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Fight the cable company with persistence

Your conflicts with big cable companies are often battles of attrition, so hang in there.

By doubleace May 9, 2011 1:58PM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.


You're reading a blog post on a site called Smart Spending, so, in theory at least, you're looking for advice.


Here's mine: Never let the (…) wear you down.

We all have horror stories, but for me, Comcast has more recurring roles than Freddy Krueger in the nine-movie "Nightmare on Elm Street" series. The cable giant appeared as No. 3 on MSN Money's first Customer Service Hall of Shame in 2007, with only 10% of those surveyed rating its service "excellent" and 30% rating it "poor." Four surveys later, Comcast was still No. 3, but the excellents had dropped to 7.2% and the poors risen to 34%. 


For three years, my wife and I spent seven months annually in San Diego and five in Seattle, living in apartments at each end. One fall we dutifully returned our rented TV and Internet equipment to a Comcast representative and headed south, leaving our forwarding address.


A month later, a notice comes in the mail: Their DVR had not been returned, so please send it immediately or pay $120. I call, ask for the serial number, and explain I have a receipt verifying that piece of equipment had been returned. Do they want a copy? "Oh, you have a receipt? No. Sometimes it takes awhile for this information to work through the system," she replies. "I wouldn’t worry."


A month later, another notice, again wanting either DVR or $120. Same routine, same offer of a copy of the receipt. Again, I'm told, no need. Post continues after video.

Next month, another notice, but with a change. Now Comcast is willing to settle for $60. I call again, battle through a customer-service rep and finally reach a supervisor. I tell her my story, including that I twice offered to send the receipt. "I don't think that happened," she responds, adding that of course they would want a copy of the receipt.


I then ask why the DVR was valued at $120, then suddenly $60. "That’s just what we decided to charge," she says.


I mail a copy of the receipt; case closed.


My wife and I talk about this bizarre sequence of events. Is it possible that a company would randomly send out such notices in hopes that no receipt was kept and the $120 would be paid? Or that, eventually, after being hounded, the customer would be willing to pay half-price to end the aggravation?


Naw, that couldn't be, we decide. But we double the size of our receipt box nonetheless.


A couple of years later, we decide, as a birthday present, to give my son-in-law the Extra Innings baseball package, so he can watch every game of his beloved New York Mets' season on cable in Lake Stevens, Wash.


Can't do that, the Comcast sales rep says. Only the person whose name is on the account for that address can order services. That's a good policy in some cases, I agree, but note that I am not ordering a porn site as a joke, but giving a gift of baseball to a homesick former New Yorker. Can't do that, she repeats.

I hang up and call back. This one tells me I can order the baseball package, but only if I give her the last four digits of my son-in-law's Social Security number.


I don’t have that, I explain. Call and get it, she suggests. "It’s a birthday surprise," I say, stubbornly. (Note: I could have gotten the information through my daughter, but then I would have had to hear the lecture about this ruining her life.)


"Let me get this clear: This is March 1," I say. "I am willing to pay in full on my credit card and you will have the money long before the baseball season begins next month. You are turning down $179?" That's right, she says.


I ask her to forward me to a person who specifically handles the baseball packages. "I’ll do that," I'm told, "but the answer will be the same."


After I explain my dilemma to the next voice, she chirps (and I still can't believe she said this): "Of course we can do that. Those people over there are idiots. You should have called me first."


So what are the lessons here?

  • Always keep your receipts. Honest mistakes are made; less-than-honest ones, too. A copy of a receipt usually ends the debate right away.
  • Be persistent. Try hanging up and calling back. Believe it or not, this usually works; Sales and customer-service reps appear to be erratically trained.
  • Ask to talk to a supervisor. The rep answering the phone doesn't like to do this; I suspect it looks bad on their record. Keep insisting. As long as you are polite, they eventually will give in. Keep climbing the ladder until justice is served.

All this said, sometimes the (…) do wear you down. Despite the advice of the Social Security Administration, I eventually gave my number up to Comcast. Hey, the Masters was going to begin in two days. I'm only human.


