Hello, Dummy! Comcast calls its customers more shocking names

By | January 30th, 2015

Caution: This post contains language that may not be appropriate for a family audience.

The most shocking thing about a revelation that a Comcast employee changed a customer’s name to “a**hole” was how shocked everyone was.

Readers reacted with indignation at my report that the company with the worst customer service scores in America would have employees who hated their customers enough to put it in writing.

All the while, the cable TV giant has implied this was a single action of a disgruntled employee they would soon terminate.

But that may not be entirely accurate.

Comcast is no stranger to the insult by invoice. In 2005, it called one woman a “b*tch dog” on her bill. And over the last few days, I’ve been contacted by several Comcast customers who claim the same thing has happened to them. One customer says a Comcast employee changed his name to the phonetic spelling of a profanity that is unprintable in a family newspaper. Another says Comcast changed her name to “whore” and another says her name became “dummy.”

Comcast says it’s investigating these incidents. In a blog post, it also promised it would be investing in technology to prevent future name-changing incidents. It has already terminated the entire subcontracting company responsible for the “a**hole” incident.

Tom Karinshak, Comcast’s senior vice president of customer service, told me the company is taking steps to prevent unauthorized name changes from taking place in the future.

“We’re retraining our teams on the importance of making name changes properly,” he said. “We’re looking for automated solutions to prevent this from happening in the future.”

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Comcast says it will follow up with each customer, offer an apology and “do whatever it takes to make things right,” says Karinshak.

Until then, let’s let the customers decide whether these following examples are an anomaly — or a reflection of what some Comcast employees really think about their customers. Let me repeat my warning about the salty language.

You’re a “whore”

Julie Swano says her December Comcast bill was addressed to “Whore” Julia Swano. She sent it to me.

“What’s most interesting is that Comcast said the ‘whore’ was added on Dec. 6,” she says. “I have no record of any recent contact with Comcast until Dec. 16. So whoever chose to re-name me picked my account out of a hat. That says there are probably millions of us out there who Comcast employees have renamed. We need to find all of them.”

The word “whore” remained on her account until Jan. 6, when she told someone in the Comcast billing department about it.

“What amazed me then was that I had talked with at least 20 people at Comcast between Dec. 16 and January 6 who could see that my name was ‘whore’ and they did nothing about it.”

Carolina is a “dummy”

Carolina Heredia also got in touch with me after Comcast changed her name to a playground insult.

“They changed my name to ‘dummy’ in my online account, so that the greeting was ‘Hello, dummy,'” she says. “I had to call several times but they said they didn’t see it until I went in person to Comcast and they removed it.”

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  • sirwired

    That Comcast employs some people that should not really ever have any contact with the public is not shocking. It’s a large company, and any large organization is going to have some downright terrible employees.

    What is shocking that it is so much work to get Comcast to fix the issue, once alerted to it. THAT’s the real story. If somebody’s name has been changed to A**hole, it shouldn’t take any more than one phone call to get the problem fixed (and the employee fired.)

  • Jason Hanna

    Obviously, they’re not doing enough, as you’ve got examples from 4 separate customers.

    Since they’re referring to a ‘subcontractor’.. They are apparently outsourcing their calls. Seems it’s time to end the relationship with that company, not single employees within that company.

  • Ken

    First thing I did after reading this was to log in to my Comcast account and to check my name. It was still “Ken”. Phew…

    Name calling is one thing and this is just a part of the bigger issue:

    “What amazed me then was that I had talked with at least 20 people at Comcast between Dec. 16 and January 6 who could see that my name was ‘whore’ and they did nothing about it.”

    Comcast reps cannot fix seemingly simple and obvious errors. That makes Comcast customer service nightmarish.

  • Travelnut

    The fourth one (reminiscent of a certain F word) seems like a massive misunderstanding of the caller’s name – “Sako” became “Fakoe” and “Bezdjian” became “Bez”. Possibly because of an offshore rep’s poor command of English. The other three examples – yeah they’re pretty bad.

