It doesn’t take much for Comcast to get a hiss from the crowd these days. With a massive merger on the horizon and the cable giant’s history of disrespecting customers with flubs like sending bills with expletives in place of proper names, Comcast’s reputation is really in the toilet. But the company’s recent refusal to send back an elderly lady’s rent check might just take the cake — at least for the next week.
In another incomprehensible story underscoring all that is wrong with Comcast, the nation’s leading provider of cable and Internet services once again came under fire this week after cashing 79-year-old Francis Wilson’s rent check, then refusing to refund the money.
Reported by local TV news outlet KRQE, the Albuquerque, NM resident accidentally sent her check for $235 to Comcast, later contacting the company after realizing her mistake. By the time Wilson got in touch, however, Comcast’s automated system had already deposited the rent check, and credited the amount to Wilson’s account. Apparently, it doesn’t matter who your check is made out to, Comcast’s system is happy to accept.
When the elderly resident who lives on Social Security called the company and explained the situation, Comcast initially refused to return Wilson’s money. Of course, an hour after the local news outlet was on the case, the massive corporation began to sing a different tune. A Comcast spokesman told KRQE that the company “reached out to the customer immediately,” and that the focus was to refund her money as soon as possible. Wilson eventually did get her money back, making for a peachy local story of journalistic justice.
This news comes on the heels of a laundry list of incidents showcasing astonishingly poor customer service from Comcast, including two recent cases in which the victims were given bills with expletives in place of their first names: Super Bitch Bauer, and Asshole Brown, to be exact. (Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up, folks.) And those are just the latest escapades of one of America’s most hated brands.
It’s gotten so bad that even one of cable’s top lobbyists has admitted there’s a major problem with the disconnect between the massive conglomerates and their subjects, er, customers. In an interview with The Washington Post, the head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association lobbying firm Michael Powell said of the industry, “Customer service right now is unacceptable.” In light of recent events, that might be putting it mildly.
As new Web TV services like Sling TV and Playstation Vue seek to supplant big cable’s hold on 10s of millions of customers, Comcast seems as content as ever to mistreat the very folks who keep the billions of dollars rolling in every year. And why? Whether users keep cable or not, massive MSOs still hold the keys.
After all, how will Sling TV exist without the very pipelines that Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and a shortlist of others command? Google Fiber is moving at a snail’s pace, and while municipal broadband providers have gotten some good news lately from the FCC, most of us have one, maybe two choices to provide the one thing the modern American can’t seem to function without.
Until we see more choices, less consolidation, and real competition, the Comcasts of the world have free reign. Hate it all you want — Comcast is still cashing those checks.