Friday, August 19, 2005

Beware! Comcast Knows What You Are Watching

After moving into my new apartment I decided to take a Cable TV connection from Comcast. Besides my parents were due to arrive soon and 300 TV channels seemed like a good way of introducing my parents to the American life. I usually find the Cable TV offerings rather dull, and stick to MPT which is free for all. The reception thanks to the old rabbit ears we had was not great, but on a good day we could watch Nova, 60 Minutes and Frontline.. and that's all we cared about. For everything else there was Netflix as they say.

Comcast threw in free digital TV for three months along with their standard first three months for $19.99+taxes deal. The cable guy came, fixed it up and we sat down to test our brand new box. Imagine our surprise when we found that the free Public Television channel was not there in the 300+channel line up that Comcast had so lovingly arranged for us. "So what?" we thought, "lets explore what the rest of country watches for a change". Together we watched reruns of old soaps, sat through Finding Nemo for the umpteenth time and moaned about the loss to our IQ after watching some random reality show oblivious of the shock that was coming our way in the form of the first bill. My first month's bill came to $ 84.65 or something close to that. I squealed and turned the bill over and squealed some more. There on that bill it said that I had watched ten Pay Per View (PPV) movies at the rate of $4.99 each. A closer inspection of the bill revealed that most of the movies were of a slightly disreputable put it delicately and were watched during the daytime when I am busy blogging at work!! One of these passionate films ( most had the word somewhere in their titles ) was so good that I apparently watched it twice!!I asked my folks if they had any clue and had to explain the PPV system and show them how to get there in the first place...nope no way...even if they were feeling naughty there's no way my folks could figure their way around this complicated (two remotes + gazillion buttons= complication, for my folks) system.

I called up Comcast, gave my telephone number to the automated system and was told that my outstanding bill of $178.85 has already been paid - What the *#%@@%&? Not one to give up easily, I stayed on the line and listened to some grotesque music for 15 minutes. My persistence was rewarded by a bored gentleman on the other side explaining to me what PPV meant, how it its ordered and how no one other than me could order them. When told I did not watch these movies (yet another time), he went on to suggest that I might have brothers and sisters (where ??hiding under the floorboards I presume) who might have been watching movies behind my back. This same conversation was repeated on a couple of more occassions with Comcast telling me among other things that
1. May be I had relatives at home....please check the cupboards and storage areas to be doubly sure!
2. Aha!!!Its those rental agency people- those horny guys just love to walk into homes and watch shady movies. Infact they do it all the time under the guise of maintenance work. (I asked them to give this to me in writing so I could fight with my rental agency and they hemmed and hawed for sometime before saying no).
3. I might need to change the locks on my door. Someone is surely coming in to watch movies (Wonder why they don't eat my food or steal my other stuff? And when asked whether they had explore the possibility of someone scaling the walls and coming through my bedroom window instead, the Comcast lady thought I was being funny!!!)

After two weeks of fighting over the phone (during which someone apparently watched another movie) we had established that I had hordes of illegitimate brothers and sisters whom my parents are unaware of and that I live in a neigbhourhood full of creepy men!! Honestly, I don't know who watched those movies? Infact I doubt someone ever did as this seems to be a problem for most Comcast subscribers I know. How come no one ever complains about having to pay for watching Titanic?
Anyway somewhere along the line I gave up and had a final scream at the lady on the phone and told her to disconnect the line. Yeah I paid up...I am secretly hoping somebody somewehere sues them for this kind of billing. And yesterday Subho and I went to Circuit City and brought ourselves a glorified pair of rabbit ears which look like this!! It even matches the color of our TV.

Somethings are never meant to go together I guess, like oil and water or Cable TV and us.


Amlan said...

you should make a compliant to the FCC. I had a similar problem with my phonebill with MCI World Com (International calls to India billed at 4.99/min). I fought with them and eventually paid up. But also sent in a formal complaint to FCC with copies of all the bills ans a clear explanation.

In a couple of months' time my efforts bore fruit and I got a letter from the FCC cc-ed to MCI with its verdict that I need to be compensated. Soon after there was a formal apology from MCI with a refund of my bill and a compensation sum. (small... but hey!)

Soon after MCI went under!!

I am sure Comcast will be under the purview of FCC and definitely urge you to send in a complaint.

Sagnik Nandy said...

you pervert - what have you been watching :)) jokes apart, these things are a mess - specially with hidden charges and terrible customer service - we recently switched to dish and it was supposed to be "free" first month - and then we figured that they charge you $X and then tax it and then subtract $X - so you pay the tax. Then we found out that reaching any real person for customer care other than nw subscription and payment, meant waiting three years on the phone - and finally i figured that the guy on answering my call was some outsourced Indian who dint even have knowledge of basic high school mathematics

p.s. really well written post

Anyesha said...

Amlan: Thanks for the advice.I think I shall lodge a formal complaint with them.

Sagnik: Well I watched Emanuelle, BAd Karma, All the Way and Dark Passion(this one twice) if you must know...and the customer service is just as you described.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

You know what would have really hurt? If they'd charged you for a telecast of "The Rising".



Unbelievable ! They evidently may have the wrong cable box number associated with your account which might explain your "illegitimate" brothers and sisters watching passionate stuff. Tell me how the dish thing went.

Anonymous said...

I'm having the same problem here as well with Comcast. Large numbers of PPV charges showing up on the bill and ordered while both of us are at work.

Also noticed a pattern regarding these types of charges is that they are all ordered at the top of the hour i.e. 4:00PM, 5:00PM etc...

Very annoying have to spend time disputing these charges on my own time. I may be going back to antenna as well.

Anyesha said...

anon: would be very interested in knowing if you ever get those charges taken off your bill.