  • BillCCC

    Something like this should be advertised wherever Comcast does business. Only when they get many media orgs asking about it will something truly get done.

  • Kairho

    Which, of course, begs the question why was the rep even trying to change the name in the first place?

  • Pirossalma

    I am wondering. Is there any legitimate need to change a name on an account? I am not familiar with Comcast, but all our utility companies have the same rule: service is not transferable from one person to another. New costumer, new name – ne account (number) – even if they live in the same address, require the same type of service as the previous costumer.
    IF the costumer’s name change (marriage whatever) then it is a very long ardous process to change the name. You have to provide documents etc.

  • CCD

    I actually have a nicer explanation for the dummy. I did not work for comcast but I went through the phone training for another major ISP. Our training had us in the actual live files doing changes. We were supposed to only use certain accounts, those accounts were named “Dummy X”. However, if you typed in the wrong account you brought up some ones REAL data. It was scary.

    I don’t find it possible for some one to have gone to a wrong account and decided it was easier to just change the name so the supervisor instructing the class didn’t notice.

  • Ribit

    I have a question for the legal experts. If a bill is presented with the name Fakoe Bez instead of the real name, is there any legal obligation for a person not having that name to pay any it? It would seem the thing to do is ignore all further bills and let them go to collection under the incorrect name.

  • J M

    Yea… I don’t think the name is the key there. Otherwise there would be alot of John Smiths with lots of overdue bills…

  • Indigo

    My son, who has a physical handicap, had his name changed to Freddy Kruger on his account. When I went into the office with him to cancel the service, they refused, claiming he needed an ID that matched the name on the account. We walked out, and returned all of the bills marked “No such person at this address.” They finally gave up after 6 months.

  • Globetrotter6969 .

    Could this be a result of out-sourcing? Untrained, unqualified people in another country taking matters personal and getting nasty thinking Comcast will never find out who changed a name?

  • JewelEyed

    Perhaps they should have labeled them Test Fakeaccount. If it said “Hey, Test”, they might be annoyed but not offended.

  • William_Leeper

    Ok, I can believe the one of “Dummy” was mistake. I actually work with a piece of antiquated billing software for a water system where if you leave either the first name or last name blank it will fill in the blank with “Dummy” because it cannot recognize a blank field in a name so it does its magic on it automatically. When you go into the account though, it will be blank. It does this so you can recognize that it is a “dummy field” ie a placeholder. It will also print out on bills and receipts though.

    This is especially troublesome with businesses. When one enters “First National Bank” in the company name it will print on bills and receipts as

    Dummy Dummy
    First National Bank

    The work around we found is to enter the first name as “First National” and last name as “Bank” and problem solved.

    So, I can see that one being someone accidentally deleted then contents of a field and left it blank.

  • William_Leeper

    Yep…BAD IDEA! They link it to credit profiles by SSN not necessarily by name.

  • Anonymous0000

    As someone who has worked for Comcast, we were allowed to change the name on an account only if it was a legal name change. (Divorce, Marriage) or if the name was misspelled. The system would allow us to change it whether or not that was the case, but per policy, it was only to be changed by a representative for something like that. A transfer to another person would indeed require paperwork.

  • taxed2themax

    I agree that the name change was not only unauthorized it is wrong on any and all “fronts”… that said, what I do have some concern with is how or what we expect a company to do afterwards.. I get it that you can’t objectively measure someone’s degree of “regret” or level of apology… and that is where we use a measure that *can* be objectively measured — money.

    I do agree that as it is with most cases of customer has been wronged by a company (or a specific employee of the company) there should be some level of compensation.. but.. I also think it needs to be reasonable and proportionate given not only what was the issue, the value in total dollars of the relationship and other metrics.

