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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

the evils of cable television

Six months ago, I became aware that Comcast (which I am not even going to link to because I have had way too much contact with them in the last 12 hours) was having a special: I could upgrade, get maybe 40 more channels, and pay perhaps $30 less than I was paying. No brainer, yes? So I upgraded, and now I have dozens of channels with nothing on them as opposed to, say, 20. Last night, inexplicably, they all disappeared, leaving me with just basic cable and HBO. Because it was lightening and thundering, I wondered if there was an outtage and, since I had a spare hour of my life to throw away, I called them.
Weirdly enough, they answered and began pushing buttons somewhere and my cable went off and on and off again. The operator asked me which channels I was missing and when I told her she told me that I didn't get those channels. I explained to her that, yes, I did, up to about 20 minutes prior, having signed up for a deal six months ago. She told me there was no evidence that I'd ever signed up for anything and that I shouldn't have had those channels. But, she added, they had another special that would reinstate those channels, plus add several more and, again, I would be paying less than I was paying. Fine, I said, sign me up.
She punched some more buttons, put me on hold for 10 minutes, and then came back and said she couldn't do that because the account wasn't in my name. Now, this was not news for me. The account is still in my ex-husband's name. I have tried several times to switch it out but they have told me, each time, that only he can switch it out. These conversations all took place when my ex didn't live here (and now no longer lives here again, having moved Monday). But the billing all comes to me, the payment is taken directly out of my checking account and I have made several upgrades over the year, to digital, to add HBO etc.
"I'm sorry," she said, "but they shouldn't have allowed you to make those upgrades."
"OK," I said, "but do you see how I pay all the bills and my name is on the billing?"
It turns out that anyone can sign up to pay the bills, but only the account holder can make changes to service (though I have, as I say, done that as well several times).
The operator asked me if I wanted to speak to her supervisor. I did not, but said sure anyway because, as a friend once told me, I've got end game, which means I tend to feel compelled to see things through to their bitter end. Also, I have to admit, I was sort of intrigued that one could carry on this level of interaction with the cable company at 10 pm.
The supervisor came on (several minutes later) and we went through the entire situation once more (the interactions one has in contemporary society are, I have found, akin to being in a police interrogation. You have to keep repeating your story over and over again). By this time I was really asking myself why I was doing this. I don't even care about having the damn channels, but the principle (principal?) of the thing was irritating me. Not to mention the prospect that as soon as I had less channels there might be something on that I wanted to see. I might have insomnia at 4 am and be relegated to watching HBO Real Sex or something.
Anyway. The supervisor finally said that if I could provide her the last four digits of my ex-husband's social security #, she would make the change.
I went into my home office, dug out my divorce papers, and read them to her.
"Those aren't them," she said.
I squinted at the paper. "Actually they are," I said.
She then asked if I had another phone number the account might be under (how many #s do these people need? And why suddenly was she having trouble locating the account? That had been taken care of 45 minutes ago!) I gave her every phone number I or my ex has had in the last decade. Zilch.
"I'm sorry," she said, "you need to go into the office tomorrow and straighten this out in person."
If you've never gone into Comcast in person, I would advise avoiding it at all costs. I've been there and it's like the level of hell Dante forgot. I was behind a man who wanted to sign up for the Internet, but he wanted the deal he'd seen advertised, which was about $20 less, but only available via the Internet. Nothing the clerk told him could penetrate, it was like the greatest Catch 22 of the Century.
"I want the Internet deal."
"Then sign up for it on the Internet."
"But I don't have Internet, that's why I want to sign up for it."
Also, he was hard of hearing.
When it was my turn, I told my entire story again (when the clerk pulled up my account last night's supervisor had put a note on it that only said, "told to go into office.")
The clerk told me that there was nothing she could do because only my ex could put me on the account. It's unclear to me how he would accomplish this since I'd already provided for Comcast every number associated with his identity. What was he going to do: Give a blood sample? (Maybe they can make another Bourne Identity sequel in which one is unable to prove one's identity to Comcast).
It's been a long time since I really pulled out the rhetorical stops but, you know, I'd had enough. Plus the line behind me was starting to go out the door and I was THAT person holding up the line with a ridiculous unsolveable problem. Perhaps worn down by what was looking like a bad day (I should point out the deaf man wanting Internet and I were her first two customers of the day), the clerk conceded that if I could provide a document that showed I owned the house where I watched the cable that I paid for, that she could make the change.
"OK," I said, "like a mortgage bill?"
"Anything with your name and address on it," she offered (which seemed quite a large step away from her previous position that I needed to actually provide my ex-husband).
Since I had actually brought my divorce papers with me to Comcast (on a whim) I handed them to her.
"How's this?" I asked, pointing to my name and address and then his name and address in between the huge words "Dissolution of Marriage" (Dissolution of Joint Cable Bills it perhaps should have read).
"I guess I can use that," she said.
(I must point out that while my name and address are on my divorce papers, they appear so in my handwriting, so the only thing I think those papers prove is that 1. I know how to write my name and 2. I am divorced.)
Anyway, she decided that was sufficient (possibly anyone who carries divorce papers to a cable office gets some kind of special dispensation?) and proceeded to COPY MY DIVORCE PAPERS AND PUT THEM IN MY CABLE BILL FILE. (Is Comcast running Homeland Security now?)
So the upshot is, they closed his account, opened mine and transferred, they said, the autopay from that account to mine. I can't wait to see how that works out.
Proof positive: TV is evil.

This post, FYI, was interrupted midway by a power outtage. When I called PNM, my other favorite utility (I should call Qwest next and I will have encountered the Axis of Evil for utility companies), they also actually answered the phone and told me there had been a "feeder unlock" (Ah yes, the old feeder unlock, just as I suspected.) but they expected the power to come back on at 1:46 pm. (Which may be the most weirdly specific answer I've ever received from anyone).
It actually came back on early.
Modern woman trying to negotiate the vagaries of life: -45.

ps: Peter, you can still watch the cable if you end up housesitting for me in September. But it's my cable now!