Too many cards in the deck of misfortune

By | June 14th, 2016

Nancy Evans has a strong case. Too strong of a case.

This is going to sound strange, but my advocates and I can’t help her because her case sounds … too good to be true.

“Perhaps this is my last email as I will soon have my internet and TV turned off,” she writes.

What a great hook! But it gets better.

Evans’ case shows that consumers aren’t the only ones who have to watch for too-good-to-be-true deals. So do consumer advocates. We turn down such cases not because they aren’t legitimate, but because there are simply too many red flags.

Don’t let that happen to you, or your own legitimate case could suffer the same fate.

Red flag number one. “This could be my last email.” Even if that were true, do you think you’d be sending an email to our advocacy team? I’d be on the line with my internet service provider, trying to keep the lights on.

Evans lists her occupation as “author,” which is a relevant detail. The problem isn’t with her Comcast account — it’s her friend’s account.

It was in my friend’s name (still is) who stayed with me for awhile and will turn it off as the company requires a $300-plus payment for simple internet speed and basic TV.

She let me transfer the phone number so I have contact. I cannot get it in my own name as my son had it in my name who was disabled and since died and I am not able to pay his arrears nor his ex-wife. I do raise his son now. He wants to find a job and apply for Pell grants to get to go to a technical college. I am disabled with a small amount fixed income. I took care of my mom until she died. She was a Holocaust survivivor [sic].

Wow.

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We have something called the Elliott Deck of Misfortune — a fictitious stack of cards that people who want special consideration will “play” in an effort to get special treatment. And Evans just played almost every card in the deck.


Among them:

  • Financial hardship (a.k.a. “fixed income”).
  • Disability.
  • Death in family.
  • Family tragedy.
  • The Holocaust.

And then there’s the extra drama of the author who can’t spell the word “survivor.” She must be distressed.

Needless to say, my advocates urged me to go nowhere near this case. But I can’t help myself.

It isn’t that I don’t believe Evans’ story. For all I know, she may be bankrupt, in a wheelchair and surrounded by tragedy. If that’s the case, she has my sympathies.

The reason I can’t get involved is that she’s taking the wrong approach. When you have to fix a problem, you need facts on your side, not emotion. To sway a customer service representative, you’ll need to present that employee with hard evidence that the $300-plus bill was unwarranted.

Sure, play a card or two in the Deck of Misfortune, but please don’t play them all — even if you have all of them to play. Enough people will doubt your story that it could lessen the chances of a favorable resolution, even if the facts are one your side.

So, Nancy, if you’re reading this, here’s my advice: Send a brief, polite and unemotional email to Comcast, explaining your situation. If that doesn’t work, appeal your case to one of these Comcast customer service managers. And if that doesn’t work, please come back to me and I’ll handle this personally.

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For the rest of you reading this, please don’t do what Evans did when you try to fix a problem with a company. There’s no faster way of relegating your perfectly valid complaint to the digital recycler.

Should playing too many cards in the deck disqualify your complaint?

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  • sirwired

    Life can be downright terrible sometimes, and maybe all those things are true, but yeah, piling all that irrelevant information in the same complaint… well, for starters, it makes it hard to read. (Do we really need to know that her mother was a holocaust survivor? Do we even need to know that she used to take care of her mother in the past? What does that have to do with her cable bill?)

    But even if we filter out all the tragedy, we have a complaint that probably isn’t going to get fixed. I mean, she currently has a delinquent account at her address that’s not in her name, she has a delinquent account at another address that IS in her name, but somehow belonged to her now-deceased son. (What’s the story there? Did he steal her identity? Did she set up the account in her name with the expectation her son was going to pay for it? If so, why not pull the plug on the account when he died?)

    And $300? That sounds like a one-time “catch-up” payment to me, because while Comcast ain’t cheap, it’s not $300/mo for basic cable and internet. (And don’t they have a special low-income internet package? They don’t advertise it, but it exists.) And most (all?) cable systems have a TV package that’s below even “basic”; usually $20-ish/mo.

    Maybe all this can get untangled, but it’s going to take a lot of time, effort, and probably involve some sort of arrangements to pay the account(s) in arrears before that service is getting turned back on. I mean, I think Comcast is horrible, but they should expect to be paid for services rendered. (Especially since there’s no indication they screwed up here.)

