Tuesday, November 11, 2008

“Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in…”

For those of you who have been reading Thrilling Days of Yesteryear o’er these many years (in fact, the fifth blogiversary was November 4th…which proves the election was weighing heavier on my mind than tooting my own horn)—and for those of you who continue to read, despite my recent political proselytizing—you’re no doubt aware of the utter contempt I have for the country’s worst cable provider, Comcast Communications… (un)affectionately known to TDOY readers as “Bombast.”

Yesterday, the phone rings at 9:30am. It’s my mother. “Dad and I are on our way over,” she announces in a tone that suggests the decision has pretty much been made without my input.

As it turns out, the ‘rents wanted to get out from underfoot of the cleaning woman (cleaning woman…cleaning womancleaning woman!*), who was there to give sister Kat’s palatial expanse the once-over with the old mop, bucket and broom. The good thing about all this was that I was going to get a free lunch out of it, and anyone who knows me knows I haven’t missed too many meals in my time here on your planet.

The three of us decided to venture to the Peking House, a Chinese buffet jernt that we’ve visited in the past—but on the way over, I stopped by my mailbox to scoop up the mail that I’ve neglected collecting the past four days. I’m sorting through this small pile (some of my father’s mail occasionally gets sent to me in error) and I find a window envelope from Bombast. (I have learned through experience that window envelopes = bills = something that is going to upset me.)

I hand this to Mom, who opens it up. Sure enough, Bombast is saying that I owe them $47.96. Why, I have no idea. Mom tucks it in her purse and tells me Dad will call them later to find out what the deal is.

Sometime after 2pm, I get a call from Dad. He tells me that the amount I apparently owe Bombast is for several months of basic cable. According to the person he spoke to, I didn’t stop basic cable when I stopped the high-speed Internet service.

This technically isn’t true. I told the woman when I called that I wanted to close my account, which meant both the Internet and basic cable—which I should never have been charged for in the first place, since we already had expanded basic.

Here’s the explanation: when Bombast first offered high-speed Internet, they billed that service separately from the cable—which was a positive boon to me, since the ‘rents paid the cable bill and I took care of the Internet portion. This worked splendidly for a while, until the point when Bombast informed me that they were going to start combining the two. I called the company and asked them not to do this in my case.

This, by the way, is what I love about “customer service.” Because all the while I was talking to the guy about keeping the bills separate he kept cooing in a particularly unctuous manner: “We just want to make things simpler for you.” But that is a steaming pile of road apples: what he really wanted was to make things simpler for Bombast. I was on the phone with this clown for a half-hour before I finally said to him: “Are you honestly telling me you can’t think of any contingency that would allow me to get a separate bill so that I don’t have to sit down with my parents and try to dope out who owes what every month?”

Pregnant pause (I’d say about five months). Then he says, “Well, we could just bill the internet to a separate address. If we add an “A” to the number of your address on your current bill, the computer will think it’s an apartment and just bill for you for high-speed service.”

Now, that wasn’t so hard—was it?

Well, that’s what I thought—but several months down the road, the Bombast computer does some thinking and begins to add a basic cable charge to my bill as well. The reasoning of the ‘puter is, if it’s a separate address, there has to be basic cable installed before the cable Internet service can be added. But because we already had cable, this made no sense at all. (“Daisy…Daisy…”)

So this time I went down to Bombast’s offices to be a nuisance about this, and what usually resulted was they would adjust the bill…I’d be good for three months…and then it would kick in again. Finally I said to hell with it—because by this time, the company where my mother used to work was footing the bill for the high-speed service. (A friend of mine and I hooked up a router so that she could access the Net when her AT&T Broadband connection went south…as in “-ern Bell.” And before you start tut-tutting this act of ingenuity, the record must show that Bombast knew what I had done and apparently had no problem with it.)

In a nutshell, here’s what these mooks did when I told them to close my account in May 2008—they cancelled the high-speed service, but kept the basic cable in place. So, upon learning that I was in arrears (I even said to the guy: “Basically, what you’re telling me is that I owe you $47.96.” “Correct,” says guy.) I was not a happy camper. I tell Bombast in no uncertain terms that I’m not going to pay for a service that a) didn’t use, and b) should have been yanked in the first place. The customer service guy brings in a goon from “retention,” and he tells me the same thing: I owe them $47.96. This brings out the imp in me, and I ask Retention Dude: “What are you going to do if I don’t pay it? Cut off my cable?

So Retention Dude makes noises about turning the matter over to a collection agency, which didn’t frighten me too much because the bill was relatively a small matter for any serious agency to deal with…then he tries to placate me by agreeing to halve the amount I owe. (What a guy—give you the shirt off his back and the buttons, too.) I stood firm on my refusal, probably because this bill was the very first one I’ve received addressing this matter (he asked me why I never called to inquire about this and I told him because I was just now hearing about it)—in fact, I began to lean on him to find out how they tracked me down at my current address…’cause I sure as hell didn’t give it to Bombast.

Apparently my query set off some bells and whistles, because I could swear Retention Dude was getting nervous. He asks me if I’ll hold for a moment. Four minutes later, he’s back on the line…

“Well, I’ve just talked to the Help Desk and they say they’re going to go ahead and write it off.” I thanked him for his time and his assistance in the matter, even though Ivan-the-Imp really wanted to say “Piss off.”

I won’t rehash the problems I experienced with CharredHer (Charter) when I first signed up with them upon moving to Athens, but at the time I was joking to friends: “There’s only one other cable provider worse than Bombast—and it’s the people who supply my cable/Internet/telephone services right now.” Not any more. Bombast Communications…today’s worstproviderin the world!!!

*Don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s seen Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)…


Anonymous said...

Gee, Ivan, I'd make you a cup of my famous java, but it seems you don't need the caffeine. But I could make you a nice sampler instead. - Philip

Scott C. said...

You are not alone. The allusion didn't even need an asterisk in my book.