Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Comcast called me. Oh, the power of social media

Today, beyond a shadow of a doubt, showed how connected we are. For readers of my blog read yesterday, I had what a difficult day with Comcast. I had what one might call an epic fail day with Comcast. So, I did what any blogger and social media person would do. I blogged and tweeted about my experience with the "account executive" from Collections at Comcast.

This morning around 0815 Judy from the local Comcast office called me. Judy called me yesterday morning, as you might recall, because of a tweet I sent to @comcastcares. Judy was very apologetic and humble, and she said that she had no idea how things got so bad with Comcast, but that she wanted to learn from it and to make things right. Judy offered to give us free HBO for the next six months, effective immediately. I thanked her for the kind offer and I accepted it.
Judy then asked me if the account executive last night ever asked me to pay my bill to make it current. I told Judy, "No, the account executive never even asked me if I wanted to pay my bill." Judy asked me to logon to the Comcast website and make a payment. She also assured me that there would be no late charges or reports to a credit company about my lake of payment because Comcast did not bill my credit card in September.

Late in the morning, my cell phone rang again. It was a 215 area code. Philadelphia area. Corporate HQ for Comcast is located there. The call went like this:

Me: Hello
Person on the other end: Hello, is this Paul Kratch-o-will?
Me: This is Paul
Kip: Hi, I'm Kip Wetzel from Comcast...

The call went well from there. Kip told me that @comcastcares (Bill) works for him and because of the nature of my problem, he wanted to call me directly. We spoke for about 10 minutes and Kip repeated what Judy had said to me earlier on the morning. Kip also told me that Comcast was nothing without its customers and that they needed to do better. He said to me that they were going to learn from my experience and locate the account executive who was so unhelpful last night. Kip told me that I should have received a call from Comcast last night and that he was investigating what went wrong. He said that Comcast needed to do better. I appreciated his candor. The call ended well. Kip told me that I could call him directly in the future and I told him I would, if needed.

In a perfect world, people like the account executive I dealt with last night should have the ability to answer my questions and fix my problems. I hope that by my use of social media that I can help Comcast identify and fix their customer service problems.

In a matter of hours, using my blog and Twitter, I was able to reach out to a leader at Comcast and tell them about my issue. Kip was able to contact me and tell me that they are working to be better. Aside from working with some of the Comcast "account executives" on the phone, we have been very happy with the service Comcast provides. I can't remember the last time we did lost cable TV, telephone or internet access. Hopefully, Comcast can improve the performance of the people on the other end of the phone when customers like me call.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Comcast and Charter are in a race to the bottom!

My Monday started out pretty well. I slept well, and got up at the customary 0545 to look after Samson our GSD. I let him out, then I fed the beast. While Deirdre was making coffee, I booted up both of our laptops and soon after I sat down for breakfast, I was greeted by an e-mail from Comcast. This is what is said:

fromComcast Customer Centralonline.communications@alerts.comcast.net
dateMon, Sep 26, 2011 at 1:31 AM
subjectYour bill is ready
Important mainly because of the words in the message.
hide details 1:31 AM (18 hours ago)
Dear Comcast Customer,

Your monthly bill is now available. Please sign in to Comcast Customer Central at https://customer.comcast.com/Secure/Home.aspx to view your bill and other important messages or notices regarding your Comcast services.

Bill Overview
Amount Due: $336.25
Payment Due Date: 10/15/2011

Account Information
Account Number: ****6201

Huh? My bill is normally ~$168 per month. I have our Comcast bill set up to be paid from a credit card as we travel a lot and we no longer receive a paper bill from Comcast. I get an e-mail from Comcast once a month telling me that our bill is due and will be paid by auto-payment.

I did not have time this morning to call Comcast, but I logged into my account to see that for some reason Comcast did not charge my credit card in August for the amount I owed. I tweeted to @comcastbill (a person with whom I have worked with in the past to resolve Comcast issues) that there was an issue with my recent statement. I waited to hear back from Bill Gerth (who is actually a good guy). I did not hear anything from him today. However, when I got home from work ~5:30PM, there was a message from Judy at Comcast at around 0945 this morning telling me that my credit card had expired, so my account was past due. Really? I have had this credit card for over 15 years, a lot longer than I have been a Comcast customer. I used this credit card this weekend to buy groceries. Judy also told me in her call that she would "... e-mail you more information." I have yet to receive an e-mail from her.

