If you have cable internet service or television, you’ve probably had a bad customer service experience. Comcast customer service, though, is the worst I’ve ever experienced. This is the story of the worst transaction I have ever attempted to make and how it made me want to cut the cord and go off the grid.
I ordered Xfinity’s X2 Double Play through my iPhone on the night of March 27. It was so easy it was as if Comcast stole the money right out of my bank account, but I received a confirmation email that my order had been placed on March 28, and another the next day stating my DVR and installation materials were on their way. I set up an Xfinity account, which comes complete with a Comcast email address. Since I was installing the equipment myself, there was no need to stay home and await a technician – or so I thought. He or she was scheduled to arrive March 28 to turn on my cable.
On March 30 I received an email with the subject line stating, “Action required to complete your order.” I clicked the “Confirm Offer” button and confirmed my order. But when I saw that my monthly bill would be more than $120 instead of the $100 per month price that was advertised, I made my first call to Comcast. I actually had a pleasant chat with a young man who was a native English speaker and very helpful. I told him I couldn’t afford $120 per month and that $100 was basically my budget. He said there was a return label in the box of installation materials for reasons such as this. He said to just slap the return label on the box and drop it at any UPS location. The return shipping was free. I told him that I’d still need Xfinity’s 100 mbps internet service for $50 per month, and he said that’d be no problem. He put the order in.
Since I work for a living, I missed the UPS delivery of the DVR and installation materials, for which I had to sign. After calling UPS to find out which of their stations I needed to visit, I got my package, reviewed the materials to see if there would be anything I needed to setup internet. I was purchasing my own modem, so I didn’t require anything. I slapped the return sticker over the original and gave it right back to the UPS lady. So far so good, right?
On April 3 I received another email confirming my Xfinity term agreement for the new order. At the very least, Comcast was covering their bases. They want you to know what you’re getting into so you can’t get out too easily. It stated that my install date would be April 5 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., but since I had previously had an installation date to have the cable turned on March 28 (which it still states on my Xfinity account homepage to this day) it shouldn’t have been necessary.
Despite speaking with the friendly, native English speaker and telling him I still wanted internet, it must not have been relayed to the technician.
When I called again on April 4 after discovering my plugged-in, Xfinity-compatible modem was receiving no information, I spoke to a non-native English speaker who said she couldn’t issue me a refund for the week my connection had not been active. I demanded to speak to a manager. He told me my account had been closed and there was no charge on my account. In fact, there was a $50 credit, because apparently when I returned the DVR, my credit card was refunded for Xfinity’s X2 cable and internet bundle, but the $50 I put down for the 100 mbps internet was simply credited to my account. I told him I wanted my cable internet-ready the next day. He transferred me to the nicest customer service representative in the world.
Kiara is a fixer. She’s one of those customer service representatives brought in to fix problems. At first she had trouble accessing my account. This was the third time I had to present my account information during this 26-minute phone call, because of course none of these customer service representatives selling or servicing internet have a connection to each other.
Finally, she scheduled a technician to come out the very next day as I requested. She said the technician would be there sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. I asked if I had to be present, and she said I did not. She said she would call me personally to make sure everything went alright.
It was 7 p.m. when I got home from work the next day. I hooked up my new, Xfinity-compatible modem – because of course the one I already owned wasn’t compatible – and proceeded to fail in activating my internet service three times. I called customer service simply to find out if an Xfinity technician did indeed make my cable internet-ready that day, but the non-native English speaker said they don’t have access to that information. Well, after he ran me through the activation process another three times, which took 39 minutes on the phone, he said he would schedule a technician to come out as soon as possible. I said, “Don’t bother. I’ll go with someone else.”
But I wasn’t exactly ready to sacrifice my live streaming yet. I do a live, uncensored podcast during select Minnesota Twins games that probably requires a bit more than 5 mbps. So I put in yet another call to customer service after 8 p.m. Why I don’t know. I didn’t see an Xfinity truck or van pull up to my building in the hour leading up to 8 p.m. like I did prior to the folks downstairs moving in, so I figured either the technician never came or the cable running through my walls was garbage. Despite reaching a native English speaker, I only made it 33 minutes on the phone.
