Piggyback rides constitute the kind of service I enjoy providing – one that brings joy to all parties. In recent decades, however, the concept of service providers being primarily and genuinely concerned with the quality of service provided and customer satisfaction seems to have mutated into their adeptly gaslighting customers by providing the lowest acceptable level of service in a decreasingly competitive world. When once a quick phone call sufficed to arrange desired services at reasonable costs, the process now requires endurance, tenacity, and patience, with the customer frequently settling for less than they’d hoped. I think of what follow as less of a rant than an expression of sorrow and frustration at a portent of the gaslighting and troubling future (confusing or dystopic, depending on how you look at it) toward which we are headed—or, in which we currently live.
Last year at this time, when I customarily return to wage slavery in Purgatory, I noticed my internet bill had suddenly nearly doubled. Finding this unacceptable and aware of cheaper options, I contacted Comcast, prepared to end my contract. Predictably, I suppose, it offered me a ‘special deal’ targeting loyal customers such as myself that returned my monthly charges to just $1 more than they had been for the past several years. Exhausted by the time it took to achieve this little victory (obtaining essential services does, somehow seem like a series of battles)—a psychological factor on which such predatory undoubtedly businesses depend, facilitated by cheerful, intrepid, non-native English-speaking agents—I banished from my mind the ordeal I anticipated enduring twelve months hence. I marked the date to contact Comcast in my calendar.
Twelve months passed quickly and shortly after my return, I received an email notifying me of my soon-to-be-debited, more than doubled, monthly charge. I waited for an afternoon without meetings, knowing that what could be accomplished in fewer than five minutes would take many times longer. After fortifying myself with an egg salad sandwich and root beer, I googled the customer service number. An automated voice informed me that it’d be a long wait before I spoke to an agent and that I’d be better off leaving a call back number because then I’d receive priority treatment and callback within “a few minutes.” After 30 minutes, I engaged with Comcast’s chat option, finally (I forget how, even though it was only a few hours ago. My mind seems efficient at erasing—or burying—unpleasant memories.) chatting with Ravi, who was very deferential and concerned about how my day had been going with a tone of interest rivaled only by that of my parents, long ago.
Such situations can rapidly transform me from contented customer to impatient maniac, although I try always to be polite to the agents, who undoubtedly work remotely from a script and under the threat that ‘this call may be recorded to optimize customer experience’. I strive, not always successfully, for empathy.
After repeating the question I’d already typed at least four times, I was informed about this year’s special deal for loyal customers, which—in addition to raising my monthly cost only by $5, a sum I considered reasonable—entailed a shower of gifts I didn’t want but had to accept in order to qualify. Comcast’s generosity certainly has boundaries but the company makes a tremendous effort, nonetheless, to convey near-parental devotion to customers such as I, and, with its superior, near-parental wisdom, knows that my humdrum life will improve immeasurably upon the receipt and activation of the luxurious gifts it insists on bestowing. Aside from more data that I can’t imagine using, Comcast has foisted upon me a Motorola phone at a cost of $4.16 per month, which I must accept/pay for in order to return my monthly Internet bill to its former level. If I’d been told I must donate $4.16 per month to a charity, I’d have preferred that. School supplies for teachers, saving old growth forests, battling climate change, and a long list of other causes would have been preferable to accepting an object that relies on rare minerals, inhumane labor practices, corporate greed, and the further polluting of the environment when at least parts of said gift wash up on foreign shores or are swallowed by unsuspecting marine animals.
In a final act of generosity, Ravi extended this offer for 24 months, so I don’t have to experience this trauma again. Or at least until September 2025. But still, I can’t help wondering if I made the right decision. Should I have attempted to wrangle a similar or better deal from another provider? After all, part of what providers likely depend on is the additional bureaucracy and inconvenience of switching providers. Companies are undoubtedly aware that it’s more of a hostage situation for customers than a reaping-the-benefits-of-loyalty-and-satisfaction. Or would my paying Comcast an additional $35 per month decelerate global warming? Once I activate the Motorola, the die is cast, but I have until that moment to reconsider my decision. Perhaps once I recuperate from the traumatic, hour-long ordeal of negotiating this bargain, I’ll contact Comcast’s rivals in search of a better deal, although I’m not optimistic about their treatment once the honeymoon period is over. As with too many things, nowadays.