Friday, July 25, 2008

Hey, Comcast…

Apparently Comcast is doing more than just delivering cable TV and internet service.

Brandon Dilbeck, 20, a student at the University of Washington, was complaining recently on his blog, Brandon Notices, about Comcast’s practice of posting ads in its on-screen programming guide.

He assumed he was writing for his own benefit. “It feels like nobody ever really reads my blog,” he said. “Nobody has left a comment in months.”

Shortly afterward, he received an e-mail message from Comcast, thanking him for the feedback and adding that it was working on a new interactive guide that might “illuminate the issues that you are currently experiencing.”

Mr. Dilbeck found it all a bit creepy. “The rest of his e-mail may as well have read, ‘Big Brother is watching you,’ ” he said.

But Frank Eliason, digital care manager at Comcast, says he was just trying to help.

Well, then, if that’s the case, let’s see if that’s true.

I have a complaint about Comcast. Last month when I moved into my new house, Comcast came out and installed the new cable box; the old one that they told me to take from my old place wouldn’t work. The installer showed up on time on moving day and was very polite, and he got the TV’s all hooked up. I was in the middle of telling the movers where to put stuff, so when I signed off on the installation paperwork I didn’t have time to sit down and actually turn on the TV in the living room, the one with the fancy remote and cable box that gives me access to HBO. Later that evening I did, and when I hit the “On” button, the cable box came on, but the TV only came on for a moment, then shut off. I tried again; same thing. I checked to see if the remote had been programmed correctly; it had. After two phone calls to the Comcast customer service line and endless attempts at getting it to work, I found the only way to get the TV and cable box to work together was to turn the TV on and off by the power button on the front of it and leave the cable box on all the time. So I called Comcast customer service yet again, and they made an appointment for a service technician to come out and see what the problem was.

The service technician arrived within the appointed time (between 8 and 10 on a Saturday) and it was the same friendly guy who had originally set up the box on moving day. Within a few minutes he discovered the problem: when he had plugged in the TV, he had plugged it into the AC outlet on the back of the cable box instead of the wall outlet. He apologized, I thanked him, and he went on his way.

But when I got my cable bill two weeks later, there was a $28 charge for the service call. What? It had been Comcast’s fault that the TV didn’t work, not mine. I called the Comcast customer service number and asked them why I should pay for a service call when it wasn’t my fault that there was a problem in the first place? The customer service rep was polite but indifferent, and he said the best he could do was note the dispute on my record, they would review it, and if they decided that the charge was unfair, it would show up as a credit on my next bill. Meanwhile, I needed to pay the full amount of the bill or my account would be flagged as in arrears. “Thank you for calling Comcast and have a good day.” Click.

Well, I haven’t gotten my next bill yet, so let’s see if they actually did give me credit for a charge for a service call that was their fault. And let’s see if Comcast is paying attention to what people are saying about them on the blogs. I’ll let you know if I hear from them. If I don’t, expect another rant if they don’t give me credit on my bill for their mistake.

Stay tuned.

Update: Within a half-hour of putting up this post, I got a comment:

You are correct that you should not have been charged for the service call. I do apologize. If for some reason the credit is not there, let us know.

Frank Eliason

Okay… I will. And enjoy the rest of my blog while you’re here…