Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2014

The Infamous Comcast Cancellation Call

“Painful to listen to.”

“The telecommunications version of the clingy ex-boyfriend.”

“Beyond all humanity.”

Those are a few of the ways articles have described Ryan Block’s recording of a call with a Comcast representative in an effort to cancel his service, which has gotten a lot of attention and resulted in the company issuing a statement.

While it appears that much of the coverage focused on the call itself, it looks like a few pieces bring up the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

The Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik writes that the call shows “the necessity of killing Comcast’s pending deal to absorb Time Warner Cable, a combination of the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 cable/Internet providers that would make Comcast even less responsive to its customers’ needs than it is now.”

He contends that the call should be submitted to the agencies reviewing the merger as well as to Congress.

“If the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger goes through, America comes more under the thumb of a single cable operator, and its phone reps will be even more noxious than the one Ryan Block encountered,” he writes.

Jon Herrman in his piece in The Awl defends the representative, writing that the “customer service rep is trapped in an impossible position, in which any cancellation, even one he can’t control, will reflect poorly on his performance. By the time news of the lost customer reaches his supervisor, it will be data – it will be the wrong data, and it will likely be factored into a score, or a record, that is either directly or indirectly tied to his compensation or continued employment.”

And he also goes on to place the situation in the context of the Comcast-Time Warner merger, writing that he hopes the recording is played in front of lawmakers.

“Comcast’s call script could not account for the possibility that a customer might choose to switch to another company that isn’t ‘number one,’ as the rep repeated out of distaste. A merger might fix that: It brings these companies one step close to making sure there’s no number two,” he writes.

CNN Money’s Brian Stelter doesn’t write about the merger, but points out in his article the broader matter of cable and satellite companies trying to keep subscribers. He writes that “setting aside specific tactics like the pestering experienced by Block and Belmont, customer retention is a critical component of the cable and satellite business.”  Stelter earlier in the story referenced Block’s wife, Veronica Belmont.

They “work hard to keep ‘churn’ – a term for customers coming and going – as low as possible,” he writes, adding that it’s been “particularly important for cable-based companies such as Comcast, which have been losing television subscribers in recent years to satellite (DirecTV) and fiber-optic (Verizon),” he writes.

  • http://photoperformance.org/ DavidSalahi

    Every company offering a subscription service should be required to post a postal address where cancellation emails can be sent and/or provide a page on their websites where a customer can easily cancel. It’s ridiculous that companies can force consumers to jump through hoops to unsubscribe.

  • Richard from Amherst

    I canceled my DirecTV service over two years ago and still receive an average of 15-20 calls a month and one mailing a week from this company seeking to get my business back. They the last time I picked up a call (by accident) from them the customer service rep was incredulous that I had simply canceled satellite television service from DirecTV and had not replaced it with another service and that I was employed full time and so could afford the service.

    When I told him that I had recycled both of my analogue televisions and the Directv equipment that they would not take back at cancelation (they only wanted the DVR back) he was even more incredulous. He insisted to know why and when I told him that I was tired of paying fees to help support professional and amateur sports that I never watched and trash television he accused me of being “un-American”. I asked him to put me on the DirecTV do not call list which he apparently didn’t or couldn’t do. I consider the incessant dunning by this company to resubscribe a form of harassment and intimidation.

    I further consider not having the option of unsubscribing by computer another form of intimidation since one must run a gauntlet of high pressure sales to drop the service.

    As a result I will never resubscribe to any of DirecTV related service on principle.

  • David S. McQueen

    I can see COMCAST’s strategy up to a point, but to berate a customer merely because he wants to unsubscribe from the service isn’t creating favorable PR. Surely, the executives who run COMCAST understand the good benefits of the public’s perception of their company. (Business 101)

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