OMG, Comcast, LOL

I just got my HTPC today, and we’re thinking about canceling our cable. With over-the-air HD, Hulu, and Netflix, I’m not sure we really need cable. I wanted to see how much our internet would cost if we dropped the cable. I figured Comcast would charge us more if we had only internet. So I went to their live support chat. user Jonathan_ has entered room (4:16 PM) Me: What would my high speed internet cost if I cancelled my cable TV? analyst Ferdinand has entered room Ferdinand: Hello Jonathan_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Ferdinand.38369. Please give me one moment to review your information. Ferdinand: Hello! How may I help you today? Me: If I cancel my cable tv, how much would my internet connection cost? Ferdinand: I understand that you want to know the cost of your internet service if you will cancel your cable service. Is that correct? Me: Yes Ferdinand: Please be informed that you have reached the Comcast Internet Technical support. I would be happy to transfer your chat to the appropriate department. Is that okay? Me: Sure Ferdinand: Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst analyst Ellise has entered room (4:18 PM) Ellise: Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Let me go ahead and work on this for you. analyst Ferdinand has left room Ellise: By the way, how are you doing today? Me: I’m great, how are you? Ellise: I am glad to know that. Ellise: I am doing quite fine today. Ellise: Thank you for asking. Ellise: It is kind of you, Mr. Renaut. Ellise: Please stay online. Ellise: I will just review the previous chat transcript. Me: ok Ellise: Mr. Renaut, will you please verify what package you currently have? Me: I have digital cable plus high def and high speed internet Ellise: Is this a triple or a double play package? Me: no Ellise: Thank you very much for that information. Ellise: For security purposes may I verify the last 4 digits of your social security number please? Thank you. Me: XXXX, although I’m not sure why you need that just to tell me what my bill would be Ellise: For the security of your account, Mr. Renaut. Ellise: Just a moment, please. Ellise: Mr. Renaut, if you will cancel your cable service, you will save $80.45. Ellise: You have the option to call the local office for confirmation. Ellise: Would you like me to give you the information of our nearest local office to you? Me: I’m not canceling yet, I was just curious Me: nope, just wanted the price Me: thanks very much Ellise: You are most welcome. Ellise: I am glad I was able to assist you today. Ellise: I would appreciate if you will take time answering the online survey right after this chat session. This will help us know how to improve our services. Ellise: Thank you for contacting Comcast! We appreciate your business with us. Ellise: If you need assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us through live chat or e-mail (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Comcast also offers excellent FAQ and help forums located at to help you reach a resolution independently. Have a great day! Ellise: Analyst has closed chat and left the room (4:28 PM) Things to note:

  1. The whole thing took 12 minutes.
  2. I told Ferdinand my problem once before I arrived in the chat, once after, and then confirmed his restatement.
  3. I’m not convinced that either of the two CSRs could pass a Turing test.
  4. Who knew that everyday pleasantries would be so appreciated?
  5. There’s no chance Comcast doesn’t raise the price of our internet if we cancel the cable.
  6. The price difference she quoted me is digital cable plus the HDTV converter. According to Ellise, if we cancel our cable, we still pay 25 cents a month to rent our remote control.
  7. It is utterly absurd to charge 25 cents for the remote as a separate line item on my bill. Why not just build it into the price of the cable so I never see it?
  8. It was not me who chose which chat room I entered – I answered their questions to the best of my ability. If I’m in the wrong chat room, it is Comcast’s fault.
  9. The survey after the chat is worded in such a way that I can’t tell them how ridiculous they’re being without lying. I answered their questions honestly, and gave them the highest score on every question. But they never asked the really important questions. If your survey is constructed to get high scores, it’s not really helpful, is it?
  10. I really wish that, when she asked if it was a double or triple play, I had answered, “That’s what she said!”.
    In any event, I’m glad I contacted Comcast customer service. I haven’t laughed that hard since last night when we watched the episode of The Office that aired after the Super Bowl.

