Bad manners doom this Comcast case before it makes a connection

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If any company can make you forget your manners, it’s gotta be Comcast.

But that’s still no excuse for how one of our readers behaved when confronted by a billing problem with the cable behemoth — a slip that basically doomed her case to our circular file.

From time to time, we catalog our failed cases for educational value. You can find them all in the Case Dismissed folder, of course.

Shannon started cable Internet service at her apartment just before Thanksgiving, opting to self-install. (We’ll leave her last name out of this for reasons you’ll see in a minute.)

The modem didn’t work after she installed it. “I called Comcast to troubleshoot,” she says. “I was advised that there would be a fee to install a new outlet. It was actually to upgrade an outlet. But I did not call for outlet upgrades; I was having trouble with an outlet that did not seem to work at the time.”

OK, so Shannon self-installs, it doesn’t work, and Comcast’s solution is to “upgrade” her to a more expensive plan? How very Comcast.

The price: another $49, a technician explained.

But then …

What he did not explain to me that because I had self-installed the modem for $15 (what a joke) that if I have trouble after 30 days that there was a $99.99 fee, according to tech support chat, which I saved most of the chat but was unable to actually print it because it wouldn’t print for some reason and I thought I could save it after the chat ended. Big mistake.

Shannon contacted us in the hopes that we could help. And we thought we could. Then we saw the transcript.

Comcast: I understand that you have questions with your bill. I know how important to have a clear picture when it comes to the services you’re being billed for. Let us work together to have your questions resolved. Bill understanding is indeed a must. I also make sure that all billing charges are correct.

Shannon: Yeah have you read my initial notes… what is Failed CHKSI $99.99???

Comcast: Please allow me to check this on your account Shanonn (sic). Checking from here Shannon Failed SIK was for the Tech Visit.

Shannon: I talked to the tech; there was nothing wrong. And initially I was told $50 but the tech said that there was nothing wrong and I would not be charged for it. I don’t agree; I should NOT be charged for this visit, he didn’t do anything other than double check cable connections However, I WILL pay for the part I DO agree with.

Comcast: As for the inconvenience Shannon I can give you a one time credit of $20.00 to lessen the charge.

Shannon: Bullsh*t. You will remove the entire charge. Or I can escalate, your choice. There was NOTHING to repair! The modem kept glitching but it fixed itself on its own when the tech was there.

Comcast: I were you coming Shannon, I too as a customer would feel the same way too,Checking from here the charge was valid.

Shannon: I won’t pay it, don’t give me your “if I was a customer crap” charge isn’t valid it was supposed to be $50 if there was a charge at all. Tech said there would be no charge and I stand by that. Get me a supervisor then. I will make corporate shrink if it comes to it

The advocate handling this case was a little put off by the exchange. Here are the case notes:

I’m not personally offended by profanity. But I don’t think there’s room for it in customer service situations. It’s abusive to the person on the receiving end, who is doing his job.

I actually don’t want to spend any more time on this case. She is obviously rude and unreasonable.

I concurred and closed out the case. Shannon might have had a valid case — might still have a valid case — but we can’t condone her tactics. Using profanity and snapping, “Get me a supervisor” not only weaken your case. They also make it much harder for future customers who need to deal with an intransigent company like Comcast.

Had I personally advocated this case, I would have sent the entire paper trail to my corporate contact. I would have been embarrassed to do that.

Should we have turned down Shannon's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • JenniferFinger

    I wouldn’t want to advocate for someone who was rude either. It just pits the company against you even if you have an otherwise great case against them.

  • Regina Litman

    My No vote was a leaning No because I felt somewhere in the middle on this. Shannon is a first name I really didn’t hear much here in the US until the 1970s, so I’m guessing that the letter writer is under 45. I was a late maturer in the area of interpersonal skills, not grasping the concept of dealing politely with people until I was approaching or even past 40.

    So, please cut her a break, Chris. Take her message out of the trash and help what may be a young adult navigate her way through society.

  • fairmont1955

    Rude shouldn’t win if we want to remain a civil society.

  • fairmont1955

    A note to self: when I get calls from companies I don’t want to deal with, have to call to get off lists I never opted into, etc. – behave like this so they never want to deal with me again.

  • John Baker

    The old saw “you get more flies with honey than vinegar” holds true. Losing your cool while you are still trying to get a company to do something for you ends up hurting you. “I’ll never use you again,” profanity or being abusive will get your file flagged. No one is going to help you. Period.

