Recommendation Rescinded: Comcast's TiVo interface


About two weeks ago, a Comcast technician came to my house to set me up with the new TiVo interface for my two Motorola DVR boxes. After some initial trouble, things started working correctly and everything seemed normal. I put together a video of the new interface and called it “way better than the alternative Comcast DVR interface.”

Multiple online support sessions and one no-show technician later, I now have two non-working DVR boxes. Here’s what happened.

First, a little background

Like many Comcast subscribers, I’ve found their customer service to be more than a little bit disappointing. So I went into the whole TiVo upgrade hoping against hope that we’d hit relatively few snags along the way. Much to my delight, we only hit one medium-sized snag during the initial setup. The technician had mistakenly authorized the DVR in the bedroom (a Motorola 3416) to get the TiVo software instead of the Motorola 3412 that he’d brought with him.

Once everything got sorted out, both Motorola boxes ended up getting the new software. I moved the 3416 to my main room because it’s faster and put the 3412 in the bedroom. So that’s the story so far. Two working boxes, a 3416 and a 3412.

The 3416 in the main room kicks the bucket


On Monday of this week, I waltzed into the main room of my apartment and found the Motorola 3416 flashing “8888,” then a single small dot, then a quick “Please Wait” message on the TV, and then it would power-cycle itself. The whole process takes about 15-20 seconds. After some initial unplugging and re-plugging and moving the box to a different room, I’d come to the conclusion that it’d crashed completely.

I turned to Comcast’s online chat feature to see what I could get accomplished and maybe schedule a technician to come out and replace the box. Here’s the transcript.

Doug > My Motorola 3416 cable box isn’t working. It’s showing 8888 and then rebooting itself constantly.

Angela.21460 > Hello Doug_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Angela.21460. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Angela.21460 > I would be happy to help with that.
Angela.21460 > Can you please unplug your box from the power outlet at the wall, wait 10 seconds and then plug it back in.
Angela.21460 > Also let me know when you have completed this

Doug_ > okay
Doug_ > done

Angela.21460 > Thank you
Angela.21460 > Please hold while I retrieve your account information.
Angela.21460 > Thank you for holding.
Angela.21460 > I have sent a signal to your box.  This will update the data in the boxes’ hard drive.  Please be aware that it may up to 20 mintues for all of the programs to load.
Angela.21460 > Can you please check for any changes?
Angela.21460 > Analyst has closed chat and left the room

The last three messages from “I have sent a signal to your box” to “Analyst has closed chat and left the room” were pasted in rapid succession. Poof. Angela.21460 was gone and out of my life forever. And the Motorola 3416 in the main room? Still broken.

I heard a yell from the bedroom. “Doug! I did something to the TV! It just turned off,” said my wife. Holy crap, Angela.21460 zapped the wrong box and left the chat room.

I went back into the chat room and got hooked up with another support analyst who tried unsuccessfully to zap the box in the main room. Time for a technician to come out. The earliest appointment was on Wednesday from 3-5. Sure, fine, great.

Meanwhile in the bedroom

After Angela.21460 zapped the box in the bedroom all willy-nilly, weird things started to happen. First, TiVo just stopped recording suggested shows. Then, TiVo stopped recording anything that wasn’t already scheduled. When I’d try to record a program I was watching or if I’d go into the guide to record a program in the future, I’d get this…


…which would stay up for exactly six minutes, at which point the screen would go black and I’d have to power-cycle the box to get it to come back up. Oh, and nothing would be recorded or scheduled to record. So I checked my Season Pass Manager.


Okay, no Season Pass Manager then. So no recording plus no scheduled recording plus no TiVo Recommendations recording equals why the hell do I pay for this thing?

Wednesday is no-show technician day

Instead of trying to fight my way through the support chat thing again, I decided to wait for the technician to show up between 3:00 and 5:00 on Wednesday, at which time I’d nefariously tell him that I needed him to fix the second DVR box just as he was about to leave after replacing the box in the main room. There was a problem, though.

The technician never showed up.

Nor did he call. Nor did anyone from Comcast call. I had my phone out on my desk, fully charged all day long and I’d double- and triple-checked my apartment buzzer (which has never NOT worked correctly). Still, by 7:00 at night, no technician and no call.

I went back to the online chat, which was now feeling like a dirty bus station to me.

The gory details are in the full transcripts at the end of this post but the basic exchange went something like this.

Doug: The tech never showed up today.

Rich: Thanks for contacting Comcast! It will be a pleasure to assist you! The notes say that the tech was there at 3:31 and was unable to make contact. He described your building as BRICK HSE BLK DOOR. I can reschedule the appointment for you.

Doug: Okay, well I was here all day and nobody ever called or rang the buzzer for my apartment.

Rich: I’m very sorry about that, would you like me to note the ticket with a special contact number?

Doug: Yes, use the same number you’ve always had for me. Another tech was supposed to come out in late December, too, and he never showed.

Rich: Here are three times that don’t work for you. Which one works?

Doug: None of them. I’d like a tech here tomorrow morning.

Rich: I only have three times that don’t work for you or next Tuesday.

Doug: I’ll take the box in to a service center because I don’t trust you sending a tech out here at the end of the day, knowing full well that he’s going to drive by my building, make note that I have a black door, and leave saying he couldn’t make contact so he can go home early.

Rich: You’re welcome! It was my pleasure to assist you!

Back to the bedroom

It’s now Wednesday night and I’ve resigned to the idea that the main room box is dead until I bring it in. Still, I want to watch some TV in the bedroom but I can’t record anything to watch later unless I want to stare at “Please Wait” for six minutes before the box conks out. So I try, like the true glutton for punishment that I am, to get help.

I get back in the god-forsaken chat room, this time with Ivonne. I tell her that the box in the bedroom freezes every time I try to record something and that none of my TiVo suggestions are recording either. She immediately offers to send a tech out on Saturday between 12 and 4.

Thanks but no thanks. I decide to put my technical prowess to the test and ask her to zap the box in the bedroom. She does, twice. Still nothing. She tells me to wait while she schedules a tech to come out between 12 and 4 on Saturday. Again, no thanks. I ask her, “What are my options as far as NOT having a tech come out here?”

“You need a tech. TiVo needs to be addressed by a tech. All we can do is reset the box.” I tell her that a tech was supposed to be here in December but he never showed up. Another tech was supposed to be here today but he never showed up either. I can’t rely on Comcast technicians to actually show up at my apartment.

“You would need a tech for TiVo. There’s TiVo information inside the box that the tech accesses,” she tells me when I ask if I can bring the two boxes into the local Comcast store, swap them out, and set up the new boxes at home.

So now what?

My options, as I see them are twofold. One, I can continuously reschedule technicians to come out here, hoping to get an appointment in the morning or to get a tech that gives a damn about working until 5:00.

Or two, I can bring both DVRs into a Comcast store and exchange them for working boxes at the expense of having TiVo (an interface that bricked my first box and doesn’t work even close to correctly on my second box) removed from my account.

I think I’m gonna go with option number two.

Full Chat Transcripts [Text File]