Category Archives: Shopping

Comcast Discovers that Burying a Cable Requires Digging a Trench

I got up at 8am in case a Comcast person turned up at our door without phoning. I felt for some reason that I ought to be fully dressed for such an occasion.

No one turned up from 8-10, of course, and no one called either.

But some time not long after 10am, a Comcast cable moving person appeared at our door. Unfortunately by then we’d given up and gone out to forage for the week’s food. I left my son to hold down the fort, and what follows is based on his report.

It seems our work order is in the system as “low hanging cable” and therefore Comcast has not yet gotten its collective mind around the idea that it should be buried rather than moved. The guy we got today had equipment for burying a cable – to wit, a shovel – but looking over our yard he decided that the cable would have to be buried more than six inches deep. That means the trench is beyond the capabilities of shovel technology, and requires some actual mechanical digging equipment. This, alas, he did not have. As a result he is passing the buck to one of Comcast’s contractors, people who have the equipment that will dig a trench. (Why the cable needs to be buried more than six inches and/or why this fact was not evident to last week’s guy, is opaque to me … unless it was that last week’s guy, being unequipped with shovel technology, was himself in no danger of having to dig a quite long trench.) Today’s guy took some photos and assured my son that the contractor would turn up at some unspecified date and time this week, but not to worry as it was all outside work and we didn’t need to be home. The way it works is that the contractor digs the trench, lays the wire and fills up the hole, but doesn’t actually connect the wire to the house. That job is reserved for true Comcast people who come at some later time to disconnect the old wire (and, I hope, remove it) and connect up the new one.

The idea of some contractor turning up at a random time and digging trenches in my back yard based on photos doesn’t fill me with glee, especially given that there are sprinkler lines and the AT&T phone wire buried down there just waiting to be severed. I’d like to be here when the contractor comes, but for that to happen (1) I’d have to know when he was scheduled for, and (2) be free then, and not least, (3) he’d actually have to turn up more or less when promised. None of these seem like high-probability events, and if you multiply the three probabilities together you get the sort of small numbers usually associated with the resolution of an electron microscope.

Faith, the lady from “we can help,” told me that her hours were 8-5, Sun-Thursday, so I tried calling her to see if she could tell me when the contractor might be scheduled to turn up. She didn’t answer her phone, but the message tells me that I’ve reached her desk and can leave a message. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.

[Update: I emailed instead.]

Previously: A Report From Comcast Hell

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A Report From Comcast Hell

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I had AT&T DSL. It did what it promised, but it wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the multimedia demands of my internet-media-gulping family (especially when both kids were home), plus the upload speed was capped too low to permit us to take advantage of DISH Anywhere – a service that would let me watch local basketball on my laptop on the road, and to route saved movies to any computer in the house. AT&T doesn’t offer FIOS here. There’s Xfinity, but that wasn’t much faster than what I had, and it cost more unless you bundled with video, which I didn’t want to do since we are happy with Dish and, more to the point, are locked in by the DRM encryption they put on all the movies we’ve saved to watch some day that will in most cases probably never come. Yes, DRM is the root of all evil. But that’s a different story.

So, despite everything bad I’d ever heard about it, and yes I read quite a lot of awful, I got Comcast (for internet only) right before the Xmas holidays. The price was right – even after the first six months of big discount I’d be paying about the same as I paid AT&T – and the speed was more than four times faster down and six times faster up. A good deal.

Except for one thing. Our AT&T cable is buried. I asked Comcast if they would bury the cable, and all the sales guy would say is to ask the installer. The installer didn’t have the equipment to bury cable, and he was in a hurry. He hung a low slung line from the pole to my house, right along the line of palm trees our neighbor has running on the property line. Those trees have big big fronds, and they fall. The line was clearly tree bait. So I decided I had to either persuade Comcast to bury the line, or go back to AT&T, as my service would never survive even a medium-sized storm, much less a tropical storm (which we get with some frequency) or a hurricane (two big ones so far in my time in Miami).

