From a first time blogger, thoughts about life from an American missionary now living in the US after years in Russia and doing a lot of back and forth. Family stuff, Christian content, sports innuendo and lots of quotes from good books.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Digging that Base Line

Is there anything that sums up Christmas like that "" base line of the Little Drummer Boy song? Man, I start doing my William Golden mimic everytime I hear it.

Good times indeed...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Can You Read This?

Cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Let Your Si be Si and your Nyet be Nyet

The Mrs. and I just got back from 5 days in Cabo, Mexico. Oh my! If you've got any hankerin' to go somewhere warm, let it be Cabo. It is amazing and wonderfully underdeveloped. I cannot say enough good about it. The Westin Resort and Spa is to die for as well. Anyway, guess what language they speak in Cabo? Spanish! Guess what language flows out of my mouth when English is not the tongue of choice? Russian! What fun this lead to as I was constantly seeking to speak the language of the people we while were in Mexico.

Now, one must remember that as comfortable as I have become in Russian, it was Spanish that was my first second language. 5 years of study at the university level and a summer in South America had me speaking quite well at one time the mother tongue of Benito Juarez and Simon Bolivar! When Russian became the defacto other language though in the early 1990's, Spanish was pushed out...or so I thought. Days 1 and 2 in Mexico had me saying things like, "Si, menya zavoot Roberto" or "Me gusta kuritza e kookarooza". I got some pretty funny looks from people as I mixed and mashed these two tongues with the greatest of ease and poorest of grammer.

By day 5 though, I was getting her done in Spanish. When asked by the taxi driver on the way to the airport "what airline are you flying and at what time do you leave?", I rightly (or close enough) answered, "Yo creo que a las dos o tres pero yo no recuerdo exactamente" instead of "Ya dumayu dva ele tree chis sa no ya nee pomyu toichna." Far from a polyglot of the highest order, it did feel good to lead my bride into some language experiences that, if I may humbly say so, made her hubby of 10 years look way smarter than he really is.

Again, Cabo! Remember Cabo! It is an amazing place!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Problem with Comcast

If you care to read of adventuresome tale between myself and Comcast Cable Company, read on. If not, USC and UCLA pregame is on right now!!! I'll let you know the how this turns out. What an assault to the term customer service it has been thusfar!

Dear Comcast,

I have never been as disappointed with a company as I am with yours right now. Much of whether I continue with you as a customer will be dependent upon how you respond to this matter. Though I am overflowing with emotion, I will try to relay only the points germane to the issue at hand.

During the week of November 14, I called Comcast requesting a new installation for my mother who has been recently widowed. The chance to have high speed internet has long been a desire of hers with her children and grand children now living and traveling all over the world. With my brother's and my families helping to pay for her monthly bills, we were finally able to begin setting it up in her home. On my initial call, I spoke with a very helpful gentleman who set up an order which had installation being on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, November 19. When November 19 came, the service tech showed up on time but quickly saw that what was ordered was insufficient for what needed to be done. Apparently, a reconnection was written on the work order when a new installation is what needed to be done. There is no cable line from the street to the home so he and I, speaking by telephone, agreed that a) I would need to call and schedule a new installation and b) that it would be best if I were there to answer any technical questions when that new installation took place.

On November 23, I called to reschedule this installation. I spoke with a very helpful man who introduced himself as Reggie. I told Reggie that I had originally placed this order during the week of November 19 when Comcast's special of free installation of cable and modem and the first two months at $9.95 was being offered. Reggie told me that offer was no longer available. I kindly reminded him that this order had been placed during that promotional time and it was Comcast's incorrect work order that lead to this prolonged period. He respectfully said that his computer would not allow this work order to written up and a installation appointment made under those terms. While not happy about this, I ceased to pursue this special rate. Together, we came to the decision that a new installation would be done on Monday, November 28. This installation was to be two outlets (1 for high speed internet and 1 for basic cable tv) as well as modem rental and the first two months of service for $9.95. The total bill for this came to $153.64.

