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A/V Upgrade: What’s Wrong With Comcast

Posted on Nov 14, 2009 by billsimmon in Comcast sucks, Life of Bill, TV | 7 Comments

Okay. Here’s a sketch of what’s occurred in the last 36 hours. If you want to skip the nitty gritty, just jump down to the “conclusions” portion at the bottom.

A Comcast technician came to my house yesterday morning to install the a multi-stream CableCARD. He spent a good 30 minutes on the phone with someone in Advanced Technical Support trying to make the card work. When he finally left, we could see the card was getting some information from ATS but there were still no channels available to it beyond the basic analog ones I had before the CableCARD installation. ATS said the channels would come on “in a while” and even the tech was skeptical of that. He left saying that if the channels don’t come on soon, to call TiVo and make sure all the software and service updates are up to date and if they are, call Comcast back — that maybe it was a bad card.

About four hours later I returned to the house to change before I had to go to a work function. The channels still weren’t working so I called TiVo. A TiVo technical person walked me through doing a service update in case that was the problem. The service update didn’t fix the issue. At about 4:30PM The TiVo rep. dialed Comcast for me and he and I had a conference call with a Comcast technical support person who tried to send a refresh signal to the card. That didn’t work either, so the Comcast tech support person scheduled to have a service tech come to the house. He told me the tech would arrive “between right now and 7PM.” I had a function at work I had to go to, but Emily agreed to stay home and wait for the technician. I explained this to the Comcast person and gave him my cell number and asked that the technician phone me when he was on his way, in case I could break away and be home for the appointment.

At 7:30 Emily called my cell. Nobody ever showed. She’d stayed home alone for nothing. I called the Comcast 800 number and explained the situation to Victoria in South Burlington. She explained that an appointment had been scheduled to come to my house between 8 and 10 AM Saturday (today). Nobody ever called me to say the appointment had been changed — my wife and I weren’t even going to be home in those hours. Victoria credited my account the $27.50 she says I would have been charged for the appointment as well as an additional $20 and offered to make an appointment for me any time I was available. I asked her if Saturday evening was a possibility. She offered a service call between 4 and 7PM tonight. I agreed and thanked her for her help. Victoria even gave me her direct line in case anything went wrong.

At 7 sharp tonight an on-call Comcast tech knocked on the door. He was pleasant and thorough and though he admitted it had been a while since he’d done a CableCARD install/service call, he was able to get ATS on the line and fix the problem. He also replaced the Radio Shack RF ends on the RG-59 coax feeding the TiVo (sort of like greasing the contacts on your car battery — not the source of the problem, but good to do anyway). As of now, it appears as if things are functioning normally.


In the last week I’ve had offers of help from all sorts of different Comcast people — Kim from corporate, someone named Roger who called my cell a couple of times, comments on my blog and on Twitter — even a couple of automated calls to check in. The company makes a big show of trying to address customer concerns, but actually getting stuff done seems impossible. In the course of all of these headaches, I had three interactions with Comcast employees in Vermont and all three left me feeling like something was being done to help me. I probably had 7 contacts with Comcast folks from outside of Vermont, and consistently, despite their insistence that they wanted to help, they were mostly useless.

This speaks to what I think is the endemic problem at Comcast: it’s just too big. I have no doubt that every single person who offered or tried to help was genuine in their intent. The problem wasn’t that there were bad or incompetent people helping me, the problem was that the system within which they tried to help is designed in such a way that it can’t help but fuck shit up. I wrote one blog post and as a result I received 2 emails, one blog comment, one tweet and 4 cell calls from Comcast customer service people — all of them different and all of them coming to the conversation with different sets of information and different ways they were going to try and “help” me. I think it speaks volumes that the only useful people in the equation were the two service techs who came to my house and Victoria in the South Burlington office (and eventually the guy at ATS — the first time, not so much). If these had been the only people I’d dealt with, I’d be declaring my interaction with Comcast to be an A- success. As it is, it was a D+ at best.



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  2. “What you license?” is the only/best Lewis Black quote that sums up this ongoing nightmare. Also I paraphrase the rest of that routine- “You wanna know how to diagram that [comcast CSR situation]? You take a pen…AND YOU JAB IT IN YER EYE!!! ARRRR!

  3. On November 15, 2009, Eric said:

    We’ve had Comcast hooked up to a Series 3 Tivo via cablecard for over a year, works great. There was some confusion when one of the cablecards they brought out turned out to be a dud, but it didn’t last long.

  4. On November 16, 2009, billsimmon said:

    24 hours in now and so far so good!

  5. Glad to hear you got it sorted out, and relatively quickly! It still blows me away that they actually intended to charge you $27.50 for the second appointment, but at least it was pre-emptively credited.

    I agree with your analysis that Comcast’s ultimate issue is their huge, lumbering size and the apparent disjointedness of their operations into little unrelated pockets. I received evidence of this myself when corporate told me that I should only pay one HD service fee for both of my TiVo’s S-cards, but the local honchos assured me that this was impossible and that I’d have to pay a separate HD charge on each card just to get HD on both tuners.

    So I said, “You’re telling me that I’m paying two $6.95 HD fees because you don’t offer M-cards? And that if you did offer me an M-card, I’d pay half as much for the exact same service?” They answered in the affirmative. Ridiculous, but because the TiVo HD doesn’t deal with two different service levels on its tuners, I had to pay up.

    Anyway, enjoy that new A/V setup! I hope your future conversations with Comcast are few and far between.

  6. On November 16, 2009, billsimmon said:


    I read about your dealings with the double fees on your blog. Only one fee with the M-card, it seems. I agree, the reasoning is beyond understanding.

    As a follow-up, I often have a little trouble with TiVo CSRs b/c my father in law pays for our TiVo subscription as an annual xmas present, so the account is in his name. Today I called them up and had to add my email address to the account so I could access certain web features, like programming the TiVo remotely, etc. One phone call was all it took. I can only imagine the days of pain such a thing would cause at Comcast.

    Thanks for all your wisdom through this process.

  7. On November 17, 2009, Rob said:

    The only intelligent conversations that resulted in satisfaction I have had concerning Comcast were with service techs. Their office is useless.

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