I Fired Comcast

The saga continues. After that really sorry dealing with the phone customer service rep (phone CSR) on the phone on Sunday evening after my modem stopped working, I decided it might actually be faster to just go down to a Comcast store and swap out the modem.

Despite the assurances of phone CSR with whom I was dealing, the last time I went to the Comcast store they informed me that they did not do modem swaps as they did not keep any in stock. At that time, however, there had been a Comcast service van in the parking lot so teller CSR went out and just grabbed one from the truck. Swap done, all was well.

I had prophylactically set up an appointment for Thursday (August 23) for between 8 and 10 am in case I wasn’t going to get to the store and/or in case there was something else wrong beyond the modem. Interestingly, when I asked for the confirmation number phone CSR said there wasn’t any but that I should call back if I needed to check and they could find it through my account.

On Monday I trundled over to the Alpharetta Comcast store, which is near to wear I work (well.. a 15 minute drive) and found a) they had moved to a new location and b) they are closed Monday – a fact that phone CSR had failed to mention when he gave me the location but which the relocation sign fortunately stated.

On Tuesday I headed back out to find the store – a block away from the old location – and combined that trip with a LATE lunch, arriving at ten after two in the afternoon. They were closed for a “special” lunch from two ’til three that day. Another bust.

I elected to leave early from work on Tuesday, intending to get to that Comcast shop, get my modem swapped out, get home and then do a little work from home to make up for all that wasted time trying to conform to Comcasts’ 1950’s approach to customer service.

Arriving at the shop I was gleeful that it was actually open. Entering the shop showed only 5 people ahead of me.. not too bad it seemed. My glee was short-lived, however, when I realized that they had only one person working there and the guy in line ahead of me expressed his displeasure at how slowly things were moving. Over half an hour later I got to the front of the queue. I kid you not, there were over a dozen people now behind me. This CSR looked at my modem, went into the back room and brought out an identical one and tried to swap it for me, but the computer would not let her. Then she went back and got yet another identical one (after mentioning that she wasn’t sure if they had any more) which the computer *did* allow her to give to me. I’m not 100% sure but I’m pretty sure she just dropped my returned modem into the same bin from which she fished out these replacements.

I mentioned that I had an appointment on Thursday that she could now cancel and she suggested that I keep the appointment in case this modem doesn’t work. Hmmm… wonder why she said that. I got home with the replacement modem, hooked it up and, surprise! It exhibited the same symptoms as my last modem.

I can’t say I was pleased but since I had that Thursday appointment and since this modem having the EXACT SAME PROBLEM seemed a little coincidental, I elected to wait for the appointment. I was having to stay at home on Thursday anyway as we were having some tree cutters come by to clear some dead and dying pines from my back yard.

As you can imagine, Wednesday was a looong day as I caught up on a backlog of work from the foibles the previous day. When I got home I realized that I had not received a confirmation call from Comcast regarding the next day’s appointment. My home number is set to roll over to my cell whenever the Vonage router is not reachable, so I should definitely have received this. So I called Comcast to confirm the appointment.

Another half an hour on the phone had phone CSR2 telling me that there was no ticket for my Thursday appointment, but he could schedule me for the following Wednesday. I told him that there was no way I was going to wait another week on this. I wanted the tech guy out at my place by tomorrow or they could just go ahead and close this account. I then wanted to speak to his supervisor to get this dealt with. Phone CSR2 told me that he would escalate it – smoothly inferring that he would personally follow my escalation through to completion until I pressed him on how that would work. It turns out that the escalation is dealt with by my local Comcast service group and they’re only open from 8:00 ’til 5:00 (according to phone CSR2). All he does is puts the request into a queue that some other CSR will presumably read the next day and, if there is a cancellation, I might get lucky.