On Thanksgiving night, November 24, I called Comcast back and spoke to a very kind man who introduced himself as Frank. I told Frank about our situation thus far and that I wanted to change the installation order from two outlets to just one. He made that change and then did something for which I was very grateful. He said he had a special offer to have service installed at my mother's house on even better terms that originally agreed upon. Frank offered basic cable for $14.90, free modem installation, free cable tv installation, free modem for the first 2 months and just $5 a month for the high speed service the first two months. The total now came to, with taxes, $20.96 due at installation. I was very thankful for Frank's offer in light of my mother's situation, the earlier incorrect work order, and multiple phone conversations I had already had with Comcast employees. Frank scheduled installation on Monday, November 28, between 2 and 5 p.m.

On November 25, I called Comcast and spoke with a young man named Dion. I simply called to confirm installation on Monday, November 28. Dion confirmed it was in the system and assured me that their rep would be there on Monday, November 28, at the time promised.

As I agreed on the phone with Reggie, I drove the 90 minutes from my home near Athens, GA, to my mother's home in East Point, GA, to be present during the installation. I got to her place about 1.40 p.m. and waited for Comcast to arrive first on my mother's front porch and, as temps fell, in her front living room looking out the window the entire time. At 5.45 p.m., I called Comcast and spoke to a man who introduced himself as Demarcus. I asked him where the service rep was. A very nice young man told me that at 4.12 p.m., a truck had stopped by but no one was home. I do not see how the Comcast truck pulled into a circular drive way I was staring at, before dark, with two cars in it, never knocking on a door, and surmised that no one was home. Honestly, I do not think anyone ever showed up at our address at all. Demarcus told me that it was too late for anyone to come that day but told me they had an opening on Thursday, December 1, between 2-5. I agreed to this time and returned home.

By this time, my mother is questioning the need to continue on. I assure her that once she gets it all installed she will be very happy she did.

Just to be sure that we all were on the same page, I called numerous times on Tuesday, November 28, 29, and 30 just to confirm that an order was in place and that we would receive the terms that Frank had earlier laid out for me. I also made it a point each time I called to say that this is a new installation and this does include a line running from the street the house, yes? Each time I called, I was assured that, yes, this is a new installation and that includes a line running from the street to the house.

On Thursday, December 1, I again drove the 90 minutes from my home to my mother's home for the installation scheduled for between 2 and 5. At 5 p.m., I called Comcast and speak with a woman who introduced herself as Andrea. Andrea was, up until this point, the least helpful person with whom I have spoken. When I explained the situation to her, she said there was no installation scheduled for us that day or any other day. When I walked her through all that had happened, she had nothing to say. Finally, I said goodbye and hung up. As a customer service rep, she was absolutely of no help to me whatsoever. I immediately called back and got connected with a nice lady named Jamima. Jamima was sympathetic to my cause but could offer no explanation as to why the appointment had not been correctly rescheduled. She went out of her way to listen and then reschedule, yet again, our installation for the next day, Friday, December 2. I also confirmed with her the terms of the installation and that this included a line running from the street to the house. She said yes it did.

Upon returning home to my family, I called Comcast to confirm the order was still planned for tomorrow. I spoke with a very nice lady named Keanna who assured me it was. I also confirmed with her the terms of the installation and that this included a line running from the street to the house. She said yes it did.

Just to be safe, at just after midnight, the date now being Friday, December 3, I called Comcast to confirm the order was still planned for later that day. I spoke with a very nice lady named Val who assured me it was. I also confirmed with her the terms of the installation and that this included a line running from the street to the house. She said yes it did.

Again, on Friday morning, I drove the 90 minutes from Monroe, GA, to East Point, GA, to be there when the service tech showed up for installation which was promised between 11 and 2. At 10.45 a.m., I called Comcast to confirm the order was still planned for that day. I spoke with a very nice lady named Debbie who assured me it was. I also confirmed with her the terms of the installation and that this included a line running from the street to the house. She said yes it did.

At noon, I called Comcast again to confirm the order was still planned for that day. I again spoke with Debbie who remembered my call one hour earlier and assured me the installation was still planned. I also confirmed with her the terms of the installation and that this included a line running from the street to the house. She said yes it did.

At 1 p.m. I called to confirm the order was still planned for that day. I spoke with a man who did not introduce himself at all and when I kindly asked his name, he said only "Mr. Brown." He was curt and had nothing to say other than “it’s getting pretty late” and the rep “should be there pretty soon.” As you might guess by now, I also confirmed with him the terms of the installation and that this included a line running from the street to the house. He said yes it did.

