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Crabby Old Lady: Dead or Alive?

This has been a disastrous holiday season for Crabby Old Lady. Not the holidays themselves; just everything else. To give you an idea, the least of it is that her heating has not worked since Christmas.

It is finally being repaired today but the other problems, involving a handful of the largest corporations in the U.S., may put Crabby in her grave.

Let's start in November with Amazon and The New York Times. The Times has a painfully perverse set of subscription choices. Aside from dead tree delivery, the newspaper can be displayed on the computer and smartphone. Or on the computer and tablet. Or you can pay way too much for access on all three.

Even though it costs $60 more per year, Crabby wanted to change her subscription from computer/smartphone to computer/tablet due to her new Kindle HD that is so much easier on her old eyes than the tiny phone screen. Hear Crabby's warning: don't.

The change involved getting her Times password to work for both devices but when she tried – again and again – the website tossed her into a loop that repeatedly requested the password.

Crabby will spare you further details except to say that more than two hours of wait and discussion time on the telephone (all coming off her cell minutes) with the two companies' representatives resulted in the same contradictory information from each: “I can't help you; it's Amazon's problem.” Or, when talking to Amazon – well, Crabby's has no doubt you can figure out on your own what that representative said.

Don't forget that this is a service for which Crabby pays money but neither company was willing to make the product available. How is this different, Crabby wonders, from the supermarket snatching the carrots out of her bag after she's been through the checkout counter.

A couple of days later the password process – as computer things sometimes do - miraculously succeeded through no help from either company.

Moving right along, Crabby's December internet/cable television bill arrived from Comcast in mid-December with a jump in price of 21.5 percent. This signals a Kabuki dance the company and Crabby do every six months: they raise the price, Crabby calls to cancel everything except internet and basic TV and they lower the price.

Now, Crabby Old Lady likes television. She follows the political scene on it, she watches some fine dramas (there is good stuff being produced these days) and along with some comedy, movies, Netflix, etc. to choose from, it is particularly enjoyable on evenings after she has fried her brain during eight or 10 hours working on this blog.

So all you sanctimonious abstainers who don't sully your pristine minds with grubby television, Crabby grants you your intellectual superiority but keep it to yourself today.

Crabby called her Comcast representative. He's a nice guy and she likes her twice-a-year chats with him. In the end, she gets to keep the television package she likes at an amount that (within the ruinous confines of monopoly pricing) is tolerable for another six months.

She made her first call on December 14th and left the requested information for her service representative. The recording states that a 24-hour turnaround is expected.

Since this is a Crabby Old Lady bitch session, you already know that didn't happen. Not the next day nor the next nor the next. Given Crabby's normally short temper in such circumstances, she has been remarkably polite in the nine or ten subsequent messages she has left.

Oh, wait. She did get one return call but it arrived while she was being examined by her eye doctor and in no position to chat about television and internet prices.

The terrible part of this is with the cable TV/internet access monopoly in almost every city in the U.S. including Crabby's, there is no comparable competitor and this is deeply wrong in what is supposed to be a free market economy.

Crabby continues to call Comcast, so far to no avail.

You might think this covers Crabby's electronic travails and she is done bitching now. Oh no, not yet.

Thanks to all of the above, Crabby Old Lady has gone way over her cell phone voice limit and at 45 cents per extra minute, her monthly charge doubled.

She may have talked more than usual during the holidays but not enough to put her over the top without the two to three hours of extremely unsatisfactory wait and talk times with Amazon, The Times and Comcast's voicemail system.

However, even without these corporate/customer failures, Crabby was thinking she needs more voice and less data time to avoid crushing overage charges in the future.

Because it is another year until her contract is up and there is a $350 penalty to cancel before then, Crabby checked what else was available at Verizon.

It was useless. There is no choice but to pay a lot more for more minutes or, in subscribing to a different kind of less expensive plan, to purchase a new phone not nearly as spiffy or useful as the one she has and which, finally, Crabby has learned to navigate with relative ease.

Crabby took a crack at negotiating with a Verizon representative via live chat one day. The asinine conversation is too stupid to recount – the text equivalent of those verbal scripts read by customer reps for whom English is a third or fourth language.

