December 28, 2010

An Open Letter to Comcast/Xfinity

When we got home yes­ter­day, we were sur­prised to find a weird “acti­vate your device” mes­sage when we tried to go online. I turned on the TV, and there were no cable chan­nels. Some­thing was afoot.

So I called the num­ber on the “acti­vate” screen and had an auto­mated mes­sage tell me that my account was delin­quent, I owed hun­dreds of dol­lars, and my ser­vice had been dis­counted. Imag­ine my shock to learn this when I’d had NO PREVIOUS NOTICE. Even worse, I couldn’t get through to a cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive with­out pay­ing my bill first (sleazy — what if it had been your mistake?).

Long story short, when my card num­ber was stolen back in Octo­ber, the bank can­celed it and issued a new one. I for­got that the old one was reg­is­tered for your auto­matic pay­ment pro­gram, so your were unable to process pay­ment in Novem­ber and Decem­ber. Fair enough, but maybe you could have men­tioned that to me at some point before tak­ing the extreme step of dis­con­nect­ing my service.

Clearly you had my email address. While I received weekly “Xfin­ity What to Watch” spa­mails that I was too lazy to unsub­scribe from, I never once received a “hey, there’s a prob­lem with your pay­ment” notice. And when I called to try to talk to a human being about the prob­lem, the auto­mated voice ver­i­fied the last four dig­its of my phone num­ber, so obvi­ously you know how to reach me by phone. In fact, after a sec­ond call when I could finally reach a real per­son, I received an auto­mated tele­phone sur­vey, so call­ing me is proven to work. Not once, though, did I receive a “hey, we’re going to dis­con­nect your ser­vice” call dur­ing the last two months.

And while we’re at it, we’re on the verge of 2011 and you’re my cable and inter­net provider. Don’t you have the tech­nol­ogy to pop up a mes­sage on a screen say­ing, “hope you’re enjoy­ing this, we’d like you to keep enjoy­ing this, but can we talk about the prob­lem with your card num­ber? please call.” On the TV or on my com­puter screen — your choice. Or go old school because you know what else still works? Postal mail, a chan­nel you and I will be return­ing to using.

Hon­estly — in 2010, you couldn’t find *some* way to con­tact me to let me know there was a prob­lem? On top of that, I now have to go anti-green and re-activate paper bills if I want to be sure I see prob­lem notices, because the only billing-related emails I received from you dur­ing the last two months looked exactly like the one below. Which looks exactly like every other “your state­ment is ready for view­ing” mes­sage I get each month.

Comcast thinks this message equals "we're going to disconnect your service"

That mes­sage is the only billing-related one I received from you for the entire month of Decem­ber. If you saw that mes­sage every month from your elec­tric com­pany, would you think there was a prob­lem? Would you expect a lit­tle some­thing more from them that they’re turn­ing off your ser­vice? I expected more from you.

Yes, I could have logged in dur­ing those two months and seen a notice on the screen, but I also think you could have added a notice to that email or sent a sep­a­rate notice to make sure I knew there was a prob­lem. Good cus­tomer ser­vice this ain’t.

And now you want to charge recon­nec­tion fees because you dis­con­nected my ser­vice with­out any heads up that there was a prob­lem. Seriously?

Now that I’ve calmed down, I’m sub­mit­ting the fol­low­ing requests so that oth­ers don’t have to spend a frus­trat­ing evening the way I did.

  • Change your pro­ce­dures so that cus­tomers using your e-bill ser­vice receive sep­a­rate noti­fi­ca­tions that there’s a prob­lem with pay­ment. Or add a notice to the stan­dard tem­plate, but pro­vide some type of heads-up that there’s an issue with­out the per­son hav­ing to log in to find out about it.
  • Change your pro­ce­dures so that cus­tomers using your e-bill ser­vice receive sep­a­rate noti­fi­ca­tions that you’re going to dis­con­nect their ser­vice. While it likely won’t be any­time soon, I’d like to be able to trust your e-bill notices in the future and stop receiv­ing paper bills again someday.
  • Make it pos­si­ble for some­one who’s as con­fused about an unknown prob­lem as I was to talk to a human being first with­out hav­ing to cough up a credit card num­ber first.

