Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week Two of the Basement Project

Week Two of the Basement Project ended on a very positive note.  A lot of water lines were moved, studs were roughed in, and cement was mixed and poured where the new bathroom will be.  This is a view of where the bathroom will be, before the cement was poured and studs were installed:

This is the floor before the cement was broken up.
A few plumbing lines installed and in place.

Lance doing his magic.

This is what is looks like now:

Insulation is now in place and the old carpeting is gone:

Perhaps the most important thing to happen last week was that the plumbing, electrical and structural inspections passed without a problem:

Plumbing inspection approved!

Electrical and Structural inspection approved!

Next week will be all drywall, all the time:

Updates to follow as the project continues to unfold.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Comast. It just gets better and better.

Since last week, technically, 11 May, I have been trying to find out from Comcast how much it would cost to drop our land line and just have HDTV and high speed internet.  Since then, I have received e-mails from Andrea Burton, Elisa Stagliano, some person named Victor R., from the "Comcast City Desk, as well as a post on this blog from Mark Casem whose title is "Comcast Corp., National Customer Operations (Mark can be reached at  And let's not forget the "Online Sales Representative" named Chris who reached out to me to "help" me last weekend, but the only help he could give me was to upgrade my service, not meet my needs.  I also have been playing phone tag with Andrea since last week.  She seems to call me whenever I am not available and when I call her, my call goes straight to her voicemail.

I remained hopeful as I am an eternal optimist, but an e-mail exchange I had with Andrea makes me think that Comcast is just not capable of the most basic customer service.  Maybe Deirdre is right.  Maybe we should look for an alternative to Comcast, but they are essentially a monopoly here.  See the e-mail string below:

Deirdre Honner
4:59 PM (3 hours ago)
 Deirdre Honner
 Paul Kratochwill

 "ESL Department, Michigan Region" ,,

 Tue, May 15, 2012 at 4:59 PM
 Re: Comcast Cable Billing Inquiry

to me, ESL, we_can_help, We_Can_Help
This is unreal.   Let's look at AT&T.

Deirdre Honner

On Tue, May 15, 2012 at 4:28 PM, Paul Kratochwill <> wrote:
Why would I be penalized for dropping the digital voice service?  I signed not contract with Comcast, why can't I add or drop services as I see fit?  If I want to drop digital voice but keep my current HDTV and interenet access, what is that cost per month?


On Tue, May 15, 2012 at 3:35 PM, ESL Department, Michigan Region<> wrote:
Dear Mr. Kratochwill,

At Comcast our goal is to ensure customer satisfaction.   As the Executive Customer Care Specialist for Comcast, my responsibility is to ensure that all customer concerns are handled promptly and receive a satisfactory response. 

I am sorry you were not available today to take my call at the alternate phone number you provided. I apologize for any inconvenience.

I understand you wish to remove the Comcast Digital Voice service from your package. By removing this service, you will lose the bundled discount you are currently receiving. Thus, your services will be billed at the current retail rates.

Listed below are some options:


$20.49* Limited Basic
$9.95* HD Service
$1.99* DTA Adapter
$58.95* Blast Internet Service
$7.00* Modem
Total $98.38* monthly before applicable taxes and fees

Option #2

$29.95* Digital Economy  
$9.95* HD Service
$1.99* DTA Adapter
$58.95* Blast Internet Service
$7.00* Modem
Total $107.84* monthly before applicable taxes and fees

Option #3

$64.25* Digital Starter   
$9.95* HD Service
$1.99* DTA Adapter
$58.95* Blast Internet Service
$7.00* Modem
Total $142.14* monthly before applicable taxes and fees

For additional assistance with the channels available within the various levels of service, please refer to the channel lineup card I have attached to this email for your review.

Please contact our office at 734-331-1217 at your earliest convenience if we can be of assistance, between the hours of 9:30am and 5:30pm Tuesday through Saturday. We look forward to hearing from you.

Andrea Burston
Office: (734) 331-1217
Executive Customer Care Specialist

DISCLAIMER: *Some restrictions including franchise fees, taxes and other fees may apply. Offers are subject to change without prior notice. You may choose to cancel your service at any time. A franchise fee will be added to all applicable Comcast services. A monthly FCC administrative fee will be added to your statement. A deposit may be required if service is shut off for non-payment. The response contained in this message is intended for the addressee only and may vary from other responses depending on geography, promotional campaigns or other factors. If you are not the intended recipient of this response, please delete this message. Any unauthorized use or dissemination of the information contained in this correspondence is prohibited.

There is no rhyme or reason to the "packages" that Andrea sent to me.  The channel listing and price sheets are inscrutable, and it appears that if I drop my phone service before some date in the future only know to Comcast, my monthly cost will increase.  This just gets better and better...

Monday, May 14, 2012

For a communications company, Comcast does not appear to communicate...

I have been asked by at least three different people from Comcast for my "account information."  Each time I have provided it and I was just asked by Victor R. for my "account information," but he did not specify what this account information was that he needed.  This just gets better and better...