Thanks to the internet, I found the email address of the Comcast people you write to in order to explain you want your line buried. I sent the following email (I’m quoting it because this will be relevant later):

From: Michael Froomkin
Subject: Burying the cable

I recently ordered comcast service for the first time. I asked on the phone if they would bury the cable, they said that was up to the installer. The installer seemed to be in a great hurry, and just ran a very low-hanging line from the pole to my house. This thing is tree bait.

It won’t survive a big storm, much less anything serious. Do I have to go back to AT&T — which is buried — or is there some way you can run this line in a more safe manner?

I live at xxxxxxxx, Coral Gables, FL 33146. Account number is **** ***** ******* .

This email resulted in a phone call in which “Faith,” a friendly and helpful and as it proved aptly-named Comcast rep, first called to say she would take care of it, and then called a second time to set up an appointment for the following week. I basked in my Google-fu, the value of the DSL Reports web site, and looked at the I thought soon-to-be-buried line sagging its way to my house with less worry.

Oh, the hubris.

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Guess Which Fine News Source

Here’s the quote from the leed,

Online retail giant Amazon says it knows its customers so well it can start shipping even before orders are placed.

Guess where this appeared. Link after the jump.
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Talk About a No-Hassle Refund

When Caroline and I recently exchanged seasonal gifts we discovered that we’d given each other the same CD. So I set out to return one of them on Amazon, which involves going to the site, finding the order, and printing out a mailing label and then shipping it back for a refund net of shipping costs. Or at least, it usually does.

Not this time:


The economics of this boggle the mind. Meanwhile I have a nice CD to regift to someone.

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Baguettes of Memory

Ta-Nehisi Coates cold turkeys from Paris and French food:

What I remember about the baguettes in Paris is that they were cheap and I never had a desire to put anything on them. They are a meal onto themselves. And I also suspect they were laced with narcotics.

via How to Become a Foodie.

Was it Oscar Wilde who said “When good Americans die they go to Paris”?

And by the way, I don’t agree with him about Whole Foods baguettes. Now, their (really expensive) cheese, on the other hand …

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Sears Still Finding New Ways to Drive Customers Berserk

Jeff Lipshaw gets the Sears telemarketer treatment, over and over and over….


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You Would Think a Cell Phone Company Would Want to Blanket an Airport

Verizon, my current cell phone provider, has no signal at the American baggage claim area at MIA. No bars. No data. No phone. No texts. Nothing. Just a phone getting warm as it tries to punch out or pull in a signal.

This isn’t a one-off thing today — I’ve noticed this problem before, as have family members. There is great coverage at the Miami airport while you are on board the plane, and perfectly fine coverage when you are on the departures level. But baggage claim is the lowest level; it’s street level but in every other respect feels like a basement as there is lots of concrete between the person and the sky.

Anyway, being the helpful sort of cuss that I am, I phoned in the problem to Verizon when I got home. The guy took down the info, and said he’d send it off to the right department. Then he kindly explained that Verizon doesn’t promise coverage everywhere, which seemed an odd way to thank me for pointing out that they don’t serve a major part of a major airport, which you would think Verizon would want to do. I asked if anyone would get in touch with me to tell me if they were going to fix the problem. No, he said, that department doesn’t talk to customers.

I complimented him on Verizon’s great customer service, and asked if he would recommend AT&T. “That’s not what I’m saying,” he gamely replied.

You would think a cell phone company might want to cover the busy baggage area at a major airport, no?

As it happens, I am outside the 2-year period on my contract and, although I didn’t mention it, AT&T does have the HTC One…. Problem is, though, I used to have AT&T. I don’t recall if they have a signal in the bowels of MIA, but I do recall that they were, overall, worse at customer service than Verizon.

As for the HTC One, it doesn’t have a SD card, but otherwise, it sounds really good. Switching costs are high though, as I’d lose my unlimited data plan at Verizon…although keeping it would require buying new phones outright rather than taking subsidized ones…

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