More on MSN Money:

May 9, 2011 10:37PM

Comcast customer service is terrible, absolutely the worst.  I had Comcast and just getting it installed was an ordeal, including the promise of a person showing up, who never did, I call and they say OK, you are scheduled for next Saturday, then they open two accounts and bill me twice, nice huh, but that ain't the half of it.  They constantly sent notices that my service was changing which means I was calling several times every other month trying to find out why my two year commitment price kept changing, always up.  Got lots of "so sorry" but no results.


At two years to the day I dropped them, signed up for Verizon and personally took the internet box and TV box back to Comcast & got a receipt for each from a surly customer service rep after waiting about a half hour just to talk to one of them, then found out I gotta go to the other line. Just as the writer said, in comes the bill for equipment.  I called & spoke to three different reps & faxed copies of the receipt to them three times over the next few months and also asked to to talk to a supervisor, "so sorry" they are busy, "but I can put you on hold till the cows come home."  I sent letters disputing each bogus bill with copies of both receipts.  They can go to you know where before I will pay them.   One of the people on the phone told me that the surly guy giving out the receipts at the office gives you a receipt for both boxes but he only checks one box into the system.  The other box goes to a "tech" somewhere else who is supposed to log the second box into the system.  When that tech screws up, and he "ALWAYS" screws up, then the former customer gets an equipment bill.  They were charging about $250 per box for over $500 for my equipment which was the basis, lowest price stuff, not HD, not a recorder, just the cheapest boxes they had.  Trust me Best Buy sells similar appliances for about $60.  It looks to me as just another way Comcast rips former customers one more time.  I will never use them again.

May 10, 2011 9:49AM
Comcast, or more accurately Craptastic, will never get another penny of my money. 

I was using their internet service after they acquired Adelphia.  The service was spotty and dropped often.  When I tried to call customer service, I was told by a recorded message "Due to call volume, your request cannot be processed at this time. <click>"

That was when I decided they could not handle their volume of customers.  I helped them out by cancelling all my services with them.  That was about 4 years ago, and I will never be back.

May 10, 2011 8:47AM
This doesn't surprise me even the tiniest bit.  Once, when trying to register a cable modem, the Comcast rep told me to call Microsoft to troubleshoot my Windows install.  I just called back and luckily received a more intelligent person.
May 10, 2011 10:03AM
I fought them the best way I know how, I dropped them. I get enough digital channels over the air with just a regular antenna.
May 10, 2011 8:54AM

I  get that Comcast is the worst I know I have Comcast don't get me started but let move on

lets get them were is hurts I want to cancell my comcast but I need the internet and they got me at

the bundle thing if I cancel TV or CABLE then I just get internet the price is the same.

Where Do people Go in Seattle for internet as home I want high speed so I can stream line movies

and TV using Hulu


May 10, 2011 11:52AM
jrhoh - you've been lucky.  We've had nothing but problems with Comcast.  We've had to replace 4 DVR boxes in 7 years because they use shoddy, refurbished equipment.  When we downgraded our service a while back, they lied to us about what channels we could still access.  When we called back, they denied it.  Right now we can access the Disney channel but not Disney on-demand.  We can't access the BBC America channel but we can get it on-demand.  When we added their internet service, we had problems with it dropping constantly.  It took 8 visits from techs to get it figured out.  We knew someone who was a comcast tech.  He came and looked at it and told us the problem was in the line.  He told us to ask for a line tech to come out.  So we did.  They sent a regular tech and tried to say the problem was in the house (so they could charge us for it).  The problem was at the line.  It took several visits before they would actually send a line tech out.  They've recently switched over to Infinity and, as a result, have totally changed their on-demand and DVR system for the worse.  Infinity was supposed to be great and cutting edge but it actually dropped a lot of the features that were so useful on the old system.  We're in the process of setting up our media server to record TV off the internet.  When that happens we'll be dropping our Comcast cable.  Unfortunately we're stuck with their internet as they are the fastest in our area. 
May 10, 2011 12:47PM
Comcast is the company from Hell.
If there is anybody worse,  I haven't found them.
They cheat you by policy and never think twice about the fraud they commit.
Well,  the legislators long since sold out to them,  so they can do it.