I again asked if he could confirm if a technician had in fact turned on my cable, and he said a technician was there today. I thought, “Great. So this should eventually work.” It did not. We ran through the activation process another three times before I decided I needed to eat something. It was 9 p.m. and I hadn’t had any food in eight hours. After about 25 minutes I asked the guy if he could give me the name of the technician that was supposed to make my cable hot, just so I could use it in lieu of a curse word. He could not. I told him that would be a good recommendation to make to the big bosses at Comcast. Even if it’s a random name and no face, at least there’s someone for the customer to blame. I again asked if he was sure the technician came out to turn on my cable, but this time he said he didn’t have that information.
“But you told me the technician was out here today,” I said.
“It says here there was a scheduled visit for today,” he said.
“Are you telling me you have no way of knowing whether the cable sending your signal is turned on?”
“I guess so.”
“So the only way you know if the cable is turned on is if the device works?”
I was speechless. The only thing I could utter was a bellowing groan. How much time and money is Comcast wasting simply because of this bizarre business practice? Just think of all the extra customer service representatives they have to pay, regardless of location, because people are trying to activate devices with cable that isn’t internet-ready. How much lower could your monthly bill be if they just had a technician press one damn button in a smartphone app to confirm the cable is hot at each location they visit? I had had enough.
“You know what, transfer me to whoever can refund every penny I’ve given you because I want nothing to do with your company,” I said.
Another fixer tried to convince me to let them send out another technician, but I wasn’t going to let the third time be the charm. She assured me that they’d get it figured out, but I told her I wanted every penny back immediately, with a few curse words tossed in. She said there was no reason to curse, and I said she hadn’t had the customer service experience I had the last week. I told her this was the worst transaction I’d ever attempted to make. She told me my refund would be in the form of a check that would arrive in up to 10 business days. I didn’t care how long it took. I just never wanted to talk to any Comcast customer service representative ever again. And I might be forced to because my account balance shows a credit of $10 and some change. Comcast customer service representatives can’t even get a refund right.
All cable companies are the same because they’re all monopolies based in different areas of the world. It’s not unlike my Italian ancestors who “managed” territories in New York and Chicago and Vegas and California. There’s basically four companies that own everything – Time Warner/Charter, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T/DIRECTV. So far I’ve used all but Time Warner, and Comcast is easily the worst thus far. Time Warner doesn’t get much love online either, though.
The point of this story is to let you know what will continue to happen if we allow it. If we continue to make these corporations think we need their services, they will continue to provide terrible customer service and continue to fleece us. Take a stand and make a sacrifice.
In metropolitan areas there are tons of alternatives to cable internet. CenturyLink offers DSL internet service in my area, albeit at just 5 mbps, but it’s only $30 per month. There are faster speeds available in other areas, and all you need to stream Netflix, Hulu or live television is 5 mbps. Of course, the speed quoted is always a top speed and never an average speed, so keep that in mind. They also have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you don’t like the service you can cancel for no cancellation fee. While the customer service representative was unsure if I’d also be refunded the $20 activation fee, he was incredibly helpful and a native English speaker who was familiar with my area. He even called me back personally at my request.
If you want to go off the grid entirely (I assume you have a VPN), you can start by extending your Wifi range with a USB adapter and antenna. TP-Link offers a slew of options. If you’re less than 500 feet from the nearest public Wifi signal and don’t have a lot of buildings or walls interfering with your signal, I’d suggest a single-antenna option.
If that doesn’t work, go into your kitchen and grab a colander or Wok out of the cupboard and build a parabolic dish antenna out of the previously purchased wireless USB adapter. The Woktenna has been proven to increase gain as long as the bowl is not too deep. And if that doesn’t work, try a dual-antenna version of TP-Link’s wireless adapters. If that doesn’t work, move closer to public Wifi signals. Don’t give monopolies your money. The more of us that unite against cable companies, the less everyone will pay in their attempt to bring us back.
