Good customer service, or invading privacy?

The strangest series of events happened this afternoon. I received an unsolicited call on my cell phone from someone in Comcast sales late in the afternoon, mentioning that they had received an email query regarding comparisons of services.  I told them I made no such email and was confused as to why I would get a call.  I’ve done some web comparisons but at no time did I fill out any kind of contact form for any of the cable/satellite providers.

I did some investigating and hypothesized that I was called regarding my blog entry earlier in the day,  about my searching for TV/Internet options for the new house.

Why I believe this:

  1. Like many self-indulgent bloggers, I keep stats of who accesses my Ramblings.  Looking at the logs, I found the following subsequent entries (all are from today, times are listed in Eastern):

    As you can see someone in Comcast New York found my entry by doing a Google Blog search for “Comcast”.  I can tell you that the host name did not have one of the customer c-your-ip-address entries, which leads me to believe this is from an office. 

  2. The same IP address visits the site again 50 minutes later, this time with no referring link (which means they clicked on a link from either an email, bookmark, IM or external source). 
  3. 45 minutes later someone from TCI visits that same entry with no referencing link – and for those who remember their Colorado cable history TCI was purchased by AT&T in 1999, which was then sold to Comcast in 2001.
  4. Subsequently I get a call 10 minutes later on my cell phone – which isn’t listed anywhere – from the Comcast Sales Rep
  5. My last name is listed on my blog, along with my abbreviated first name – Jeromey “Romey”
  6. While my cell phone is unlisted, it is the billing phone number for my Comcast account.

There are other possibilities: One may be that I inadvertently provided my contact information in some kind of query form – which because I have no knowledge it means I have bigger problems.  The other option is that they got my name from the mortgage company – but Bethany’s name is on the mortgage app too, she has an account and she wasn’t called.

I think it’s a plausible assertion that someone at Comcast read my blog, connected the dots with my account, looked up my number and called me.  Now the question posed: is this good customer service or is this inappropriate usage of my billing information?

On one hand it’s really good customer service.  Do a Google Blog search for “Comcast” and you’ll find that there are literally hundreds of blog posts each day.  For them to proactively patrol the blogs for questioning or unhappy customers, then contact them to see if they can resolve their situation is a smart approach to put out a brushfire before it burns down the field.

On the other hand, it’s downright creepy.  While I sometimes forget that the whole point of blogging is to share your thoughts with the Internet community, I still can’t help but be shocked when such a direct response is taken to something I wrote.  Aside from questioning their alleged throttling activities and calling their DVR “crappy” I didn’t make inflammatory comments in my blog, and yet it bothered someone enough to call me up and make a sales call.  I provided my contact information to Comcast to discuss billing and service issues, and while I don’t think they violated their privacy policy, one may question the appropriateness of looking up that information based on something I wrote and empower a salesperson to make an unsolicited sales call. 

I’m not really sure where I stand, but I do have to be honest and say I was unnerved by the cold-call.  It’s not that I don’t want a response from people reading my blog, it’s just that one should use the same medium – the comments system – to respond. (Note to self: put email address back on template).  To reference the information I provided to a company for a different purpose probably isn’t appropriate.

The Comcast rep is supposed to call me back, but I’m not really sure what they can say that will persuade me. Unless the promotional price won’t expire (which is unheard of), they finally port the Tivo interface to their DVR’s (something they announced 15 months ago) and stop forcing me to pay $5 just to get the NFL Network, I’m going to Satellite for my TV.

Trying to lose the cable

The countdown is on until closing on the house (39 days!) and all of those pre-move activities need to get in gear.  One of those things is figuring out how our information utilities – TV & Internet.  Currently I’m paying a hefty $150 check to Comcast each month for both digital cable and Internet.  If you were to itemize my bill you would see:

  • 1 HD DVR Digital Receiver
  • 1 Standard Digital Receiver
  • Cable Internet (I own the modem)
  • Digital Plus (or whatever it’s called) that includes the music videos tier
  • Sports Tier package (thanks Comcast v. NFL Network)
  • HBO (to watch Inside the NFL)

One of the advantages of moving is to reassess whether you’re using all of those services and better define your needs.  Things have changed since I originally subscribed to this package and I’m realizing I don’t need the bazillion channels that I’m not watching.  I also no longer need HBO as Inside the NFL has been canceled from the network.  A good HD package is important to me, and I want a DVR that actually works rather than the piece-of-crap that Comcast gives us.  I also want the NFL Network, and do resent paying an extra $5 a month to Comcast just to get it.  The music videos are nice, but not really necessary.  With that in mind, I’m evaluating my satellite options:

DirectTV: $55.96 (for 12 months, rates hike back up to $73.96). Setup Costs: None, but $99 DVR purchase fee.  Pros: You get Sci-Fi in HD (good for BSG) and they have a good offering of HD channels (includes NFL Network on standard HD tier).  They also have the NFL Sunday Ticket package available, something I may be interested in having in the fall.  Cons: Their DVR is rated as moderate, price hikes $20 after 1 year.

Dish Network: $52.99 (no indication of price hike) Setup Costs: $50 (opted out of 2 year agreement), doesn’t indicate about DVR costs.  The HD channels are good, not as many as DirectTV but it does have the NFL Network. Pros: Cheapest solution and offers the best value of HD that I watch.  The DVR is the highest rated on CNet. Cons: Not sure about DVR charges, no NFL Sunday Ticket option.

Comcast: $102 but if I remove HBO it’ll drop $11. Setup Costs: Unknown since it would transfer.  Decent selection of HD channels. Pros: It’s what we know and most convenient to move. Cons: Crappy DVR, still need to pay $5/month for NFL Network, no Sunday Ticket option.

The Internet Wrinkle

Dish Network looks like the best option to go with for now, but now comes the Internet wrinkle: I want high speed Internet, and Comcast offers the fastest download speeds.  I like to game from my Xbox Live, so a consistent speed is needed as well.  However, I’m pissed about their throttling and wouldn’t mind canceling the service.  DSL isn’t an attractive option because of the slower download speed and the fact that I we may need a phone line (don’t know about naked DSL in Fort Collins).  There are some WiFi providers in Northern Colorado, but I’m concerned that my HOA will prevent me from putting an antenna on the roof.

The ideal situation: I would like to go Dish + Comcast High Speed.  My friend Kyle told me that he had it done before and a splitter can be installed, however this result in momentary connection loss, which can be very bad for gaming.  The other thing I’m not sure about is that there are currently only 2 cable drops in the house (Living + Master Bedroom) so it may be difficult to split those cables as well.  I could always run another cable to the office area, but I realize what a pain it is to run cables through finished walls.

If anyone has any ideas about the Internet solution (either naked DSL or some Comcast tips), I would greatly appreciate any input.

Update: After further research Qwest advertises up to 7mbps and offers naked DSL for $45 a month – comparable to what Comcast is doing.  I’ll have to research this.