Against my better judgment, I called Comcast a little after 6PM to sort this all out. After about 15 minutes of being on hold, I spoke with the first account specialist. He was able to confirm that my account was past due, but he did not know why. He then sent me to an "Account Executive" in Collections to solve my problem. I was on hold for another 10 minutes before someone from Collections was able to speak to me.

From Blogger

This Account Executive was clearly dropped often as a child. After asking me again to confirm my name, phone number, address and the last four digits of my Social Security number (all information that I had given to the first person I spoke to with Comcast), I had to tell him all over again that I had received an e-mail this morning that my account was past due. He put me on hold for a few minutes why he investigated this issue. After a few minutes, he came back on line and proudly said to me, "Sir, I have found out the problem. Your credit card has expired. That is why the payment was not made." Really?

I told this person that the credit card I used was not expired, that I had used it this past weekend. He then said to me, "Well, according to our records, it expired in August, 2011." I then asked him, "How was I to know that you needed me to update the expiration date on my credit card? I have had this card for over 15 years, and I will keep it until I die. How was I to know you thought the card was expired?"

His answer to me: "I do not know. We have no way to tell you anything."

Really? I said to him to repeat that sentence back to me. He repeated the words, "I do not know. We have no way to tell you anything."

Really? Comcast managed to send me an e-mail this morning to tell me that my account was past due, and Judy called me this morning to tell me that my credit card had expired... though it had not. Despite being a communications company, Comcast does not appear to know how to communicate with its customers.

I then asked this "account executive" to find someone who could explain this to me, as he was unable to to so. He put me on hold and a few minutes later told me that nobody was available just now, but someone would call me later. I gave him my phone number once again and I said to him, "You have done nothing to help me solve this problem. You have been no help what so ever to me." He replied. "I can only tell you what I know and I have no way to tell you anything."

My call with this account executive ended about 2 hours ago, and I have yet to hear from anybody. To add insult to injury, when I first called Comcast, I heard a cheery recorded voice say to me, "We are committed to giving you the best customer service possible. If you would like to have a customer service representative call you within 30 minutes after the end of your call, please press 1." I pressed 1, hoping to hear from somebody at Comcast at the end of my call. As I type this, I have yet to get a call from Comcast.

From Blogger

I have yet to understand how long 30 minutes is with Comcast...

To Bill Gerther's credit, he did reach out to me via Twitter. I sent him a few tweets and he said that he would look into this for me. We'll see what Tuesday brings. Until then, Comcast is in a race with Charter for the worst customer service for a communications company. I will let you know how this all sorts out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Charter Communications: It started with porn and went down from there...

As followers of my blog know, we had cable modem, phone and cable TV at our cottage this past summer. It allowed us to stay connected, and to allow Deirdre to work remotely for a few weeks during the summer. Deirdre and I got a good laugh when the Charter installation technicians showed up last April to install the XXX Porn Package. We ordered the Triple Play Package (cable modem, phone and HD TV) not the XXX Porn Package. This was eventually sorted out, and we got the connectivity we wanted... with no porn. We had access from mid-April until last Friday when we were forced to turn in all of our equipment and close our account with Charter.

We had what was known as a "seasonal account," meaning it would only be active a few months out of the year. We were hoping to keep our equipment and have our account placed into an inactive state until we needed access again in the Spring of 2012. For this privilege, the only option Charter offered us was a $45/month maintenance fee to allow us to keep our account open, but with no access.

We were incredulous. We asked the person at the Charter office in Oscoda is were we hearing her correctly and she said that this was the best that she could do and that it would be cheaper for us to discontinue our service and have it reconnected next April. We said to her that for a nominal fee, say $10 or $15 we would be happy to keep our account open but with no access, and she said that the cost to keep our account open without access was $45... take it or leave it. We left it.

I also find it ironic that the e-mail address that Charter uses to address customer service issues is "Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com." Really?

Below is a stream of communications between Deirdre and Charter. Start from the bottom and read up. Amazing.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Umatter2Charter <Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 1:05 PM
Subject: RE: CharterAbby - Blog - www.thehrmaven.com
To: Deirdre Honner , Umatter2Charter <Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com>

Good afternoon,

We’re sorry you feel as if you aren’t receiving the assistance required to address your concerns.