So I pressed to speak to his supervisor and, when smooth talkin’ phone CSR2 finally ran out of reasons why it wouldn’t help, he put me on hold as the supervisor was apparently handling another call at the moment. I felt like I was back in a car dealership with phone CSR2 “working for me”. After 5 minutes or so he came back on the line to let me know that the supervisor was still on the phone and how there is nothing more he could do anyway. I said I’d wait. 5 or more minutes go by again and smooth talkin’ phone CSR2 was back with the same spiel. I told him he’d won I didn’t want to spend any more time on the phone but I wanted him to add the phrase “Customer will cancel account if service tech is not at house by noon Thursday”. This he translated to “Customer is unhappy” and I can’t say if even that got onto the ticket.

Calling back at 8:00’ish the next day I get phone CSR3 who wants to troubleshoot the modem (“Please open internet explorer”) even though I clearly tell him that I want to ensure that my ticket is being escalated. He assures me that he will personally follow this ticket but that the Marietta service location doesn’t open until 8:30. I made it very clear to him that either they get out to my place by noon or I would be calling back to close this account. I made him aware of the failure of phone CSR(1) to create my appointment and how I do use and rely heavily upon my broadband connectivity. After noting that I already had an appointment for next Wednesday, he assured me that he’d follow up and call when an appointment was set.

Two pm rolls around and I hear nothing from Comcast. I’m really ticked. I make arrangements with BellSouth to get their 6 Mbps / 3 Mbps service and then call Comcast to cancel. I’m asked how I want to return the modem, I tell them I’ll leave it on the front porch and they can pick it up. They say they can’t do that. The tech *has* to deal with a live person to hand them a receipt. And they can only do this between 8 am and 5 pm. I relent and get the location of the Comcast store nearest to me. I grab the modem and immediately head out the door so that I can get Comcast out of my world as fast as possible. I had been intending to work from home on Thursday and take Friday off. Comcast’s absolute failure to service me ruined that day and I needed to work on Friday to make up for that.

I do *not* like Comcast’s smooth talking CSRs. They will do ANYTHING to avoid letting you get past them to somebody who might be able to solve your issue. They are among the most slick, yet least capable CSRs I have ever dealt with. And, as a computer guy who deals with a bunch of product help desks, I’ve seen plenty. I was outright lied to by phone CSR(1) when he claimed to have set up my appointment. They have a cavalier disregard for the impact their service disruptions have on their clients and seem trained primarily in the art of soothing rather than empowered to actually take a problem and resolve it.

And I emphasize again (see my last posting, typed while on the phone with phone CSR(1)), what kind of a business *is* Comcast when their stores and their residential service techs (in Marietta at the very least) are only available during normal business hours? What community are they serving where folks can afford to take time off to sit at home waiting for them – everybody *I* know works for a living – ESPECIALLY if the service impacted is broadband access – which is the reason some folks may be able to stay at home?

I had my doubts about Comcast when I first moved to them from BellSouth nearly two years ago. My previous dealings with them were somewhat unsavory and I fired them back then and switched to satellite TV after my cable rates were raised without any notification. When I called then to ask what was going on, they mailed me a pamphlet explaining the rate increases.

They make a *lot* of money off of broadband service. My understanding is that, in places like Korea, they have vastly superior broadband access (10+ Mbps down and something similar up) for the the equivalent of US$35. So there really is no excuse for they sloppy and uninspired service that Comcast provides.

New Bar-B-Que

When we moved into this house, there was already installed on the backyard patio a Broilmaster “Warm Morning” Bar-B-Que. It was pretty big and was fairly old as far as Bar-B-Ques go. When it came time to replace the burners in it (big old cast iron jobs) I found that I was not going to be able to easily find a replacement burner for the right hand side of the Bar-B-Que.
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Also, the valves had become sluggish and I think the regulator was gummed up. I would turn on a burner and then have to wait up to a couple of minutes for the gas to actually flow. Not exactly a safety feature. I’d listen for the gas to flow and then light the burner once that happened using an extended lighter.

