I’ve been a Comcast Business Internet customer for something going on 5-6 years, but now I’m canceling the service, or rather, I’m trying to. Unfortunately they require 30-day notice, and a 75% fee on what’s left on the term, which doesn’t end until June in 5 months, meaning it will cost me a few hundred bucks to cancel.

Why do I want to cancel in the first place? Because the service is constantly going down, requiring that I restart the modem. On top of constantly going down, the service becomes quite slow in the evenings when everyone comes home from work and gets online since it’s a shared pipe and evidently my neighbors who are on Comcast are heavy nighttime users. This, despite it being a “business class” connection which supposedly doesn’t share the pipe and they advertise as not slowing down. When I say “slow” I mean it takes a minute to load a webpage, then you click on a link and wait another minute, etc. It’s not constant, it pops one moment and hangs the next, but it’s enough to be pretty annoying. I’ve called in about this a number of times.

But what really got me peeved was the customer service lady I just spoke with. I’m moving in the next week or two and decided to try out another Internet service provider due to the frustrations I’ve had with Comcast. So I called up Comcast and told them I want to cancel. Now, I know I’m under contract. I know there’s this 30-day cancellation thing. But my hope was that due to the issues I’ve had going on, and the fact I’ve been a loyal customer for many years, they would waive those fees. After all, I might have a bad experience with the new provider I try out, and I might decide to go back to Comcast and stick with them for another 5 years. If they made it easy for me to leave them, they’d also be making it easy for me to come back. Unfortunately the lady I spoke with didn’t see it that way.

When I got through to the phone tree maze the lady I spoke with very matter-of-fact told me about the 30-day cancellation policy and the 75%-of-term early cancellation penalty. Fair enough, that’s her job. I explained to her the problems I had been having, and that I was going to try out someone else. I asked her if it was possible for her to waive the fees. She said there wasn’t. I asked if there was someone else I could speak with who could. She said, somewhat rudely “No, I’ve told you what you have to do.” I responded, perhaps a bit rudely myself, “I’m sure there’s someone at Comcast who can waive these fees for me. Who else can I talk to?” But her response once again was “No, you have to submit the cancellation paperwork and we can’t waive the fees. The only way you can get the fees waived is if you’ve submitted four trouble tickets within a two month period.”

“No problem!” I said. “I’ve called in a bunch of times about this, there must already be four trouble tickets in there.”

“No, there aren’t any.” she responded.

You’ve gotta be kidding me. In other words, I was calling up Comcast, complaining about service outages, but they weren’t logging my complaints as trouble tickets. I could have called in 50 times in two months and they apparently wouldn’t have any record of it. How convenient for Comcast to do this so that when someone finally gets fed up and wants to cancel, Comcast doesn’t have to waive those fees.

“Well, it will be easy for me to submit four trouble tickets, I can do that in the next four days.” I said.

“You can’t just submit tickets to get out of the fees, they have to be legitimate issues.” she responded.

“They are legitimate issues. The service is going down every single day, multiple times.” I shot back.

“Do you want me to send you the cancellation paperwork?” She asked, in response.

That’s when I started to grin. I enjoy these types of challenges. I know there is someone at Comcast who can waive these fees and get this service canceled in two weeks instead of four. I know this lady has a supervisor she could transfer me to. And I know there is someone in Comcast’s PR department who is going to read this blog post after 10,000 potential Comcast customers have read it, and that person in PR will groan and wonder why customer service didn’t just waive the few hundred dollars in penalties.

So I’m done with Comcast, at least for now. They could have tried to keep me as a customer by offering some incentive to stay. They could have asked what it would take for me to stay. They could have made it easy for me to leave, making it more likely that I would return as a customer someday. Instead, they gave me the “Sorry, we can’t do anything for you” response and desperately tried to hang on to a few hundred bucks, ensuring that I’d spread the word about my bad experience, and that it would be a long time before I’d come back as a customer, if ever.

Update 20 Feb 2012

I decided since it would cost me a few hundred bucks to terminate early that I’d ride out my time with Comcast and then switch to another provider once the term is up. Let them win this round, fine, whatever. I just need Internet right now. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

I transferred my service. They connected things about a week ago and things have been running fine. Then today, my Internet went down. I got an xfinity login screen saying “Welcome! The following process will help you set up or restore your services. Depending on your services, this will take up to 30 minutes. Ready? Let’s get started.”

Great. So I call up and talk to the customer support guy.

“Hi! I was just trying to get online on my phone using wi-fi and I’m getting this xfinity message telling me I need to create an account or something.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t support your phone.”

“Well, it’s not the phone, I’m just trying to get online, I was just telling you how I was getting online.”

“You would need to get on your computer because we can’t support your wi-fi connection through your phone.”