As you can see, nothing has been resolved not to mention that Crabby doesn't like The Times tablet app and wants to return to using the smartphone option for The Times but is exhausted already thinking about what else will go wrong.

There is also the day or two during this period when suddenly, without warning or explanation, Crabby could no longer access her online bank account. An hour-long, in-person visit with the bank on Christmas Eve morning produced no solution but on the day after Christmas, one of those computer miracles occurred and she could again do her banking from home.

So. Let's add this up. Heating: may return today if nothing goes wrong. Banking: working, for now. Comcast: unresolved. Verizon: unresolved. Times/Amazon: does Crabby have the stamina to take them on again?

Up at the top of this lengthy complaint, Crabby mentioned her grave.

From time to time, through many years of her life, when all Crabby's efforts to have an affect her personal world repeatedly fail, she fancifully(?) posits that she is dead and doesn't know it yet.

Could that be so this time? she wonders.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Good Woman


Oh, my, you have had a time of it. I am spared a lot of that calling because mr. kenju will take care of it. However I am always certain that the company will cancel our accounts because of his invective. They don't...lol

my time to call Verizon to lower the cost of our fios plan - I hate doing it. And btw - sometimes the password issue can be resolved by clearing out the history on your browser - sometimes.

Ha! I was going to mention something about a husband, too. Good thing you don't have one. He'd have to leave the house for some days. :) OR, on the other hand, as in kenju's case, he would give 'em hell, Harry, and they'd fix it pronto! OR, even better, he would listen to your troubles and be kind and sympathetic. :) Anyway, I'm sorry you're having to go through all that. How absolutely irritating. I would've pulled my hair out by now, if I had that much to grab on to. :)

Uh-oh. Maybe you are right. You have died and you will spend eternity trying to straighten out the NYTs, Comcast, the bank, etc.

Of course, they are also dead and for all eternity they will receive your complaints.

Hey Dear Crabby....you forgot to mention your prescriptions. Hasn't your online service said they would no longer carry A or B? Mine did, and the drive up neighborhood pharmacy costs three times as much as the dial up. Can you still get your prescriptions? I can't.

Oh, you haven't had that yet. I'm so sorry. You will have fun when you do.

Dear friend in blog-land. This is perhaps due to the fact that many corporations now believe they are persons. Ah ha!

Hi Crabby,
Ask Comcast how much the triple play costs.

We removed all the phones in our house, and just use cellphones, with unlimited minutes, but Comcast added on unlimited phone service, Movie channels, and it cost us less.


This sounds like my life; I bleed for you and have decided this is why it takes me all day to stay in the "retired" state. How did we do all this calling/recalling/complaining when we worked? Live you, I enjoy TV, even though I was an English major; I am always highly suspect of people who don't.

You're not alone dear Crabby! Last month my cable company came to my house to fix a problem and killed my modem too. They installed another, but left me to believe I would be billed a monthly rental fee. It shouldn't, because the website says it won't. And you can believe anything you read on a corporate website.

Mage has similar troubles with Part D (as does everyone else who pays attention). Perhaps Mr Kenju would like to fill some hours going to bat for the rest of us?

Barb, that is hysterical. /// Ronnie, no one should have to go without heat. That must have been horrible -- my heart goes out to you. [I promise I won't tell that I haven't had a TV is over 10 years (and, yes, I can well afford TV).] LOL But my unasked for and absolutely unwanted -- LOL -- advice is that you simplify your life. You love your TV -- fine -- pay for it. Get whatever subscription you want, bite the bullet, pay for it and forget it. If you're retired, why do you need an Iphone? (I did read correctly? You do have one, right?) Why do you need an Iphone if you're retired and working 10 hours a day on this blog? Get a prepaid cell phone company, pay $50 a month for unlimited calls and texting. Got a Tablet? Just read books/magazines with it. I gather you need to research -- can you do that on a Tablet (you can see I don't know much about Tablets -- I will probably get a Tablet soon -- I love to read)-- but won't a laptop suffice? We simplify our lives with technology or we complicate it with technology. And it's always our choice. Plus, if you're not so 'wired' (with technology) you will probably find your life a lot less stressful. I have a desktop and a laptop (which I rarely use, because I don't want to be wired when I'm having lunch with friends) and a prepaid cell phone -- and that's enough stress for me.

You aren't dead. Death couldn't possibly be this painful.

