We had set up a “bundled” service at our new house with AT&T because we love our Direct TV, and they own Direct TV. The “bundling” package enables AT&T to fuck up all three services, TV, Internet, and home phone, in equally catastrophic fashion and, at the same time, hold you hostage and make you overpay for everything after the “Introductory Period” on the initial offer expires. But having to deal with three separate, yet probably equally inept companies, all devoid of any semblance of customer service, was just too much to contemplate; so we sold our souls to the devil that is AT&T. I mean, it was either that or we’d have to call Comcast. There will be, unfortunately, more on that a bit later…
But, we have trees in our yard, and lots of them. In this I am certain we are not alone here in Atlanta. Flying into Atlanta, you can’t even see the City for the trees, or the forest, whatever. Trees are nice and, and trees are pretty, and we have five majestic 60ft tall Southern Live Oaks in our backyard, effectively blocking the southwestern sky. This is great at sunset, filtered light and all that, but pretty sucky when it comes to getting a straight shot at the Direct TV satellite that we need for reception. The Direct TV guy came by, took one look and said “Uh-uh…” So we are now forced into an act of psychological prostitution: we have to call Comcast.
My wife makes the initial call and it all starts off uncharacteristically good. She got a very nice lady (Southern accent, of course) who helps us out and even has an appointment open day after tomorrow. Zounds! The only SNAFU with this seemingly too-good-to-be-true scenario is that the landline phone number AT&T had assigned us was a 404 number and Comcast wants to give us a 678. Having a 404 in Atlanta signifies, generally, that you are ITP, Inside The Perimeter of Interstate 285, which makes a ring around the City. ITP is cool. 678 is definitely OTP, and OTP is not cool. Being OTP is the equivalent of listening to your team win the Super Bowl on the radio in the parking lot of the stadium. You are still there, but just not there… So to keep our Uber-cool 404 number, we will have to wait for Comcast to “port” it over, which means another 4 days of waiting for the appointment. See!! Too good to be true is truly Comcastic.
So it’s now Thursday, and we are entering our 11am to 2pm three-hour window for service, and we are waiting for the Comcasteers to show. After about 2 hours and still nobody here, we decide to call the “Customer Service” line. After an appropriate amount of time on hold, we are told that our appointment has been canceled. That’s right, canceled. No call, no notice, no opportunity to reschedule; just canceled. And fortunately for me, the account is in my wife’s name, so the conversation that ensued between her and the Comcastaways went like this:
Wife: “Our appointment was cancelled? Wasn’t anyone going to call us, and let us know?”
Comcaster: “We had to reschedule because AT&T disconnected the 404 number you wanted ported over, so we had to assign a different phone number to your account.”
Wife: “The AT&T number was never even connected, so how could it be disconnected?”
Comcastidor: “Well, the number was disconnected and we can’t port over a disconnected number, so we’ve rescheduled your appointment for next Monday…”
Wife: “Well, if that’s the case, why didn’t you just assign a new phone number and send it out with the guys today?
Comcastidero: “Well, to do that we would need your approval.”
Wife: “And for that you’d need to do what? Maybe, call me?”
The irony of the situation totally escaped Ms. Comcastic and, just like with the Borg, resistance is futile with them.
So we agreed grudgingly to another 4-day wait. We were, of course, bitterly disappointed and dreading that the neighbor whose unprotected wireless network we had been pirating would get wise and slam a password on it, leaving my wife unable to work, and me unable to dick around on the internet all day. So after bitching about things amongst ourselves for an hour or so and trying to reconcile ourselves to the idiocy, I realized that this was a situation that called for a really stupid, yet probably futile, gesture on someone’s part. And I was just the guy to do it.
“Let me call them, Honey.” Heroes are not born, they just are.
I got on the phone and, after being first connected to someone at a call center in California, who was nice enough to give me the number for the one here in Georgia, I was in the queue. When dealing with Phone Tree Bureaucracies like the DMV, the IRS, or Comcast, I use the same tactic I used to employ when trying to score dope back in the 80’s. No matter how gigantic an asshole my dealer was, and he was Guiness Book material in that regard, he was my dealer; and he had to be dealt with, as it were. He was the one and only person I knew who could fulfill a pressing need for a product or service which only he could provide; and, as such, had a monopoly on my situation. I would laugh at any stupid, off-color jokes, and I would be courteous; I would agree to whatever outrageous demands he might have, be where I needed to be at whatever time I needed to be there, and I would bring only large bills. Accommodating and nice will get you further, and much more quickly, than asshole. So calling Comcast was just a little bit too much like calling the Dope Man.
I got lucky, for once, because when I called, and got an older-sounding, sympathetic ear on the other end of the line; and I didn’t miss the opportunity to lay it on thick. This is one time where the ineptitude and lack of communication on their end can be used to your advantage. No one at Comcast seems to talk to anyone else; so you have to go through the same song and dance with each and every person you talk to. In our situation this worked out well, as the nice lady that I got on the line this time had no idea we had just talked to someone else seconds earlier. I told her (again) the details of our plight. It’s very important, if you want any results from a Phone-Tree Bureaucracy, to explain your situation without assigning any blame, lest you risk alienation right from the get-go. How our appointment had been canceled with no notice; how no one had called, and how we would not have even known, had we not called them; and how not having our install done today was costing us money and risking my wife’s job security as her accounts and bosses were expecting her to be connected and available today (I did embellish a bit here).
Miracle of miracles, the nice lady (Southern accent, again) said she would pencil us in for this coming Sunday, which was only 24 hours sooner than the Comsast-hole we had dealt with earlier, but she would also try to get a hold of dispatch and put us on an “Escalated Installation Schedule”. She was going to Escalate! She said she would contact dispatch, and she would call us back within two hours. And amazingly enough, we got the call and an appointment for the very next day. Another window of opportunity had opened. We might score yet…
Much like the situation with the Dope Man, as the appointed time arrived we were at the windows peering out, waiting and watching, fingers drumming on the tabletop as the three-hour window opened. Should we call them again? When will they be here? Did they forget? Did we miss their phone call? Do they know where we live? Will they bring the right stuff with them? Will it be, you know, The Good Stuff? The 80’s flashbacks were coming hot and heavy as finally, not one, but two Comcast vans pulled up. Damn! She did escalate!
So the Comcast guys were hailed as conquering heroes. They did their installation thing, and had to actually run a wire from the pole to our house. The wire was hanging a little low, and my wife says, “Are they going to leave it like that? It looks so bad…”
Honey, just let it go. You don’t complain when Dope Man gives you a used baggie, you just smile, and pay the man…