And I want my recon­nec­tion fees waived, because I would have paid my bill (as I have for years) had I known there was some­thing wrong. It’s a shame your cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive couldn’t do that for me. I had no con­fi­dence that any com­plaints I sub­mit­ted to an unem­pow­ered front­line per­son would get me any­where, which is what made me blog this open let­ter to you. I know you think you’re pro­tect­ing your CS folks by tak­ing away their abil­ity to judge a sit­u­a­tion and make a cus­tomer happy, but all you’re doing is upset­ting cus­tomers like me who want to dis­cuss how to resolve a valid complaint.

Please fix these prob­lems. You can do bet­ter, and you owe your cus­tomers bet­ter communication.


Be Socia­ble, Share!


  1. We’ve all been abused by the cable com­pa­nies. I have Time Warner. What irks me most is that when you go to their web­site its flash I think. impos­si­ble to nav­i­gate, and noth­ing but sketchy mar­ket­ing stuff.

    And these are the peo­ple who want to con­trol the internet?

    Where is there skill set?

    Comment by joel goldstick — December 28, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  2. Sim­ply appalling, although given the source (Com­cast, not you) per­haps not sur­pris­ing. When one bank switched me to a new credit-card num­ber, I for­got to change one autopayment–for that presumably-dead medium, the print news­pa­per. Oddly enough, the old-fashioned non-digital SF Chron­i­cle man­aged to not only let me know there might be a prob­lem, right away, but give me a grace period to make the correction.

    Maybe Com­cast is too busy pro­duc­ing those ads show­ing us how won­der­ful their cus­tomer ser­vice is to actu­ally, you know, fix cus­tomer service.

    Comment by walt crawford — December 28, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  3. Hi Jenny

    You should read the Com­cast and other cus­tomer ser­vice hor­ror sto­ries on (a Con­sumer Reports web­site). If you try every­thing with Com­cast cus­tomer ser­vice, you might want to launch an Exec­u­tive Email Car­pet Bomb:


    Comment by Rich Allen — December 28, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

  4. Oh how I loathe Com­cast. When they forced all sub­scribers to upgrade to dig­i­tal devices regard­less of desire in the fall, we were denied the same ser­vice we’d been using for years (basi­cally antenna ser­vice with some dig­i­tal Tele­mu­ndo — great for foot­ball!!!). They wanted to charge us rental fees for devices we didn’t want or need, and refused to lis­ten to what we were say­ing. They only wanted us to upgrade to some sort of full cable ser­vice. Instead, we can­celed our cable ser­vice com­pletely and now rely on Net­flix and the library for our DVD and tele­vi­sion series. Yeah!

    Good luck.

    Comment by Heather — December 28, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  5. Jenny, I say you should not only get the recon­nec­tion fees waived, but you should get 2 months of free ser­vice in recog­ni­tion of the extremely poor cus­tomer ser­vice. I had the same sit­u­a­tion — the bank deac­ti­vated a card due to a large scale fraud­ster. I got a new card. My ISP sent me a notice via email that there were prob­lems with my pay­ment. I checked, updated my card, clicked the recharge but­ton and all was well. Some­thing like that must hap­pen to many peo­ple. It is unbe­liev­able that you are the first per­son with that prob­lem. It’s likely hap­pened many times before and the com­pany never did any­thing about it. I hope your pub­lic let­ter helps spur them into some kind of action. Thanks.

    Comment by SafeLibraries — December 29, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  6. For­get Com­cast if you can live with­out cable TV (I’ve never had it and no longer have any broad­cast TV in the house). Clear­wire has great cus­tomer service.

