Comcast and customer service occasionally have the same word association as White Castle and fine dining.
The company has worked hard to improve, but it's just increased its cable and internet prices, just as people are working from home.
That's not so human-friendly. And it's not as if other little customer service snafus don't still happen, as I just discovered.
My wife and I became a touch mesmerized, you see, by The Flight Attendant. We get HBO Max as part of our Comcast (aka Xfinity) plan.
Once it was over and Kaley Cuoco was still alive, we happened upon Industry, which is about young people taking drugs and having sex while they're supposed to be at work.
Naturally, we found it the perfect dinner-time viewing. But, after the first episode, the HBO Max app wouldn't let us in. It claimed it couldn't verify our Xfinity subscription.
It was first-world annoying. I could log in via Xfinity, but no, I wasn't allowed to watch any shows.
In a fit of naïveté, I tried Xfinity's chat service. After an hour of being asked a lot of questions, rebooting, pauses, more rebooting, it was clear the chat person had no idea what the problem was or how to fix it.
The next day, I remembered that the most effective customer service tool is Twitter. Comcast has a Twitter Direct Message service called, winningly, Comcast Cares.
So there I went to explain my predicament.
Comcast Cares tries to be very user-friendly.
Why, this DM conversation began with the Comcast rep offering: "What do you like watching on HBO Max. My girlfriend and I just finished Wonder Woman this past weekend and it is awesome that we will be able to view new movies through there. You have reached the right place. I am more than happy to help you get access to the app."
This was a Friday at 3:30pm. 30 minutes later, no solution.
"I'm going to have to open up a ticket for this issue," said Comcast. "Our fantastic advanced repair team member will reach out to you about this matter. I'm glad it's only the one app that is giving you problems."
You see how warm and human this was?
I was promised contact from the fantastic and advanced repair team within 24 to 72 hours.
The following morning, at 10:01am, a call from a 1-888 number. I tend not to answer those. It went through to voicemail. A seven seconds-long message said something about pressing 2 if the problem was fixed, but it was half-garbled.
I DM'd Comcast Cares to wonder if they'd called. The response was, as last time, very friendly: "Thank you for letting me know that the technician called. I completely understand about not picking up calls that come up as unknown. I don't pick those up either."
You're admitting your calls, coming from an unknown number, aren't worth answering? It was, in its way, a lovely human confession.
Sadly, things drifted in a troubling direction. The rep offered: "I wouldn't be able to guarantee that the technician will call back."
At all? Ever? No more sex and drugs at work? So what am I supposed to do?
The rep tried to reassure: "It could have been a pre-call to get information on if the issue is still present. We are still showing the ticket for the technical team is still open so they are still working on getting this resolved."
This rep promised they'd follow up during the week to check everything was fine.
You'll turn into a purple banyan tree when I tell you that the annoying HBO Max thing wasn't resolved that day, the next, or even the one after that.
So, on that Monday night, I had another idea. Perhaps HBO Max could do something about it. Perhaps it, too, had friendly customer service.
I chatted online with a friendly Max rep who tried to shoot the trouble, yet everything he suggested I'd already tried. I could log in, but I couldn't watch any shows.
Nevertheless, he persisted.
He made one last effort. He suggested I use a different browser on my laptop to perform the TV login process. Lo met behold on this dark, cold night and everything was instantly fine. The problem wasn't HBO Max or Comcast. It was, apparently, Firefox.
We were happy. More workplace drugs and sex over chicken with rosemary and fennel.
The next day, a Tuesday, the faithful member of Comcast Cares DM'd me again.
"Good morning!" they began. "I hope your week is off to a good start! I wanted to check in to see if your HBO Max is working. I am showing the ticket that we issued has been resolved."
Naturally, I bordered on the charmed. I explained no Comcast engineer had contacted me, fantastic or otherwise. I explained that HBO Max had fixed the problem.
The rep offered: "I'm sorry to hear that was your experience. In some cases, they fix the issue and send email confirmation the issue has been resolved."
Then, that practiced personal touch: "I know it took me quite a bit to set up my HBO Max on my boxes, even though I had the app on my phone already."
That was delightful to know. Yet I couldn't help asking the one question that inevitably tortured my head: "When, in fact, was the ticket marked as resolved?"
The answer came swiftly: "I am showing the ticket was resolved Sunday morning."
Which was a little odd, as I'd only contacted HBO Max on Monday night. Comcast was offering a blatant falsehood. The personal touch was lovely, but the factual nonsense was troubling.
The rep insisted: "What I see is that the issue was resolved and added to your system to [give] you a call to let you know. I am sorry we did not connect when our service team reached out but happy to know you are now able to watch HBO Max."
I hadn't time to offer a "Please excuse me, but what are you talking about?" before I was awash in another personal touch: "My family and I watched Wonder Woman the other night. It was fun to watch the stunts in this movie for us because we know one of the amazing stunt doubles in this movie."
What can one, therefore, conclude?
Comcast was having a bad day, or two? Its engineers may sometimes claim to have fixed an issue, even though they didn't? Its Twitter customer service is delightfully human and caring, if verging on somewhat inaccurate and powerless because they're all too busy watching Wonder Woman?
Perhaps it was all of the above.