17 July 2007

Comcast's "Service Protection Plan".

I got my cable bill today.

Enclosed with my cable bill was an ad for Comcast's "Service Protection Plan". Comcast's policy is apparently to charge for "wire-related service calls". The ad says the following:
"For a low monthly fee of $3.30, you'll be covered for all inside wire-related service calls. Without the plan, regular service call charges will apply. Current service call charges are $22.25 for a video-only service call and $32.25 for a High-Speed Internet or Digital Voice service call."

So this is only a good buy if I expect to have a service call every 22.25/3.30 = 6.74 months (if I'm a video-only customer) or 32.25/3.30 = 9.77 months (if I only have Internet and/or digital voice through them and don't have their television service, which I suspect is quite rare); for those people who might incur both kinds of charges, the relevant quantity is somewhere in between.

In any case, nobody's wiring is that bad, is it, that it needs fixing more than once a year? And if it is, don't you have bigger things to worry about than your cable TV? Comcast is probably making huge piles of money off of this.

You might say that the reason for a customer to buy this is for "insurance", and that my expected value calculation is sort of silly because you're not protecting against the average but against the unusual. And that would be a valid point if, say, they were offering "for a low monthly fee of $330, you'll be covered for charges which are usually $2225 or $3225". These numbers are in the right ballpark for, say, car insurance. But I would hope that people have the good sense to save enough money that an unexpected expense of $22.25 isn't going to hurt them.

(The fine print says that this isn't available to "customers in a residential building with multiple apartments", which describes me.)

11 comments:

Scott said...

Good analysis. $3.30/month seems like very little, but like extended warranties and similar things, the numbers always fall out as a profit for the originator.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, now I understand what the Service Protection Plan is. They tried to sell this to me after they accidentally disconnected my service at the box.

Anonymous said...

I work for comcast and although you are right in saying that it is not always worth it for everyone, there are some people who would rather have a technician come out for things like hooking there VCR up to their cable box or to make there remote work for there TV as well as cable box then to do it themselves. You would be suprised how many people have technicians come out to their house 3,4,5 times per month for things that most people would do on their own. Not to mention the only time you will be charged for a service call from comcast is when it is a non-comcast related issue. So even if the technician just has to plug the cable box into the wall, as long as it is the cable box and not the TV you will not be charged.

nynatv said...

You have to realize that there are many people that think they are cable techs and can just "hook up a wire". Well that's not the case. Most "in house" cable techs are trained and have the approved equipment to install. Any monkey can buy a reel of wire, some fittings and a splitter at the local home improvement center and think that's all they need. Well its not! The extremely substandard equipment and workmanship will not only create a headache for the "do it yourself" subscriber but also creates havoc on the very sophisticated digital cable system which NO ONE realizes unless they are in the cable business. So leave the service work to the professionals other wise, it'll cost you. One can't even imagine how much revenue is lost from do it yourselfers doing their own cabling, then piss and moan that their cable is messed up and blame the cable provider. Then of course most cable service providers would have in the past and in the best interest of customer retainment, absorb the service call to keep the customer from bailing. That's a revenue stream that can't be ignored any longer. Try calling any local phone provider and tell them phone isn't working. They'll tell you it will be checked at the NID and if it's good there, it's YOUR problem. If they need to locate and correct the inside wiring issue, be prepared to hand over a sizable check. Like $90.00 or more. So all in all, the wire service protection plan might not be such a bad thing.

BrotherKev said...

to Anonymous who works for Comcast...

"the only time you will be charged for a service call from comcast is when it is a non-comcast related issue"

Not true. They just tried to charge me $28 to come to my house to replace their own faulty wiring from the utility pole to the house. I'd say that's Comcast's problem, not mine.

BrotherKev said...

In addition to that, look at it this way: I pay a high fee per month to have service, and when they stop providing that service reliably, I have to pay them extra (either in the form of a "protection" plan, or in the form of a service call fee) in order to insure that they are providing what I paid for in the first place. That's absolutely ridiculous. If you buy a TV set, get it home, and it doesn't work, do you expect to get charged $28 to exchange it for one that does work? How is that fair? Their excuse? "All the other service providers do it, too. We're all screwing you together."

Anonymous said...

Guys, I've contracted for comcast, brighthouse and time warner for or 12 years. The service protection is more like an inside wiring plan. You call with a problem, the service tech comes out, and finds it's low signal, so he puts in for a rewire. I come out to rewire your 4 bedroom house, which was built 3 years ago, but wired by the builder's electrician, who, as most building contractors do, used the cheapest thing around to get the job done.

ok, no you don't have service protection, so the living room and 4 bedroom tv's lines, all need replacing to carry signal's for digital cable. Comcast waives the outlet charges of 21.99, because they are already active and you've already been billed for their activation at your initial install. However, each of those lines has to be refished down the wall, because that's how they were originally run, and the price of fishing a wall, you are charged, because you don't have the service protection program. This charge, which ranges from city to city, is usually listed of your rate card as hourly custom labor, and ranges from 33.00 (comcast orlando) to as high as 100.00 (cox new orleans). Now here are a few news flashes.

