Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Lost Weekend

It was supposed to be so simple.

I got a TiVo for my birthday so I could join the 21st Century video generation. However, in order to make it work with the premium services, I needed to get a cable card from Comcast that would replace the external converter box. I called Comcast and they said, sure, no problem, we’ll send a technician out to install and configure the card and take away the old box. The appointment was set for last Saturday morning between 8 to 11. In anticipation of their arrival, I set up the TiVo, and after a couple of false starts, I got it all set up, even to the point of downloading all of TiVo’s software updates and programming the remote control. (By the way, TiVo makes it very easy for the non-technically programmed of us to get it up and running.) It was in place by 8:30 and ready. Now all I needed was the technician to show up.

Now I know that scheduling a service call for a three-hour window gives the technician the flexibility to show up at 10:59 and still be on time. But at 10:45 I got a call from the dispatcher saying they were running an hour late but would call when they were on the way. Fine; I didn’t have anything planned for Saturday other than the monthly classic car cruise night at a local burger joint, and that wasn’t until 5:30 or 6 that night.

11:45 came and went. So did 12:45, and 1:45. Finally a knock on the door! Yea! Except it wasn’t the cable guy; just a local candidate for state representative soliciting my vote. And he was a Republican. I called Comcast, drilled into their customer service menu — “Oh,” said the automated voice with as much concern as a robot voice can muster, “it looks like our technician didn’t complete your appointment. Let me get you to the right customer service agent.” Click. “All of our customer service agents are assisting other customers. Your anticipated wait time is approximately seven minutes.” Click, followed by Muzak and several pitches for Comcast’s version of TiVo, Xfinity. Ten minutes later (I have a timer on the phone), a human, who, after examining the record, says that Yes, the technician was late and they would have Dispatch call with an update. No one called. I made some lunch and watched the “One Nation Working Together” rally since that was about all that was on TV.

Finally at 3:00, the doorbell rang. Hurrah! It was the cable guy, but he didn’t even get in the door before he told me that he had been given the wrong instructions — to install a DVR box — and that he didn’t have the cable card. After several attempts to contact his dispatcher, I was told that another technician was on the way with the card and to expect a call very soon.

4:00 p.m. came and went. At 4:30 or so I called Comcast customer service again, waited on hold, and was told yet again that Dispatch would call within thirty minutes to notify me. An hour later I called again, got all the way through to someone only to have them drop the call. On the second attempt I got through and got to the same customer service agent who had handled my first call earlier in the day. He was genuinely shocked; “You mean they still haven’t shown up?” He was very sympathetic and promised to get Dispatch to call. That was fine, but what I really wanted to know was whether or not someone was actually going to show up at my house. He couldn’t promise that, so I said, Okay, fine, let’s schedule the appointment for first thing Sunday morning. He did, and I went out to the cruise night. And wouldn’t you know that while I’m there, my cell phone rings to tell me that Dispatch would be calling to confirm my appointment for first thing Sunday morning. Needless to say, no one called.

Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful, and at the crack of 9:45, a very nice technician named Mike arrived, cable card in hand. O frabjous day, callooh callay! It took him over an hour, two attempts, and two cards to get it to configure correctly, but by 11:30, it was finally done. All channels, including HBO, were working.

I have to say that it would have been really easy to take out my frustration on the people answering the phones at Comcast customer service, but I never do that. I’ve worked on the other end of the line myself — to some extent that’s part of my job now — and I know that they have no control over Dispatch or screw-ups; they just take the heat and try to make things right. So do the techs. Comcast made good on their promise to credit my account for $20 for the missed appointment. I also realize that, to paraphrase Rick Blaine, the problems of one guy not getting all his channels on his TiVo don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

And I sometimes wonder about how sometimes we let our priorities get out of whack that we let something like this get us really worked up. After all, I’ve had other lost weekends, including the one eighteen years ago — also the first weekend in October — when my partner hit rock bottom with his drinking and the only thing that saved his life was checking into rehab. It also marked the last time I had an alcoholic drink.

So while I’m glad I have my new TiVo and can now enjoy some of the things I’ve been missing, I’m equally glad to still be here to do it.