Comcast Installs Cable With Extreme Incompetence

This above pictured pile of cables is but the beginning of Glen’s magical mystery tour into the wonder of having a Comcast contractor install cable…

wallstellation.jpg“They took apart one of our phone jacks in our office room for some reason and left it hanging.”

Our story begins with the sales call. It was a door-to-door salesman, and after going through everything I was satisfied with what was being offered. I made sure that everything (except one thing, and that would come back to haunt me) was written down. All the fees being waived? In writing, each listed separately. Cost? In writing. I filed away the paperwork and waited for the installation. Having read about installation horror stories (on the Consumerist), I decided to stay home and supervise the installation that Comcast was going to be doing. It’s a good thing I did.

screwplate.jpgThe rest of the wall jack was left on the desk.

8/7/2007 – Installer shows up. He is a Comcast contractor with the company J&L Cable. As I start to talk to him about things, he interrupts me and asks to see where all the cable jacks are. I take him around, showing him where they are all, and then taking him to the office room, where a jack needs to be installed. Remember that one thing I didn’t have written down? Yeah, that’s it. He says almost nothing until the tour is over. Then he tells me that he couldn’t put the jack into the office room, because he was not allowed to. I ask why, since the salesperson specifically told us it would be no problem. He tells me that it would require him to drill through walls or floors/ceilings or he’s have to wall-fish, and “We don’t do that”. We argued back and forth, and he told us that the Comcast salespeople were dishonest, and that they’d tell us anything they needed to in order to get us to sign. There was nothing he could do. I told him that I wanted him to write that down on his installation form. He looked alarmed for a moment, then started over, this time adding an example. “See, if we do that we could end up in the same situation we ended up in last week at another unit here – when I drilled through the floor it ruined the carpet.” I told him that if he did the installation there then he must be allowed to do it, but he said no, he wasn’t allowed to. I asked him “what about last week?”, and he said they never do it.

extraongcable.jpgFor some reason they took our long cable and replaced it with one that barely reaches the television. I have to replace it now.

Then he changed tactics on me. Don’t underestimate the slyness of the Comcast Installation Tech. He tells me that he couldn’t put the cable modem into that room anyway. Why? Well, he described “it’s called VOICE OVER IP, and the cable modem has to be close to a phone jack so that we can pipe the phone back into the system…”

I interrupted him at that point and told him I knew exactly what it was and how it worked. Then I told him that there was a phone jack in the room. He then said the whopper: “Yes, but a cable modem is very sensitive to where it is physically in the house, and you’d end up losing too much signal there and lose your phone.” This will become funnier later.

wackyjack.jpgThey clearly spared no expense here.

He then says something that makes my fiancé almost blow up. He says he doesn’t think we’re keeping our current phone number. What? Then why did we sign this form authorizing it to be ported? When I asked to see his paperwork so I could find a phone number to call that he was in over his head. He called a “supervisor” and asked him to come by to explain it to us.

When the supervisor arrived it quickly became apparent that they could do a jack installation, they just didn’t want to.

When a gigantic cable box was brought in we told him that we were supposed to get one of the small ones. He replied that the FCC banned them and that there was no way to get one. It was FEDERAL LAW. Later in the installation I called Comcast directly and arranged to trade the big one in, the look on the supervisor’s face when the Comcast CSR asked to talk to them was pretty good.

When I made them check the signal strength of the line at all the jacks it turned out that we had more than adequate signal in all of them. He was surprised at how strong it was. As they were never going to agree to install the jack as promised, I decided to have them install the modem in the loft. The loft is physically the furthest point from where the cable enters the condo, and the line is split a couple of times before then. But cable modems like lofts (they just don’t like offices), so I guess we’re good.

I constantly walked back and forth between the two techs, watching what they were doing. I saved many of our more breakable items, as did my fiancé. The younger (first) tech seemed to have no idea that he was trampling things and knocking things over. Despite our best efforts, the techs did some damage. There is now a gouge out of the front of our TV screen, and grease and dirt all over one of our walls.

scuffedwalls.jpgThis is after a first washing.

When the techs left it was up to me to run some Ethernet cable down to the office. I put my PC on the modem, and found that it didn’t work. A call to Comcast technical support led to a number of hilarious “answers”. “We don’t support home routers” (I wasn’t using one yet). Sir, you need to shut down your PC, unplug it from the wall, and then turn off the modem. Won’t I lose my call to you if I unplug the modem? Yes. The next tech I talked to told me that all I really needed to do was hit the reset button. It worked.

