Cable Install Horrors: The Wall Fish Expert

A mysterious stranger, spoken of in exuberant tones, he is the one, the Last Scion, he who can magically draw a cable connection through the wall without drilling more holes than a methed-out woodpecker in a balsa wood warehouse, he is… The Wall Fish Expert!

And heaven help you if you need him, because like most things you “need” while getting your cable installed, there’s no way you’re getting him any time soon.

You know what would be a great business model? To make a new cable company whose unique selling point was that they kept their install appointments. You could make, quite literally, we’ve done the math, a bajillion fucking dollars.

Until then, we have David’s tale of tracking down the exotic and elusive Wall Fish Expert, after the jump…

Dave writes:

    “For some reason, I really enjoy reading about other peoples’ cable installation miseries, since I have suffered as well. (plus I’m looking for an invitation to join your site, which I really enjoy reading.) Here’s my own story:

    My parents recently moved to my neighborhood, and I offered to get them hooked up to cable TV. Here in Dearborn, Michigan, we are lucky to have two providers – Wide Open West, and Comcast. I have had good experience with the former, and have been advised to stay away from the latter. With good reason.

    Alas, it turned out that my folks’ apartment complex made a deal with Comcast – Wide Open West wasn’t an option. I called Comcast for a Saturday appointment, and waited for the tech. When he arrived – and aimed his big drill at the floor – I explained that the management here doesn’t like holes, and that I am to request a wall outlet. Nope, he says he can’t do that. I have to reschedule, and request Comcast’s “wall-fish expert.”

    So, I rescheduled, requesting the “wall-fish expert.” Monday, while waiting for our specialized tech to arrive, I had a premonition – this is Comcast, after all – I phoned and asked if they are really about to send over a person with the requisite skills. “No, our wall-fish expert isn’t available today. Would you like to reschedule?”

    Now, mind you, I know what I’m dealing with. As I’m setting up my Wednesday appointment, I am speaking the words “wall-fish expert” with exaggerated enunciation. Nonetheless, the two guys who show up are clearly planning to drill holes in the floor again. “Oh, you want to book the special wall-fish guy”, they tell me.

    This time, I took down names and ID numbers. I demanded that “wall fish” be written in large block letters and be double-circled.

    So, I really got the “wall-fish expert”. Except that it was his first day on the job, and he had never done a wall-fish before. He had none of the proper tools. He drills a hole in the floor anyway, because he can’t figure out how else to position himself from the basement. He makes holes in the wall in the wrong spot. Eventually, I feel sorry for the guy, bend up some of my coat hangers and help him fish the wire through the wall. Three hours and several superfluous holes later, I finally have my wall outlet.

    When my folks finally move out, and management complains about the extra holes, I’m giving them the Wide Open West phone number.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. Clare says:

    I didn’t know Herb Ritts did a series of portraits of hot cable guys.

  2. Ben Popken says:

    I was going to use a picture featuring a cable guy’s toosh but it wasn’t noir enough.

  3. I wonder if it might be worthwhile to make some sort of checklist for Comcast customers. A kind of “collect them all!” checklist for Comcast screwups. Lucky Dave here got two for one, not only the repeated missed appointments, but also the extraneous holes drilled by “Wall fishing expert.”

    If he’s lucky, he can also get the billing screw-up, broken cable box, DVR only available if he picks it up and constant service outage checks too!

    The Consumerist is proof that a business like Comcast only exists thanks to monopoly.

  4. Fairytale of Los Angeles says:

    The Comcast guy my housemates and I got at one point (putting cable in a fourth room) was Very Excited at the prospect that we might let him under the house to drill holes up into the living room.

    We explained to him several times, quite firmly, that we were renting the place and that he was NOT to go under the house, thanks, it’d be OK to just route the cable behind the couch. He did finally relent. Maybe they should train him on the wall fish and send him to Dearborn.

  5. Bubba Barney says:

    Comcast Denver rules. I had an outage the other night, and called in to Customer Service. I got a rep in under 5 seconds [even though there was an outage – which by the way, was stated on an audio recording before the call was connected].

    She was helpful, friendly, and even volunteered to see where/what the reason for the outage was. She then offered to credit my service for the duration of the outage.

    I didn’t even know that was an option. Needless to say, I asked to be transferred to their quality assurance poll to give my gleaming review of the CSR.

    So while Comcast sometimes sucks, at least here in Denver, they rock.

  6. Bubba Barney says:

    Oh, and they offered to call me when the outage got restored.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ll tell you what, speaking as a cable guy if you want this type of service done here are a few pointers to know, if you got a crawl space or a basement usually a guy doing this is using a flex bit if he is good at this. It looks like a 4 to 6 ft rod with an auger type bit at the end. For when he is going from the attic down, we usually stick the middle part of the cable refered to as the stinger or copper part through the ceiling as an indicator to feel through where the wal would be go down from. It leaves a harmless tiny pin hole which can easily be spackled over or even be covered up with something simple as white tooth paste. Just keep in mind, if you have a cable company that doesnt pay cable installers for these services, you will get garbage work and people that dont care if you want this or not. Something to keep in mind. You may want to prepare an installer for this if this is the case and get a spool of string and prepare these wall plate holes and just do your attic and crawl space work by tying cable to these strings and pulling them to your cable source if you want to assure yourself of a proper job. If you got a guy that does this work real good, definetly tip the guy a 20 :D.

    • Anonymous says:

      @LeviIguana: Sounds about right – from another cable tech. The company pressures that so much work be done in a day per tech, so which is more important? Good work or getting to appointments on time? I spend too long on one house doing a clean professional install – wall plates n all – and then have to rush the next 3 jobs to catch up. The problem is the mentality – we offer custom installs, tv, internet, & phone services, etc… and they train well – but in terms of work load, still see it as the old quick & dirty cable installs of 2 decades ago. But then if they allow for a good install – half or more of the techs will still do it dirty cuz they still have the same mindset. On the bright side – training is much improved now (though not perfect), and generally they provide us with good tools to do our job.

  8. Maddizzle178 says:

    As a cable installer, I hear everyone’s horror stories when it comes to their installs. This article is a perfect example. None of what this guy is saying makes sense. First of all Comcast has custom installers who do the wall fish. These guys come out to ONLY install the outlet. Also, Comcast usually does not install outlets on apartments. I have worked in several of Comcast’s systems and none of them authorize outlet installs in apartments. There is one exception. Apartment owners/management can have their buildings rewired. Usually this happens when the whole building is in need of rewiring.

    Often customers want things that we’re are not able to provide due to regulations or liability issues, however people can’t seem to understand this. Also find that people can be anal about stupid things. I have had customers want an outlet moved two inches over.

    Most horror stories are complete misunderstanding of what we do.

    • Apeweek says:

      Well, this article is not a misunderstanding. I’m the writer of this one. I gave Comcast every chance to do this right, and explained very clearly each and every time I called that this apartment complex only allows wall outlets, and that they should send the “wall fish expert” they told me they had.

      If they really have such a person, why couldn’t they send him? Or if they are not allowed to do wall outlets, why not explain this to me?

      Instead, I was repeatedly told that I needed the “wall fish expert”, and that he would be scheduled to come over, but he was never really sent.

      Sorry if that doesn’t make sense to you. It doesn’t make sense to me either, but I had to deal with it anyway.

      And if most horror stories are a “complete misunderstanding” of what Comcast does, then perhaps you can translate the story into “Com-cast-ese” for us?