For the past several months, Comcast subscribers have found what appeared to be a surefire way to deal with the company’s Kafkaesque customer service: Namely, get a news outlet to write about their story and publicly shame Comcast into doing the right thing. However, it looks like Comcast has found a way to beat even this clever tactic: Namely, tell media outlets that they’re going to fix customers’ problems and then hope no one notices that the problems never get fixed.

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Consumerist this week highlighted a couple of stories in which Comcast continued to screw up customers’ accounts even though their problems had already received attention from local media sources. Both cases were originally highlighted by The Philadelphia Inquirer, which just happens to be Comcast’s hometown newspaper. After the Inquirer wrote about these cases the first time, it was assumed that Comcast would quickly resolve them quickly to avoid getting yet another public relations black eye.

But that’s not what happened.

The Inquirer’s Jeff Gelles recently wrote about two Comcast customers who wrote into him with problems that didn’t get fixed after he brought them to Comcast PR’s attention… and in one case, the problem actually got worse after he wrote about it.

The first case involved a Comcast victim who was served a $215 bill for the time Comcast hooked his home up with service… despite the fact that it never actually hooked his home up with service and he was forced to subscribe to Verizon’s DSL service instead.

After the Inquirer wrote about his story, he was contacted by someone at Comcast who assured him they would clean up this whole mess. Despite this assurance, he still received a notice sent from a debt collection agency on behalf of Comcast one week later that told him he now owned $292.

Thankfully, Comcast seems to have gotten things right the second time and it quickly cancelled the collection on the victim’s account, thus eliminating the threat to his credit rating.

The second Comcast victim was a woman who wrote into Gelles about receiving an erroneous bill for $600 over equipment she had already returned to the company. The first time Gelles forwarded her issue to Comcast, it said it would wipe the charges from her record… only to then send her another bill for $50 for the same bogus charges. When Gelles got in touch with Comcast PR a third time about this issue, the company again said it would wipe the slate clean… but nonetheless still sent her a bill for $1.48 for the same charges that it admitted were bogus.

There are a few things that are absolutely mind blowing about this. Let’s go over them:

  • First, the very fact that Comcast has to rely on reporters and columnists highlighting stories of customer service horrors before actually acting on them is unprecedented. I’ve personally received a bunch of complaints from Comcast customers that I’ve never written about because, frankly, I just don’t have the time. However, like Gelles, I’ve forwarded these complaints on to my contacts at Comcast’s PR department, where they instantly receive more attention than hours of phone calls made to Comcast customer service reps have
  • Second: How hard is it to just wipe a customer’s account clean? Here, Comcast, let me help you by typing the number “0.” See how easy that was? 0, 0, 0, 0, 0. That should be the balance on your customers’ accounts when they’ve paid their bills and you’ve wiped bogus charges from them. 0, 0, 0, 0, 0. Not $50, not $1.48. $0.
  • Finally: Customer service like this is so insanely terrible that I have to believe Comcast puts more effort into delivering it than it would have to put into delivering good service. Think of all the hours spent by employees on the phones trying to fix mistakes made by other employees. Think of how much more efficient things could be if you solved problems the first time instead of the second, third or eighth time.

All told, this really does present a frightening problem for Comcast customers: If the company is so determined to deliver awful service no matter what, is there anything we can do to stop them, especially if there are no other broadband providers we can switch to in our areas?

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