‘Tis the Season … Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus!

We’ve all seen the promotional offers about upgrading your TV, especially during the holiday season – it’s easy and it doesn’t have to cost your anything.  You’ve read the words — enjoy a much sharper picture, a lot more channels and a low sale price.

Your TV may be capable of receiving a lot more channels and displaying them a lot more clearly than you probably think it can but be prepared for the customer service calls, endless add-ons, equipment upgrades, etc. etc. As friend Neal Colligan discovered during the last few weeks, be on guard if you are pondering an upgrade from your dumb TV to a smarter species.  Just in time for Christmas, Neal offers his humorous journey of discovery that not all smart TVs are created equal and that nothing is ever as easy as it appears. And …  yes, Neal there is a Santa Claus!

Hoping This Isn’t Your Christmas

~ Neal Colligan

It all started simply enough…time to make some changes to the living room.  It’s where the dogs and I spend most of our free time watching sports or movies.  Part of the initiative involved replacing the big screen.  While the 51” SONY, rear-projection, early HD compatible was a fine TV 8 years ago; a lot of technology has come along since then.  Not being one to jump on every new model of stuff (my golf irons may be this old too), there still comes a time when upgrades are necessary.  Plus, it’s just before Thanksgiving and all those TV’s are on sale!  After a quick educational session at Best Buy, I decide on a Smart TV….yeah, no more going to the Red Box for DVD’s…stream away on Netflix…easy/peasy.  Armed with knowledge, I purchase the TV days later (Costco/Delaware to save $$$) for a great price.

All we need now is a new HD box with HDMI connection.  I’m far from a technology wizard but I can spell HDMI.  Enter the Comcast chapter of the story.  Springing up early on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I’m dedicated to being one of the first customers in the Downingtown Comcast location…it’s behind the Loews Home Center BTW… well hidden from the occasional customer.  After tracking down their office, I dutifully return my old box/power cords and sundries and receive my new (1/3 the size and 5 lbs lighter) HD converter box with the HDMI hock-up…they even gave me an HDMI cable…ease/peasy.  Just hook it up and call the number on the slip and we’ll turn it on.  “Will I be watching college football at noon?”…”Of course” the nice lady assures me.  This is important as its conference championship day and the Iron Bowl (Alabama/Auburn) is on at 3:30.  Hook-up is easy as I’m now become adept at slipping behind the new big screen to the cable connection in the rear.

Time to call Comcast……grinding halt.  They cannot find the “box” on their system.  Through a series of 6 phone calls and two on-line chats, I’m given a number of reasons that it may not be working….but no solution.  Kick-offs have begun and I’m splitting my time now between two rooms trying to keep up with the action.  By 2:30, Comcast has given up and “maybe it’s a bad box so why not bring it back to our store for another”.   Dashing the 22 minutes back to Downingtown (I know where they are hiding now) at halftime of the early games…I’m now 10 deep in line… aaargh.  Box back and new box in hand, I scramble home.  Quick hook-up, now that I’m an expert at sliding behind the TV and quicker call to Comcast….can you put in the phone number associated with the account?…. press one for cable TV… press four to speak to a technician…call volume is unusually high today, pleases stand by… hello, this is fill in the blank can you give me the phone number associated with this account?… for security can you give me the last four digits of your social security number?… let me transfer you to a technician…. click…  This goes on for the rest of that day… did I mention it was a great college football Saturday.  After talking to Debbie, VillaRosa and Justin… Comcast could still not turn on the box.  “We’ll have to send someone out… and we may charge you for the visit.”  Fine … whatever… can it happen today… UCLA/Arizona State is the night game.  “How about Tuesday???… can you be home from 1:00 to 3:00???”

I was happy to meet Dan that Tuesday at 1:30… he’s a cable god.  Wired me up, gave me (now) my 3rd new box and got me a signal.  What happened to the other two boxes I wondered?  “Probably a bad batch not set to our signal; they go back to the factory to get re-programmed.”  Tough business model to make a profit, Comcast must be about $800 into my TV now with my 13 phone calls, 3 web-chats and Dan’s time but they’re almost a monopoly so I guess they can make some mistakes.  No worries…I’m a Smart TV operator now!!!  Time to open Netflix and begin my streaming life…or so I thought.

Enter Comcast Chapter II.  The stream is no good, the movie is constantly buffering… what to do?!?  Call the trusty Comcast… what number is associated…. well, you know.  It seems Mr. Colligan that your modems are totally outdated.  The internet modem reached its End-of-Life last July and it’s too slow for streaming movies.  Really, why wouldn’t my guy Dan have let me know I thought?  And, just so you’re not disappointed, Comcast does not support Smart TV technology… only Apple TV…. REALLY!!!  Your Comcast phones are going to be ringing off the hook after Christmas!!!!

Back to tech buying.  Bought a new combo modem (voice, internet and router!!) from the Comcast website…. they are very specific about what they support.  Set that up with a quick two-phone call chase… easy/peasy… I’m getting better now.  BUT, where does the phone plug into this one????  Let me check … that model does not support voice connections.  Back in the box, return, repurchase…..  It’s now mid-December and I’m hoping to be up and running by College Bowl Season.  And, now that I have some mail-back and wait for the new modem time; I pack up the Smart TV (not supported by Comcast), drag it back to Costco and buy the dumb (OK they’re not really dumb but you get it…) TV (Best Buy was cheaper) saving me $400 and order Apple TV for $99 bucks.  BTW, this is good company with great support!

The rest of the story is pretty much the same.  BUT, I am now streaming fine, have my own modem (no rental from Comcast although getting the one I returned off of my bill could be another two month process), Apple TV and even went back the Best Buy on the Price Match guarantee and got another $50 off my new dumb TV.  More importantly, for me, is that I’m done before Christmas.

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  1. neal, great story. I was getting anxious just reading it. My comcast story in a nutshell…. arranged for box upgrades, dvr et al and even at a slightly reduced price. Tech was to come to my house between 3-6 or I get 20n bucks or something like that off my bill. So at 7:30 the poor subcontracted tech, a fine young man might I add rings my doorbell… Friday night summer…mets phils on the tube. He is ready to change me over.. will take 2-3 HOURS! I am last of 12-13 stops.. He was exhausted. I told him thanks but no thanks, it was too late, he was exhausted (error prone at this time?, and I wanted to watch TV that evening. He was actually grateful, was tired and wanted to go home to his young family. I signed form refused service thanked him non the less and he left. NO ONE from Comcast called to reschedule or offer me apology for lateness of visit. This young man was in line for a COMCAST tech position, where he would be limited to 3-4 installations a day. Hope he gets it. I still don’t have my upgrades, as for now I let it drop. Yes, weird business model. Guess its just cheaper to outsource(ha) the techs…. interesting experience. too big to fail no competition..(ok verizon, not much better I suppose)

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  2. I left Comcast in 2009 when they went digital and wanted everyone to get set top boxes. I went to Verizon FIOS and never looked back. Unlike my experience with Comcast, problems with Verizon are very rare but then I never tried a smart TV. We just do conventional internet, phone and Hi Definition TV with a DVR.

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