There was a story on the Internets yesterday that struck a chord with me. A lady whose last name was Brown called Comcast and tried to cancel the cable portion of her service. The telecom giant shunted her off to one of those irksome "retention specialists" whose job it is to browbeat customers and promise whatever is necessary to keep them sending in those monthly checks. But Mrs. Brown wasn't having any of it. She had already made up her mind to cut the cable service - and she stood firm. When the family's next bill from Comcast arrived it was addressed to "Asshole Brown."
Comcast has reportedly admitted that the incident is true and said that they will fire the person who changed the first name of Mrs. Brown's husband on the bill. The company also plans to refund the Brown's cable bill for the past two years and give them two more years on-the-house.
Comcast, by the way, is playing extra nice because it is trying to merge with Time-Warner Cable so it can significantly increase the number of assholes with whom it must deal.
Today I have undergone some personal trauma with my satellite television provider, Direct TV. For the past year I have been stuck viewing the garbage on their "Basic" package (NCIS and Law and Order ad infinitum) for the solid gold price of over sixty dollars a month. I didn't call the company and whine for freebies to keep me happy, but I did determine that when my contract expires - this March, I think - that I would drop their crappy and over-priced service.
This afternoon I received my monthly on-line receipt thanking me for my payment - which they had automatically charged to my credit card. The amount I had paid was up ten dollars over the most recent bill - and I was suddenly paying in excess of seventy dollars a month to watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory from now until hell freezes over.
I tried to call Direct TV to find out why they were sticking their corporate hand even deeper into my poor pocket, but, as we all know, getting a human being on the line of a corporate beast the size of Direct TV is almost impossible. I finally hung up and went to the company's web page. There, in the shadowy world of cyberspace, I was able to register as a new user (with a user name and another effing password) - and on the first page I found a link that guaranteed to let me exchange messages with a human. The web page first asked me some general questions trying to figure out what I wanted, and then it gave me a space to type in my question - "Why is my bill higher this month?"
My human, whose nom de plume was Donna L., knew what I was paying and asked how much I felt that I should be paying. My response was "less." From there it just went downhill. It turns out my bill had hit some scheduled increase on January 1st, and the company let me just keep wandering through their "basic" wasteland without knowing that I was paying significantly more for the privilege. After Donna L. got a sense of my level of displeasure, she began talking about lowering my bill. But I wasn't after a lower bill by that point. Like Mrs. Brown, I just wanted out!
When I asked about ending my contract, Donna L. said (typed) that would incur a cost of twenty dollars for each month of the contract that was still in force. I asked about when the contract would end (early March, I think), and she replied that she did not have that information (though it was undoubtedly on the screen right in front of her), and that she would connect met with an account specialist for an answer. Having no desire to get hooked up with a pushy retention specialist (again, like poor Mrs. Brown), I told her to just go ahead and cancel my contract and email the details to me.
Then I went to the gym.
Upon returning home imagine my total non-surprise to find that my satellite television service was still working. Donna L. did send me a transcript of our messages, one which I will print word-for-word in this space unless Direct TV quickly relents and sets me free - without the humiliation of spending half-an-hour listening to some patronizing, nineteen-year-old retention specialist try to whine and cajole me into paying top dollar to watch never-ending reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and dump-cake info-mercials for the rest of my natural life!
Dear Direct TV,
I am a fairly competent adult human being capable of making purchasing decisions without the aid of one of your high-pressure wage slaves. Please cancel my satellite television service immediately and charge me whatever retaliation fees you feel are necessary. Paying to be rid of your inferior and over-priced programming will be worth the ransom.