Why the Comcast guy is always late
August 4, 2014 8:25 AM   Subscribe

The Verge talks with current and former Comcast employees about life as a Comcast repair/install technician.
They schedule the jobs expecting that one of your jobs will cancel. I usually run over somewhere and have to make up the time at another job. You have to start trimming corners to make up that time you lost. It’s gotten worse lately because of the extra stuff they’re making us do, and they haven’t given us any extra time.
This is the second of a series of articles with interviews from Comcast employees. Part one is When Every Call is a Sales Call.
posted by misskaz (29 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Metafilter: My whole theory is, they just throw shit at the wall.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:26 AM on August 4, 2014

Comcast makes everyone a little crazy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:36 AM on August 4, 2014

Many years ago, I worked as a customer service rep for what is now TimeWarner Cable, and as part of the training I had to spend a day with a field tech. We deliberately drove past homes of people with service appointments to see if it looked like someone was waiting. If so, we kept on driving until it looked like they had gone away so we could swoop in, drop a "We missed you" card on their door, and be on our way. I doubt little has changed nearly 30 years later.
posted by briank at 8:37 AM on August 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

Has the time come yet for me to tell the story of when a series of Charter mistakes climaxed with me having to reschedule my wife's 40th birthday dinner?
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 8:45 AM on August 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Comcast just came by this Sunday. The guy was not only on time but called ahead, did everything quickly and correctly, replaced the cable modem with no hassle and I have home internet again.

I can't prove anything but I suspect this isn't a fluke good experience and instead entirely because there's real competition from FIOS in my neighborhood and Comcast has an actual incentive to retain existing customers (especially ones out of contract.)
posted by griphus at 8:47 AM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think I understand: Management makes too much money to care about your problems, and the technicians don't make enough money to care about your problems.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:47 AM on August 4, 2014 [25 favorites]

griphus: "because there's real competition from FIOS in my neighborhood"

The very small north Texas suburb where I used to live had, by virtue of a historical accident in how Texas divvied up the then-rural telephone exchanges, five competing Internet service providers: AT&T's U-Verse, Verizon's FiOS, Time Warner Cable, Charter Cable, and a regional provider with a name that I've forgotten. (What I found even more hilarious was that, even in this tiny bedroom town, only 3/4ths of the city had this competition; west of the railroad tracks, in a newer subdivision, only AT&T DSL and Charter Cable were offered.) I had dirt cheap and amazing service. All four companies heavily marketed to this area, probably because their computers said "these addresses have competitive service, go go go!" It was very funny watching the marketing behemoths scramble around over <9,000 individual households.

Then, I moved to Redmond, WA, where Comcast competes with Frontier FiOS, since Frontier wound up (against its better judgment) with a tiny fiber network in three geographically dispersed regions that it really doesn't want. Even with this miniscule competition, Comcast offers amazing pricing, quality service, and fair treatment of customers. To their credit, though Frontier initially tried to stomp out their FiOS service, they've since greatly improved it.

Contrast with moving to inside the city limits of Seattle. All other things being awesome in Seattle, none of the Internet choices exist. Bashing on Comcast has become a participating sport here; I think that it's more popular than soccer, if such a thing is possible. Very small providers have popped up, like CondoInternet, to run fiber-to-the-wallet since they're only available in multi-family buildings that, usually, cost a fortune to live in (and that's relative to Seattle prices for housing). Oddly enough, a local cable company, Wave Broadband, bought CondoInternet so there's a definite have-versus-have-not for service. Wave serves several of the "lower-end" areas in the city, and those folks have a 300GB quota, but the high-end buildings with Wave's CondoInternet subsidiary have access to 10 times the speed and no cap. And, yet, for all the moaning, nobody is doing anything about it. There was a group trying to get a property tax initiative on the ballot to fund municipal broadband but our esteemed mayor put out that fire when he politically squashed another property tax initiative (a transit-related one) saying that universal pre-K is a higher priority and that he'd actively fight any property tax measures in 2014. Seattle City Light is "considering" a municipal, UTOPIA-style network, but it has been "considering" that since 2011.
posted by fireoyster at 9:19 AM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have Comcast (or Xfinity as they call it here) for internet and while I dislike the company the repair teams have been on time and have fixed difficult problems. A couple years ago a tree fell in my yard and severed the underground cable from pole to house and they got out and replaced the cable and did some new wiring in the house. It was timely and done well.

