Best Buy FAIL

If you’ve ever dealt with Best Buy or Comcast before, you can stop reading.

I’m about to start working on a bandwidth-intensive personal project that will require decent upload speeds. Even though I have the fastest available AT&T DSL package, it would be painfully slow to use for this project, so I decided to temporarily switch to my other “favorite” provider, Comcast. Since I want Internet only, and Comcast hates to give reasonable prices to Internet-only customers (or even list the prices on their website), I decided to order through Best Buy since they’re always running some sort of promotion. Currently, I can get the “Blast” service (the fastest option that wouldn’t require me to buy a new modem), for about $30/month for three months, before it shoots up to like a zillion dollars. That’s actually a few dollars cheaper than what I’m paying for my super-slow DSL, and three months should be plenty of time for me to complete the bulk of my project.

After I went through the signup process in the store, I was handed a piece of paper and told that all I needed to do was call Comcast and give them my modem’s MAC address. Sounded easy enough, even though I knew I’d have to be routed around a bit since he circled the “professional installation” number. I asked if I had to pay anything or do anything else, and was told that no, I was all set, so I left and went about my day.

Well, tonight I called Comcast, and they didn’t have me anywhere in their system. I gave them my name and zip code, spelled my last name a bunch of times (always fun over the phone), and the “Comcast confirmation number” on the receipt. No entries were found for any of those, and the Comcast guy was pretty apologetic. He tried to send me off to billing, but they were already closed for the evening (It was 9 PM Pacific).

At the end of the call, I noticed on the printout that even though I already had the Comcast confirmation number, I probably should have been directed to the checkout counter to have them scan the paper and activate the account. Why I should have carried a piece of paper from one end of the store to the other and dealt with two different people is pretty stupid, but I guess that’s what should have happened. Of course the store is closed now, so I’ll have to continue this adventure tomorrow after work.

You’d think that in Silicon Valley everyone would be hooked up to some blazingly fast affordable fiber and commuting to work on Segways, but that’s disappointingly not the case at all. I can get FiOS in my small hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, but in my apartment just down the street from Palm, I have to choose between AT&T and Comcast. I need to get out of here.

Update: I win, Best Buy definitely loses, and Comcast is kind of okay:

I went back to Best Buy today and had the cashier scan the paper. It printed out the same receipt I got last time, and she had no idea what it was for so I was sent to customer service. Customer service sent me back to the Geek desk. The told me the same thing they did last time. I certainly had my doubts about whether or not this particular store was able to accomplish anything, so I went to another Best Buy. They don’t sell Comcast stuff at all. I went back to my apartment, convinced that my call to Comcast would not go well.

When I called, of course they didn’t have my information. I was about to just beg them to give me the discounted price ($30/month for 3 months) and forget about the whole Best Buy referral, but the agent beat me to it. He said if I signed up through him, I’d get the “Blast” service for $30/month for a full year, and $25 installation. That sounded fine to me.

Then came the eye-rolling part. He asked when he could install (he talked about the installation in the first person, as if he would personally be coming out), and told me there’s no option for self-installation. I didn’t have my calendar in front of me, but I said that Thursday between 4 and 6 would be fine since Thursdays are generally free. It turns out I have a meeting until 4:30, but I’m hoping we’ll get out early.

Update 2 on 6/22/09: Never mind, getting cable still sucks.

First Comcast tech came on Thursday. After two hours, he was not able to connect me to anything, said he was sorry, and left. On Friday, a different tech called me at 3:00 and told me he was 10 minutes away. I explained to him that like most people, I was still at work at 3:00 on a weekday. So, we scheduled something for Saturday. He came by, and after about an hour found that the line to my apartment had been cut, probably during a renovation to my building. He said he was off to talk to the leasing office and I haven’t heard from Comcast (or the leasing office) since.

Update 3 on 6/23/09: Third time’s a charm? We’ll see.

Since I hadn’t heard from Comcast since Saturday, I tried contacting them to see what the issue was. The chat support was pretty useless, but they finally gave me a phone number for the installation. When I explained my situation, the agent on the phone said that all I needed to do was schedule them to come out and finish the job, so I did. My guess is that the technician will probably just let me know that nobody reconnected the lines and that I’m still out of luck. But you never know. I might be surprised. Things will be so much easier when I’m famous and complaining on my blog actually does something.

