Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Internet Givith Again

Following up on the "Total Eclipse of the Heart" flowchart making the rounds:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yes, Bears Poop in the Woods

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bert's Not Laughing

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dear Comcast, It's Over, You Suck

Today our third service technician stopped in (following two techs who literally just gave up and left). You know things are bad when the grumbling tech has as many problems with Comcast as you do, but he still gave it his all. Turns out we had a bad box, though even that took a while to diagnose, in part because Comcast has yet to school the techs on the new boxes coming in. In fact, of all the half-dozen customer support folks I've dealt with at length over the last few weeks, no two gave me the same answers or the same solution. Each had apparently just come back from totally different training sessions, each feeding them totally different sets of information and troubleshooting tips to in turn feed to clueless customers.

Of course, I wasn't clueless, just waiting to be clued in, but on that front I made little progress. One after the other, the techs and customer service people recommended upgrading my service, but time after time I demurred, which baffled them. These guys just don't know what to say when you tell them the reason you only get just 10 basic channels is because you really don't want 100 channels. Shock! What kind of American wants less TV right?

Anyway, all this hassle was made moot today, since even as I patiently waited for the tech to "fix" the cable, and return our 10 channels to their previous operational state, I planned to walk to Radio Shack and buy a $30 over-the-air antenna. Which I did. And guess what? Now we receive, over the air, free of charge, as many HD channels as before, and several more. Sure, we're missing CBS (the signal in Chicago is notoriously weak), but who needs CBS? We're happy watcing "The Amazing Race" online the two months of the year it runs. The ironic kicker, though, is that we now get more channels for free, in higher quality, than we were paying even a minimal fee to receive. Which means that as soon as I get some work done tomorrow morning, and pack in advance of our trip to Omaha, I'm going to make one last call to Comcast and cancel our service altogether.

Free at last ...

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wither Cable

On Thursday night, while I was out catching a rare set from the Mekons, Alma tells me the cable went out. Well, not out-out. We had sound, but no picture. My first thought was that it was something the kids did. My second was that it was something, well, something she did. But when I tried the TV the next morning, I discovered that yes, indeed, something weird was up.

I get on the phone with Comcast, from whom we purchase a frugal $10-a-month basic "antenna" service plan. They seem perplexed at the problem, and the only over the phone solution they offer is to turn the TV off and turn it on again. I explain to them that, well, the TV has been off. Off all night, in fact, and that the problem still persists. So they offer to send someone out, with the soonest they could be at our house the following Monday. But then they threaten to stick us with the tab should the problem be on our end. I tell them I won't be backed into a corner, and refuse. I threaten to cancel rather than pay more, they don't back down, and so that's that.

Then Alma convinces me that a $25 fee is better than paying for cable service that does not work. I relent, call back Comcast, and schedule a visit for the soonest possible time - which mysteriously happens to be that very day, Friday, between 12 and 4. Um, OK. We have friends coming over for dinner, but I figure it'll be done by then. Several hours later, at 4:15, the guy finally shows up (after I had already complained to Comcast and been promised a $25 credit should he be late for his appointment). The dude spends over an hour talking to his people, plugging and unplugging things, pressing buttons and scratching his head.

It's now dinner time, and the dude says he needs to get something in Elmhurst, but he'll be back later. Later? we all wonder. It's nearly 6pm on a Friday night. Turns out there is no "later," as the dude just removes our Cablecard, leaves and never comes back. Cable repair: fail.

The next day, Alma manages to schedule another Comcast visit, this time for first thing Tuesday. Indeed, nice dude number 2 shows up at 8am Tuesday, gets a late start (the system is down, of course), then more or less exhausts every resource until 10:30am. He thinks it could be the TV''s built-in tuner, but maybe not. Nothing is fixed. His prognosis: "God only knows." I tell him God couldn't care less if our antenna service is fixed, he laughs, then promises to let us know if he learns anything new. At the very least, he says, he doesn't want to encounter this problem again, and he understands why the other tech "put his tail between his legs and ran away." It seems our cable service is too basic to fix! Cable repair: double fail.

The next step was to chat online with Comcast's costumer service, who was (virtually) nice enough, and may have provided some answers. Needless to say, it involves a whole new layer of headache regarding the provider's so-called "digital migration," the shift of all but the most basic of analog signals to digital. Which is fine and dandy, considering we only wanted to most basic analog service, but there's a good chance that the HD network broadcasts (ABC, NBC, et al., and fancy pants PBS, too) went "digital," too, taking away one of the few reasons we watch TV at all (even crap looks good in HD).

So the solution proffered by the virtual assistant? Upgrade to digital service, which she tells me can be currently purchased as a promotional deal of about $30 a month for six-months, at which point I assume the price would go up. So what you're telling me, I tell her, is that in order to get the same basic service we had before, complete with a handful of basic, no-pay HD channels, we need to pay three times as much each month? No, she assures me. You get over 100 other channels, too. But we don't want 100 channels, I tell her. That's why we have basic antenna service!

The best she can offer is an IM sorry before I tell her I'm more than likely going to stick with or cancel our now even more basic service rather than pay more for the same old shit. Then she asks me if I would take a short survey, and I virtually hang up on her and hustle to pick up Z. at camp. And the first thing Z. asks is if the TV is fixed. Fortunately, she's not so discerning that "Curious George" in SD will be an affront to her sensibilities. Sometimes I think we can just turn on the TV and let her stare at the black screen and she'd be happy enough. Me, too, probably.