    Comment by Lynn — December 29, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

  7. I’ve had great suc­cess with Com­cast by com­plain­ing on Twit­ter. They have a few employ­ees who keep tabs on neg­a­tive com­ments posted to Twit­ter, and will respond promptly. When I had an issue (was quoted a dis­counted price by one cus­tomer ser­vice rep, and then told that it was wrong and I would be charged more), I was con­tacted and given a phone num­ber to their Exec­u­tive Cus­tomer Care line, where they bent over back­wards to fix it. Give it a try!

    Comment by Amelia — December 29, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  8. Thanks for the advice and sup­port, every­one. I did tweet a link to this post to the @comcastcares account, and @comcastbill responded pretty quickly. We ended up hav­ing as much of a con­ver­sa­tion as you can have in direct mes­sages on Twit­ter. He said all of the right things and was sym­pa­thetic, but I have yet to hear about the fees.

    I’m very dis­ap­pointed that he didn’t show up here to par­tic­i­pate in the dis­cus­sion, though. I hope he’s just wait­ing to do that until he can report back about the fees. How they han­dle that piece in par­tic­u­lar will tell me if they want to keep me as a cus­tomer. We’re talk­ing about a whop­ping $4, but it’s the prin­ci­ple of it, espe­cially because @comcast_bill said they know this is a problem.

    I am seri­ously recon­sid­er­ing our choice of provider, because the orig­i­nal phone con­ver­sa­tion to work through all of the billing issues turned up fur­ther prob­lems on the cable tv side of the bill. When I called to can­cel all of the movie chan­nels except HBO and SHO a few months ago, the live chat rep didn’t high­light the fact that he was giv­ing me a pro­mo­tional price and that it would expire. So our bill was about to go up by $21 with­out my approval or even knowl­edge. The whole thing was such a neg­a­tive expe­ri­ence that I can­celed HBO and SHO, too, so they can thank Com­cast for our lost subscriptions.

    The ball is in their court, so we’ll see what hap­pens next. I’ll report back when I hear from them.

    Comment by jenny — December 29, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  9. It’s not just Com­cast. We had a sim­i­lar prob­lem with TDS, which pro­vides our cable, phone and inter­net. How­ever, they have our inter­net on a sep­a­rate account that can’t be viewed when log­ging in to view the state­ment. Ask­ing to com­bine the accounts has been refused. The first time my hus­band updated a credit card on the account the inter­net did not get updated at the same time and we got an over­due bill. The next time he needed to update a credit card he did so on the account and then called to make sure that they were also going to update credit card num­ber on the inter­net account. A month later we get an over­due bill because they didn’t update the inter­net account credit card num­ber. We’re hop­ing this isn’t repeated the next time we need to make updates to the account.

    Comment by Catharine — January 3, 2011 @ 5:42 am

  10. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You just helped me make my deci­sion to stay with my small home­town to com­pa­nies a lit­tle longer. I just recieved a note on my door kindly remind­ing me to come by to write out the amount on the proper line of my per­sonal check. She also called to apol­o­gized for my incon­vience for she knew it was only an over­sight and that I had a hec­tic sched­ule an to come by when I had time. Hows that for cus­tomer service?

    Comment by Gloria — January 8, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

  11. I had a sim­il­iar prob­lem with Bank of Amer­ica (how silly of me).

    Back to paper statements.

    Comment by Librarian Bryan — January 11, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  12. Before I became a librar­ian I worked as a maitre d’ at a super lux­ury hotel/restaurant. This expe­ri­ence deeply informed my atti­tudes not only about librar­i­an­ship and pro­fes­sion­al­ism but about the expe­ri­ence of life gen­er­ally. I can say with total con­fi­dence that supe­rior ser­vice, day after day, is not only pos­si­ble, it’s really sim­ple. And nei­ther dif­fi­cult nor expen­sive. It takes com­mit­ment to 100% sat­is­fac­tion as an orga­ni­za­tional value and a small amount of per­sis­tent, ongo­ing train­ing. But the rewards in cus­tomer ded­i­ca­tion (and per­sonal ful­fill­ment) are man­i­fold. Sadly, I’ve encoun­tered very few orga­ni­za­tions that share this view.