    In this case, I think too much was given/offered by the company. I doesn’t say that the action by the employee was right – it wasn’t – only that I think at times, too much compensation is asked for/demanded/given…and I think (and it’s my opinion only) that the long(er) term impact will be a net negative for the consumer as I’d bet that companies will be less likely to act on smaller matters or unless enough attention is brought to it… in an effort to control their discretionary compensation payouts

  • Brooklyn

    But the fine/compensation needs to be large enough to make it in the company’s interest to do something about the problem. In this case, it also attracted widespread media attention, which may be another incentive for Comcast to change its evil ways. What would be proportionate for your corner grocery would not be proportionate for a huge supermarket chain.

  • Rocket Wolf

    Comcast has one hell of a serious problem that goes way beyond their call center employees having the ability to edit accounts with this kind of behaviour. Comcast doesn’t screen their employees, and they certainly don’t screen their out of country call center employees. There are no safeguards in place to prevent digital graffiti by any comcast employee. Comcast doesn’t command any integrity and therefore can not teach it or mentor it. One thing is for sure, The board of directors should be calling for heads to roll, but they arent, and they wont. They lack of quality assurance, they lack checks and balances, they lack employees who take ownership of their company because to Comcast, these people are just a number, not real people. Comcast will have to turn their company upside down and strip it of the corruption and dead wood if it ever wants to climb out of the gutter with the reputation they have.

  • Extramail

    And, Chris, be prepared for the person who legitimately needs a name changed and comcast makes them jump through countless hoops. I thought computers were supposed to simplify life.

  • jerryatric

    Don’t live in the U.S. but if I did would never use this service! Best way to teach this company a lesson is to boycott their service. If enough people left they might even improve their customer service. Right now they don’t seem to give a damn. Arrogant I guess because of a near monopoly?.

  • John R. Strohm

    There’s a simple technological solution Comcast could implement, that they SHOULD *ALREADY* have implemented, but not for this reason. As part of the audit trail on their database, log the user ID of the user that made the change, along with what the change was.

    Then, when these things comes up, Comcast can look at the audit trail, and find out exactly which of their “valued customer service representatives” needs to be terminated with prejudice.

  • Brooklyn

    But could you live without television? Unless you’re in a position to purchase a satellite dish, you’re usually stuck with the provider in your area.

  • jerryatric

    SORRY! Did not realize they are a monopoly. That’s why they act with impunity – they don’t care.
    Terrible that in so large a country there is virtually no competiton.

  • Robert Endl

    This sort of thing happens when an employee is veeery unhappy with their job. I’ve seen it before.

  • cptdondo

    Really? In what universe do you use a live billing system for instruction? If that’s the case, then the company in question has no real security measures. When a training login can change real accounts, the company has a mickey mouse security system.

    And if you’re training with real logins and real accounts, then you’re really screwed.

    Honestly, your post just confirms that your company had absolutely no clue about security.

  • It can be done. I don’t have a TV. ;-)

  • Linwood J Foster III

    The problem is that in order for your name to get changed in Comcast’s systems, you have to get in touch with a real employee of the company, not a contractor. The contract employees, who work at one of the outsourced locations in Canada or India, only have access to a program that gives them minor control over your account. They can change services and billing information, and accept payment. This system is very GUI friendly. In order to change the name and address on an account, a full employee of Comcast has to have access to the top level program that everything runs off of. This program is a command line driven, basically DOS level system.

    With the way the company has been dumbing down their training over the last 5 years, not everyone has access to, let alone understands how it works.

  • Linwood J Foster III

    The problem is that in order for your name to get changed in Comcast’s systems, you have to get in touch with a real employee of the company, not a contractor. The contract employees, who work at one of the outsourced locations in Canada or India, only have access to a program that gives them minor control over your account. They can change services and billing information, and accept payment. This system is very GUI friendly. In order to change the name and address on an account, a full employee of Comcast has to have access to the top level program that everything runs off of. This program is a command line driven, basically DOS level system.