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The hard streets of Columbia Heights

I was out with the kid on a trip to DCUSA for a few pictures frames this evening. She got mad when I stopped to look at frames in Bed Bath and Beyond, so I thought I’d take the long way home and give her a chance to settle down. I was heading south down 13th NW, about to cross Harvard, when there was a bit of a commotion. It looked like someone driving north on 13th was trying to turn left onto Harvard, which is one way in the other direction. There was plenty of honking. “What an idiot,” I thought. “The signs and the honking aren’t tipping him off?” Then a man got out of the car, which was now stopped in the middle of the intersection. He was holding a shotgun. Now, at this point I was a little nervous. The kid was sleeping, which I suppose was good, but her big fuzzy winter outfit is not, in fact, bulletproof. Then I saw all the police cars. More arrived as I stood there. The man with the gun was DCPD. That was mildly comforting. More officers poured out of the cars, at least a dozen. They quickly went up the walk to the northwest corner of Harvard and 13th and banged on the door. At this point I decided I was going to take my daughter and get out of there. Before I left, the police had entered the building, and I could hear them yelling at someone to get down. I’ve never seen the police break down a door. And in truth, I didn’t actually see them open the door. But I don’t think anyone let them in. I’m going to watch the Columbia Heights forum to see if anyone knows what happened. Hopefully the police got whoever they were after and no one got hurt.

Happy hour at Target?

I was just at Target at DCUSA picking up some aluminum foil and some other stuff so we (read: the wife) can cook stuff to freeze for quick post-baby dining. And also so I could cook some soy-free seitan (Note: URL is not safe for work. At least, if your work doesn’t like profanity. It’s probably safe, but I just like to warn people just in case). Anyway, school is clearly back in session. The escalator into Target was mobbed, and there were literally thousands of kids running around buying up dorm supplies. Well, maybe not thousands. But a lot. And I love that the vast majority seemed to be coming up the escalators, meaning that they walked or took the Metro rather than driving. Maybe that’s more a function of not owning cars than green city living, but I’ll take what I can get.

Giant’s okay, but the customers are crazy

There’s been a big discussion over at the Columbia Heights Forum about the relative merits of Giant vs Harris Teeter, the two major grocery stores serving Columbia Heights. I would argue that the Whole Foods on P does, too, but whatever. The argument boils down the fact that Giant is union, but the service is awful. Harris Teeter is not unionized, but they have shorter lines and friendlier staff. I won’t really get into the argument, because I’ve had quite enough of it at the forum, but I thought I’d relate my experience at Giant this morning. I went out to get milk for coffee and a lemon for delicious lemon-cornmeal pancakes. I would have gone to Hi Market, except they often don’t have fat-free milk, and I didn’t have any cash. So I walked to Giant. It wasn’t terribly crowded, although another checkout lane might have been nice. Still, at 9AM Saturday, it was acceptable. And I moved through the line pretty quickly. The cashier was pleasant if not outgoing. The problem I had was with another customer. I passed her on my way to the milk, and she was talking to someone, and while I didn’t hear what they were saying, the dynamic of the conversation seemed strange. It appeared that the guy she was talking to didn’t really want to be talking to her, but was too polite to walk away. I didn’t think much of it. I grabbed the milk and turned around to pass her again. I was walking on the wrong side of the aisle, as that’s where the milk is, and she was coming towards me with her cart in the middle of the aisle. She actually jerked her cart abruptly to the side so she was coming straight for me! “Excuse me,” she said sweetly. Excuse you? You intentionally moved across the aisle to try and run me down with your cart! I have an injured foot! Well, it’s not all that injured any more, but I still can’t wear a regular shoe because my foot swells during the day. But it hampers my mobility. So, everyone employed by Giant was just fine this morning, but I could do without the crazy customers.

Terrifying acts of god

The wife and I were just sitting in the living room, watching the Orioles game and taking a break from Sunday chores, when the chimney of the building across the street got hit by lightning. I have a perfect view of the chimney from my spot on the couch, and I actually saw the flash when it got hit. The wife and I both swear we could feel it when the lightning hit. There was a loud crack of thunder and a big flash, and now a few of the bricks on the corner of the chimney look like they could come down in a heavy wind. I think we’re going to stay inside until the storm passes.

