Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Got Mugged by Comcast!

This is a long list of all the rotten things Comcast is currently doing to me (and apparently, the whole of Prince William County) to make sure they collect their fees in full while not bothering to provide the service that I'm paying for, so if that's going to bore you, just skip this post.

Comcast sent me a bill over the internet in January for $58.02. When I actually went to pay that bill, it had miraculously changed to about $165!

On the 4th of February, I paid my Comcast bill over the internet. For the amount for this month. Part of the reason this was so high was because they included next month's bill in with it! The other part was because they changed their minds, after making up the bill about how much they thought I owed.

So, once I paid the bill, they didn't submit it to my bank or collect the money, and now they're mad at ME because of this! And I can guarantee that there will be a late fee, and if I hadn't discovered the problem, my service would probably be interrupted (meaning even less service for the same money) and then there would be a reconnection fee. My personal view is that they aren't collecting money so that they can get the late fees and reconnection fees. In other words, they've found a new way to get more money without doing anything.

I HATE Comcast!

I could go into a long thing about that's how much they billed, and so that's how much I owed, but I won't do that. They know they have the upper hand, because if you only pay what they originally billed you for, they'll charge you late fees foreverafter (if you're a Comcast customer, watch for "one time fee" which is actually a late fee!), AND they reserve the right to just turn off your service if you make them angry.

So, anyway, I got up earlier than usual, walked to the bus stop, waited for the bus in the cold, spent a half hour on the bus (plus a stop on the way for an errand, which had nothing to do with this), to get to a place where I could wait for a half hour in the cold for a bus that would, after a half hour ride, take me to Comcast. Later, I did the same thing in reverse. The total round trip time to do this was six hours (plus 3 hours actually at Comcast)! I walked home in the dark last night. If I'd had a job, that would have required me to take a day off of work. Because I don't have a job doesn't mean that I don't have other things to do, either!

The combination of all the walking, standing in the cold, and changes of temperature on the bus has left me feeling like someone beat me up yesterday. And, with all the snow we've had, it's piled up on the sidewalks and next to the road to a height that's taller than me in most places. I had to walk in the street on some busy streets (mainly right in front of the Dale City Comcast office on Dale Blvd.), which is a very dangerous thing to do, just so I could pay my bill and complain! Today, my head and back hurt, all my bones, joints and muscles hurt, and I am in serious pain because of all the cold, standing and walking!

First of all, I had to wait more than a half hour to see someone, because I insisted on speaking to a supervisor, or, in this case, an assistant supervisor. Which is not their fault, except in the sense that their bad business practices mean that they had two people there to do normal business, and one whole person (full time) to do nothing but deal with the many complaints and problems of the their cusotmers! And she was really backed up with the problems!

The woman I spoke to at Comcast was a supervisor. She was perfectly polite while giving me all the standard excuses why they can't possibly deliver what they said I was going to get for the money, but I still have to pay full price. Although she did accept the forms I filled out to get a percentage of my internet service off because I'm over 60 years old, and have low income. And she did also find a special program where I can get $13 off of internet service. I don't know how long that's going to last.

To make sure you understand this: We originally agreed that they would deliver specific services for a specific price. Every month, I have paid my bill, and there has not been a single month in the three years and 2-1/2 months that I've had service with them that they've ever delivered in full what I'm paying for!

So, I paid my bill with a check and got a reciept so that they can't claim I didn't pay it this time! This is, by the way the third time I've paid my bill over the internet and they didn't collect it, causing problems for me!

When I complained about having to come to the office, I was told "You didn't have to come all the way down here just to pay your bill!" Yeah, that's what I thought on the 4th, when I paid this bill over the internet, and you can see how far that got me!

I enumerated my long list of ongoing problems with Comcast. I can't watch five consecutive minutes of TV without having at least ONE of the following problems happen: the picture breaks up, the picture freezes for a few seconds, and the sound goes of for a few seconds. The Closed Captioning frequently drifts in and out, too, about every day or so on a random channel. And sometimes it goes off on a specific channel for a week or two. It has been off for three months on one channel on one occasion.

She said "Well, if you don't have a Comcast decoder box, that happens sometimes." This was after I had complained about my DVR, which is such a piece of junk!