After finding the internet not working, I decided to test everything else. I already knew the phone worked, so the only thing left was the cable. Everything was fine until I tried to use the On Demand. An error message came up that said there was a communications problem and to call the cable operator if it continues. I tried a couple more times, then called. They told me they would have the same technicians sent back since the installation wasn’t complete. A while later the younger tech showed up in a huff. He was not happy to be back at all. He checked a few things, then pronounced that it must be “low frequency”. I asked him if he meant low frequency interference. He explained to me, in his best Tech Talk, that as a signal passes down a coaxial cable that the frequency decreases, and this must be the problem. This is nonsense, but I was not going to argue the point with him. He said he would have to try it elsewhere in the house. Fine, but we wanted it in our living room. He said we might have to live without it if we wanted the box in the living room. I made it clear that it would be in the living room, but that we could test the other rooms as a troubleshooting step.

The On Demand did not work in the bedroom, but did work in the loft, but only after he changed a loop cable on the back of the box. Now that we’d found the problem, we went back to the living room, where we found the problem persisted.

He stated that we’d just have to have the box there. I told him no way. He then went on to explain that when they wired the house they must have brought the wire in to the garage, then run it straight up to the loft (bypassing the living room floor and the floor the bedroom is on), then split it and run it down to the bedroom, then split it again and run it down to the living room. That’s why the frequency was higher in the loft.

After some more discussion he gave up and told me that he’d have to have a supervisor figure it out, and that they’d stop by tomorrow.

The next day my fiancé looked over the damage and decided that she didn’t want them back in the house. She called Comcast (in tears) to complain about the whole process and to address the television damage in particular (the Tech had hit the front of the television with the cable box, gouging it – thankfully it wasn’t the screen). Comcast now claims that they are sending a “real” technician out.

Now we come to billing. The Techs left a sheet that told us our next payment would be $242. How could that be, if all the fees were waived? When we asked Nancy (a CSR), she claimed that we were being billed for this period (it’s August 8), next period, and the period after that. Also, the fees that were waived – well, Nancy explained that they can’t be waived. The FCC “requires” them to charge us a $29.95 phone activation fee – it’s another of those pesky Federal Laws. Another CSR (Helen) first told me that the fee would be waived if I had paperwork that said it was waived, then, strangely, refused to comment on the bill after that, and would not stop talking no matter what I said.

So what have I got right now for signing up with Comcast? I’ve got working internet (and it works very well), a working phone, partially working cable, a gouged television, a wall that will likely require painting (at least we could clean the grease and dirt out of the carpet), and billing disputes looming on the horizon.

boxontv.jpgWe specifically told him we didn’t want the box on top of the television. If we leave it here it will slide down the back and into the wall.

I can say that my experience seems to be better than some of the one’s on your site – at least the Installation tech didn’t try to murder me…

August 9th: Remember how they promised to send a Supervisor out to figure out why the cable didn’t work? Well, he never showed up. Good thing we went ahead and made the appointment for the Comcast repairperson to come out.

August 10th:

As I said before, the J&L contractors never showed back up as promised. We had made a repair appointment anyway, and he showed up today. This experience was far different. First, he showed up on-time. We talked a little bit, and I explained what had happened, and he asked me if it was J&L. I was surprised and asked him how he knew, and he said, “Well, there’s really only two companies, and…” He clearly didn’t want to badmouth anybody – which I can understand and respect. He was surprised at the damage they did – when he saw the gouge in the television all he said was “Oh, nice.”

gougeatron.jpgThis is the gouge that was made in the front of the television.

I was pretty happy with him, he knew what he was doing, and didn’t try to make up anything. And there was to be no compromises. “I’ll get it working – there’s only so many things that can be wrong.” It took him an hour, but he found it and fixed it. Years ago, somebody had worked on the cable wiring and put a couple of filters in the line. The only line that didn’t have a filter on it was the one going to the loft, which was the only one that worked. He removed the filters and put everything back the way it should be.

So far he’s the only person at Comcast who provided a good experience. He didn’t make up things, he didn’t make excuses, he was polite and he did a good job. I hope we run into more like him as we try to have the damage the contractors did. As it stands I’m going to have to do some work to clean up the wiring, but they’ll have to address the television, possibly the wall, and make sure the bill is right.

Moral of the story: Comcast returns excellent shareholder value by outsourcing and subcontracting to boobs, while retaining a smaller force of actually trained professionals to clean up their messes.