Comcast Customer Service: A Horror Tale

A few weeks ago, Houston Press's esteemed food critic Katharine Shilcutt and I were having lunch when I told her that I had had non-functioning Comcast cable installed at my pad two weeks previous. That's right, non-functioning.

"Haven't you seen their commercials?" asked Katharine. "They tout that they have better customer service."

"Um, no. I haven't because my new cable hasn't worked in two weeks."

"Oh. Yeah. That would make sense that you haven't seen those commercials."

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In mid-August, I anted up for new cable service at an apartment that I recently moved into. On the morning of the Sabbath, a friendly dude, after spending an hour doing whatever cable guys do, concluded that my cable was ready to go...24 hours from that point.

"The system is backed up. If it's still not working tomorrow, call this number," he said as he scrawled out a series of digits on a piece of paper. This number would soon take over my recently called log.

That next morning, the terse "YOUR EXPLORER SETTOP IS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR USE" -- set against a blue-screen-of-death-like background -- continued its silent shouts from the previous day. Same thing when I got home from a long Monday workday.

I called the number. They said to call this other number. I did. Those people told me to call the original number. I did. The customer service agent tried to remedy the problem over the phone. It didn't work.

"I'm convinced that it's the [cable] box. Yeah. It's definitely the box," he concluded before telling me that I'd have to take the hardware to the closest Comcast store, located about ten miles from my apartment. As a journalist that often works late into the night, this wasn't going to happen until the weekend.

Now, my intuition knew that it wasn't the box that caused the broken signal. But that man -- as well as the other jovial customer service agent that I spoke to -- was hella friendly and seemed to really understand the inconvenience. Gosh, I must be a serious cynic to doubt these well-meaning people. Instead, I'm going to believe in the greater good! Man helping fellow man! Yay!


On a Saturday morning, I found myself standing in a queue inside of a bare-bones Comcast center. The single-file mass of humanity seemed to attract Houston's top grumps, including a middle-aged woman who stood behind me.

"I hate this state," said Miss Good Morning Sunshine. "It's so backwards. I came from Colorado and this stuff never happens there. These [Comcast] people should come to our homes rather than forcing us to drive all the way out here! This is cruel!" Wow. 

A few minutes later, I had a different cable box to try out. As soon as I arrived at home, I hooked it up and called the automated activation system. No luck. I then called that familiar number for about the fourth time that week and another one of God's children tried to help.

At the end of the call, she determined that I should give it another 24 hours. If that didn't work, somebody would have to come to my home. She scheduled a just-in-case appointment for the following week, even though I explicitly told her that I was out of town that day. I tried to get her to understand, but stopped short, citing my own Comcast customer service fatigue.

Twenty-four hours later, I turned on the TV. There were people making sounds and stuff moved around. I couldn't believe that I had finally obtained television bliss! The struggle was sooo worth it.

I posted up on a chair and started to take in a live preseason football game. This rules, I told myself, as I watched a linebacker crunch the ball carrier.

During a commercial break, I was curious to see what else this squawk box offered. The channels numerically located around the football-game station aired lame programming so I decided to dial in something in the 30s. No signal. 40s. No signal. 100s. No flippin' signal.

I called to reschedule the appointment that I couldn't make in the first place. The next opening was eight days from that point on a Monday morning. I told them "fine," and then inaudibly muttered, "Why the hell not? Because having a cable guy in my space at 8 a.m. on a Monday is exactly how I like to kick off my week."

Eight days later, the gentlest giant, who must have left his halo in the utility truck, arrived at my door.

An hour later, on a day that would reach 102 degrees, he had the cable for-real working. "I had to replace the outside line," he said. "The old one was barely hanging on. Looks like a squirrel chewed through it."

Dude. Why didn't the first cable guy do what he was supposed to in the first place? And how did Comcast find these incredibly nice employees to camouflage its sub-par products and piss-poor services?

These are questions that, for now, will go unanswered. That is until the next time I call a Comcast angel customer service agent about a problem and fall for their with-a-smile shenanigans once again.

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