“Ok…”

After getting off to a great start, the service rep tells me no equipment is listed on my account. He tells me I was scheduled to have my service transferred today, and then they will re-register my equipment. I explain that my service was transferred a week ago. He puts me on hold, and when he comes back he tells me I was scheduled for a voluntary disconnect today. Once they install my new equipment, then they’ll register my new equipment and everything should work fine. I explain that the new equipment was installed just fine a week ago, that the guy called in and read numbers off the back of the modem and everything, so I’m pretty sure the equipment already was re-registered for this new address. We go back and forth for about 10 minutes, and finally he says I need to talk to the retention department to figure things out. He transfers me over there, and I get a message stating that their hours are until 6:30 pm MST and so they are now closed and I should call back tomorrow. I look at my computer–it is 6:28 pm MST. I can’t help but smile.

Update 21 Feb 2012

I call the service department back again at 8:00 am. I have a ticket reference number, but I still have to explain everything again, and again they keep misunderstanding me. I have already moved, I explain. It has been working fine for the past week, I tell them. No, the address you’re reading to me is not my current address, that is my old address. I go back on hold for awhile.

When they get back to me, they tell me a supervisor is trying to find a workaround, but that the first guy may have been correct and that I may need to call “retention” tomorrow. I’m about a half hour into this whole process at this point. They take my number down and tell me they’ll call back in a minute. The rep calls back in 30 seconds and asks me to verify the story again.

“I’m sorry,” she says, “but did you say that it’s been working at this new address for the past week?”

I explain once again that yes, it has been working here just fine for the past week at the new address, that their guy came out and drilled holes in the wall, hooked up cables, read numbers off the back of the modem to somebody at Comcast, etc. She thanks me and puts me on hold again.

When the lady comes back online again, she says I need to call back the next day, but instead of talking to retention, I need to talk to sales, and they can sort it all out. She is very apologetic and says she tried to figure it out, but there’s nothing her department can do tonight nor sales since they’ve gone home for the day.

So today I call in, but the number they gave me didn’t work, so I go through the phone tree, get through to a guy, explain the situation, he transfers me to another guy, I explain the situation again, he transfers me to a lady, I explain again, there is the usual confusion, and she puts me on hold to “see if they can reconnect me”.

As I’m on hold, I listen to a Comcast ad stating “The days of waiting a long time to get connected to the Internet are gone!”

After 10 minutes on hold, the woman comes back and tells me “the person” who can fix the issue is out, but she’s trying to figure out what can be done to get me back online. Maybe they should hire a second one of those people to fix issues like this?

After another 15 minutes or so, the lady comes back and tells me that she has talked to her supervisor and the local market rep and they’re trying to figure it out and will give me a call back. Total time on the call–just over 32 minutes. At this point I’ve spent over 70 minutes on the phone trying to get it resolved, and my Internet has now been down for almost 15 hours.

Four hours later, I hadn’t heard anything back. I made the mistake of not getting a number to call them back at, so I had to call the normal customer support line, got transferred to sales again, and then they transferred me within the department. The person who picked up started asking me questions so I told the story all over again, only to have them say “I’m sorry, you need to talk to sales about this.”

“Aren’t you in sales?”

“No, I’m in billing.”

Sigh.

I was transferred to sales again and talked to “Alex” who quickly looked up the name and direct line of the person I had been working with. Why didn’t the first guy I talked to in sales do that? Who knows.

So I called “Laura” but only got voicemail and the message on that said that she checks her voicemail only once per day, but that I could email her. I sent an email off, explaining who I was and that I believe we had spoken earlier in the day.

A few minutes later I got an email response from Laura apologizing, saying that she was in a meeting but that I should call tech support and start the process over and mention “our four hour service guarantee.”

So I called tech support, again. I asked about the four-hour guarantee. The new lady said “Yes, we fix it within four hours.”

“What happens if you don’t?”

“What problem are you experiencing?”

Ok, we’ll leave how you’re going to make it up to me for later. I explained the problem, again, telling her that my Internet had now been down for 19 hours. And she took a look at my account and said “Hmmm, it looks like you were disconnected.” Yes…

“It looks like you need to talk to our ‘loyalty’ department to get this taken care of and I see here that you talked to them yesterday. Let me put you on hold for a moment so I can figure out what we need to do to get you reconnected. We don’t need to send someone out, we should be able to fix that here. It looks like they deleted your new account instead of the old account.” Yes, this all sounds familiar, except that I’ve been introduced to a new department called “loyalty”, which at this point in the process seems like a curious name and I have to wonder what the function is of this department at Comcast. If their job is to give me incentives to be a loyal customer they’re evidently overpaid.

After being on hold for another 20-25 minutes, “Daniella” came on the line and told me that the disconnect was a “hard disconnect” and so they do have to have me do all the paperwork over again, create a new account, and then have an installation guy come out again to hook everything up. When I asked “You mean he’ll come out today?” the response was “Oh no, not today. They have to schedule it. But just fill out the paperwork, then give me about two hours, and then you can call the installation department and see when they can come out.”

I get the paperwork online by using a neighbor’s open wi-fi connection and sign as fast as I can so they can get this started. This is all frustrating, but also amusing in a way. How can a business possibly function like this? It’s incredible. They must have some help from the government or something, because any business that operated this way in a pure free market couldn’t possibly make it against competitors. All a competitor would have to do to have an insurmountable advantage over Comcast would be to only make me talk to 10 people to get this worked out instead of 20. I recognize it’s not the people, it’s the system, but who created this system and why hasn’t he been fired and why hasn’t someone else been hired to fix it?