The sales team on the other hand... Lately I keep getting pre-recorded calls telling me my modem (which I own) is out of date to take advantage of their new services. I have to figure out what the hell they're going on about.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:26 AM on August 4, 2014

Do you have a DOCSIS 2.0 modem? At some of Comcast's service tiers, you need one of the newer modems that use the DOCSIS 3.0 standard to get full speed. You aren't being speed-capped, it's just because DOCSIS 2.0 has limited bandwidth.
posted by aw_yiss at 9:34 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I’ve actually got a pretty great cable tech story - I got internet in my new apartment last week, and not only did the techs call ahead to let me know roughly when in the window they’d be there, they actually stayed almost an hour to open up my jack and do some re-wiring through the wall plate when they realized that the wires had been shoddily laid in the first place (it’s a brand-new building; I’m the first tenant in the apartment I’m in so a crappy installation wouldn't have been noticed before). I would have expected them to try to pass the buck - it was a nice surprise, especially considering that the provider in question (Cablevision) has no competition in the area.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:34 AM on August 4, 2014

Time Warner was awful but mysteriously when Google announced Fiber was coming to Austin, their service has miraculously improved and they just increased my speed 10x over what it used to be without increased cost. It was like "Gosh, guys, we found all this extra bandwidth in the closet, would you like some?" Again, curious coincidence it only came after we were getting Google Fiber. "Welp, we suddenly realized we could give you 200MB down instead of 20, would you believe that? (Please don't leave us)."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:41 AM on August 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

Yep, we also got the phone call here in Austin from TW suddenly offering us faster Internet, but not all of my friends did. Can't figure out if this is the due to the zip code or if some of my friends just don't answer their phones/open mail.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:03 AM on August 4, 2014

Ghostride The Whip: "Time Warner was awful but mysteriously when Google announced Fiber was coming to Austin, their service has miraculously improved and they just increased my speed 10x over what it used to be without increased cost. It was like "Gosh, guys, we found all this extra bandwidth in the closet, would you like some?" Again, curious coincidence it only came after we were getting Google Fiber. "Welp, we suddenly realized we could give you 200MB down instead of 20, would you believe that? (Please don't leave us).""

Confirmed by The Consumerist: Time Warner And Comcast Just Happen To Boost Customer Speeds Near Google Fiber
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

The glee and ecstasy I felt the day I was able to fire Comcast and get FiOS in my DC neighborhood was limitless.

It took Comcast no less than 4 techs and 3 installation attempts because none of them knew how to install any of the equipment. And from there, they seemed to puke DNS services at least once a week.

FiOS has been reliable, the tech got everything done in 45 minutes (phone, TV and internet) and was as nice as could be.

Suck it, Comcast. I hope you die in the corporate equivalent of a car fire.
posted by Thistledown at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Similarly, I think Time Warner is finally getting off their asses in LA since the mayor has been going on about commissioning municipal internet and made an RFQ for installation, and FiOS/U-Verse are available in some areas (but not mine).
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:19 AM on August 4, 2014

It was like "Gosh, guys, we found all this extra bandwidth in the closet, would you like some?"

They had the connection set on evil by accident.
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on August 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

It took me two years to get Comcast to send the "good" technician and actually fix my problem. I told them on the first phone call the repeater between my house and the head-end was trashed. In the meantime they replaced the outside wiring, added an amplifier, and replaced the drop from the pole twice and I continued to have ridiculous lag and packet loss problems because of a poor signal-to-noise ratio. The senior technician was on-premises a total of 5 minutes before reaching the same conclusion I had two years previous. Not that I'm bitter.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:27 AM on August 4, 2014

By the whim of some blind alien god the little Merrifield, VA townhouse lot I rent within has only Cox Communications. Fios service is available not even 1000 feet down Gallows Road but for whatever reason was never extended to our area.