    Just had a situation like this… still holding my tongue until I get done what I need to get done. Once complete, I’ll be writing a letter to the franchiser on their franchisee’s actions. It will be polite but layout how their franchiser failed on the brand promise.

  • jodi_dash

    Wow you give someone until they’re 45 years old to learn common courtesy and that you shouldn’t be vulgar and rude when speaking to someone?

  • Dennis Lewis

    You know the old saying about something that would make even a preacher cuss? I know from personal experience that’s often the case with calling Comcast’s “help” line. I do end up apologizing profusely to the agent after I’ve vented more than I should have, though. Part of the problem for Comcast’s agents is that customers calling in are pretty much riled from navigating the automated answering system before even reaching a human. And some customers even have trouble getting a working number off the most recent Comcast bill they find lying around their living room.

  • James

    Which is more important — a “civil society”or an “honest society?” Policies like “I only help people who are not profane” could just as easily lead to a policy on the part of a business to provoke to the point of exasperation. (And it certainly seems Comcast may have that as an unspoken policy.)

    That said, the transcript is barely profane, and does not feel rude to me; it feels like Shannon was exasperated (how long did she wait on hold before getting to talk to someone?) It seems to me that the policy of under-staffing call centers and having people wait on hold for extensive periods of time is its own discourtesy, certainly intentional — and arguably as rude as Shannon’s using two profane words.

  • Jessica Monsell

    I think the profanity is not so much the problem, but the threatening tone. “Get me a supervisor then. I will make corporate shrink if it comes to it…”
    If this exchange occurred in a brick and mortar store instead of an online chat, management would call security. And rightly so. Chris can’t help everyone, and sometimes, he shouldn’t.

  • AAGK

    I think Chris should have advocated this one, despite Shannon. Based on these facts, Comcast overcharged Shannon. Comcast regularly overcharges its customers. While Shannon is obviously not a sympathetic case, advocating in this instance could benefit many similarly situated, less aggressive, consumers.

  • flutiefan

    this wasn’t a phone call. it was a live chat. they are answered almost immediately.

  • mbods2002

    Cussing is not good when dealing with a problem, that’s a given. I have found being polite and starting off on a positive note makes a big difference. But I understand someone with a short fuse acting crazy. It’s a totally frustrating experience trying to get a problem fixed when you’re connected to a non-English speaking country. I find myself wishing on a star that I’m chatting/emailing/calling to the U.S. When I am (which is rare these days) my problem is almost always resolved. If I’m sent overseas then there’s 50/50 chance of it being resolved. Why? Because I can’t seem to make the person on the other end understand what the problem is and how I would like the problem resolved, as hard as I try to keep it simple. Corporations created a lot of this dissatisfaction in customer service. They take our money and play dodgeball with us if we have a problem and it’s all OUR fault..Boooooo

  • fairmont1955

    Sounds like excusing bad behavior.

  • Tom McShane

    The thing is, the customer service rep was, in all likelihood, not responsible for causing any of the consumer’s problems. Somebody in the company, no doubt, was trying to squeeze money of Shannon. Shannon’s problem was thinking that the squeezer was the Comcast chatter.

  • Tom McShane

    I don’t see any indication of subpar English language usage on the part of the CSR. That person might have been typing quickly, but it reads like the rep was a typical English-as-a-first-language speaker to me.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Agree with the other poster, the rep speaks English just as well as the OP does in the transcript. And the rep seems to perfectly understand what the OP is saying throughout.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The “barely profane” I can go along with but profanity of any level is clearly rude. And there was no call center (hence the printed transcript) it was an online chat where she barely had to wait at all.

  • Barthel

    Concerning Comcast, and this is not a fault of Comcast itself, there have been hundreds of fraudulent Comcast accounts opened using real people’s names and their SS numbers. It is thought that some Comcast employee has stolen IDs of Comcast customers and sold them to others who open the accounts. The addresses used are largely in the Atlanta GA area. The unpaid bills are then going to collections. Comcast is aware of this and working to resolve the problem.

  • joycexyz

    Dealing with Comcast (particularly over often erroneous billing issues) would drive a saint over the edge. The CS agent sounded particularly condescending and patronizing. It’s very difficult to be calm in such a situation. Don’t be too hard on Shannon–she apparently was told one thing by the technician and another by the billing department. I’ve been there!

  • Éamon deValera

    When the chat includes such fantastic English as:

    “I were you coming Shannon, I too as a customer would feel the same way too,Checking from here the charge was valid.”

    I’d be frustrated too, they obvious lack the requisite skill in the English language so how could they be smart enough to be offended whilst chatting?