Best Buy electronics recycling comes to Columbia Heights!

Via Gizmodo, our new local Best Buy in Columbia Heights is part of the free electronics recycling test.

Starting June 1, 117 stores in the Baltimore, San Francisco, and Minnesota markets are inviting customers to bring in no more than two (2) units per day, per household, for recycling at no charge. Customers can bring items such as televisions and monitors up to 32”, computers, phones, cameras, and other electronics devices and peripherals in for recycling.

This is really great for DC residents, because while the dump does take electronics to be recycled, my one experience there ended with a never-ending line that I soon abandoned. And now the old and busted computer sitting in the trunk of my car can finally have a new home!

My happy hour was a success

A couple weeks ago, I started planning a happy hour for the Columbia Heights Forum because people were starting to argue a bit too much, as people tend to do on forums. I figured it would be more friendly if people met each other in person. So the happy hour was last night at Wonderland, and it was pretty cool. I met a few people I “know” from the forum, and we had some local blog coverage (The Heights Life has a picture of our group at that link). There was a bit of discussion about making these meetups a little more regular, so we’ll see what happens. There are still a few forum regulars I’m dying to meet in person. Edit to add: In the comments to the Heights Life post, there is a discussion EXACTLY like the discussions that prompted me to plan the happy hour in the first place. People get angrier discussing things on the internet because you can’t see a person’s face, you can’t hear the tone of their voice, you can’t get the non-verbal cues that tell you what the person is really saying. And it’s anonymous – it’s much easier to hate someone you don’t actually know. So I think it’s kind of amusing that the post about the happy hour generated exactly the sort of discussion that the happy hour was supposed to prevent.

Mount Pleasant misplaced a banner

Many of you in the DC area have probably seen the street light banners advertising various neighborhoods around the city. I think it’s a cool idea. It can help you identify a neighborhood, and I think they try to contain a little bit of the unique elements of each neighborhood. But Mount Pleasant, an otherwise lovely neighborhood, is infringing on our turf. The eastern edge of Mount Pleasant is 16th Street. This makes it a little surprising to see one of their banners proudly displayed on the 1400 block of Harvard Street. I’m not sure if I should really be so annoyed about this. The wife tells me that, back when Columbia Heights was getting its Metro stop, they wanted to call it Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant. At the time, Mount Pleasant was a much nicer neighborhood, and wanted nothing to do with Columbia Heights. Now that Columbia Heights has a new infusion of shopping and restaurants, apparently we’re not so distasteful anymore. I emailed Mount Pleasant Mainstreet, the organization that sponsors the banners, to see what the big idea was. I’ll let you know what they tell me. Edit to add: I got a reply from them already.

If that’s true then it’s a huge mistake from the contractor. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll bike over and take a look and have them correct this. We’re missing several on Mt Pleasant St. Thanks, [Mount Pleasant Mainstreet guy]

Awful website, great restaurant

The wife and I had dinner at Rumba Cafe in Adams Morgan last night. It was a 1000 point reservation at Open Table, which puts us almost to a $50 gift certificate to any restaurant that deals with Open Table, which is awesome. The Rumba Cafe website seems to be under maintenance this morning (I think it should be euthanized, personally (And did you know that “euthanized” isn’t in the default Firefox dictionary? Weird)), but no matter. We sat outside, since it was so nice last night. The service was very good, the beer mediocre, and the food was excellent. I had the steak with a fried egg on top, served with rice and black beans and a fried plantain. Reminded me of Costa Rican “casados”, which I love. The wife had some kind of fish, I forget what, but it was good, too. I highly recommend Adams Morgan when it’s not overrun with kids (By kids I mean 23-year-olds). 8PM on a Tuesday it’s alive with people (Plenty of kickballers and others just out for dinner or a drink) but doesn’t have that “everyone around you is wasted” vibe that it gets on the weekend. It was just a nice spring evening.