Not being an expert in such things, and finding that there apparently aren’t very many such experts out there at any of the places I phoned or visited, I elected to replace the bar-b-que with a brand new Broilmaster P3BL-1 unit. We even sprung for the optional front and right side shelves.

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It’s a real pleasure firing up the grill, I now have an electric starter, it starts right away and I have nice solid places to put my utensils, plates and drinks while cooking.

I bought my bar-b-que through Metro House of Fire and worked with Kathy Heeth. She was great in dealing with my many questions and scenarios.

Wine Tasting Party – Australian Shiraz

Mich and I hosted our first wine tasting party yesterday.

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Since it was our first attempt we decided to keep it REALLY small and low key.

We spoke with Bob Cochrane at our local East Cobb Sherlock’s and he was instrumental in helping us decide on the wines we would sample for this first attempt.

I visited aromadictionary.com’s Wine Education resources and used their “Nine Wine Glass Place Mat”. I also had to choose a score card and had many excellent options to pick from (thanks JB!) and eventually settled on this excellent offering from “The American Wine Society”. This appealed to me because there was plenty of room to make notes on the various wines plus a good description of the evaluation characteristics plus a take-away wine aroma wheel that complemented exactly the laminated, colored wheels we had purchased from Sherlock’s to help prompt us through the aroma evaluation.

Mich picked up 24 wine glasses from TJ Maxx for an excellent price which meant that we would not need to be constantly washing glasses throughout the evening.

We decided that we would focus on a single varietal (Shiraz) and primarily one country (Australia). This drove our wine selection.

The wines we evaluated where (in order):

  • Penfold’s Thomas Hyland Shiraz 2003 (Australia)
  • Nine Stone’s McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 (Australia)
  • Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 2003 (Australia) < -- unanimous favorite among our guests

For contrast we then chose two non-Australian wines to demonstrate how much variation there can be in a single varietal.

  • Perrin Cote Du Rhone Villages 2003 (France)
  • Rock Rabbit Syrah 2003 (California)

There was quite a lot of agreement that the French wine had the “silkiest” texture and it rated very favorably with the Grant Burge offering edging it out as the overall favorite in the end.

After a palate-clearing glass of Argyle Brut Champagne we then offered our “Wow” wine for the evening – Peter Lehmann Shiraz (Australia). Now, “Wow” wines are very palate specific, and most of the people sampling these wines were not experienced wine tasters so I think – in retrospect – I would not have gone past the 5 principal wines of our tasting were I to repeat this tasting theme. The “Wow” was more of a “hmmm” but I don’t know how much of that was due to the wine I’m not even sure that the Californian got a fair shake as I know my taste discriminatory abilities were long gone by then. Steve, easily the most experienced taster among us suggested that the wine may have needed much more time to “breath” than I had allotted and that’s a fair assumption as I had not opened this bottle until nearly halfway through the evening. I had allowed all of the other wines a good couple of hours breathing time.

Overall I believe the evening was a success and hopefully marks the beginning of a series of such tastings in which we’ll explore many more varietals, vintages and appellations.

Good car repair experience

I took my venerable Honda Odyssey EX (1997) in for a combo 95K and 105K servicing – this was a biggie – timing belt, radiator flushing and pretty much everything else that you do to your car. I’ve got only 104,000 miles on her and those were the original brakes that were finally replaced. They weren’t even squeaking yet!

The last time I had my car serviced, primarily to reduce the “ticking” that comes from too much space between the camshaft and the valves, I didn’t notice any real change at all and was quite disappointed.

This time, however the engine purrs and a weird noise I used to get when the engine was shifting are now a thing of the past (turns out it was a broken engine mount rather than a transaxle issue I’d been fearing).

The only issue remaining is that now my front brake *does* squeal. I’ve got to bring the car back in for that 🙁 . But beside that I was very happy with Ed Voyles Honda here in Marietta.