Editor’s Note: An update follows.
After waiting more than a week for Comcast to turn on my Xfinity internet, I finally caved after finding almost no internet alternatives in my area. While I really wanted to go with CenturyLink because of their superb customer service, 5 mbps download speeds just wasn’t going to cut it. So I called Comcast one more time and stayed on the line for over an hour.
I tried to stay calm and told the first customer service representative exactly what I wanted. I wanted a coupon for a free first month of internet services at download speeds of at least 25 mbps, and I never wanted to call Comcast customer service again. I told her I’d happily visit the Xfinity store a few miles from my house and speak to a living, breathing human being who is familiar with my community so I knew who I could blame when my internet didn’t work.
She said a coupon was impossible but if I wanted to go to the store and speak to someone that would be fine. I told her I wouldn’t continue as a Comcast customer if I wasn’t given a coupon for the week-long internet absence, specifically stating the amount of time I wasted on the phone over the course of that week, which worked out to be about the cost of a month of internet at 25 mbps download speeds given my wage.
She finally transferred me to someone who actually knew what he was talking about, and while he initially said a coupon would be impossible unless it’s given by a technician in the field, I kindly said that I knew he could issue a coupon. “You can do it,” I kept saying.
He kept saying he couldn’t give me a free month of internet, but he did find out why self-activating my modem didn’t work. He informed me that there hadn’t been an account at my address for nearly a decade and that self-activation likely wouldn’t work and a technician would be required to do some maintenance. I knew that meant I’d have to be present so the technician can access the cable, so I asked if he could send one the very next day. He could not.
The seventh customer service representative to whom I spoke that week, Jerome, I believe, put me on hold to negotiate the absolute fastest response he could get from a technician. He said Monday between 2 and 4 p.m. was the best he could do. I told him that might actually work for me, as I have no meetings on Monday and can take off work early.
Then Jerome said the magic words: “I’m going to waive your first monthly fee and your activation fee because of what you’ve been through.” I was elated.
“You should have led off with that,” I responded.
I asked Jerome why he was the only person I spoke to who knew what he was talking about. He said that he had spent time as a technical support representative and understood why things don’t work sometimes. Comcast had recently moved him to customer service for obvious reasons.
Three days later my technician arrived and got my internet up and running. My download speeds are up around 66 mbps, so not only did I get what I wanted, but apparently the $40-per-month package has download speeds of up to 75 mbps. The technician said Comcast is increasing them all the time. Upload speed is what means most to me, though, which was right around 7 mbps. That’s plenty for the live podcast I do occasionally, so I thanked Nick, the technician, and went and bought a new router. Mine was apparently too old for this new technology and only provided 5 mbps download speeds via Wifi.
In conclusion, I would recommend to anyone who has access to an internet alternative that provides download speeds higher than 5 mbps to take that alternative and avoid Comcast at all costs. I’d probably just lose my mind if my Xfinity internet suddenly stopped working and I was forced to call customer service again. Exhaust every alternative before committing to Comcast.
Editor’s Note: This is not news. It’s not even for-profit news. It’s an editorial, which is an editor’s opinion. News articles are nonfiction works that strive for objectivity, because that’s how you reach the widest variety of people. Only small, local newspapers do this well anymore, and there are fewer doing it well every minute.
The problem in American journalism today isn’t fabrication of the news or biased media organizations. It’s not even biased journalists or an undereducated audience. It’s capitalism. Profit motivates news content in this country, and controversy and sensationalism result in clicks, which result in cash. If I can either please you or enrage you with a headline to earn a click or share, the bottomline is black and the boss is happy. Informing you is unnecessary if I can appeal to your emotions. I probably did with that jab at capitalism, didn’t I? This idea of fake news is not new. I’ve been writing about it since 2012. I just called it Gonzo rhetoric back then.