Update 4 on 6/27/09: Just as I suspected.

On Thursday, the leasing office called me about the situation and said that they have an agreement with some tech who handles the complex’s wiring, and that they would be getting back to me on Friday. They didn’t. Earlier today, the previously scheduled appointment time came and went. About 45 minutes after the scheduled 2-hour window, Comcast tech #3 did show up. I asked him if he knew about the situation with the wiring. Of course he didn’t. What was impressive this time was how quickly he was able to confirm that the line was indeed not connected. It took the first tech over two hours to give up, but this guy left after about 10 minutes. He said he’s going to report back to his office about it.

Update 5 on 6/30/09: Connected.

My leasing office called me yesterday and said they could send someone out this morning, and I didn’t even need to be there. Cool. While I was at work today, they called and let me know that I was reconnected, and that the tech wanted to make it clear to me that all of my splitters may hurt my signal quality. I guess he didn’t get the memo that I just want Internet service, but whatever, I’m actually not using any splitters. In fact, here’s how my modem is connected:

short cable connected to modem

I think the cable is three feet long.

When I got back to my apartment, I connected the modem. More lights turned on than before, so that was a good sign. I opened Safari, and got redirected to a Comcast page. Another good sign. At this point, I was so happy to be almost online that I didn’t even bother trying to thwart their installation wizard, hoping that I could get online without having to talk to Comcast again. I downloaded the wizard and opened it. I got through a few steps, but then got stuck when it asked me for my account number, which I didn’t have. It told me that if I didn’t know my account number, I could enter my address and phone number if I followed the link at the bottom of the page. There was no link at the bottom of the page. I called Comcast. Here are my notes of how it went down:

Comcast: “If you have no Internet connection, press 1.”
Me: [1]
Comcast: “We’re experiencing high call volume. We recommend that you visit comcast.net.”

If I don’t have an Internet connection, they recommend I visit a website? I don’t have much time to ponder this though, as surprisingly, they answer almost immediately.

I provide my phone number. No account listed. I give my name, and they find me and put me on hold. I then find out that my original order was cancelled and converted to a maintenance order, which was completed this morning. They needed to redo my order. I told them fine, give me the “Blast” service for $30/month for 12 months. I got to hear the agent breathe for a few minutes before putting me on hold and transferring to sales.

Sales said sure, they can hook me up, and I just need to schedule an appointment. I told them that I was able to download the wizard, so I’m obviously connected and there’s no reason anyone needs to come out. I just want the account number. I’m put on hold.

He comes back on and in a mildly threatening tone said, “Okay, but if there’s an issue, we’ll need to send someone out.”

I tell him, “Okay. If there’s an issue, you can send someone out.”

I’m given the account number and the call ends. I try it immediately in the wizard and it doesn’t work. I don’t give up though. I restart the wizard. Upon restart, it tells me, “Uninstall complete.” I start the wizard again. This time I make some progress.

When I get to the profile creation screen, I’m told that my password must only contain letters, numbers, dashes, and underscores. Got it, next. Now I’m told that my password won’t work because it can only contain letters and digits. Fine, I adapt to the situation and move on. I’m told that on the next screen I’ll install some McAfee thing that probably doesn’t even exist for the Mac. At this point I’m taken to some screen telling me the benefits of the McAfee product with no buttons to push. I try quitting and it doesn’t like that, so I force quit the app, which with its last breath screams at me to restart my computer to finish the process. Seeing that I have no Internet connection, I comply.

After restarting, w00t, I have Internet access. Who knows what the installer did to my computer, but I’ll be wiping the system in a couple of months anyway when Snow Leopard is released.

I run a speed test and get over 15 Mbps up. The upload is looking good when my connection dies completely. I can’t get anywhere. A minute later, it’s back up. Should I get used to this?

After reconnecting the modem to my router and restarting it, all seems well. I decide to make another call to Comcast to make sure that I still got my $29.99/month for 12 months deal, but the billing office is closed at 8:01 PM. I try calling AT&T to cancel my DSL service, and they’re closed too.

Two more calls to make tomorrow and then I hope this will be over.

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