  • technomage1

    I can’t speak for Comcast, but I do know a lot of companies will waive the deposit – which is what I assume she’s talking about in terms of the $300 “payment” if you have good credit. From her story it sound as if she doesn’t. TWC ran my credit when I signed up “to determine my deposit level” and it was $0. Good credit pays off.

    It’s also hard to feel sorry for someone, no matter how hard they have it, for services that’s aren’t basic necessities. Cable and Internet aren’t in the same category as electricity and water. Internet almost is but you can go to the library or a coffee shop, etc for it.

    As for her letter, for me honestly it was eye roll -trash bin.

  • Rebecca

    The holocaust? Seriously? Here is thought I’d seen everything, and lo and behold.

    Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. And their neighbor was a real holocaust survivor. A kind old woman who was a teenager in Germany in the thirties. She almost never spoke about it, except odd references in passing. The things she would mention were more mundane, kind of like she forgot it wasn’t a universal experience to grow up in fear and do without so many necessities. Then once, when I was in middle school, she told me a few mind blowing stories about the Gestapo and the fates of many of her family members and school friends. I still remember 20 years later almost every word she said.

    My point being, anyone that would use such an unspeakable tragedy to get preferential treatment has me seriously concerned for the fate of humanity. I don’t have words for that.

  • AAGK

    Has Chris Elliott become a cynic?:)

  • AAGK

    This woman is on hard times, no doubt. However, if she is looking to open account, she needs to act solvent, fast. If she feels she can pay the monthly obligation, and her house is wired/already receiving monthly service then there should be no disruption or deposit needed. Sounds like friend stiffed her with the balance. What if she offered Comcast a portion of that balance in autopay over 24 months along with the monthly payment. Should be a win-win.

  • Peter Varhol

    Elliott Deck of Misfortune – Chris, I love it!

  • Pat

    That email sounds more like the one’s that are found in my junk folder. I will bet if you reply, they will end up asking for money to be sent.

  • KarlaKatz

    She forgot to mention her Nigerian Aunt, Princess Monoblahblah, who only needs $800 to send her an inheritance of $6bajillion (payable in USD).

    And, The Holocaust? Really? How dare she? Anyone who’s known or met a true survivor can tell you, those folks just don’t talk about it much, unless pressed for details.

  • taxed2themax

    I get why one might want to pile on the “cards” into a letter.. For many people there IS an emotional part to the overall issue.. A “feeling” of being ‘done wrong’… I also recognize that many letter are, to varying degrees, read and processed by a person — who, like the writer, is a person with feelings; who gets sick too, possibly has a pet too, etc.. and by stacking the deck, one may believe (rightly or wrongly) that this will then sway the decision making process.
    All that said, I think its also appropriate to recognize that a fair percentage of issues really do have one (or more) “right” answers based on an objective, unemotional and analytical assessment of the case – from beginning to end. As such, I look at many cases from the lens of “emotions aside, what does the facts, relevant company policy and (if applicable) public law, say on the matter”

  • Bubbles

    The person on the end of the email, most likely, couldn’t care less about your emotions. Provide facts and evidence, that will let them play within the rules of the company so they can try to help you. The easier you make it for them, the quicker and hopefully, the more fruitful the outcome.

  • joycexyz

    What complaint? All I read was a litany of woes in poor English. Nowhere was an actual problem explained. Sounds like a hoax. (And please forgive me if it’s not.)

  • Annie M

    And now her friend is going to have a deliquent account in her own name because she did this woman a favor and got s****** because the bills weren’t paid.

    Don’t people go by the old adage if you can’t pay the bill, cancel the service?

  • Extramail

    Agreed. I didn’t understand what she was even asking to be done. Was it waive a deposit? Was it to forgive a bill and restore her service?

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    While I agree with the other comments that the facts likely do not support the OP, the spelling comment is probably a “low blow”, particularly in an analysis that states “even if the facts are one [sic on] your side”. “One” error in spelling is something that happens to everyone.

  • Blamona

    Cable (and having a TV) is not a necessity of life. We all have problems. Start saving now the $300, then sign up. We all have drama in our lives, business is business

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