Oct/Nov 2018 Reviews & Interviews

See "fiduciary responsibility," supra.

Comments by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

It seems the computer has survived its surgical procedure. In fact, the procedure went astonishingly well. Most of the problem was repaired within a couple of hours. I am still tenuously connected to the world at large and my burgeoning digital library.

Lucky that, as I was able to see that my bank account balance was off about $100. I figured it was a math error but was wrong. My anti-virus provider automatically charged me for a renewal I hadn't requested. Because it had my credit card number it felt empowered to do so and to charge me 50% more than last year.

I've been very leery of purchasing things over the Internet. Only two companies have my card number (not including the bank). Each is a major company known for excellent protection of its customers' personal data. Of course they protect it from everyone but themselves. I am sure that I checked to verify that using my card did not mean I could be charged for an automatic renewal. My precautions went for naught. $30 of petty theft is no longer petty theft. It is now prevailing business practice. The company that does not take advantage of the fact is failing in its "fiduciary responsibility" to maximize profits for its shareholders.

I have actually gone to the state Attorney General's consumer protection office in similar instances. (After weeks attempting to address problems via oxymoronic Customer Service departments, of course.) But it simply is not practical to document and time-stamp the steps of every Internet interaction with every company.

I let Verizon nowhere near a credit card number. For this reason they felt they could charge me constant late fees. If I paid by credit card, I was informed, I could prove my payments had not been late. Paying by check, however, no matter how early, meant that their declaration was law. If they said the payment was late, it was late. When I discontinued their service, after having satisfied their mandatory notification requirements, and then some, they charged me a special, non-standard disconnect fee for an undescribed failure to disconnect properly.

Comcast gave me a discounted monthly rate which left them only making a decent profit (see "fiduciary responsibility," supra) in respect of serious service outages and otherwise lapses andů the actual pointů really nasty bad media coverage. As the year went quietly along they changed my account number, by way of administrative housekeeping, and deleted all the information under my old account number, carrying over only record of the original, non-discounted agreement. No record of an updated contract, I was informed, equaled no updated contract ever having existed at all.

When contacted by Attorney General's office, both of these companies were deeply offended that I questioned their unquestionable integrity. The industry not yet having managed to lobby the end of the AG's influence over them, they had to say as much politely. They assured the office that I was utterly wrong even though I'd meticulously documented and time-stamped every technical and administrative aspect of the problems and sent the information together with my complaints.

Months later, Verizon "waived" its fees. Out of the goodness of its corporate heart, it made crystal clear. For, of course, in their world they can never be wrong (see "fiduciary responsibility," supra). Approximate amount: $36.00. The collection agencies were called off. I had become a customer of Comcast. I'd made my $36.00 back at a per-hour-toward-resolution-rate of less than 50 cents per hour.

Comcast required their right to grill me in several recorded telephone conversations looking for inconsistencies in my statements. It actually seemed to become something of an in-house joke that no one from among their experts at that kind of thing could "break me."

The discount was restored. At the same time, my service and stream rates were precipitously reduced to the absolute minimum the company could provide. They became highly erratic. My telephone went in and out of service every few hours for a month or two. No further contact with the AG's office was practicable for that time except by snail mail.

Once Comcast restored my telephone service and informed the AG it had never explicitly contracted to provide me anything more than the absolute minimum, stripped down service, I received a letter informing me that the case had been declared "resolved" and the file archived. I'd made my discount back at the per-hour-toward-resolution-rate of something in the neighborhood of $2.00 per hour. My stream rate is not quite so ferociously cut back any more. System down time, in this area of town, has been about 1-3 hours per week on average over the last couple of years.

In an interesting note, the free online Internet metering site I used to document the wildly erratic and subpar service updated its software shortly after these events. Among its improvements, the real time meter-and-graph display was discontinued. A single decontextualized mbs number is all that is provided. No matter the conditions I am seeing, I have never again seen a subpar number from the site for the Comcast stream. See "fiduciary responsibility," supra.


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