Saturday, August 23, 2008

Comcast Hell

I didn't get any blogging done Thursday night. I was in Comcast Hell.

It's kinda complicated, and I'm not sure I can tell the story right, but I'll give it a shot.

Mom moved into this trailer park several years ago, and one of the attractions was that she got free Cable television. Comcast Cable (TV) connection was part of the deal.

She pays x number of dollars for the space, and the traier park pays her Comcast cable connection as part of the rent.

Step one of Comcast Hell.\

I'm not sure how the next step happened, but apparently Mom got a Good Deal on Comcast Telephone. They send her a bill, she pays the bill by check, and she hastaken Step Twin Comcast Hell.

In May of last year I organized a high-speed internet connection for her using (you guessed it) Comcast Internet. It was her birthday (or Mother's Day ... not sure now, they are only two days apart) but it was a good deal for her. It got her out of AOL Hell (dial-up modem, slow download, all of her thirty-something nieces sending her jokes and pictures and such, she needed a faster download time.

You guessed it: Step 3 in Comcast Hell.

It took a couple of months, but I managed to get the autopay contract with Comcast so that her Internet connection was automatically deducted from my bank account. And every month, I checked my bank statement online to confirm that her Internet bill was being paid.

At least, that's what I thought. Little did I know that I had just entered the Comcast Twilight Zone.

About three months ago (I learned, reviewing past bills), Comcast arbitrarily and unilaterally changed the account number on the autopay I had set up. I was no longer paying Mom's Internet charges, I was paying her phone. I'm fairly certain that this was the result of Comcast Shenanigans, because I did not now her 15-digit account number for her phone account. Comcast never acknowledged this, but that's not surprising because the did not warn either Mom or me that they had changed the account arrangement to which we had agreed.
(That's not entirely true. They sent me a bill every month, warning that the Internet account was in arrears. Of course, I didn't open the hard-copy statements, because I was confident that it only acknowledged that I had automatically paid her bill for Internet access, as it had done for several months previously.

The Comcast Hell time-bomb was ticking, and yesterday (Thursday), the Bomb exploded.

As I was getting ready to leave for the office, I received a phone call from my (much older, retired) sister announcing that Mom's Comcast account was being closed because she had not paid her Internet bill. She had, in turn, been warned because Mom had received a visit from a man who was an employee of Comcast, and had been set to rip out her cable connection. Thankfully Mom turned him away without allowing him access to the physical premises. But it was clearly a crisis, so I told my sister [yawn!] that I had to finish dressing for work, and I would handle it after I got home at the end of the day.

I was phlegmatic about the affair, because I KNEW that I had been making monthly payments on the account. In proof, I had my ban statements which cited that I was making two monthly payments to Comcast: one for my own Internet connection, and one for Mom's.


Move to 6pm, and the moment when I received an almost-tearful phone call from my 90-year-old mother, who ALWAYS pays her bills and pays hem as they come it. She has NEVER had a utility cut off, because she is nearly fanatic about paying all of her bills, on time if need be but usually ahead of the due date. She is not familiar with the experience of being dunned for payment on account, and didn't know what to do.

After a half-hour conversation, I had convinced her that I would handle it. This was surely nothing more than a Technical Glitch, and it was certainly nothing that she should worry about.

"I'll call you in a couple of hours, Mom, when I get off work and can talk to the good folks at Comcast. I'm sure they'll understand."

The thing is, they were not at all understanding; if Mom hadn't faced down the Comcast technician at her door, he would have removed all physical connections between Comcast cable and her home.

He would have removed the Cable TV connection, the phone connection, and the Internet connection ... all because the Internet bills was in arrears ... because Comcast had changed the billing.

That's right. As I later learned, my monthly automatic payments were being applied to Mom's Comcast Phone Bill instead of to her Internet Bill. This was not a change I would have, or could have, performed. I didn't even know her 16-digit acount number; It would have been impossible for me to change, even deliberately.

After Mom's phone call to my desk at the office, I scooted for home and got on the phone. After four hours on the phone, I learned that the bills had been sent to me but I had ignored them because I arrogantly assumed that the latest statements were the same as those I received a year ago ... noting more than an acknowledgment that the monthly bill had bee automatically paid.

I was soon dis-abused of this misconception as I spen the next hour and a half with the Customer Service Representative, "Arland", who apparently felt obliged to restate in every way possible the many ways in which I was entirely in the wrong. (He calmed down when I stated that my intention was to pay the bill. He lost interest when I said I wanted to change the billing so I was paying the Internet Access, and that a monthly bill for the Comcast Phone Service should be sent to my mother, as it had been for the past FIVE YEARS!

So I spent a couple of hours talkng to a CSR about the account, and a couple more hours talking to a Technical Person named "Jessie".

Jessie, in turn, pointed me at an online webpage where I could address qustions to an autobot ... an online program which would feed me canned questions and magically wink-out what needed to be done to resolve my problem.

As I had expected, and as I had mentioned to Jessie ... the auto-bot was unable to help me; The question was (in a manner reminiscent of Obama's response to Pro-Choice questions) "above mypay grade."

Eventually I made online contact with a CSR who could type, and that person (afer I had provided all inf the information available) assured me that all of the Billing changes I had requested, had been accomplished.

I'm warmed by her re-assurances; but I am not convinced. I suspect that I will have to take the same, or very similar .. steps until the billing priorities are p roperly established.

Here's the bottom line:

Unless you are a Corporae Lawyer, avoid paying for a 'portion' of someone else's COMCAST services. They are not competent to establish, track and control such a bizarre arrangement. Imagine a son paying for his mother's internet access. I think this is certainly not in their Job Description.

Howevre, Comcat is very good at shutting off ALL services (not just the service which is in arrears), and intimidating 90-year old widows at their doorstep.

It took me part of he night just to pay the total outstandig bill, and receive assurances that her services would NOT be cut off.

Translated: the service guy has gone home for the day. We can't hurt ou any more, sopay the bil and we'll forget to send him back.

Eventually, we got the services restored and Mom is much happier now. I think this is much beter than it was before, if only because my mother is no longer crying.

I finished my Thursday night on-line, arrangngfor the biling o be 'as it was before.". I think. But it takes six week for the changes to go into effect, and nobody knows WHAT Comcast will actually do to resolve the problem. Remember, these are the same people who originally avowd that the entire contretemps was MY fault.

So expect the same, or similar confusion next month.

And do NOT expect Comcast to take any extreme measures to shield us from Comcast Hell.

I'll keep your posted.

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