She said that she wanted to send someone to test the signal strength of my connection. That actually sounds like a good idea. I told her that she needs to send someone to test the signal strength of the whole building, because I've spoken to a representative sampling of the residents here, and they all seem to be having the same problems.

In fact, I've spoken to people all over the county that have Comcast, and they all seem to be having exactly the same problems! I's not just me! I told her that the whole area needs to be checked and fixed!

I told her that I'd had Cox Cable for four years and DirecTV for four years, and I hadn't had as many problems with those two in those eight years as I had with Comcast in the first two days! I paid my bill to them every month and got the service I'd paid for, and never had to go down to their offices to complain! I pay my T-Mobile bill every month and get what I paid for without having to complain! WHY do I have to keep coming to the office and calling and trying to get help over the internet to get what I paid for with Comcast?

She told me that lots of the problems I'd had in the first year (almost a month, total hours, of outages) were caused by Comcast changing over to fiber optics, and that they were outages of at most an hour, right? I explained that lots of those outages were 15 to 17 hours at a time. And that I was a customer of Cox Cable when they switched to fiber optics (ten years ago), and they had an outage of two minutes (they told me). I couldn't verify it because I didn't happen to be at home at the time. Once again, Comcast loses out drastically when compared to other utilities!

If I was able to get any other TV provider in the apartment building I live in, I would have been making arrangements for other service within the first two days, and they wouldn't have lasted two weeks!

I found out something interesting, too. I was given by Comcast a DVR that obviously wasn't quality when I got it, it malfunctioned a bit in the beginning, and after three years was such a total mess that I had to have it swapped out for a "new" one. The "new" one malfunctioned from the very beginning, and is now almost unuseable. The woman at Comcast explained that the "new" defective DVR probably wasn't new at all. She said that when someone has a DVR that doesn't work right, the swap it out for another one (charging a hefty fee for a visit from a technician) and wipe the drive and give it to someone else! So, the "new" DVR I got almost two months ago was probably one that someone else returned because it didn't work! So they just gave the problem to me rather than bother to fix it! I thought they at least refurbished returns and made sure they functioned before sticking a customer with them.

It's like that old comedy skit "We don't care. We don't have to! We're the phone company!" Only, this is Comcast instead of the phone company. They have a monopoly in Prince William County, so they don't care.

I'll be making another complaint to the FTC about Comcast today, and and by the end of the week, I'm going to do some investigation into seeing what has to be done to get Cox Cable in the county instead of Comcast.

Just so you'll know what I'm complaining about, in addition to the picture breaking up, freezing and the sound going off (and periodically, the closed captioning going off), let me tell you about my other problems:

Sometimes, when I go to play back something, I get a black screen and no sound. It won't play back until I turn the DVR off and restart it, or sometimes I have to unplug the box, wait a moment, plug it back in, and wait for it to restart. Sometimes several times.

I try to fast forward through a commercial on playback, and when the commercial is over, I hit play, and sometimes it just speeds up and fast forwards to the end no matter what buttons I push, and then I have to start the recording over and fast forward to the place I left off and try to get it to play from there instead of continuing fast forwarding to the end of the show. Yes, I tried putting fresh batteries in the remote!

When I play back a show, if frequently decides that I don't want to see the last 10 minutes of it and automatically stops the playback then. I have to push "play from beginning" so I can stop it and get a selection that says "skip to the end" and back it up to where it automatically stops. I can't go any earlier than that point because if I do, I have to start over again because it always stops at that spot! It's like the show recorded a "stop" message right in the recording at that spot! I can see most of the show, but have to fight to see the end!

Whenever I use the remote, I have to wait 2 seconds before I can push another button, because the DVR disregards everything for 2 seconds after you push a button. And when I do give it a command that it actually executes, I have to wait for it to process the information for 2 or 3 second before it does anything. In electronic terms, it's severely retarded! I won't do it, but I'm very tempted to drop it on something hard and totally break it when the repairman shows up to replace it so they can't give it to someone else. Or maybe take something sharp and scratch "LEMON" into the case for the same reason. I won't do it, but I want to do it!

On to the problems that are from Comcast itself, and are not the DVR.

