUI but no A/V signal. I try a few channels, still nothing. Then I notice the Coax in is in the out. I swap them, oh now I get a picture. I start to see smiles on people faces. We can cheer up this miserable place.
I ask the watching crowd around, “Sports or News?” News is the answer I get back. So I think CNN should be fine. I ask what channel, some says “41” Okay then 41. The channel tunes in and then we get an error message, “Not Authorized.” Oh joy they have not activated their DVR. Fox News, 49 it comes right in. Strange. But this isn’t HD. I go to Fox News in HD at 690. I get the unauthorized error message again. So I look for CNN, I find it a few channels away. It comes right in. I ask everyone, “does this happen much?”
“All the time.” people tell me. Wow, I can’t believe how bad this stuff is. After talking with a few people they tell me sometimes they have to either restart their DVRs or call Comcast and have them be told to restart their DVRs in order to get rid of the error message. This company and these products are nuts. How do people put up with this crap?
Meanwhile, the line of people continues to grow and not much is getting accomplished. At least we have some CNN to watch. At this point I’m feeling awfully rebellious, subversive if you will, even destructive. I start asking people if they have had a better experience dealing with the DMV? People start getting riled up.
“And we’re their customers! We pay them for this crappy service.” A number of side conversations break out with lots of grumbling. I suggest to the nearby folks to mention that we need to make sure these Comcast employees know how we feel, will otherwise nothing will change. Oh I’m the devil indeed. A older lady is called up, she has a cane. I go over and grab her arm to help her to the counter when her number is called. I remind her to tell the Comcast employee how bad the service is that she is paying for. She begins an awesome tirade about being treated so badly, the government doesn’t treat her this bad. She is old and sick. It was awesome. People are really starting to get ticked off now. I suppress a smile.
At this point our derision is so high no one bothers to whisper any more, and we talk openly about the employees right in front of them. Another younger man goes to the counter and I can hear him ask why does it take 25 minutes to help him. He has better things to do with his time.
Then, two more employees walk in the front area to take up some of the empty CSR positions. I start clapping. People look at like I’m crazy. Several other people join in the clapping. The employees look up like, WTF? Those looks are crusty. It was hilarious. Even better, a lady who drives a taxi and looks like she doesn’t take crap from anyone shouts out, “It’s about time!” I try to hold back my grin but it is hard now.
The whole time I’ve been watching the test bench area behind the CSRs, the back of house as it were. There are little windows where a guy will shove out DVRs and tuners based on the requests of the CSRs in the front of house. All he is doing is running diagnostics, upgrading firmware and then turning the DVR right around for someone else to use. This is one of the major problems with Comcast You just get whatever they decide to hand you. I can only imagine how many of these people are here because the Comcast tech support person on the phone was clueless and unable or unwilling to help them. They probably gave up and told them, “you need a new cable modem sir.” One lady complained that the DVR they gave her was ugly and all scratched up. Too bad. They wouldn’t give her a new one. If after watching this “back of house” area you really think that Comcast is interested in nothing more than the bottom line and in some ways cares about you, the paying customer, I have some oceanfront property in Idaho I would like to sell you really cheap.
Visiting Comcast was like going to the DMV and having a dentist drill on your teeth while you wait. It was horrible. I feel bad for the older people especially the ones with handicaps. Comcast has a monopoly around here and it needs to end. Both the local and federal governments are to blame for this mess. Without competition the consumers get screwed over by Comcast who are focused solely on the bottom line. There should be several providers each offering you competitive rates for service. That simply doesn’t exist here. Making people come into the Comcast office to repair their broken service is truly disheartening. Is all this mess a function of Comcast being evil and heartless, or the result of a giant mismanaged organization with a bureaucracy out of control?