At 1.30, while sitting in my mother's living room looking out into the driveway, a white truck pulled up. I stood up immediately when I saw the truck and started to walk outside. By the time I got outside, the truck was backing out of the drive way. I made myself very noticeable to him and he drove back down the driveway. I did not question whether he was leaving or just getting a different view of the installation process. When I later asked his name, he said it was Quinton. Quinton looked distressed the moment he got out of the truck. I could tell something was not right. He showed me the actual paper work order his dispatcher gave him which had typed at the top on the right hand side of the page "reinstall" which is never what I asked for or confirmed multiple times. He said he did not have enough cable in the truck to run from the street to the house and that he did not have a box to mount on the side of the house.

I calmly asked him to call his supervisor and try and work this out. As I was leaving the country the next day for a almost a full week, I really needed this install done now. After 10 minutes of back and forth with his supervisor, I was told it seemed that whoever printed up the work order made a mistake and that I would, again, need to reschedule. I asked him if there was any way he could do the install today. He said he could try to run the cable but he might not have enough and that since he had no box to mount on the outside of the house, the cable wire would just need to be punched through the exterior wall. I told him that would require some good sealant to make sure no leaks would ensure. He said, "yeah, you could do that." That was not an acceptable alternative even if he did for sure have enough cable.

So, I was told to again call Comcast and reschedule. As I am leaving the U.S. for a week later today and as my mother is not able to negotiate all of these details on her own, I am left at a cross roads here. I personally have been a happy Comcast customer for 2 months now. Installation for me was done correctly the day after I ordered it and a line was run from the street to my house with no problems at all. I have sung the praises of your company to a number of people the last two months, especially my mother. She is far from a believer right now, I assure you. I am doubting it myself. In order for me to remain a customer and in order for my mother to become a customer, I am going to ask for something on your part. I feel I have gone above and beyond what was expected of me in the way of patience, confirmations, accuracy, and perseverance. I am now going to ask you to go beyond what is expected as well.

However, I am not going to be asked to be reimbursed the more than $100 I have spent in gas this week driving back and forth to my mother’s home from my home. I don't want the time back that I have missed with my wife and 3 young sons. I am not going to ask that you give me a month or two or three of free or discounted service. I am not going to ask that I get that Digital Cable package I've been dying for for the price of the basic for which I now pay. I ask for nothing to be directed at me. I am asking for this for my mother though:

Please have someone who knows how to run a cable from the street, to a telephone pole beside her driveway, and then to the house itself as we want no buried cables in her yard. Please do so on Saturday, December 12 between 2 and 5 p.m. Have them install a plastic cable box on the outside of her house under the eave where the air conditioner is. Then, have someone neatly and correctly install the outlet cover on the wall inside her office/sitting room. Please then install and plug in her cable modem making sure that the cable internet service works correctly on her desk top computer. Please note that I have not yet asked for anything other than what has been promised. Once that is done, I ask you to bill my mother for one year's service on the terms that Frank originally offered to me. That is:

Basic cable tv 14.90/mo
High speed internet service $5/mo for one year
Free installation of the cable from the street to the house
Free installation of the box on the outside of the house
Free installation of the outlet on the inside of the house
Free cable modem rental for one year

If you agree to this and if you make good on these promises, then at the end of one year you may begin billing my mother at the regular rates for high speed internet and the cable modem rental. Also, at the end of one year, you will have loyal customers in me and my mother who will gladly tell others about how much more you get for your money with Comcast than with BellSouth. While we have said that for the past few months, your reaction to this request will determine whether we ever mutter those words again.

I would appreciate an email response to this initial letter before Saturday, December 10. If you agree to these terms, I will ask for a written contract stating these terms for me to keep for my and my mother's records. Once I return to the U.S. later this week, I will check email and call Comcast again to confirm this order request. As of this moment, I plan on seeing you at my mother’s home on Saturday, December 10, 2005, between 2 and 5 p.m. I will of course call upon my return to confirm this however.

I do not mean to sound bitter or threatening. I am merely a customer who originally asked for something that was promised but not delivered. In order to retain me and my network of friends, family, and associates as loyal and happy customers, I ask you to go the extra mile.

Pertinent information in order to validate who I am and who my mother is:

(Witheld ahas this is in blogland and I dont' really want you all to know where I and my mother live)

I eagerly await your response.

Thank you for your time,
Robert Browne