    I quit Com­cast years ago for sim­i­lar reasons.

    Comment by Bob Hassett — January 21, 2011 @ 7:49 am

  13. First I thor­oughly sym­pa­thize with your predica­ment. Com­cast should have let you know about the missed pay­ments. Sec­ond, let me thank you for val­i­dat­ing my para­noia. I’m with Time Warner and they do send a notice when my bill goes up. I know I’m on auto­pay, I’ve never had any prob­lem, but the sec­ond I see that notice I run to their web­site and check the sta­tus of my account. Am I still on auto­pay? Did the bill get paid prop­erly last month? Is every­thing going accord­ing to plan. I do the same with every other auto­pay account that I have. Until today I felt a lit­tle silly. Now, I feel that I am being prac­ti­cal, because you can’t trust the companies.

    Comment by LindaH — January 24, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  14. Hmm. Jenny I can most cer­tainly sym­pa­thize with your frus­tra­tion. And I don’t mean to sound like I’m defend­ing Com­cast — because I’m not — but in the end it is really still your respon­si­bil­ity to bal­ance your check­book, check your credit card state­ments and even your Com­cast state­ment every month. They do e-mail you the notice telling you to check your state­ment. So while I’ll agree, they should have made a lit­tle but more of an effort (very lit­tle bit) its still not their respon­si­bil­ity to make sure you pay your bill. In our area, being an eBill cus­tomer does not keep them from mail­ing late pay­ment and dis­con­nect notices, not sure why they wouldn’t just have mailed you a “hey pay your bill by Fri­day or we are cut­ting you off!”.

    That being said, we stopped using Com­cast for TV sev­eral months ago and are a purely Inter­net TV fam­ily now. We have eas­ily found resources on the Inter­net to watch almost every show that we used to watch on Com­cast except HBO. Kick Com­cast to the curb now! Stop pay­ing the exor­bi­tant fees to them!

    Comment by Bruce — January 25, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  15. Jenny, I could not agree with you more. I have had more trou­ble with Com­cast over the past year; it is such a frus­trat­ing expe­ri­ence when­ever I have to con­tact them. Just to give a few exam­ples: they opened up 3 accounts under my name with­out my knowl­edge, can­celed two instal­la­tion appoint­ments “inter­nally” with­out ever noti­fy­ing me, and dou­ble charged me– all within one month. It was NOT fun. The thing that both­ers me the most about Com­cast is how they mar­ket them­selves on “Cus­tomer Care” which is really quite funny because they have the WORST cus­tomer care ser­vice I have ever worked with. I feel your pain!

    Comment by Paige — January 27, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  16. Jenny, I’ve had sim­i­lar prob­lems with Com­cast, and have been con­sid­er­ing drop­ping them. I do use all three bun­dled ser­vices daily, but I’m pay­ing more than ten times the amount monthly cable TV cost when I first began.

    It’s even more frus­trat­ing with Exelon/Com ED. They will not allow me to update my credit card online by just typ­ing in a new set of data myself (which almost every other cred­i­tor seems to do eas­ily). They insist I must reap­ply for both auto­pay and bud­get billing, which takes four to six weeks, and there­fore I must pay at least one month’s billing by some other method. Their con­sumer staff insists they can­not do updates any other way. GRRRRR!!!!

    Comment by Steve Zumbo — February 2, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

  17. Jenny, The same sit­u­a­tion hap­pened to me! It was with Time Warner, how­ever. After all the non­sense and acro­bat­ics I have to go through to get to a per­son that can help, both at home and through some of my pro­fes­sional respon­si­bil­i­ties, I’ve drawn one con­clu­sion: The peo­ple that for­mu­late the poli­cies and exe­cute them ruth­lessly are one step above child moles­ters. Seriously.

    I am now with DISH and I can always get an answer.

    Comment by Bob Schnick — May 5, 2011 @ 8:07 am

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