It’s no secret that Comcast has a terrible track record with customer service. The horror stories flew in fast and furious for a few years, causing Consumerist to name Comcast the worst company in America for 2014. Since then, things haven’t gotten much better.
Recording and sharing your customer service experience is one way to gain leverage with the company, or you could always call up the CEO’s mom and shame the guy, as Philly.com columnist Ronnie Polaneczky did. After all, the technicians themselves aren’t to blame. Comcast employees suffer through these horrors as well, facing enormous pressure to make sales.
Consumerist has since stopped naming the worst company of the year, but it’s safe to say that Comcast’s reputation hasn’t improved much since then. The 2016 American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that while Comcast has made modest gains in customer rankings in the past few years, it’s nowhere near the top of the pack. The telecommunications giant moved up a few spots for its cable service, but, unsurprisingly, people are still miffed about the quality of service from call centers. Comcast ranks incredibly poorly for its internet service, and ties for dead last with Spectrum for landlines — although that disgruntled population is shrinking rapidly.
The worst part of all this? Even if you’re able to switch your service from the company, chances are your alternatives aren’t much better. Cable TV and internet companies rank as the two worst industries for customer satisfaction — lower than health insurance companies, insurance firms, airlines, and the postal service.
When you’re as profitable as Comcast, customer satisfaction and reasonable employee policies are mere trifles compared to the ongoing expansion of its billion-dollar empire. Case in point: The 11 horror stories we’ve dug up for you are just a few of the recurring issues customers face when they have to dial up Comcast’s customer service line.
1. Ryan Block and the “Comcast representative from hell”
One of Comcast’s customer service calls went viral after Ryan Block, the co-founder of Begin, shared a recording of part of the call online. In July 2014, Block phoned in with a simple request to cancel his service. He was subsequently interrogated for 20 minutes about why he would possibly want to leave the country’s No. 1 telecommunications provider.
After the first 10 minutes, Block started recording. The internet frenzy that ensued prompted a deeper look at how Comcast technicians are trained and managed. The Verge and Gizmodo each published a series of Comcast confessions from employees, revealing the challenges and pressures of working for a cable giant where everyone is considered a sales representative.
2. A Comcast member is shorted $1,775 — and told to complain to his bank
When Consumerist reader Robert cancelled his business tier service with Comcast, he was charged a $1,775 early termination fee, which was taken directly from his bank account. The problem? The fee should’ve never been assessed, something Comcast eventually admitted.
The bigger problem? Comcast took more than two years to send Robert a check to reimburse him. As of July 2016, the company had made three separate promises to pay up — but Robert never saw the cash in the mail. At one point, a Comcast representative told Robert he should dispute the missing money with his bank. Consumerist took up Robert’s cause, and the company promised to send a check within 7 to 10 business days. After two years of waiting, it finally happened.
3. Comcast gets Conal O’Rourke fired
Conal O’Rourke claims his bill was never correct during the year in which he was a customer. When he tried to fix the problem, Comcast shipped him nearly $2,000 worth of equipment that he never requested or needed — and then billed him for it.
After filing a complaint with Comcast’s chief accounting officer, O’Rourke was fired from his job. He then sued Comcast, alleging that they contacted his employer, PwC, who holds Comcast as a major client, and told his supervisor that O’Rourke attempted to use his position at PwC as a negotiating tactic to get a better cable deal.
4. Seth is forced to sell his new house
In March 2015, Consumerist reported on a Comcast customer, Seth, who ultimately had to sell a house he just bought because he couldn’t get internet access, which he needed for his job. Like most Comcast horror stories, Seth’s saga spans months of useless calls, appointments, and general mayhem.
This story also points to the larger problem of cable providers falsely claiming service is available in certain locations. BroadbandMap.gov showed several internet options available at his address, but just to make sure, Seth asked Comcast before purchasing his house if the address was serviceable. He was misled. In the end, after Comcast vaguely quoted him a $50,000 to $60,000 charge to bring service to his location, and having no luck with alternate providers, Seth saw no other option but to sell his new home.
5. Lisa’s bill is addressed to “Asshole Brown”
When Lisa Brown called to cancel the cable TV portion of her service, she was, of course, transferred to a retention specialist specifically trained to talk her out of it. She didn’t back down, though. Much to her surprise and agitation, the next service bill she received was addressed not to her husband, Ricardo Brown, but to “Asshole Brown.”