    With the way the company has been dumbing down their training over the last 5 years, not everyone has access to, let alone understands how it works.

  • Linwood J Foster III

    Yeah, most companies make fake or dummy accounts for people to train on versus using live, or old accounts. Comcast is not that smart. My trainer had a list of the accounts our class was using, and he had to go back and manually check to make sure nothing was damaged by us.

  • Linwood J Foster III

    Yup. Comcast links your account to your credit profile. That’s why you have to undergo a background check before they will accept you as a customer. If your check comes back bad, they will require a deposit before they will accept you for service. The deposit amount depends on how bad your credit check comes back.

  • Edward Thompson

    The fact that it takes work to get their name changed tells me that Comcast knows this wasn’t an accident. The CEO of Comcast should be forced to resign and the head of human resources.

  • Linwood J Foster III

    They already do. While they may not have a keylogger, they already know exactly who accessed an account, when the change was made, and what section was changed.

  • Hi, I know it is a big deal to change a persons name in these accounts. Employees just don’t have access or should not have that kind of access to change anything unless you are a higher level employee, and it should be fairly easy to track down who done it.

  • Richard Smith

    Is there an audit trail? If not, how does Comcast pass audits with lax attitudes towards PII?

  • Fat_Man

    If the customer name visible on the outside of the envelope has the word “whore” added to the name. The customer has been libeled. The customer should retain a lawyer and sue Comcast for lots and lots of punitive damages.

    On the inside where it is not visible it is not libel. However, Comcast and its local operations are regulated by Federal, state and local regulatory authorities. Written complaints about abusive behavior by Comcast should be sent to those authorities, particularly the FCC which is reviewing Comcast’s proposed merger with Time-Warner.

    You might also send copies to elected officials who oversee the regulatory bodies, such as your state attorney general. Any copies of the complaint sent to Comcast should be sent to a named senior officer of the Company addressed “Personal and Confidential” and sent by certified mail.

  • If there actually was a choice to move away from Comcast, countless people WOULD. In many locations, it’s only Comcast, if you want high speed anything.

    The takeaway from this is that Comcast is either so incompetent from the top down, that they have no idea that their own people or people they have “vetted” are basically harassing the customers, or this is intentional harassment by Comcast through explicit or permissive policies.

    For instance, thinking back to when that one individual just wanted to terminate their services and are basically harassed:



    No, this is definitely more Comcast BS. Apparently, if you can’t make your customers happy, you just harass them more. Seems like someone didn’t realize that the saying, “The whippings will continue until morale improves” was a joke, not a mandate.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    The mind boggles … how many people with the ability to change a customer’s name are unhappy with their job? Are these people “selling” the opportunity to unhappy fellow workers who want to diss a customer? I can see it if they’re correcting the street address, people move all the time and those records need to be changed. But your NAME? How often would that come up? How many people at Comcast are able to change the name on an account?

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Just for the record, my only connection with Comcast is a business account for phone and internet that we’ve had about 2 years. After the initial merry-go-round of 60 days full of screw-ups, everything’s been just fine. The retail end of Comcast sounds horrendous from all the stories I read.

  • This is why the internet and communication should be all wi-fi and FREE over-the-air, like radio and TV were originally.

  • Torinir

    Sadly, Comcast isn’t the only company to use a live customer database with training accounts on it for call center training. There are much bigger companies out there that do it too.

  • hooharhar

    What is it with this “retraining” BS? The customers were probably irate to start with because either part of the network was down or configured wrong, the cable reception was crap, the billing system was borked, the script that the tech support people read was insultingly stupid, or the the tech support person was totally unsuited for the job in the first place. Nothing there that can be fixed by “retraining”.

  • hooharhar

    “There are no confirmations or prompts asking you if you want to do
    something or not,” he says of the systems involving customer names. “But
    it does take some serious navigation to get to the portion of the
    biller, or the software they used to make changes on accounts, where you
    change account names and information. So the rep who changed the
    customer’s name to ‘a**hole’ couldn’t have done it by accident.”

