For a long time, I have mostly written in this space about the ridiculous Democrats in the House who, tilting at left-wing partisan windmills, are heading in the direction of impeaching President Trump thus almost guaranteeing his re-election in 2020 since there is no chance the Senate will remove him.
This week, however, I have stumbled into an equally ridicules situation which has no relationship with what is currently happening in Washington but could have a serious impact on America’s largest employer—small business.
You may have seen some TV commercials for a non-bank lender named Kabbage. It features actor Gary Cole playing a spokesman from 10 minutes in the future talking to some small business people. After they get the funding they needed, Cole pops in as even further in the future after they got the Gundelfinger Account.
My company has used Kabbage for something like three years.
It’s not a huge credit line but we have made every payment on a timely basis and they have never had any problem with us.
On December 2, we made our normal monthly payment. A few days later, I checked to make sure it was recorded properly. It was. But there was a note on the app screen which said, “You are not currently eligible to take a loan. Call us at 88xx-xxxx to fix this issue.”
So I did.
What they told me was that there was a 60 day hold on our account, the computer makes these decisions and there is no appeal because they don’t know the reason that the computer made the decision.
I asked to speak to an executive who authorized the computer to make that decision.
“Sir,” said the young lady, “That team is not customer facing.”
Not customer facing?
Now I need to make two points here. Nobody is obligated to lend you money any more that anybody is obligated to borrow money. This is a business transaction. You lend me money and I pay it back with interest.
But good business practice dictates that if you make a decision like that—which, by the way, you have every right to make—you pick up the phone and FACE THE CUSTOMER! Maybe your precious computer got the wrong—or no—information.
Kabbage is part of a new group of financial institutions called fintech.
It’s the latest new thing.
They have a proprietary algorithm so they can evaluate risk and make loans fast.
That’s all well and good. And, as welcome as that may be to help fund America’s largest employer, a lender you cannot talk to is nobody you want to do business with.
Suppose, as an example, you are coming up on a payroll and are just a bit short—something which is not unusual in the wide world of small business. You know you have that available in your Kabbage line. Only, when you go to use it, there’s a note, placed there by a computer for a reason nobody knows that you cannot use the money. That’s the sort of thing that can break a small business.
What was point number two that I was going to make?
Only that I made it clear that I was not mad at the nice young customer facing lady. I was mad at her company and then only because information is as important as cash in small business and if Kabbage can’t tell you why, it’s very difficult to want to continue to do business with them—even after the 60 day hold is over. Resigning the Gundelfinger account is a real possibility.
Now, we can get back to politics. But I’ll bet that Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein will see the logic in fixing this problem long before the Democrat morons in the House figure out that they are hamsters making the wheel go around. And I mean no insult to hamsters.
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.