Bullitt's Bros

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Service Calls from Hell

So I’ve moved.

I was in Ann Arbor, then I was in New York, then I was back in Ann Arbor, and now I’m in South Bend, Indiana.

There are a number of things a person has to do when he gets to a new city. He has to move his stuff in, he has to buy supplies, he has to familiarize himself with the city. Eventually, in this day and age, he also has to get internet access.

And that’s what I decided to do: get a connection to the internet, and while I’m at it, cable TV.

That, of course, means dealing with representatives from Comcast.

It’s hard to deal with people who work with Comcast on any day – they’re working the phones because they couldn’t deal with more skill-intensive jobs, like Walmart greeters, sign holders, and human shields; so, let’s just say that many of them are talent-deprived. But I was already in a mood, because I had just spoken to someone who worked for Dell. And let me tell you about that.

I called Dell because I had a very easy-to-specify problem: my battery, which originally had a six-hour lifespan, now had an eighty-five minute lifespan. This, as everyone knows, just happens to batteries: the longer you use them, the shorter their lifespan, until eventually you have to get a new battery. Indeed, my computer has even been giving me a message telling me this. Repeatedly. Like, every time I start my computer.

Luckily, I bought my computer (with battery) on September 15, 2006, so the battery’s (one year) warranty was still good. How did I know the date of purchase so precisely? Not because I keep good records; rather, it was because I ordered a new battery from Dell on August 3. It never came. So I called them again, one month later, to order a new battery. Again.

I got a hold of a guy – let’s call him “Chris”, because that was the name he gave me – and told him about my problem. I also told him that I had called a while ago about my battery. He responded that on my file it read that thirty-two days ago I had called about a lack of internet connectivity, but it didn’t say anything about needing a new battery. Fine. The previous worker forgot to put in my order for a battery, so why think he would correctly label what I needed?

Anyway, I told Chris about my problem – in particular, that I had ordered a replacement battery three or four weeks ago – and then he asked me a question that let me know that I was going to be in for a long call:

“How many days are in a week?”

Did this guy just ask me how many days are in a week?

I paused. He had an accent – a Hispanic accent – and I thought: is there any part of the Spanish-speaking world where they have, I don’t know, five days in a week? Or nine? I thought better of it and said, “seven. Seven days in a week.”

He said “okay.” Then he took me through a series of steps. Like, he asked me whether the power meter for my battery was at 100%.

That’s a great idea! Maybe all this time I just didn’t understand that I had to plug my computer into an outlet to get power for my battery!

He also asked me to take out my battery, to restart my computer, to look at the setup, the control settings, etc., etc.

Finally, after fifty-five minutes, he said: “sir, batteries just run out of power after a while. So, even though your battery is fully charged, it still has less power than it did when you first got it.”

This was too much. My computer has told me this every day since August 3. I told the previous guy this stuff one month ago. I told Chris at the very beginning of this call. And now, after dealing with fifty-five minutes of procedures I knew to be useless and inapposite, he explains to me the very problem that I told him I had.

So I blew up at him.

In my way. Which is to say, I said the following: “Chris, I don’t want to seem rude, but I want to say that I told you the very thing you just told me at the beginning of my call.”

Chris’s response: “oh, I’m not telling you what your problem is. I just have to verify this.”

Bullshit. So I asked him, “so let me see: you’re not articulating anything to me. You’re just going through the steps of a ritual?”

He said, “I know you’re an intelligent guy. I’m not explaining to you. I’m just verifying.”

So, Chris was on script. A fifty-five minute script where the big reveal comes at the beginning. It would be like watching a mystery called “No, He’s the Ghost.”

Now I called Comcast. In a state. Unfortunately, as you’ll see, it was the wrong state.

Here’s the problem. I have a cell phone. A cell phone with an Ann Arbor area code. But here’s the thing: I want to have cable in Indiana!

I called Comcast. Got the computer, you know the drill. After a little bit, I was connected to a service representative.

“Hi, I was looking to get cable and internet.”


She then took me through the steps. Finally, she asked me my address. I told her I lived in South Bend, Indiana.

(Interesting note: none of the service representatives I talked to today, including Chris from Dell, could spell “South Bend.”)

After spelling it for her, she told me that she couldn’t help me, as I had been directed to the Michigan Comcast. So she redirected me to the Indiana one.

After about five minutes of waiting, I was connected to the South Bend Comcast representative. After being informed of my options, I decided to talk to my roommate – also named “Chris”, but much more up on the nature of weeks – and weigh my options. After getting a good bead on things, I decided to call Comcast back.

Once again, I was connected to Michigan. I told her I was in Indiana, and she said she’d connect me there. I waited. When I got to the next person, I told her I was Indiana. Once again, I was connected to Michigan. So she connected me to Indiana. This time, I started the conversation off by saying:

Me: hi, before you say anything to you, I need to make one thing clear: I live in South Bend, Indiana. Although I’m calling from a Michigan area code, I live in South Bend, Indiana. Not Michigan. So please, please, don’t tell me you have to transfer me.
Her: I understand, sir. You live in Indianapolis, and now you’ve moved to South Bend.
Me: What? No, I … look, it doesn’t matter. The point is, I live in Indiana. Can you help me get cable?
Her: Yes, sir. Where do you live?
Me: South Bend.
Her: I’m sorry, sir, I’m the Indianapolis representative, let me transfer you to South Bend.


So I waited.

This time, I waited for about fifteen minutes. Listening to that horrible, horrible phone music.

Finally, at the end of the fifteen minutes,

Her: I’m sorry, sir, South Bend Comcast isn’t open today.
Me: No, that’s not true, because I talked to them earlier today.
Her: Well, they’re not responding to my calls.

And then I went on a rant.

There’s no need getting specific with what I said. I just complained about the fact that Comcast was the only cable company around, and so they don’t have to worry about helping their consumers, etc.

All told, I wasted an hour and forty minutes, arguably to get nothing. Not to get too dramatic, but this is the worst thing that has ever happened.


  • I thought I sensed a shift in the very Hoosier air. Why on Earth, are you in South Bend? And when are you coming to visit? I'll take you right down with me!

    By Blogger BIG, at 8:56 PM  

  • I just moved (to Santa Monica!) and am going through lots of the same drama. We spent nearly 2 hours at the desk of a Bank of America banker who spent most of that time entering our information into different forms on the computer. When I told her my address (3000 3rd st.) she sweetly asked me, "Is that 'third' with a number or 'third' spelled out in letters?"

    Please drop me a line when you're in the area. Good luck in Indianapolis... er, South Bend.

    By Blogger jessica rett, at 8:54 PM  

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