    You would think that Customer Relations Management software wouldn’t be that crappy after a decade or two.
    Boggles the mind how on the phone you have to input your account number before you can even get to a human and yet once you get an operator the first thing they do is ask for the same information.

  • hereinWA

    In this rural area of hell where I am, we have TWO providers: ComCast and even worse, CenturyLink. LUCKILY, on line, you can get TV (some) via Netflix, Hulu, and others. I look forward to the day when I can get the hell away from CenturyLink, as they are the #1 WORST company I have ever dealt with, hands down, bar none! Steal, lie, cheat, defraud. FCC knows they’re doing this, and does nothing. ComCast? Tried to get them. They gave me the runaround for TWO WEEKS, cost me $300, and STILL NEVER GOT SERVICE. All I can say for Comcast employees, is, ‘must be nice to have a job you can refuse to do’.

  • taxed2themax

    Brooklyn, I agree that it needs to be relative to the company — but — it also needs to be proportional to the other party too.. that to me is where the balance comes in.. I don’t think that most customer complaint issues deserve a full 100% refund of all monies paid (especially in cases like this where the complaint is not about the actual core service/product) only because that’s how it needs to be in order to make the “fine” relative to the company. There’s got to be a balance between the two.

  • Mike Z

    This is almost completely unbelievable. You can easily call most companies and have them change a name and all you need to account info, birth date, social, etc. If he had all this other info then they would have known it was him. Most likely you just didn’t have any supporting documentation with you at the time and instead of trying to actually correct what your son did, you decided to skip out on paying a legitimate bill.

  • Indigo

    No, we tried repeatedly, and they refused to fix it. There was no “legitimate” bill as they never got around to finishing the install.

  • Stoatwblr

    “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone/cable company.”

  • David Kessler

    What do you mean ” instead of trying to actually correct what your son did?” I think you have misunderstood Indigo’s words “had his name changed to Freddy Kruger on his account.” That does not mean that the son deliberately changed the name on the account. It means the son was on the receiving end of an unsolicited name-change by the company. Try to learn the passive tense before you pontificate on the actions of others.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “We’re retraining our teams on the importance of making name changes properly,”

    Because it should require training to not change customers’ names to obvious insults? There should be records of who made these changes in the system, why not just discipline/fire the few responsible and go from there?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Still no excuse for there not being a direct line from the call center to somebody who can make these changes. I’d say a customer’s name being changed to an expletive would qualify as an emergency situation and it absolutely cannot take more than a couple minutes to change a name on an account. So, the customer should be able to call in and within moments an email should be off to somebody with Comcast corporate to make the change. Maybe it doesn’t get made until later that day, but no excuse if it takes longer than that. Some of these people waited weeks to get that done.

  • Indigo

    You are correct. The only thing my son did was to ask for cable service to be started in his name, an install that they started, but never finished, because the person who came out to do the install did not have the necessary equipment with him. When he complained that the install was never finished, his name got mysteriously changed to Freddy Kruger, and he continually got billed, even though the install was never completed.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The only thing unbelievable is that you somehow misunderstood the original post. It was very clear and specific regarding what had happened. How did you come away thinking the son was somehow responsible?

  • David Kessler

    And you did the right thing by sending the bills back. I would take it a stage further and said that even if the bills were for services actually provided, if a company sends the bills out under derogatory names then they are not legally binding requests for payment and the company may be deemedto have waived its request for payment. At minimum, you do not have to leap through hoops for company that is refusing to rectify its own mistake.

  • Zod

    If it were ANY other company, I would attribute that “Dummy” one to a common programming practice of creating a “dummy” value for a variable…kinda like how programmers use “null ” for the same reason. But like the saying goes…consider the source!

  • JimLoomis

    Isn’t the problem — really — that Comcast has managed to alienate many of its front-line employees … to the point that those people are doing this to damage their employer?