Cox has one of the highest ratings of satisfaction in the nation. Our house and neighborhood are constantly getting some variety pack of disconnected, poor service, brown outs, or general bullshit service. Despite what my roommates claim has been three years of complaints no one has properly fixed anything.

A Harris Teeter with new condos is opening something like 300 feet from us, across a street. Fios will be running in cable finally. I am fully anticipating a blitzkrieg campaign of Cox 'discoveries' relating to our service.

A well regulated market being essential to the happiness of the people, the market share of a company shall never breach 10% is what I'm going to be preaching for the rest of my time in this country.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:50 AM on August 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thistledown: "Suck it, Comcast. I hope you die in the corporate equivalent of a car fire."

Eh, too prosaic. How about the corporate equivalent of the rerouted-ducts scene from Brazil?
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:07 PM on August 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

In 2004, I had to threaten to call the police to get a cable technician out of my apartment (long story - he was insisting on installing services I did not want and had not ordered then refused to either do the work I wanted or leave). I was literally screaming "LEAVE NOW" over and over. Guy was STILL trying to talk me into more services. I have refused to pay for cable since. Happily cable free for 10 years, thankyouverymuch.
posted by slipthought at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to play this game with cable companies 20-25 years ago. I would order the full cable package and get it. Then after a month or so I would call and ask for a service reduction down to basic. My charges would drop immediately, but it would take them forever--like years in some cases--to actually get somebody to go out to the pole and do whatever they have to do to actually make that change. So it was a way to get a big cable package for the basic package price. But those days are gone!
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:19 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cox was great when I had it in Gainesville.

Unless you had to move your service. I moved three times. I scheduled the disconnect / reconnect well ahead of time. Every time I would have to call after I moved because they hadn't switched on service in the new apartment. The last time I even went to their physical office to schedule the switch.

Of course, FiOS has its own problems.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2014

The Comcast guy that showed up at my house was fantastic. The phone support person thought it was a cable box problem, but there was some voltage riding the cable, which [literally] shocked him. This turned out to have come from an attachment on my son's TV. The cable guy installed a new box, diagnosed and disconnected the voltage on the cable, and then went around the house replacing all the crappy coax connectors throughout the house, and then charged me $0 for an hour and a half for a problem that was not really Comcast's.

Don't tell the company, though.

My only complaint with them so far is the robo-answering device when I call them. That and the random ''You need to activate your service" messages that pop up once or twice a month.
posted by MtDewd at 1:52 PM on August 4, 2014

Comcast made 1.9 Billion Dollars profit in the first quarter of 2014.

In the company’s annual report, which was filed in February 2014, Comcast reported 136,000 employees and annual 2013 profits of more than $6.8 billion. Between 2009 and 2013, Comcast recorded total profits of more than $24 billion.

Making 24 Billion dollars profit whilst cutting everything to the bone.

It's just the way it is now.
Almost everywhere it seems.
Surely it is not sustainable.
posted by fullerine at 4:35 PM on August 4, 2014

Tool of the Conspiracy, I eagerly await your tale!
posted by grubi at 12:20 PM on August 6, 2014

I have Comcast customer service horror stories of my own, too. Let's just say when I am yelling at a CSR, we have a major issue. Having worked in customer service (at various levels and businesses), I tend to be very understanding and helpful with CSRs: I have my information at the ready, I speak the jargon, I patiently endure the hold times and protocols, I dutifully recount the issue for every rep they send me to... I basically meet them more than halfway. Being a customer service employee can be rough, because so many customers tend to bring up complaints that are borne of their own ignorance of a product/service rather than a defect or failing. But I never take it personally because so many of those folks tend to approach the complaint with "Maybe I don't know where the thing is/how to work this/know the steps, and could you help?" But there are sooo many very hostile people who are raring for a fight. I always say "Good customer service begins with good customers" because I believe it. But this Comcast bastard was a piece of work.

