June 17, 2013

Comcast uses Catch-22 as a system design manual

While reviewing my credit card bill, I noticed that the bill for our Comcast service at the camp was higher than expected. I went to the Comcast website, logged in to my account, and clicked the b to see the details on the bill. I learned that I needed a PIN to access the bill.

For security reasons, Voice management and billing information on your account will be limited until you enter the Security PIN we sent to your home address or email. Enter your Security PIN now, or have it re-sent to you.

Fine. I clicked the link to have it sent to my email. Quick as you please, I was brought to a page where I learned that the PIN will be sent to our camp address in five business days.
Less fine. We don’t receive mail at the camp address.
I looked around around to find another way to find out my PIN. I found none. I initiated a chat session with customer support. After I provided my account info and exchanged niceties, we went to the matter of the PIN.
I learned the following from a nice customer service representative.

  • Even though the message says that they can send the PIN to my email address, they can’t.
  • They can only send the PIN in two ways: by USPS to our camp address, where we don’t receive mail or to our Comcast phone number as a voice message. We don’t have a phone to plug into the phone jack on the router to access the voice service that we didn’t order.
  • They can’t send a text message with the PIN to my cell phone, which the phone number by which the CSR located the account.
  • When I said that I would have to buy a phone to be able to access my Comcast voice mail, she said that wasn’t necessary, that I could borrow a working phone from a neighbor.
    The CSR was very sad for me (her words) when I told her that I don’t have a neighbor from whom I can borrow a phone. 
  • I would have to go to the Comcast office 20 miles away to get real help.
When I got to the Comcast office 20 miles away, the nice customer service rep looked up my account information (based on my cellphone number) and then told me that the system could only send my PIN to the service address (the camp), not to the billing address. I quietly tapped my forehead against the glass that separates customers from service reps. She resolved to fix the problem. Twenty minutes later, she was able get the PIN sent to my home address (“in six to eight business days”).
That was two weeks ago.
Update:
In the process of testing the links for this blog post, I clicked the Send me a PIN links. I just received the following email:

I logged in, entered the PIN, and can now view my bill. Thank you, Comcast, I think.