American journalists have been writing fake news since Joseph Pulitzer sent Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman to make Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days a reality back in 1890. He had already adopted first-person narration in his newspaper articles; now what he needed was a hero.
American reporters want to be heroes involved in the story when they should be flies on the wall. But the readers want sensationalism, too, so that’s what they got and continue to get. This “Yellow journalism” snowballed into a pissing match quickly. The war for readers between Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal got nasty when Hearst started selling newspapers for a penny. Karen Roggenkamp’s essay “The Evangelina Cisneros Romance, Medievalist Fiction, and the Journalism that Acts” explains Hearst’s intentions.
“Making no attempt to discern truth from falsehood, fact from fiction, the Journal published story after unauthenticated story of fierce battles, daring exploits, and – Hearst’s favorite – Spanish atrocities against innocent Cuban maidens” (27).
In 1897, Hearst sent Karl Decker, writing as Charles Duval, to Cuba to free Cisneros, an imprisoned Cuban maiden charged with attempted murder. Hearst’s readers weren’t concerned with her criminal record, though, and ate the story up.
“Hearst encouraged his writers to blend the apparent facts of the news with specific literary vocabularies, creating a meta-fiction that Journal readers consumed voraciously…Hearst created the meta-fiction because he wanted his readers and the government to act, just as his was ‘the journalism that acts'” (25).
Only vain, American assholes could take something as solemn as journalistic integrity and sacrifice it for fame and fortune. Nowadays “journalists” are so rushed to get clicks, fact-checking takes a backseat to headline writing. Nowadays journalists spend the same amount of time or more on writing a headline than writing the actual content of an article or editorial. That isn’t going to improve the quality of information readers receive.
If news organizations were never required to make a profit, the news would be less fake. It’d also be pretty boring but likely more effective in effecting change. So instead of calling it fake news, call it for-profit news. And if you’re looking for news organizations that don’t have this profit motive, look no further. The Institute for Nonprofit News can direct you to investigative reporting that has made a real difference for real people and not for profit.
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Doesn’t it always seem like your smartphone battery starts dying when you’re due for an upgrade? Same with your car, right? Once the warranty is up something goes wrong. Well, fear not. There’s a way to make your smartphone last longer than you will. A little website called iFixit.com that started as a mine for DIY tech tutorials has grown into the DIY tech preservation tool and parts shop. It’s the first shopping experience that’s nearly brought me tears of joy.
I’ve long been a user of iFixit but seldom had reason to pay them. All I needed was information. I once revived a long dead Apple iBook and managed to do some of my favorite writing on it thanks to the tutorials at iFixit. I used iFixit again to repair my dad’s theater projector. It just needed a good cleaning, and iFixit told me exactly what I needed to remove and in what order to thoroughly clean it.
Now iFixit is not only supplying DIY tech tutorials online but the tools necessary to preserve your technology. I have an Apple iPhone 6 and just blew off Verizon after a dozen years as a customer. I got a month’s worth of Straight Talk and figured I’d deal with it on a month-to-month basis for the first time. Verizon did its best to retain my loyalty by lowering my bill to $55 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited talk and text. Straight Talk is $45 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, albeit at slower speeds after 5 GB. Straight Talk also doesn’t allow tethering, which means you can’t get on the web with your laptop using your phone as a wifi hotspot. I did that a lot with Verizon, and apparently it does a number on your battery’s life. Now there’s no reason to worry.
I simply started by checking prices for iPhone 6 batteries on Ebay. Everything was under $10, so I was immediately excited. But then I Googled “does iFixit have tutorials for replacing an iPhone 6 battery,” and then I was nearly moved to tears and raised a fist in the air – just like the iFixit logo, minus the wrench.
It was the most beautiful catalog photo and product I had ever seen. Sears has nothing on iFixit. And the transaction was most enjoyable because the order form uses Doc Brown’s address in Back to the Future as an example. The only thing that could have been better about the transaction is if the billing address example was Marty McFly’s address in Hill Valley.