To make a long story short, I will say I found myself almost screaming (and I'm a grown man) at this guy to get his supervisor (which he refused to do for 15 minutes) because he tells me since I have Macs in the house, we can only use Comcast internet service with their special home package and wireless router — even though I told him several times that was bullshit because, until that week, I didn't have any real issue doing just that. In addition, I had to be a prick by pulling out my IT credentials ("I've worked in the industry for nearly two decades", etc) at him. I'm almost convinced this guy was trained to be hostile. Unluckily for him, I don't shy away from confrontation.
posted by grubi at 12:36 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

OK, I don't have access to the e-mails regarding my horror story, but I'll do my best.
It started when I noticed an error on my bill. Our service, which was costing us $120/month including Internet and phone, was supposed to include use of either one cable box or one CableCard, with a $6 charge for each beyond the first. We have a Tivo, so we were using a CableCard, and it was showing on the bill as an "additional" CableCard. So I contacted Charter and had them remove the charge, and they said that they'd credit my account for six months of it, which was the most they could do.
The next day, we noticed that some of our channels weren't working anymore. So I contacted Charter again, and they said "Oh, you have a Tivo? You must need a 'tuning adapter', because your area has switched to SDV."
So on the way to work the next day, I stopped at the Charter office and picked up a tuning adapter. The people there told me that I was only the second person to ever get one from them. While I was there, I asked them to cancel a $10 package of channels that we were getting, because we didn't watch them much. After work, I hooked up the tuning adapter according to the directions that came with it. (The instructions on the Tivo site agreed with them.) The Tivo acknowledged that it was there, but it didn't help. In fact, it seemed like maybe we were getting even fewer channels than before. So I contacted Charter again, to arrange a service call.
The soonest appointment they had was for 6:00 pm Friday night. Friday, my wife's 40th birthday. The night we had 7:00 pm reservations at her favorite fancy restaurant. Faced with the prospect of the cable being broken all weekend, I accepted. I pleaded with them to try to fit me in sooner, if there was a cancellation, or if the tech simply finished his previous call early.
The tech (an independent contractor) showed up on time, but not early. He installed the tuning adapter in a totally different way; it didn't help. He switched to a brand new CableCard, calling Charter to have them activate it; nope. While he was testing signal strength outside, I went to the CableCard diagnostics screen on the Tivo, using the Tivo site again to decipher what it meant.
(Meanwhile, my wife was getting more anxious and irritated, and I called the restaurant to move our reservation to 7:30.)
When he came back I pointed out to him "Hey, this zero on this screen... The Tivo site says it means that the channel isn't authorized. Hmmm, it's showing a zero on every channel that I check." He didn't seem to know anything about that, but he called Charter again, and sure enough, although the Billing department knew which channels we were supposed to get, the department that was actually responsible for authorizing them thought that we should get only the minimum--ya know, the broadcast channels plus shopping and religion.
(By now, I had called the restaurant again, moving our reservation to 8:00 while my wife sat fuming on the couch in her fancy dress.)
I think that by this point, the tech was starting to get angry too. He went outside while still on his cell phone with Charter, and when he came back, he told us that he had restored the channels that we were supposed to get. However, he told us that he didn't have the power to change our billing, so we'd have to deal with Charter for that. Until we did, our bill would be $140/month.
My wife and I went to a tense and unpleasant dinner. She didn't even thaw when I showed her that I had changed my ringtone to a song from our wedding.
Monday, I contacted Charter yet again. They were surprised that we had been getting such a good deal before, and said that they could lower our bill only to $130/month. Two weeks earlier, our bill had been $126 when it was supposed to be $120. Now with fewer channels, it was going to be $130.
A few days later, I got a standard e-mail from Charter asking about my satisfaction with my recent interactions. I recounted the story, and they miraculously discovered that they now could reduce my bill to $125/ month.
I did some further diagnostics, and discovered that the tuning adapter wasn't even needed. They hadn't converted to SDV yet, they had just heard the magic word "Tivo" and assumed that was the problem. Two years later, they finally did convert.
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 1:23 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My friend used to be one of these guys.