After I submitted the paperwork, my wife suggested I try again to get out of my contract. So I emailed Laura a link to this blog post, asking her if there was anything she could do to help me get out of the contract. She called me back, apologized, was very professional and cordial and sympathetic, and said being able to waive fees is above her pay grade, but that she could get me reconnected real fast. She said she would call me back asap. Laura seems like a stand-up gal, but I’ll be interested to see what she can do within the boundaries of the system.

Update 22 Feb 2012 10:19 am

I didn’t hear back from Laura last night. I received a voicemail from someone else at Comcast (I couldn’t answer the phone because they called my business line which goes to a VOIP phone which of course isn’t working since it connects to the Internet, but I get emails with the voicemail attached), but the voicemail ended after 4 seconds because the caller was cut off. But based on how it cut off, I don’t think the caller knew that it had been cut off, so chances are Comcast thinks it left me a message, perhaps requesting that I do something, like call back to schedule installation, but since I didn’t get the message I don’t know whether I’m supposed to do something or not.

So I sent Laura another email last evening telling her I got the phone call but that it cut off so I don’t know what it said. It’s now 10:19 am and I haven’t heard back from her so I just sent another email off to her.

Update 22 Feb 2012 11:20ish

Called tech support since I hadn’t heard back from Laura. The guy I got, who sounded like he knew what he was talking about and actually cared, said my best bet would be to continue working with Laura. Called Laura’s phone number and got her on the phone. She said her supervisor was in a meeting, but that I am “issue #A” or something like that for her today, and that she’s in all day so they’re going to get me taken care of. I hope “taking care” of me involves chocolate cake!

Update 22 Feb 2012 13:40

No word from Laura or anyone else yet, but I did get an automated message from Comcast telling me that since I disconnected my service I need to return the Comcast-owned equipment I have.

Update 22 Feb 2012 14:30ish

I decided to run some errands. A few minutes after I leave I receive a voicemail from Comcast telling me they’ve got a guy on the way to fix things. A few minutes later my wife calls to tell me he is there, but he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be doing but will make some phone calls.

Update 22 Feb 2012 16:20

I arrive home and my wife tells me the Comcast guy just left a few minutes before and finally got it working. A few minutes later I get a voicemail from Laura with this message:

“Hey Josh far with Comcast. I wanted to let you know that I’m currently working with Jessie Smith. Theat this restarted for you without having to go through a new contract and everything like that So Ibelieve. Sunny will be canceling the old one to the first one we wanted to do so. If If you have anyquestions please give me a call back or I will email you and have to you soon as I hear something.Thanks so much bye.”

Ok, that’s not what she actually said, but that’s what Google Voice, through whom I get voicemails on my mobile phone, transcribed her as saying. The point is, things are up and running again after slightly less than two days of being down, but we have some contractual things to iron out. The moment of truth will come when I get my next invoice. I’m predicting they’ll be charging me a bunch of fees for “new installation” and such.

Update 20 April 2012 13:15

Ah, the fun never ends! That is, my Internet has been working for the past two months just fine with only the occasional reboot of the router needed. Comcast has been billing me as usual, making it complicated to get any sort of refund to the point where I haven’t taken the time to figure it out. Yes, you heard right, after everything above I have not been compensated in any way. Hey Comcast, how about proactively giving me a $500 credit on my account, without me having to talk to anyone, fill out paperwork, etc.? How about just doing it? $500 wouldn’t come close to compensating me for the bother I’ve gone through, but it would be nice. I’m guessing if I follow up with them and spend a half hour working things out they’ll give me a $50 credit or something.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m updating things. It’s because my Internet did go out today, again, and when I called in and spent 20 minutes on the phone with a technical support rep, who had to put me on hold for about 10 minutes to look into things because they seemed weird to her, I found out that once again, I have been disconnected! The explanation this time was that there is an unpaid portion on my bill for $75. Now, I’m not denying that this is on my bill, but I have no idea why it would be there. I’m on auto-pay, after all, and they’ve been collecting my money just fine for the past two months. But it doesn’t end there.

The rep asked me for the MAC address off my router, and when I gave it to her she put me on hold for a while and came back and told me that my hardware isn’t associated with either account I have (you might recall I have two accounts now, the old one, which was supposed to be transferred to my new address, and a new one, which they had to set up after they accidentally terminated the old account). So she said she would transfer me to Laura, the same Laura I dealt with above. I was transferred to Laura’s voicemail, but since I have her email address I sent her an email. The response I got was:

“I have no access to technical systems and can’t provide tech support.  Please call 1-800-391-3000 let them know your are having an outage”

Unfortunately, that’s the number I called that ended with me being transferred to Laura. Ah yes, the fun never ends. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Final Update

In the end, everything got sorted out. By “sorted out” I mean the Internet has been working properly without a hitch for over a year. No, I never did get a single cent of a refund nor any sort of credit on my account. All I got was the content for this blog post.