We’ve escalated the behavior of our agent to local management, any course of action taken will be according to our guidelines and will be addressed internally. Unfortunately we aren’t able to share the outcome of that engagement.

Also, seasonal rates are indeed available for the area in which you previously held services. It was our impression that you were unhappy with the $45 rate you were quoted in order to keep services at that residence while you were away; are we incorrect?

In reference to those rates, once again we appreciate your input, and please know that we make every effort to offer a competitive rate for our subscribers. Our goal is to provide the best possible customer experience. We strive to accomplish that by providing excellent service, and competitive pricing. We understand completely that you felt the seasonal rate was too high, and that $10 per month would have been more appropriate, unfortunately we cannot accommodate that rate.

We regret losing you as a subscriber and sincerely appreciate your comments and feedback.

What specifically are we failing to address for you and how would you like to see this resolved?

Thank you,

<span class=chartersigfinal">

Steve Creameans | Social Media Specialist |

941 Charter Commons Drive, Town & Country, MO 63017

From: Deirdre Honner
Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 11:45 AM

- Hide quoted text -

To: Umatter2Charter
Subject: Re: CharterAbby - Blog - www.thehrmaven.com

- Hide quoted text -


This in my line of work is what I consider to be a dismissive communication. You are focusing on one person's behavior when it is a larger issue. And you are telling me that there is nothing more that you can do.

You have done nothing to address the issues that I have raised and I would like more answers than an apology.

If no one from your team is going to answer the questions, tell me who can and I will follow up with him/her. .

Thank you.

Deirdre Honner

On Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 12:33 PM, Umatter2Charter <Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com> wrote:

Hello Deirdre,

We have received confirmation from our escalation contact at the main office that the agent has been identified and this behavior is being addressed. They also mirrored our opinion that this is not the impression we wish to impose upon our subscribers regardless of the type of day our team members are having.

Once again we sincerely appreciate you bringing this to our attention and apologize for the poor experience you had.

If we can be of further assistance please feel free to contact us.

<span class=chartersigfinal">

Steve Creameans | Social Media Specialist |

941 Charter Commons Drive, Town & Country, MO 63017

From: Deirdre Honner
Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 7:30 PM

To: Umatter2Charter
Subject: Re: CharterAbby - Blog - www.thehrmaven.com

Thanks Steve,

Can you let me know will be following up with me?

Thanks for your help.

Deirdre Honner

On Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 8:19 PM, Umatter2Charter <Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com> wrote:

Good evening Deirdre,

Once again we appreciate your comments and feedback and wish we could have handled this situation in a manner that would have been more statisfactory.

We understand completely your feelings and not wanting to pay too much to maintain seasonal service at this address and appreciate your feedback. We also feel that our behavior during your visit to our local office is unacceptable and we could have done better in front of our subscribers.

Please rest assured that we are a corporate escalations group and all of your concerns will be addressed accordingly. If we can help with anything in the future please feel free to contact us.

Thank you,


Steve Creameans | Social Media Specialist |

941 Charter Commons Drive, Town & Country, MO 63017

From: Deirdre Honner
Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 6:03 PM
To: Umatter2Charter
Subject: Re: CharterAbby - Blog - www.thehrmaven.com


I appreciate your note. I believe that you have missed some key points of my email.

I am only up in Oscoda between April and September. You have no "seasonal" options. There is nothing to win me back to. I don't need service again until April.

I am no longer a customer because of the options presented to me by Charter. Either pay $45/mos for no service or cancel my account. At the advice of YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE representative, I cancelled my account.

These issues are a result of poor policies and even poorer practices. They are systemic and I believe need to be changed with input from a wider audience.

i would like to know who may be the person to talk to about these issues.

Oh and my account phone number was (989)305-6484.

Thanks for your help.

Deirdre Honner

On Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 6:02 PM, Umatter2Charter <Umatter2Charter@chartercom.com> wrote:

Good afternoon Deirdre,

Abby is out of the office today but we definitely wanted to say thank you for your feedback. I wish we could have assisted prior to getting to the point at which we are at now. Is there anything that we can do to keep you as a customer?