I really wish i could describe this guy properly. He's like the boss from office space. He says everything in a weird disaffected drawl like that, legitimately looks like garth from waynes world, but with black hair(not a hybrid between the two, just that combo), and you could just generally expect his internal response to anything to be "...really?"

The thing is, i wish i could really write an accurate description of the guy. You'd really have to meet him. He really is like that office space boss. Slightly apathetic, vaguely impossible to get through to, and slightly dismissive with a flat affect.

In other words, the perfect rage inducing cable tech.

And i actually kind of like him as a person, he's not an asshole or anything. It's just that the day he told me he had gotten the job as a cable tech i was like "Wow, you must have been top of the class" in my head.

He lasted quite a long time before he went to go be, and i'm serious, one of the nintendo support reps that you get if you call in with a problem for your wii/wii u/DS. That also somehow felt perfect to me.
posted by emptythought at 3:14 AM on August 9, 2014

My Comcast story:

Moved into a new apartment a few months ago, back in April. The building is relatively new construction and comes pre-wired for cable. Comcast, of course, is my only option for high-speed internet -- I'm not even able to get U-verse, only old DSL at like 1.5mbps. I arrange for a tech to come out and do the install, and have my DVR and receiver (2 tvs) from my old place. 3 month old modem that I own.

The install goes relatively smoothly, except that I moved "regions" so my old DVR wouldn't work and luckily the tech had one he could swap out in his truck.

The internet starts going out - not totally out, but download speeds dropping to 2mbps or less, sometimes so slow that sites timeout - on a regular basis. One, two, three times a week. I get really familiar with speedtest.net. Every call to get support forces you to go through the stupid "did you restart your modem? let's send a reset signal to your modem" routine, which is infuriating. Sometimes a restart/reset fixes things, but never for long.

They arrange to send out a tech to work on the lines. A tech arrives, never comes inside the house, and replaces the line from the building to the street. The internet keeps going bad.

Half the time when I call, the rep is trying to sell me new services while I'm in the middle of trying to get the existing services I already pay for fixed. I almost never yell at CSRs but at one point I had to get very angry to get the rep to stop trying to sign me up for a bundle with phone service I have no use for. On this call I manage to get forwarded to Tier 2 support and talk to someone who sounds knowledgeable and is able to do some diagnostics, confirm something is wrong with our lines still, and schedule us another tech visit.

They send out another tech, who does come inside and check some things, but all he does is remove a splitter outside that he said shouldn't be there. The internet... still sucks.

Another call to a rep and a request to talk to Tier 2 support yields "there is no such thing as Tier 2 support" and a refusal. At this point we are going insane with frustration, and my quick temper SO blasts Comcast on their Facebook page (and I complain via public Twitter). Somehow this gets us in touch with "executive care" via email and phone. I get an actual email address, phone number, and name of someone to talk to.

Executive care is slower to respond than calling the regular 800-number. It often takes the rep a day or two to get back to us. But when she does, she is smart and helpful. I detail the problems so far and mention the fact that the techs that have come out have not inspired confidence. I request that we get an actually competent technician to come out.

Our third technician is good, and spends a decent amount of time doing diagnostics and figures out two things: 1. the first tech didn't actually replace the line to the street, he just said he did; and 2. the lines inside the building are shit and all need to be replaced. Luckily the lines go through conduit so it's relatively simple to snake through some new coax.

The new lines solve the problems, and after contacting our executive care rep for some billing credits, she gets me on a much cheaper bundle with faster internet and free HBO for a year.

TL;DR: Eventually Comcast can sometimes get things right, but the majority of their CSR reps and technicians are, frankly, incompetent. It should never have taken months and three service visits to fix my internet, but I have no other options for service. And of course now I've noticed that I can't get major broadcast channels (FOX and NBC among others) on the DVR - they're either out entirely or all pixelated - though they work fine on the non-DVR box. I dread going through this again to try to fix the service I pay for. Sigh.
posted by misskaz at 7:32 AM on August 9, 2014

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