Dear Comcast

March 27, 2007

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Well, since I wrote to them on March 2, I’ve heard from Comcast. About every three days in fact. There hasn’t been a response to my letter of complaint for their deceptive marketing practices (described in my previous post), but there has been an endless stream of advertising material, topped off today by the monthly statement. I opened it, not expecting to find that they’d knocked $15 off my monthly charges and–guess what–they hadn’t.

But I’m not done. I shall write again, pointing out that if they indeed want to “better serve [my] needs,” and really “look forward to providing [me]” with all my entertainment and communication needs (a lofty aspiration), and truly do welcome my “questions or concerns … 24 hours a day, 7 days a week” (as one of their effusive advertising pieces assures me), then they could start off by affording me the courtesy of responding to my letter.

Maybe I’ll suggest that if they were to cut down on their direct mail, the money they’d save by not sending me and everyone else glossy promotional materials several times a week would probably add up to quite a lot and they could certainly manage to let me have $15 a month of it.

I shall also print out and enclose my last post and this one, maybe (and maybe not) after I’ve allowed time for a few comments from my loyal readers–to whom, by the way, I apologize for the long silence.

So what about that long silence? My excuse is that April 15 is the deadline to file income tax returns, and I’ve been putting everything together for my accountant. Reality is that I have been failing to put everything together for my accountant every weekend since mid January because there has always been something far more appealing to do. I’m a writer, dammit not a book-keeper (although I actually keep very orderly books, thanks to Quicken, Excel, and my obsessively tidy personality).

Because part of any job I’ve had has been bailing out other people who didn’t plan ahead, so they don’t get stick from their various powers-that-be, I don’t want to put my accountant in the same position by being one of the clients who send him a year’s worth of information on April 10 and expect him to file the tax return on time. So I took care of it last weekend and sent him the stuff (thank you Federal Express) yesterday. Within the next few days, he’ll call me telling me what I forgot.

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Deceptive marketing

March 2, 2007

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I used to have Verizon phone and DSL Internet services, but then I sold my house and moved to a highrise condominium. I planned to continue with Verizon, but after five weeks without even telephone service and with a large number of excuses for why not, I ditched Verizon and moved my phone service to AT&T. That left Internet. Verizon has somehow got the monopoly on Northern Virginia DSL service, so it’s theirs or nothing. And you can’t get Verizon DSL unless you subscribe to their voice service.

The only other broadband option is Comcast cable, which costs a whole lot more than DSL. Having no other choice, I went with that. I don’t watch TV and didn’t want the cable TV service, so up until a few weeks ago, I was a high-speed Internet customer only. Then I received a call from a Comcast telemarketer telling me that if I changed my service to the Internet and Basic TV package, I would pay $15 a month less than I was currently paying (which was a total bill of $61.10 a month).

“Wouldn’t you like to save $15?” the young man asked. The answer was obviously “yes,” and I agreed to change my service to the package deal.

Today I received my first “reduced” bill for Internet and basic cable TV services. It is for $62.91—which is $1.81 more than the total bill I was paying before.

I called Customer Service. The representative with whom I spoke gave me a bunch of double talk about how I was paying $15 less—$42.95 versus $57.95 for the Internet service, but when you added in the TV service and taxes, well … umm yes, he supposed it did bring the total to “about” $1.81 more.

So I have just written to Comcast protesting what I consider to be deceptive–or at best, misleading–marketing practices. When someone tells you that you will pay less and save money but doesn’t explain that it is for one component of the package only and that by the time you add everything together, your bottom line is actually going to be higher than it was before, isn’t the natural assumption that you are going to be writing Comcast a smaller check every month?

I suggested that an appropriate response would be a reduction to my Comcast bill of the $15 I was led to believe would be the result of my signing up for the package. I said Comcast could disconnect the TV service or not as they wished—such is my interest in it that I have not yet even bothered to connect a television set to the drop to see if it works.

If Comcast has an atom of customer relations savvy, their response will be to reduce my monthly bill by $15 and leave my basic TV service in place. We shall see what happens. I’ll let you know.