“I was never rude,” Brown told consumer advocate Chris Elliott. “It could have been that person was upset because I didn’t take the offer.” Just days after Brown’s story went viral, three more Comcast customers came forward reporting their names had been changed to derogatory words.
6. Erik and Karen need legal documents to cancel their sick mother’s account
In a November 2016 recount for Salon, Erik Lundegaard describes how “a corporation insinuated itself into one of the worst weeks our family has been through.” In September 2016, Lundegaard’s 86-year-old mother suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving her unable to speak. Erik and his sister, Karen, sorted through their mother’s affairs afterward to find ways to save money for the mounting medical bills. First on the chopping block: the $126 Comcast bill for cable TV.
But when Lundegaard called Comcast, he was told he’d need to be the power of attorney for his mother in order to cancel the service. “Look,” he said, “I’m not trying to take money out of my mother’s bank account or anything. I’m just trying to cancel a service,” according to Salon.
To make a long story short, it took multiple phone calls, and an in-person visit to a Comcast office, to finally have the simple service cancelled — for a woman who could no longer speak to cancel it herself.
7. Tim Davis is lucky he was recording
When Tim Davis attempted to get a false charge of $82 for a service call removed from his account, he was repeatedly told it was a valid charge, and that nothing could be done. However, Davis had recorded a prior customer service call with Comcast, in which he was expressly told he would not be charged for it.
After a lot of back-and-forth dispute, the Comcast representative finally called Davis back and told him he would receive his account credit. In the recording, when Davis asks why she had insisted it couldn’t be done before, she says, “We try to negotiate, and again, that is a valid charge. But since I advised my manager that there is a recording and you were misinformed, then she’s the one who can approve that $82.” The representative then confirms that if Davis had not had a recording of the conversation, the charge would still stand. “Good thing I’m recording this call, too,” he responded.
8. Betty is told her dead husband has to cancel service
The Ryan Block incident prompted many publications to call on readers to submit their own nightmarish stories of dealing with cable providers. One reader named Betty told Yahoo the following story:
“I called to cancel my Comcast service. It turned out to be in my deceased husband’s name. I told them he was recently deceased. I was told I could not cancel the service; only my husband could! I reiterated that he was no longer living; the person again said it could only be closed by my husband. This went on for about five minutes till I gave up. I tried again the next day and got the same response — finally, a supervisor told me I could take his death certificate into the office in Foster City. I took it into the office, and the person there was horrified that I had been asked to do that and to hear of my past phone conversations. I never used Comcast again.”
9. Dann Furia’s saga of false charges
After canceling service, Dann Furia recorded himself returning his Comcast equipment and kept a copy of the return receipt. Ironically, he was still charged $360 in “unreturned equipment fees,” as well as a $960 termination fee. In his own blog, Furia documented 25 failed attempts to reverse the charges, but it wasn’t until he wrote about the experience on Reddit that Comcast responded.
Furia said Comcast’s corporate office called him five times within 18 hours after his post went viral, with offers to credit his account. Comcast told The Huffington Post that it actually credited Furia’s account shortly before Furia posted his Reddit note, but Furia wasn’t informed. His story is yet another lesson to customers to always record and document all dealings with cable providers.
10. Aaron Spain gets put on hold until the department closes
After his bad experiences with Comcast led him to terminate his contract via phone, Aaron Spain ended up recording and sharing his experience online. Spain was told he would need to be transferred to the appropriate department, and he was subsequently put on hold for more than three hours. When he tried calling the department from a different phone, a recording explained the department was closed.
Spain called back the next day, and, fortunately, was able to cancel after 17 minutes. His YouTube video gained 1.4 million views in three days, prompting Comcast to apologize, as it typically does after a PR embarrassment. According to an article in Salon, Comcast representatives sometimes put customers on hold indefinitely to avoid punishment, or even dismissal, for racking up too many calls that result in termination of service.
11. Comcast can’t fix a billing address
In an unnamed guest post on Ars Technica, one Comcast customer recounts his struggle to have Comcast correct his billing address. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so much.
A mysterious Florida address showed up on the customer’s online account. Two separate Comcast representatives told him the address wasn’t vital information — until he figured out it was the mail forwarding address for the people who previously owned his new home. In other words, it was listed as his billing address.
It took five separate phone calls to Comcast, and finally an in-person visit to a Comcast office, to have a Comcast employee fix the two address lines. In the meantime, Comcast representatives misled him about cable and internet promotions, eventually causing him to cancel his TV subscription. Ultimately, it’s a choice many disgruntled customers are making.
Nikelle Murphy also contributed to this article.