Thank You,


George H. Vick Jr. | Senior Social Media Specialist

941 Charter Commons Drive, Town & Country, MO 63017

From: Deirdre Honner
Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 12:13 PM
To: Umatter2Charter
Subject: CharterAbby - Blog - www.thehrmaven.com

Charter team members and Abbey too, if you are reading,

Thank you for the follow up to my blogpost, "Charter got it all wrong, starting with the porn." Unfortunately, everything in that blog post is true. The sad part is that there is even more that went wrong with our relationship.

The installation of the XXX package, while funny, took a while to work through. When I initially set up the account, I made sure to let the customer service support staff know that this is a second home, a cottage and I DO NOT RECEIVE MAIL THERE. I don't have a mailbox.

They (whoever set up my account) put my cottage address down as the billing address down. And because initially I didn't have the super secret password/account information that comes IN THE MAIL, I seriously, honest to goodness, COULD NOT CORRECT MY BILLING ADDRESS. I couldn't update my account. I COULDN'T PAY YOU.

That is insane. Really crazy.

This resulted in past due invoices. I really wanted to pay you. You just wouldn't let me. It took me 5 hours to sort out the mess. Discovering then that the original price quote was no longer being honored and resulted in a $30/month increase. This is of course AFTER everything is installed an working.

I will also mention that I visited the Charter office in Oscoda. It is clear that while technically competent, the office staff are not overly happy to have customers walk in. A UPS man showed up for a deliver at 12:30 on Friday, September 9. During an exchange of pleasantries, the UPS man asked Charter c/s person how her day was going. She replied, in front of all the customers, "come back and ask me that at 5:30." She also mentioned that Friday was her second favorite day of the week, behind Saturday. Now all this conversation could easily be an upbeat, warm exchange between two people who know each other well. Only it wasn't. The representative was sharp in tone, made no eye contact with the UPS person, and left absolutely no doubt at all that she couldn't have been more serious.

All I really wanted to do was dump my hardware and get out of that office.

I differentiate employees this way - people and companies who look for ways to say YES and people and companies who look for ways to say NO. Your Oscoda C/S representative definitely came across as the later. If your staff there represents the rest of Charter, then you have a leadership issue. If not, then you have a personnel issue. Either way, I walked away from that exchange hoping for AT & T to be able to offer me service next year.

And lastly, we are seasonals. We are up in the Oscoda area from April until October. To keep Charter connected would have cost me $45/mos for NO SERVICE. Seriously what is that? It's just stupid. For $10/mos I would have paid it, to keep my account from going dormant. But instead, you priced it so that I would say no. Because you are the only deal in town and get to call the shots.

The absolutely worst part for me is this: the technical service was phenomenal. The cable, the phone and the internet connection worked like a dream. It's your people, your antiquated rules, and your business model that are getting in your way.

I would LOVE to be a part of the solution ... though this is systemic and integrated and probably much more than you are able to take on. Let me know if you have any questions.

Deirdre Honner

Friday, September 9, 2011


It has been a busy week on Lake Huron. Lots of large freighters were steaming north and south, during the day and the night. Here is an image of one of them, heading north:

Here is a shot of that same freighter taken from inside our cottage:

Some fun with aperture:

Here is a southbound freighter. Clearly, he is fully loaded:

The shipping season will start to wind down soon. I am just glad that I was able to capture a few images of them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sighted in Oscoda: Air Force Two

You never quite know what you will see here in Oscoda, which is surprisingly close to a place just East of the Equator. On Wednesday, 7 September, Deirdre and I stopped at the Farmer's Market at the Oscoda City Park to pick up some veggies for dinner. The wind was coming from the northwest at a pretty steady 15-20 knots, and the waves from Lake Huron were pounding on the inlet that leads to the Au Sable River. We walked through the City Park to get to the breakwater to try to capture a few images of the waves.

After capturing a few happy snaps of the breakwater and the waves, I looked to the west and I saw a jet with the distinctive markings of the USAF C-32 aircraft (a modified Boeing 757) that is used to fly the Vice President and other high ranking officials of our government around. Dee had a better camera to try to capture a few images of this aircraft, so the images of the jet are hers. We watched the jet fly east over Lake Huron and turn back take to the west. It appeared that it was doing touch-and-goes at the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport.

Though these image are too blurry to clearly see the lettering on the side of the aircraft, the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" was clearly visible to the naked eye on the port and starboard side of the jet. We drove to the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport to see if we could capture any more images of the jet and we were able to see it make a couple more touch-and-goes before we left to run our errands for the day. Below is an image of the jet landing at KOSC.

