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How to maintain your monopoly

This afternoon I had the strangest experience. Comcast , the cable and internet giant, treated me like I mattered. I came home from class, attempted to download my e-mail and found that my connection was, well, dead. This isn’t anything new; for the past month or so I’ve had to “reboot” the cable modem every other day or so to get a connection. I knew that I would probably have to talk to Comcast eventually about the problem, but like dental work without anaethesia, I wasn’t looking forward to it. So I rebooted the modem, and an hour later, when it still hadn’t connected, I knew today was the day. Mentally rearranging my schedule to account for the afternoon of work I was surely going to lose, I dialed Comcast on my cell. Funny, you never think about times like this when you sign up for Vonage .

After navigating the automated menus, I was finally connected to a tech after waiting for…. 30 seconds? OK, so it’s mid-day, they must be slow. I’m sure he’ll be ignorant and unpleasant. I described what I’d done and what the symptoms were.

“Yup, sounds like a dead modem; my COM21 did that too about a month ago. Would you like me to schedule a tech or would you like to go pick up a new modem at your local office?”

Uh, excuse me? You’re not going to make me wait 36 hours for a surly, under-educated, condescending technician? [Note: I’m not trying to make blanket statements about Comcast technicians here, only about ones I’ve interacted with in the past] Still suspecting something was afoot, I replied “Well, I’ll just go pick it up; do I need to call back then?”

“Nope, just plug it in and it should be up and running.”

Yeah, right. So I went to the office, still suspecting the desk clerks were going to look at me incredulously when I asked for a new modem. Instead, she says, “Oh, you talked to tech support? OK, let me get that for you.” Finally, to add insult to, uh, injury, when I returned home and plugged it in, it did actually work. Total time spent: 45 minutes.

I’m trying not to read too much into this experience. After all, Comcast has a long, rich history of pimping customers around, unfulfilled promises, and out-right lying when you call tech support. Ike can’t just buy Tina some flowers and expect all to be forgiven; he has to grovel first. And to further abuse the metaphor, I paid for the flowers myself, in the form of incredibly expensive service. But I suppose if you have to be a soulless, blood-sucking, government-enforced monopoly, you can at least give your customers the illusion of dignity. Thanks, Comcast!