"So all you sanctimonious abstainers who don't sully your pristine minds with grubby television, Crabby grants you your intellectual superiority but keep it to yourself today."

Okay ;-)

"Because it is another year until her contract is up and there is a $350 penalty to cancel before then, Crabby checked what else was available at Verizon. It was useless. There is no choice but to pay a lot more for more minutes or, in subscribing to a different kind of less expensive plan ..."

When you can best work it to your advantage (contract renewal time) consider switching to Credo Mobile. I've been happy with them for years.

Prices are not any cheaper than the big boys but you get so much more bang for your buck because some of your payment goes to promoting many of the social programs that you speak to. I think too that if you're a first time subscriber they will pay off your contractual obligation to the other company just to get you on board.

I can easily access a real person if I have an issue and I have no complaints at all about their service. Just something to consider and look forward to sticking it to your current phone company.

At the risk of sounding like the grouch (not a mistake) that stole Christmas I have to say that dealing with the menu's on the phone, incompetent help when you finally reach a live person, failure to solve the problems and hours wasted are driving me batty, too. I share your pain, Ronni. I have had my share of computer woes regarding billing, broken web sites that are never fixed, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

Judy, would you kindly loan Mr. Kenju to Ronni and me long enough to get our problems solved?

I am so pleased that former corporation lady and home builder has simplified. Living at the edge of the woods, cell phone and landline I rarely use, television on loft has something I bought at Walmart that cost $12 and gives me 12 stations (but the one I miss local PBC) I order everything I can from Amazon
that saves me time and arrives at my home in 2 or 3 days. Returns they have always been so nice. In fact recently ordered a book that I did not like and called them to return and they told me since I was a good customer just keep it and they would credit my account.
Of course it was just a $12 book. So simplified I have and will stay....

You all understand that, because it saves them money, we're describing the fact that the big monopolies that sell us services we need have outsourced "customer service" -- TO THEIR CUSTOMERS.

In order get what they sell us, we are required to do that work. Quite a coup. Might not work if there were alternatives.

Thank you for your post. I have similar problems with all the media, and even dream about them in nightmarish detail. It's so overwhelming that I sometimes don't want to unplug a device (modem, tv) because I don't think it will rejoin the wireless loop that I seem to have no control over.

Since I'm a writer, I understand words and language, but all these essentially non-human systems of "help" drive me crazy.

When you complain to Comcast, do they keep your rate at the old level, or do they just lower it from where they were going to raise it?

Because I think it's about to happen to me.

From one Crabby Old Lady to another

To save money on cell phone minutes when you are at home try using the phone that comes with gmail.

Its still free for 2013 to make calls anywhere in USA. Its very useful if you expect to be on hold for any length of time.

And where's the person who said "the good ole' days, weren't soooo good." Well in this case, I beg to differ. I would like, & we need a 2 month rest from the cyber-world & from the media. But I would miss TGB:)Dee

I, too, have subscribed to CREDO cell phone service for several years ... and have never been disappointed!

Now have a package (TV, Internet access and home telephone) with Time-Warner and just got a BIG Rate hike too! Thinking of cutting out the landline altogether and changing ISP, as well as reducing to basic TV.

It's time to get over all the fancy packages now being offered. Can't afford the bloody things, either!!

It might be easier on the New York Times problem to cancel your current subscription and then start as a new subscriber. Sometimes it is easier to wipe the slate clean and start from a solid known position.

We appear to be living the same life. The game playing is constant, and an annoying way to treat customers who will never win your darned old game. I sent a letter to the credit union -- a month ago, with my husband's death certificate on an account I have a right of survivorship. I've heard nothing, despite clearly stating what I wished for them to do. But yesterday he got an offer of life insurance from them ....

Dear Crabby,
You are not alone. I subscribe to the online version of the New York Times. On the front page left side, there is a function called Times Skimmer. Theoretically, it is a great idea but I have had multiple problems and it still doesn’t work correctly. I emailed the Times help line and was told that “no other subscriber has had this problem”. Really??
My Comcast story, my representative was not so co-operative in lowering rates. After the bill went up and up, I took an incentive deal and switched to Verizon. Don’t like it, not as much selection and not as easy to use and now I have a 2 year contract with Verizon.
I understand that these are first world inconveniences but it feels good to kvetch anyway.
Hope your heat is restored.