Here is an image of the C-32 from Wikipedia. Clearly, this is the same aircraft.

It seemed odd to us that this aircraft would fly so far west and north to practice take offs and landings. However, it was pretty neat to see such a special jet up close. Yep, it was just your typical day here, just East of the Equator.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Simple Joys

It is safe to say that Samson is enjoying his time with us as Deirdre and I wind down the summer at our cottage. He is no longer waking us at the stroke of 5AM as the sun is now rising closer to 7AM, so he allows us to sleep in, it sleeping until 7AM is considered sleeping in. Our routine here is that after breakfast, weather permitting, we take a leisurely walk to the north or south of our cottage. The walks usually involve some time in the water for Samson, as well as a lot of sniffing.

When we tell him that we are going for a walk, he prances to the side door and squeaks until I have put him on a leash and we begin our stroll. He is so deliberate when we are out for a walk. There is a lot of grass that needs to be sniffed and explored...

We have been fortunate that now that we are past Labor Day, there are a lot fewer people on the beach. Normally, we keep him on a leash for the entire walk as Samson is one of the friendliest dogs I know. He really enjoys meeting new people, and if he were off leash and somebody was on the beach, they would get Samson's cold and wet nose pushed into their hands. However, for part of our walk this morning, he was off leash and he was able to do a little extra exploring.

At the end of our walks, Samson needs to recharge his batteries. I am also reminded, each time we go for a walk, the simple joys of life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pure Michigan

Yesterday was a warm and sunny late summer day here, just East of the Equator. After checking out the Harrisville Arts and Crafts Show, we proceeded down to the beach. Deirdre and Samson and I spent a few lazy hours enjoying the warm breeze from the southeast, and we also manged to get in a long swim in Lake Huron. The water was warm and inviting. The waves were less than a foot and the swells were non-existent. When we finally came back to the cottage, our outside thermometer informed me that it was 78.8F. It was a beautiful day. Here is an image of Samson enjoying some quality time under an umbrella at our beach on this sunny Sunday, 4 September, 2011.

From 5 Sep 2011

Fast forward 18 hours and things have changed. When I woke up this fine Labor Day morning, the outside temperature was 52.2F, there was a steady 10-15 knot breeze from the northeast and the waters of Lake Huron were pounding the shoreline. The waves were easily 3-4 feet with about a 12-15 foot swell.

Today appears to be a one-day anomaly. The weatherguessers are telling me that the the forecast through the end of the week is that it will warm up to the mid 70s by the weekend. It is often said that if you don't like the weather in Michigan, just wait a few minutes. It will change.

The temperature swing and the shift in the weather is driven by the Great Lakes that we love and enjoy. Lake Huron and its fellow Great Lakes serve as enormous heat sumps which, given the correct conditions, can cause the weather to be so fickle in the Enchanted Mitten. We would not have it any other way.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Room with a View

One of the benefits of our cottage being on Lake Huron is that we get to see freighters from time to time. Big ones. Freighters carrying iron ore from the Duluth, or copper from the UP, or pick a raw material found in any of the Great Lakes States going to be turned into car or some other useful device. A Navy shipmate of mine turned me on to this website. My friend grew up in Wisconsin, spending his youth watching for freighters in Lake Michigan.

From 4 Sep 2011

I do not know what draws me to watch for shipping outside our windows on Lake Huron. Sometimes, I am fortunate enough to catch a ship making its passage at night and I think back to my time standing watch as Officer of the Deck, wondering what the target angle of is of the vessel. It is just cool to me to think about what is being carried aboard these ships of the inland sea known as Lake Huron.

Back to the story at hand. This fine Sunday morning Deirdre and I took Samson out for a walk, heading north from our cottage. We walked a little more than a half mile, collecting beach glass along the way. Soon after we turned around, I saw in the distance a freighter heading north. It was a large ship, probably 600-700 feet long. After we got back to the cottage I broke out the D80 and started taking some images.

The sky was grey as was the water. However, the outline of the freighter is clearly visible. Deirdre's D300 had the zoom lens but I think that I caught a pretty good shot of the ship.

I am certain that her blog will have a few images of the freighter soon. I watched the freight for well over an hour and I caught this image from inside of our cottage. This view just never gets old.

And for the record, Samson was killed after our walk.

Life agrees with us, just East of the Equator.