I thought Comcast had improved, then I called customer service

The company formerly known as the worst in America still isn't easy on customers.

Perhaps it's just me, but I thought that Comcast had visited a reputable psychologist, confessed to its worst tendencies and taken steps to do something about them.

The low point had surely been the famous, infamously entertaining 2014 recording of a Comcast retention agent doing everything possible, everything humongously irritating, to persuade a customer to stay.

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Subsequently, the company admitted that the rep had done exactly what he'd been trained to do.

That year, Comcast again won the title of Worst Company in America.

Soon, though, the company was taking steps to make life (slightly) easier for customers. Why, I remember a very pleasant-sounding Comcast technician texting me to explain how to reset something in my system.

Yet recently, Comcast did something it's done too many times before. It raised the price of my bill by $30 a month and didn't even have the courtesy of telling me. The first I noticed was when I saw my credit card bill.

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Surely, though, the new, improved Comcast would set things right.

Surely rabbits enjoy clothes shopping at the Gap.

comcast-van.jpg

Getting better?

ZDNet

The Answer Is No. What's the Question Again?

I called Comcast customer service and was greeted by a gentleman -- let's call him Bert -- who wondered what my problem was.

I explained that my bill had suddenly gone up.

He looked at my account and declared: "Well, your special promotional rate has ended."

It has? I wasn't aware there was anything special about my service, other than that Comcast insisted I have a landline I never use and don't even know the number of.

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"Sir, why didn't Comcast tell me that you were increasing my bill?" I asked, naively.

"You could have checked online," Bert replied, as if customer communication wasn't really Comcast's thing.

I could, indeed, have checked online. Instead, here I was hoping for some customer service.

I confess that, unlike many, I'd sometimes received a little understanding service in my past. The friendlier, more decent Comcast customer service agents might occasionally say: "Oh, you're paying far too much. Let me see how we can get your bill down."

But Bert was not for turning.

"Isn't there a better price you can offer me? After all you've taken away one of my favorite channels, BeIN," I said. "So now I'm paying more for less."

"What channel is that?" he replied, apparently never having heard of it.

Bert explained again that my promotional deal was up, so I had to pay up.

"But aren't you worried about cord-cutters who are moving away from cable?"

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Bert seemed merely to repeat his script. It consisted of no, no and no. What could I do?

"I think it's best if you put me on to a retention agent," I said.

"He'll tell you the same as me," Bert replied, with fulsome confidence.

What remains of my intelligence was now being insulted.

I insisted. Bert demurred. I insisted strongly. Bert finally gave in.

Retaining My Sanity.

The retention agent -- let's call him Ed -- didn't say the same as Bert.

I'm not even sure he used a single phrase uttered by Bert. No suddenly became yes.

He took one look at my account and said: "You still have the old boxes. You don't have Xfinity. And your modem's old, too."

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I pause for you to berate me. When things are working just fine, I don't feel the need to upgrade just because there may be something better.

Within five minutes, Ed had offered me (what he said would be) cheaper and better.

He explained that negotiations with BeIN hadn't progressed, but I'd be informed if anything changed. (We'll see if that happens.)

Within 10 or so minutes, he'd talked me through the new deal and explained that it wasn't promotional. It was here to stay.

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He arranged for someone to come and install my equipment and, even if I suspect he still got the better of the deal, at least there was something resembling the ancient and forgotten art of customer service.

It shouldn't, though, have gone this far.

Bert could have reasonable, but his script clearly told him not to be. So has anything really changed at Comcast at all?

After all, the company once cashed a rent check that a 73-year-old customer had sent it by mistake.

And As For The New Equipment. Well...

Cheaper and better, Ed had said.

In the time I've been using Xfinity, yes, it's lovely that you can watch a recording anywhere in the house.

Then again, the navigation is actually more ponderous than the old boxes.

You have to take an extra step before you change channels. Moving along the menu options is slower than Bay Area traffic on the way to a Pilates and Pinot Festival on the beach.

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As for the new Wi-Fi, oh, they tell me it's quicker. Perhaps it is. Somehow, though, Wi-Fi is like phones. They seem fast the first few days. Then, they're less fast.

There was something sad that Comcast seems not to have moved quite as fast as I'd hoped. I'd actually called in an optimistic spirit. I'd expected a little self-criticism from Comcast.

Relations are now in a difficult phase. My cord-cutting scissors are twitching in my kitchen drawer.

Let's hope nothing goes wrong and I get Bert on the phone again.

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