Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Comcast: Evil, or Just Stupid?

Until February, I was a somewhat satisfied customer of Comcast. I was happily paying about $50/month for digital cable, and everything seemed just fine. Until the day he called - with his annoying telemarketer script and his headphone and his predictive dialing - to offer me discounted HBO. I wasn't interested, but he had to wave the prospect of a full refund in front of my face, so I thought it was easier to let him sign me up for HBO than it was to deal with the salesdrone. Of course, I made sure to note on the calendar the deadline.

I specifically asked him "So, if I cancel in less than 30 days, I can go back to what I had before?" He said yes. If he had not said yes, I would have said goodbye, but he said yes, so I allowed him to sign me up.

Lying sack of Comcast. After 25 days, I called to cancel HBO. I said "Put me back on what I had last month before I got HBO."

It took me a couple of days to notice that the cable was not working at all. All of my DVR recorded shows were completely black and silent. Fortunately, I have a ReplayTV so I could easily (and legally) download the shows I missed from my "friends." Unfortunately I had to spend more time on the phone, again specifically asking to get back on whatever I had before the entire HBO fiasco. Finally I verify that my digital channels are working again, and all seems right in the universe.

One more month passes, and we arrive at Tuesday. I'm paying bills when I see my Comcast bill. It was $65. Sixty five freaking dollars. Instantly I was on the phone with a customer service representative, who seemed very nice and even spoke English very well. Unfortunately, my situation did not seem to evoke any sympathy in her.

I explained my situation to her, and that I just wanted to be on whatever freaking service plan I had before the asshole called me and convinced me to change anything about my service at all. At that point, we arrived at this conversation:

Me:  Why did my bill go up by so much? Did you add more channels? If so, please take them away and put me back on what I had before.
Drone: Can I put you on hold?
Me:  Sure. [seethes]
Drone: Sorry to keep you waiting sir. We no longer offer the package you had before, the digital plus plan we offer is $65/month.
Me:  If I had not changed plans would I have been able to continue on at $50/month?
Drone: Well, we did make some adjustments to cable rates in your area, so it would have gone up.
Me:  I'm quite used to rate increases, and I would have silently paid a rate increase of 3 or perhaps even 5%. But this is a 30% rate increase! Are you seriously tell me that if I hadn't done any changes to my plan that you were just going to send me a bill for 30% more than the previous month? Did you just expect I would bend over and take it?
Drone: Can I ask you to hold again sir?
Me:  Sure. Whatever.
Drone: Sorry to keep you waiting. We did an audit of our service offerings and found that we were not charging as much in your area as in some other areas, so we made some adjustments.
Me:  30 freaking percent? I had service in Sunnyvale before I moved here, and the rates were similar. Are you saying that you just raised rates for the entire Bay Area by 30 freaking percent?

So I'm pretty sure she was lying to me, because I know that if that jerk had never called me and my rates shot up, I would have been on the phone to satellite providers the very next instant.

The upshot of this all is that I had the drone turn off my digital service and just give me standard cable for $33/month. I'm going to look into getting satellite service, but I just don't have the freaking time available to research providers and see if I have too many trees etc. etc. So I have no idea how long it will be.

But for now I take comfort in the fact that the original sales drone's rate of return on the call he made to me was -$17/month.

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Cafes: Confirming GETs Considered Harmful

Elliotte Rusty Harold says:
In particular I was using a GET to make something happen: confirm a message. What really shocked me was that Google’s GMail and possibly other clients will prefetch such URLs, maybe even before the user ever reads the e-mail. In other words, the confirmation can be accidental. Oops. As soon as Bill pointed it out, I saw my error. Google is absolutely within its rights to prefetch such a URL. I should not be using a GET to confirm the message. That needs to be done with a POST.
Is this really an issue? What email clients pre-fetch links in the email message? GMail uses such links to confirm an email address you'd like to send mail from, so I can't believe GMail will trip this. Here's how you can test this:
  • Get a gmail account, call it
  • Set some other account to forward mail to that gmail account.
  • In Gmail, add to your "accounts" settings. Google will email with a GET link to confirm you actually receive this email.
  • You'll receive that email at GMail, and can click the GET link to activate it.
Now, technically it is within a client's right to pre-fetch any URLs they desire. But in an email client that seems irresponsible, when some of those URLs might be:
  • Click here to confirm for my spam list that your email address is valid! (Note, this is the same reason email clients don't usually display hotlinked images in-line by default anymore.)
  • Click here to give me a fractional penny in some referrer/clickfraud scheme!
In short I find it hard to believe that any email client, even a browser based one, would pre-fetch any link in any email. It's just a bad idea. Does anyone have an example where this actually happens?

Tags: , ,