Sunday, January 07, 2007

Not Comcastic!

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not interested in getting something for nothing. I tend not to talk about my finances -- even with family and closest friends -- as I'm aware of the fact that a life in higher education isn't exactly the Yellow Brick Road, nor is the writing biz, and quite frankly I've made my peace with that. By and large the Exile Family gets by just fine, but this month we managed to fall a little behind on our cable bill due to the double whammy of the holidays and my wife's changing jobs, which has put us in the unenviable position of waiting until the end of January for her first paycheck from her new employer.

We were well aware of the fact that this was going to require us to alert our various creditors and utility companies, so that's exactly what we did. We emailed our auto loan people and told them what was what and when they would get paid, and they emailed back within hours to tell us that our arrangement was acceptable and that they'd expect our payment as promised. So no problem there.

As it turned out, the only other bill that was critical was the cable bill. We knew that we were pretty much on borrowed time with this one, and sure enough on the 3rd of January we got the dreaded threat of disconnection notice. Only one thing: the letter was dated December 26th, meaning that we had little if any time to fix the situation before the plug got pulled.

So I sent off an email that night to Adelphia's customer service center, making a promise of payment as I did with our auto finance company. There was no time to call from work, as between an understaffed desk this week and meetings up the wazoo I didn't have so much as a spare moment to call my wife to see how she was doing at her new job, let alone spend any quality time with the folks at Adelphia, and the cable company's offices closed well before I got home in the evening.

There was no response to my email, but I didn't sweat it too much. I was getting paid on Friday and I'd be able to settle up with the cable company first thing that morning. Adelphia's letter stated "(y)our service will be disconnected no sooner than eight business days based on this statement notification," so I figured we had at least one or two days to spare, right?

Wrong. Friday morning, no cable. Yay! And still no response to my email, more than 48 hours later. Granted, Adelphia was in the process of being transitioned into Comcast, but surely someone was still manning the email during that last week of the old regime. As it turned out, I did get an email... this morning, from Comcast's Customer Service Department -- two of them, no less.

The first informed me that their office had received my message and to expect a personal response regarding my account; the second, presumably my "personal response", was a form letter telling me not to send any more email to Adelphia's customer service address and to call Comcast's 800 number for more information. Somewhat annoyed, I started to compose another email wondering why the hell it took these guys four days to respond to my initial message when looking back at Comcast's emails I noticed something very odd:

The dates.

Although I had clearly received them this morning, the dates in the message body of both emails were dated January 3rd. WTF? I pulled up the original text of the emails to check the header information, and sure enough both of them had been sent this morning -- on January 7th. Someone had evidently backdated the emails in order to make it look like my message had been responded to immediately, perhaps unaware of the fact that while you can appear to fudge the send date the header info will tell you exactly when that mail hit the server.

Still, I guess it's possible that it took four days for the Comcast Customer Service representative's email to get from the office computer it was composed on to the server. Maybe it passed through one of those quantum physics experiments that slows the speed of light down like they did at the Rowland Institute a few years back. That might also explain how I got a message on January 3rd that stated the following:

Dear Valued Customer,

This is an automated response from Time Warner Cable Customer Care. We received your message on 2007-01-04 01:29:28.

You will receive a personal response via Email from one of our Customer Support Representatives, as soon as we have researched your account.

Note the date in there. Yes, Comcast/Time Warner's Customer Service team was so on the ball that they received my email message and sent their response back in time! Now that's Comcastic™!

I wasn't exactly sure how to respond to this. I mean, here I was, a deadbeat customer clearly in the wrong, so really all Comcast had to do was respond to my email with something like, "Yeah, sorry Adelphia didn't get back to you, but shit happens, you know?" and quite honestly I would have been cool with that. But instead not only do they try and pull a fast one with the email dates to make it seem like their responses were courteous and prompt, but in the process of trying to cover their asses they acknowledge that they'd been sitting on my promise of payment and let Adelphia pull the plug on Friday morning anyway.

What. The. Fuck.

So I emailed Comcast and explained the odd date discrepancies in their correspondence with me, asking them to honor a new promise of payment and to restore our cable service as soon as possible. What I should have done was tell them I was going to the Better Business Bureau or the state Attorney General's office for deceptive business practices, but seeing that I have a three and half year old daughter who needs her morning fix of Caillou and a wife who lives and dies by her DVR, I figure that just getting our service restored would be enough of a victory.

Maybe a rep dropped the ball on this one, falling behind on the workload and backdating the email in order to cover his or her own ass. But if a company is willing to try and fool you into thinking that they answered your email when they have absolutely nothing to gain from doing so, you have to wonder what else they're capable of doing when there actually is something in it for them.

Should be interesting to see how they respond (and don't worry -- I'll share!)...

1 comment:

RMBatenburg said...

I would say what most likely happened was a mix up somewhere in the company’s customer care infrastructure. There’s a whole network of systems for emails like yours to go through before they reach a customer care representative and then before that representative’s response can reach you. Unfortunately, the processes don’t sufficiently support the business leading to gaps and often to neglected customers. The simple fact is that few if any of the representatives have been properly trained on how to use the various customer care systems and it leads to an inability to provide quality customer service. Everyone would be a lot happier if the cable folks would take the time to educate their reps. Customers would obviously benefit from better service, customer care representatives would probably enjoy not getting yelled at and receiving “nasty-grams” from unhappy customers, and the cable companies would retain more customers and make more money. To me, if it’s a win for the customer, it’s a win for the cable company.