This article was originally published on September 24, 2015.
This may come as a huge shock to you, but I don’t like Comcast very much. I never had much of a problem with Comcast until now, surprisingly enough. I mean, they are consistently rated The Worst Company in America by The Consumerist. I had Comcast twice in the past – once in Indiana when I lived in Lafayette, and once in Virginia when I lived in Alexandria City. Until I moved to Washington state last month, we had Cox, and they were amazing. We got free bandwidth upgrades regularly, customer support was fantastic, and we never had outages that weren’t related to things outside of Cox’s control (like that whole derecho thing that wiped out power in half the county).
I didn’t really have problems with Comcast, either. In fact, in Indiana, I had Comcast Business for only $60/mo – and that included a static IP address.
When we closed on our house, we started looking at high-speed ISPs. Unfortunately, we are semi-rural here on the side of Tiger Mountain, so the only broadband available was DSL (ew), satellite (double ew), and Comcast (meh). After I got the keys to the house, I went down to a local coffee shop to get a Comcast account and service activated. About halfway through the setup process I discovered that my only installation options were a “self-installation kit” for $10.95 or a technician installation for $50. I didn’t want either one of these. I knew the house was already cable-ready and I’d just purchased a modem at Fry’s that I knew was compatible…since Comcast’s own website told me it was. I didn’t want the splitter and coaxial cable in the installation kit, and I sure didn’t want or need a technician to come out to my house. I also wanted Internet right away since my significant other works from home full time and requires Internet access. The order page stated it would take 5-7 business days to get my kit. I debated expedited shipping for $30 and decided it wasn’t worth the expense.
I found chat support and got in line. The guy on the other end insisted I needed an activation kit, because without it I couldn’t turn on my cable modem. According to him, the kit included an “activation code” that I absolutely had to have. After telling him I understood it wasn’t his fault but the situation was completely ridiculous, I quit the chat and posted on Facebook about my irritation. One of my friends back in Indiana told me he’d run into the same thing, only to discover that all he had to do after registering for a Comcast account was plug in his modem, and it automatically went to Comcast’s walled-garden self-service activation portal. He never needed the kit – all he needed was his account number.
Suspicious of Comcast but interested in trying my luck, I wrote down my shiny new account number (provided by Comcast via email about fifteen minutes after I completed registration) and went home. I called 1-800-COMCAST and navigated to technical support. When the overseas rep asked me what I needed, I simply told her I had a new cable modem that I wanted to get activated. Sure enough, all she did was verify my account number and some personally identifying stuff from my account…and then she asked for the MAC address of my modem!
Turns out the cable connection I was using wasn’t actually hooked up. Whoops! I relocated my modem to another room, plugged it in, and…all the lights turned on. I had an IP address! I was online! I didn’t need to waste an extra $10 on six feet of cable and a coaxial splitter!
Of course, I couldn’t get a refund on the kit or ask Comcast not to send it. So, a full week after I’d been connected and online, I got my kit.
It was shipped UPS second-day air.
Why? I mean seriously, Comcast. Why?! You had my account information and my mailing address a week ago. You sent the stupid kit I didn’t want or need but was required to pay for using expedited shipping. The $30 expedited shipping charge was literally doing nothing but bypassing an arbitrary and completely unnecessary delay in a warehouse somewhere sending out the kit.
I was not happy at all. Fast forward a few more days and it turned out we needed both the splitter and the cables in order to get some other stuff hooked up, and since half our stuff is still in boxes (probably more than half, but I’m not splitting hairs here), we just used what Comcast shipped us instead of tearing apart the basement to find $3 worth of cabling.
I’d pretty much forgotten about the whole fiasco until today, when Comcast sent me an automated email asking for feedback on my installation experience. Sure, I thought to myself, I’ll take the survey and let Comcast know what I think. I clicked the link.
The first question asked what services I was using with Comcast. I clicked Internet and hit next. I was immediately told I didn’t qualify for the survey.
Wait, what? So if I’m not getting a septuple-play Xfinity package, my feedback doesn’t matter? Apparently you have to pay at least a hundred dollars a month for Comcast to care about you as a customer. I’m not all that surprised.
I hit the back button in my browser and added TV and Phone to my list of services. Sure enough, the survey let me continue. There were several more trivial questions that invalidated me, so I had to keep bending the truth a bit – for instance, Comcast asked how I had registered and activated my service. Signing up online made me ineligible for the survey.
The real kicker was at the end, when I’d finished typing in my feedback (without any curse words – I’m so proud of my self-control!) and clicking on multiple-choice answers, and the survey told me it needed some demographic information for statistical purposes. I have no problem with that.
I was asked how old I am. I put 31, since that’s, you know, how old I am. I was now ineligible. I hit back and lied, saying I was 37. Suddenly my opinion mattered.
The next question asked my gender. I clicked on female. I was now ineligible.
WHAT?! What on God’s green earth does gender have to do with either my ability to use a self-installation cable kit or the validity of my answers in a customer feedback survey? Did too many women answer already? Does that mean that my gender equates to “doesn’t matter” when gathering customer feedback? Wouldn’t more answers, regardless of any demographic categorization, be useful in determining statistically significant variations in the answers you’re hoping to get from your customers?
Apparently, having that extra X chromosome meant my opinion wasn’t too important to Comcast. I hit back and selected male. My opinion was valid once more.
I decided to select “prefer not to answer” on the rest of the questions (although on both gender and age, non-disclosure was not an option). The final question stated that the third-party survey company, Online Polling Now, needed my consent to share my answers with Comcast. Of course I wanted Comcast to know what I thought, so I clicked yes.
Annnnnd I was now ineligible for the survey.
So on top of telling me that both my age and my gender discredit the quality and validity of my feedback as a paying customer, you don’t even want to know what I think. Why even bother sending me the survey?
It only took lying a few times about myself and my “self-installation experience”, but now my opinion of this ridiculous saga has been recorded for posterity.
I feel better now.