Periodically, the Closed Captioning goes off on one of the channels, and it takes a week or two before someone at the office fixes it. In one epic case, it was off on ABC Family for three months from May to late in August the summer before last. I tried complaining to ABC Family so that they would know that although they were sending the signal out with the CC, Comcast wasn't broadcasting it. I must have made at least 25 phone calls about this ("It's the fault of the network, not us"), and finally, they classified "my" problem as "highest priority." Did you notice that classifying it highest priority doesn't actually do anything to FIX it? I also made two personal visits to two different offices (including two hours of walking for one of them), and had several chat sessions with Comcast on the internet.

You should understand that this was an NTSC transmission (NTSC has been the standard definition for TV in the US since there was TV in the US--High Def is an ATSC signal, and that handles the CC differently), which has the closed captioning embedded in line 21 of the picture, so if they're passing on the signal, they should have to pass on the CC! They actually have to go out of their way to tamper with the signal to get rid of the CC! I don't know. Could this be caused by low signal strength? For the entire county? ABC Family also had a low sound signal (I had to turn the TV way up to hear it at all), and the sound went off and on frequently.

I missed almost the whole run of Middleman because of this. Someone else on the internet was talking about a specific episode of The Middleman, and described the parts where the sound went off for extended periods (exactly as it did on my recording) and I remarked "Oh, you've got Comcast, too!" and I got back "How did you know?" This person wasn't local, so I suspect that this problem may not be just Prince William County, but ALL of Comcast!

I spoke to one lady at the Manassas office who was smart enough to check some of the TVs in the station. They all displayed CC on every channel except ABC Family, so it was a problem with what they were broadcasting, NOT my TV, but they sent out someone to my home TWICE to fix the problem in their offices. One of those visits wasn't scheduled, and they didn't even tell me they were coming. I had to explain to the technician that the reason he was there was because the people who sent him were idiots! So, anyway, this problem was at least county-wide, not something I had done! The Middleman incident suggests it may be Comcast wide!

Yes, I have had it explained over and over again that they are required by law to do a weekly test of the emergency broadcasting system. I really do understand that! But doing three tests between 1 pm and 2:10 pm (that's just over an hour) seems to me to be saying that they don't want me as a customer! Doing three tests on three consecutive days during prime time really confirms that idea! This is not a malfunction! This is Comcast saying "We hate our customers, and we want to make sure they know it!"

I have to say that they haven't done this to this extent recently, but broadcasting 35 consecutive minutes of local commercials late at night (causing me to the miss the last half of a program I was recording) seems to be another way of saying that they don't want me as a customer! OK, so they haven't done 35 consecutive minutes lately, but they throw in a few extra minutes on other commercial breaks so that shows end as much as ten minutes late from time to time. They seem particularly fond of doing this on the SyFy Channel.

Yes, I've heard the excuse that this is done by the networks, but that's a lie. They advertise that you can buy local advertising with Comcast and the problems are caused by ads for the little sandwich shop on the other side of Woodbridge, etc. You can't tell me that that tiny shop spent hundreds of thousands to advertise on national TV! Not when Comcast is advertising that you can advertise locally through them at a low price. They're either lying in the ads or lying when they say it's caused by the networks. But it's clear that either way, they're lying!

Periodically, random networks go off the air for 10 minutes to a half hour or more. This could be the fault of said networks, but if it is, why did I never have this happen with Cox Cable or DirecTV?

Oh, and my new TiVo (to replace the pile of spare parts that don't work that Comcast gave me) was supposed to be delivered yesterday, and it wasn't here when I got home. I was very worried that it had been delivered and left in front of my door and someone had taken it. But when I woke up today, I checked and it was sitting outside my door.

OK, I haven't begun to get to the end of my complaints against Comcast, but I'm really tired of writing all this. Particularly when it hurts to sit and write because of all the abuse my body took yesterday when I complained in person.

If you're looking for a TV provider, don't even consider Comcast!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I agree on everything you said - I paid them in person one particular month and that check was floating around in their system for several months - and that error generated a late fee each month...

    P.S. I'm also currently in the same boat when it concerns a loss of captioning - I've been calling them for one month about a problem on one channel (it's now 3 channels) and their customer service people can only tell me "I can send a refresh signal to your box" or something similar - terrible service for a LOT of money...