This little box with the big fist is delivered to your door and includes everything you need to replace your iPhone battery for $45 after shipping. You might remember I told you the cost of a replacement iPhone 6 battery was under $10, but the tools necessary to replace the battery are invaluable and most certainly worth $35. Then, when your battery goes bad again in two years, you can replace it for less than $10 rather than spend $750 for the trendiest phone that’s exactly like the last one, and the one before that.
iFixit is changing the game with this product offering. I suggest you take advantage of it. You can find parts, tools and tutorials for Android devices, Apple computers, iPads, iPods, Amazon Kindle, GoPro cameras and game consoles. Don’t let a corporation control your pocketbook. In fact, grab the nearest tool and put a fist in the air to let them know your dollars will be awarded to those who allow DIYers like us to take advantage of our willingness to do the work. Take back your right to repair.
Editor's Note: This article has not been sponsored by iFixit. An update follows.
My iPhone 6 battery replacement kit arrived in a reasonably-sized box with all the necessary tools to complete the battery replacement, but some scary information was also included. A card inside the box said my state (Minnesota) is considering "Right to Repair" legislation. I was scared because at first I figured corporate lobbyists had convinced crooked politicians to make sure we can't repair our devices. Then I wondered why we as consumers would need to pass legislation to protect our right to repair. We paid for the product. What we do with it after paying for it is our prerogative and ours alone. But, of course, corporations would love to force us consumers to buy one of their new devices every two years or so. I can understand a corporation voiding a warranty for opening a device. Apple is famous for this. There was a warning on my old Mac Pro about opening the case. I proceeded to open it anyways and add a 1 TB hard drive.
"STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT TO REPAIR," the card reads, asking me to visit repair.org/stand-up. Doing so disturbed me further, as eight states were listed as considering Right to Repair legislation, which again, I feel should be unnecessary. Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Illinois and Tennessee were all listed as considering Right to Repair legislation. Some Right to Repair legislation has already passed in Massachusetts, and some legislation has had strong opposition from corporate lobbyists in New York. I urge you to visit this site regularly to easily tell your state's representatives why you support the right to repair your own stuff.
Now, back to the task at hand, which is replacing my iPhone 6 battery. I had to let my battery's charge get below 25 percent in order to start working on it because a fully charged battery is more likely to catch fire when punctured. The folks at iFixit made this very clear, and since there was no tutorial included in the box and I only had access to the iFixit website through my iPhone, I took screenshots of each step of the iPhone 6 battery replacement tutorial and uploaded them to my offline laptop.
Once the battery's charge was below 25 percent, I removed the two screws at the bottom of the iPhone near the Lightning power input. In no time at all I had access to the guts of my iPhone, and with the removal of just a few screws, which I was sure to keep in separate plastic bags labeled with their correct location. The whole task would have taken less than an hour if not for one of the adhesive strips under the battery ripping. I had to buy a $10 hair dryer at Walmart and heat the back side of the iPhone directly under the battery because I didn't have an iFixit iOpener. It worked wonderfully, and the battery gave way after just a few seconds of heating.
The hardest part was applying the new adhesive strips to the knew battery, but I managed to install the replacement battery with no trouble. I followed iFixit's instructions to calibrate my new battery by using it to lower its charge below 30 percent. I then plugged my iPhone in and let it charge uninterrupted until it was fully charged. Then I did a little research into how to preserve the life of my new battery.
Business Insider provided a great guide for battery preservation, revealing that leaving your battery plugged in after it's fully charged is really bad for your battery. I and most of you probably charge your battery at night and unplug it in the morning. Don't.
The story also warns of letting your battery's charge get too low because charging from 0 percent to 100 percent puts a lot of stress on the battery. In fact, you should never charge your phone's battery to 100 percent, with the initial charge being the exception.
The revelation that rocked my world the most was that it's not bad for your phone's battery to receive partial charges throughout the day. I was under the impression that lithium-ion batteries had a lifespan consisting of a certain number of charges. That is not the case. It's actually recommended that "charging your phone when it loses 10 percent of its charge would be the best-case scenario," according to Battery University.
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