1. The rate card may say hourly, but we always have charged that per line. The few people stupid enough to argue that it's an hourly charge usually whould have come out cheaper on a per line basis. (It's a wallfish, some take 15 minutes, and I've done one that took 3 techs and 2.5 hours)

2. Depending on the cable companies policy in your city, these charges my be able to be billed, but more likely your going to have to pay them that day, and before the work is done, either in cash, money order, or possibly a check. If you can't afford it or have logistical issues(i.e. you have to go to the bank to get the money, and I'm not sittin on my thumbs for 45 minutes for that) you have to reschedule the appointment, which usually incures a trip charge of 18-35 dollars on your acount. (Not to mention having to take anouther day off from work, sorry, we don't rewire on weekends... I may be married to the cable company, but I still need some sort of time to myself for sanity's sake.)

3. Oh, you don't want to pay that, you want me to just run a new line through the outside wall? Ok, that's fine, move your tv to that wall, and it's 22-48 dollars for an outlet relocation...

Believe me, 3 something a month, for the rest of eternity, is better than having an issue, take a day off for the service call, take another day off for your rewiring, only to find that the service tech told you tuesday and scheduled it for thursday, so take another day off, and here I am telling you that it's going to cost you an additional 500 dollars, and I have to collect that upfront, we don't take cash, and (since you were late on your bill year before last) I was just informed that your account is not eligible for the acceptance of checks on upfront costs, so you'll have to rescedule(take another day off) until you have that in the form of a money order....

P.S. You think that's pisses you off, I'm having tell people this 2 to 5 times a day, listen to them moan gripe scream cuss holler and threaten for 30 minutes, only to be told cancel the damn thing, which means i didn't get one red cent for the hour and a half i was there, or my fuel, or even to cover the asprin i need when i get back in the truck.


Think of it this way, your tv stops working because a rat fried himself eating the elcetrical line in the attic. The elcetrician doesn't care who you are, how mad you are, or how inconvenienced your may feel, you either pay, or have no power. We're the same way. We didn't put the rat there, train him to eat your wiring, or reward him for doing so. It's entertainment, and it costs money. That's life, please man up and quite wining for freebies.... (Unless your going to give me free service at your job, then we might can work it out...)

Anonymous said...

I just went thru a problem with Comcast internet server where the signal was dropping out everyday in the afternoon adn then would stay out till the next day. They couldn't find a problem and finally sent a tecch. He found that the problem was outaside the house with a ground block in the locked box that Comcast installed a few years back. So now they bill me $37 to do that. Next time I have a problem where they have to come out, I'll switch providers. Don't want to spend all morning on the phone either on hold or battling with them.

Anonymous said...

I just had to pay a service fee for Comcast to replace their own defective cable modem. Next problem I have...Direct TV.

Canklefish said...

Yes, Comcast is making piles of money off of this, but there is a loophole; If you wait until you incur a service charge, you are able to then sign up for the plan and the service charge will be waived.

The catch is that you then must pay for the service for 3 consecutive months before canceling.

Once the 3 months have passed, simply cancel the plan and it's business as usual with your bill.

Shaun said...

Guys, the SPP can be a good thing...

I used to be on the 12/4 Performance plan with an Atl Sci Docsis 2 modem and was getting 12/4 ROCK SOLID. Then I upgraded to an Ubee Docsis 3 modem - still rock solid 12/4. Then I made the mistake of upgrading my plan to 22/5 Ultra and I am now getting 15/5 and NOT rock solid.

I spent a day and a half e-mailing, chatting, and talking with their "semi capable" and rather untrained 1st level support, who also refused to escalate the ticket to 2nd level support. The PC, router, and modem were all eliminated as possible issues, and my cable box is 30 FEET from the CMTS. The wiring is all new. Everything checked out to be fine, but I still was not getting the upgraded downstream throughput.

Having failed to figure it out from the central office, the 1st level support wanted to send a tech out to investigate - only I WOULD HAVE TO PAY for the visit if the tech could not resolve the problem!

Flabbergasted they could charge me for not being able to resolve an issue they created, I made some more calls and found out you can get the SPP added to your account for 3 months FOR FREE! After the 3 months you can cancel it if you wish. So now I was able to call a tech out without having to worry about how much they will bill me.

Wonderful! We shall see if the tech can figure it out...