My complaint: consumers are railroaded into "package" deals at every turn (not just media). There are less choices, not more, as is often advertised. Example: a friend took her dog to the vet for a check-up and was stunned to walk out with a $400 bill (her "package" contained things she didn't ask for). We need more competitors in the marketplace with ala carte choices.

I hear you, Ronni. The holiday period has been rocky in terms of service. Starting weeks before Christmas, I tried to reach my daughter on the east coast.

I kept getting messsages that my call had been transferred to a voic-mail messaging service. I tried leaving a message but didn't hear back.

Finally, I contacted her dad, also on the east coast. My daughter had not changed her cellphone number, and he'd had no problem calling her.

Finally she called me. We agree that the situation is bizarre, and neither of us has any idea how to fix it.

Then there was the abrupt death of our 5-year-old dishwasher and the purchase of a new one at Home Deport early in December. After 3 visits from installers and electricians, we're still washing dishes by hand and using the dead dishwisher as a drainage rack.

May the New Year be less frustrating!

Oh my, I shouldn't laugh, but I couldn't help it.
As Maya Angelou puts it, "There is nowhere to go but up."

Your problems are all too common. I subscribed to the NYT for a trial basis but didn't continue because I couldn't get it on my iPad and that is where I wanted to read it. Good luck resolving the rest.....it's always something.

You are not alone! But I will post a success story: I just received an enormous check from Honda, to reimburse me for the absolute chicanery their dealer attempt to pull off: telling me I needed repairs that I didn't. Not once, not twice but attempted it a third time! This has buoyed my spirits considerably for 2013's battles with Comcast, Verizon, and a moving company that still hasn't delivered my things!

Most things about the "good old days", I don't miss. In fact, I consider us well rid of them; but, when Ma Bell owned the whole phone company (before she was broken up into the Baby Bells), there was only one call to make concerning one's service. Monopolies have much to be admired - as long as they are well-regulated. Isn't that what folks who support single-payer health care have determined?

Shame on NYT for charging for all those different subscriptions when one electronic version should (and probably does) work for all. I don't read NYT often enough to pay for the privilege. Besides, if you just keep removing their cookies (usually "NYTimes") from your browser, you can generally read for free. Or do a Google search on the headline, then click on Google's link. If you land on NYT from a third party link, you don't get charged.

Glad you at least got your heat working. That's a matter of health.

And weren't all these electronic marvels and "services" supposed to simplify our lives? In our dreams! I look at the NYT occasionally but not often enough to pay for it (of course, I'm not from NY which I'm sure makes a difference in my level of involvement).

Fortunately, my husband is technologically more literate than I am, and he is also a very patient man so he deals with Comcast (without him, I'd have probably gone 'round the bend years ago). We have a simple "family plan" for our cellphones which is STILL too expensive in my view.

Suffice it to say, obviously all these electronic wonders have NOT simplified anything for most of us, yet we pay and pay.

E!Gad! What a mess!

I use Credo for mobil and long distance, love them. For internet only, I use earthlink via Comcast internet lines. Price is way less than Comcast. I absolutely despise Comcast and yep they are just as bad as all the other cable companies. That's why I do not have any cable TV. Local or other digital channels I can pull up, along with PBS, I just fine.

I can so relate to the endless and fruitless phone calls! Oh yes! the sudden resolution of computer gremlins.... makes me wonder

I have a suggestion for the cable TV situation: abandon ship. We did. Got a Roku (easy to use), Amazon Prime and Netflix subscription, and a $14 antenna for picking up local stations. We now pay our cable company only for Internet access and are saving about $150 per month. -- Good luck with everything!

I am sick to death of having to make up for other peoples incompetence and having to do their jobs for them. On a similar note, I received a letter yesterday stating that my insurance would expire for not having paid the premium when due. I had to use my time and energy to send them a copy of the cancelled check showing that they had cashed it 3 weeks before the due date.

Just a note to say I use Credo, too. No complaints at all. Reasonable price for the service I need - voice minutes, not data. I pay appx $5 for up to 50 text messages / month. And they support liberal causes.

Thanks for your post, Ronni. Lack of competition allows this crazy-making to continue.

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