May 10, 2011 2:18PM

I recommend everyone do a few things:

1. Get a good tuner for your computer.

2. Get Netflix.

3. Upgrade your TV antenna to the best possible, including mast signal amp.

There is plenty of high quality HD and digital TV floating through the air. Catch some for free.

You can use your computer to record in HD.

What you can't get over the air, use Hulu and Netflix.

It's not perfect, but you can save tons of money, and still have plenty to watch.

Google/youtube are also entering the TV over internet market.

We don't miss cable at our house!

May 10, 2011 1:22PM
It doesn't do any good to ask to "speak with a supervisor".  There are no supervisors at cable companies - just other people doing the same job.
May 10, 2011 12:06PM
Verizon FIOS is NO BETTER. They actually told me they couldn't explain why my bill, with no premium channels, was $200.00 per month. Turned out, when I cancelled the premium channels after to 90 day free period, I didn't cancel teh sports package and perhaps another 1 or 2. I was never told I had them. So I cancelled my service. They are all thieves. 
May 10, 2011 3:00PM
I surprisingly had positive experiences with Comcast.  Time Warner, on the other hand - yikes!  When we first moved into our home, Time Warner was the only service available.  The first time I called to set up TV, I asked for the most basic TV package.  Big mistake!

First, they would only provide me with packages with extra stuff I didn't need for about $60 a month (for the first 6 months).  Then, my husband called, got offers for the same packages, but was told an entirely different price.  I tried calling again, was offered a different package for $29 for 3 months only, but they couldn't tell me how much it would be after that.  Husband repeated, got offered a similar package for $45.  I'm not kidding - we took the time to write down exactly what we wanted, we called from our cell phones at the same time - he got offered an absolutely basic package for around $20 a month, I got offered another package for $29 a month again.  After 30 minutes of this, we called, spoke with a supervisor about what had just happened and she denied this would ever happen.

We haven't had cable in over 2 years, and I don't feel like I'm missing a thing! 

May 10, 2011 11:40AM

I once had the Salt Lake City office bill my card (I live in Chicago). But it cleared right up. Other than than 12 years of service with no problems. Lucky I guess.


But I also note the author used 2007 data,,,,,I recall comcast worked to increase satisfaction from that low point.


No, I have no interest in Comast...just saying...I hear lots of complaints but I here lots of complaints for all their competitors too.


In my this age of internet posting.....every product and service has people logging complaints which makes it look like every thing you buy will have significant problems..     Just saying

May 10, 2011 12:24PM

Aren't monopolies great? :D


At least in NY, Verison [FIOS] and Cablevision [Optimum], and to a lesser extent, Time Warner are keeping eachother in check, so our basic packages are very good.


Then again, people like me have ditched cable and use Netflix almost exclusivly.  Then again, in two-three years, everyone will be using bandwidth caps [Comcast already rolled them out], which will kill that option [death by overage fees!].

May 10, 2011 2:45PM

I recommend everyone do a few things:

1. Get a good tuner for your computer.

2. Get Netflix.

3. Upgrade your TV antenna to the best possible, including mast signal amp.

There is plenty of high quality HD and digital TV floating through the air. Catch some for free.

You can use your computer to record in HD.

What you can't get over the air, use Hulu and Netflix.

It's not perfect, but you can save tons of money, and still have plenty to watch.

Google/youtube are also entering the TV over internet market.

We don't miss cable at our house!

True.  Thats why the cable companies which provide your internet are now pushing data caps, which will make watching HD online impossible.
Jun 7, 2011 6:19PM
If you can contact a Comcast rep, they are like a bank(they think) and close the phone lines @5. Not everybody has a bankers hours......Dish and ATT are just a touch away.........we won't be needing your services anymore.... wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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