Saturday, October 6, 2012

They should all be named Peggy

You've seen the commercials where the guy calls the help line and gets a middle-aged man with a vague foreign accent who identifies himself as "Peggy."

Well they're ALL Peggy in my book.

A month or two ago, I got a piece of (paper) mail from Comcast saying I ought to upgrade my cable modem to get the best performance I could get. My old modem, they told me, might not be taking advantage of everything that was available. Probably horse shit, I thought, but no harm in getting up-to-date hardware. They said it wasn't going to cost me anything. So I ordered the new modem, and it arrived a week ago.

Yesterday I opened the package and read the instructions. It said I needed to go to in order to activate my new modem, and that I would need my account number and the MAC address of the new modem, both of which were helpfully included on a sheet that came with the instructions.

I was a little apprehensive about installing the new modem and then trying to activate it - if it wouldn't work until it was activated, I obviously wouldn't be able to get to the activation web site. So, before installing the new modem, I went to I was prompted for my account number and phone number, which I supplied. When I clicked the "next" button, I got an error message: "Oops, something went wrong. We are unable to connect to our server. Please try again or click here for assistance."

I tried again. Same result. I clicked for assistance. Below is the chat session that ensued (you may have to open the image in a separate window in order to read it). The log, since it is not timestamped, does not show the interminable wait I had before each and every line of text from the customer service representative. It does, however, show him impatiently prompting me on one occasion when I took longer than he liked in typing an answer to his question.

So I hooked up the new modem and, to no great surprise, found that I had no internet connection. My router, which is supposed to get a DHCP address from Comcsst, was getting a local address from the modem (which sets itself up as a DHCP server at when it can't connect to the cable network).

I called the 800 number above. They asked for my name and account number. I gave them. For security purposes, they said, they also needed my street address. OK. Thanks, they said, and now for security purposes, could I please give them my phone number. Sure. Wonderful, they said, now for security purposes (I am not making this up), they needed the last four digits of my Social Security number. I feel so much more secure now, knowing that not just anyone can call them and have them GET MY FUCKING CABLE MODEM TO WORK.

Finally satisfied that I was not an impostor trying to get the cable modem working for some nefarious purpose, and after asking me for the manufacturer, model number, and serial number of the new modem, they decided they would send the refresh signal and then it would work. They did.

It didn't.

After another refresh and about 15 minutes of power cycling, startup self-tests, and rebooting of both my router and my computer, I was back online. But this whole process was needlessly and ridiculously complicated. The instructions were ludicrous: how was I supposed to go to a web site to activate the modem that would be connecting me to the internet? Had they made it clear from the beginning that (a) I would need to either have an alternate internet connection or call the 800 number to activate my new modem, and (b) the modem would require 10-15 minutes to get itself working once it was activated, this whole mess (which took an hour or so to unfold) could have been avoided. Had "Herbert" been able to give me a straight answer, it would have been relatively painless. Had he eventually given me a correct answer, I would have known what I had to do. Had the people I finally spoke with via the 800 number been aware of the time required for the refresh to work, I would have had at least some consolation and less confusion. But this is Comcast I'm dealing with.  Their CSRs are all Peggy.