Paul Kratochwill
9:00 PM (5 minutes ago)
to Comcast
Mark Casem from Comcast asked me to send him my phone number and a link to my blog.  What information do you need?

On Mon, May 14, 2012 at 8:53 PM, Comcast City Desk <> wrote:
Hello Paul,
Please reply to all with your account information to have someone give you a call.

Thank you
Victor R.

Original Message Follows: ------------------------
Please reach me at 616-648-XXXX.  Here is a link to my blog:


Paul Kratochwill 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Comcast Customer Service is an Oxymoron

My struggles with Comcast are well documented here  in this blog.  Most of the attempts I have made to communicate with Comcast about my bills or service have been very painful.  Unfortunately, Comcast is the only high speed internet provider we have here, so they are essentially a monopoly.

After giving it some thought, we decided to drop our landline.  We rarely use it and it is costing us money each month for a service we do not use.  I logged into our Comcast account and I poked around the website trying to find out what it might cost us to drop the land line and go with HDTV and high speed internet.  The Comcast website is so poorly laid out that it was not possible to determine what it would cost to drop our landline while keeping HDTV and high speed internet access.  I kept getting sent to a webpage asking me which of the premium movie channels I wanted... HBO, Stars, etc.  I do not want any premium movie channels, I simply want basic HDTV and high speed internet access.

While I was trying to find out the answer to what I thought was a simple change in my service plan, I get an instant message from a person identified as Chris at Comcast.  Below is how the chat went: 

Chris: Hi, I'm a live Comcast product specialist. Would you like my help checking out?
Chris: Just type your question below.
Me: Your website is impossible to navigate!
Me: I want to change my services, but I keep getting sent to a webpage asking me about premium TV channels.
Me: I currently have HD Preferred XF bundled services
Me: I want to drop my land line and have HDTV and high speed internet access
Chris: I am sorry being an online sales representative I don't have access to your account therefore I would recommend you to please contact our customer service at 1-800-comcast as they have the complete access to your account and will be helping you with the best option available for you.
Me: I don’t want HBO, Starz, etc.
Me: If you can' t help me, why did you instant message me?
Me: If you are on online sales representative, and you can't sell me a new package, what can you do for me?
Me: I want an online sale to happen. Are you the wrong person to help me?
Chris: I am sorry for the inconvenience caused to you.
Chris: I apologize and I know that my apologies would not compensate for the inconvenience caused to you. However, I am an online sales representative and due to limited access, I would not be able to get the details of your account.
Me: So just what is your function at Comcast? Is your job to contact people via instant messaging and then tell them that they need to call 1-800--COMCAST?
Me: Can you tell me what it would cost me to get HDTV (no movie channels) and high speed internet access?
Me: I want you to sell me the aforementioned items. What would it cost me?
Chris: Okay.
Chris: May I know how much are you paying for the current service?
You: $159.95/month,
Chris: Prices and plans vary by location, however we can definitely take a look at the available offers in your area. 
Me: With all taxes and fees, my bill is $179.47.
Me: Can you tell me what it would cost me to get HDTV (no movie channels) 
and high speed internet access?
Me: I want you to sell me the aforementioned items. What would it cost me?
Chris: Okay.
Chris: May I please have your address and zip code?
Me: My address is .... (hidden for privacy reasons).
Chris: Thank you for providing your complete address.
Me: I saw a deal for something called "Blast Plus" for $79.95/month.
Chris: I can assist you with adding services or upgrading here on this website. 
To discuss lower priced options, please call our Customer Service Team at 1-800-COMCAST (1-800-266-2278) for more information. They will be able to access your account information and see what options are available to you.
Me: So despite your title as an "online sales representative," you can't help me or sell me anything?
Chris: I can understand your concern but really apologize for the inconvenience caused as I cannot downgrade a customer.
You: If you can't really help me, why did you contact me?
Chris: I am really apologize.
Chris: Please contact our customer service for better information and options available for you.
You: Thanks for nothing.

So, Chris is an online sales representative for Comcast who reaches out to me to help me change my Comcast package... but he can't really sell me what I want, unless I want to upgrade my service.  I am still trying to find out why Chris contacted me... and once again I am reminded about how painful it is to deal with Comcast.

This journey will unfold in the next few days.  I will keep you posted.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Week One of the Basement Project

Well, the professionals at HWC Homeworks have been busy in our home this past week.  They have been working in our basement remodeling and transforming the space.  We also decided to add a 1/2 bath, so there is a lot of demolition and roughing in for the new spaces.

First we had to remove some ceiling tiles...

We were pretty surprised to see some of the electrical issues once we removed the tiles...

And we kicked up some dirt and dust...
It is good to own a shop-vac.

More images of the first week of work:

We have lost a stall in our garage for the duration of the project:

The new 1/2 bath will go here:

Here is that same area after some work.  A lot of work...

Lance from Grandville Plumbing is back doing his magic for us once again...

Roper and Jim are back doing their magic, too...

Look for more updates as the project continues.  The transformation is going to be pretty amazing.