For Comcast NBC Universal: A Lesson in Corporate Responsibility

"Mary's" home in Palm Beach, Florida.

"Mary's" home in Palm Beach, Florida. [Image Credit: Google Street view.]

BBSNews Sunday Feature 2017-06-18 — By Michael Hess. We moved the BBSNews newsroom to South Florida from New Mexico several months ago because it was obviously a prudent idea to be near the place that Donald Trump will eventually barricade himself when he is making the decision about resigning. But today’s feature is about another uncaring corporation, Comcast NBC Universal, and how they treat elderly customers and presumably anyone else who pays Comcast / Xfinity with a check in the mail.

During this time when learning about my neighbors, I am of the age where people actually still do that, I met a delightful 76-year-old woman in the neighborhood, she’s been around South Florida since dirt and has owned thriving businesses from Nassau to Palm Beach.

Mary, (not her real name to protect her from harassment by the chattering classes) and her deceased husband were quite successful. In her own right, she owns her Palm Springs home outright in a fairly nice neighborhood with a church on the corner and coconut palms in every yard. In the Spring time when the local news is doing human interest stories about the change in season, the iguanas that they invariably speak of are rampant at Mary’s house.

With her old school Florida home, lived in for decades, the place has a charm inside and out that is reminiscent of Better Homes and Gardens with terrazzo floors and travertine walls and accents and art; meets nearly worn out, strong, yet not a Goliath; faded socialite womanhood.

A highly intelligent, educated and vibrant woman almost alone; except for her older brother and concerned neighbors keeping a sharp eye out for her while she does her level best to keep up her gardening and helping others in the neighborhood with their gardening as well. Just living out her remaining time and trying to stay relevant.

The 2014 Cable Industry Competitive Vulnerability Study examines the Top 5 cable companies in the US based on a survey of 3,038 existing and former customers.

The Study measures the frustrations of existing customers of the Top 5 US cable providers and quantifies the projected impact of their vulnerabilities on anticipated customer switching and cord cutting behavior over the next 12 months.

Of the top 5 US cable providers, Comcast & Time Warner have both the highest levels of brand vulnerability and the most revenues at risk over the next 12 months.

– 2014 Cable Industry Competitive Vulnerability Study

She’d just like to have her Comcast Internet service back. Now. She’s waited for months because of a mistake on the part of Comcast, through no fault of her own.

She’s a Cable Cord Cutter. She has a satellite feed for her television entertainment and educational needs and does not use Comcast for streaming broadcast TV, only the Internet. In this day and age, the use of the Internet is as ubiquitous as it is important. And halfway into the first month of hurricane season here in South Florida, she should not have to wait another minute before someone finally shows up to right this wrong.

She was not cut off from Comcast Internet service for non-payment, she was cut-off because an endless procession of faceless and nameless petty Comcast corporate bureaucrats could not be bothered to investigate deeply enough to realize that yes indeed, she had long ago paid the amount billed for service rendered, on time when it was due. Responsible adults do that as a matter of course. Comcast Financials Corporation deposited the check soon after she sent it, she has the canceled check to prove it.

This was no small feat as anyone knows who has had to find a canceled check in today’s paperless statement and bill paying world, but she went through the steps and I sat on her front porch with her and spoke to a nice young woman named “Kay” who verified that yes, the bill had long been paid and she added my name to the notes on the account, even asking for the correct spelling to make sure she entered it correctly. We passed the phone back and forth, she spoke to Mary, she spoke to me, and she assured me that something would be done immediately.

I believe her services were outsourced, possibly overseas, nonetheless, she was and is wonderful compared to the nauseating cut and paste responses that Comcast “ECare” mistakenly believes is actually customer service.

Comcast had no trouble sending a truck and finding Mary’s house to come and take away the router.

But for some reason now a Comcast / Xfinity truck lost her address. They suddenly cannot find the house that they found when they so callously took her router from her even as she had paid faithfully. Does the dear reader understand what this does to an old woman’s self-esteem and well-being being treated like this?

Mary has long been distrustful of handing over credit card information to automatically pay a bill as are many Americans of her age that had grown up in a time where phone access was to a neighborhood “party” line phone service where you had to wait your turn. Sure there are readers who are saying to themselves that this is not the way of the future, it’s the way of now, but she was born during a time when a modern convenience was an ice box.

During recent wars, today Americans would have no clue about ration cards, or tightening our belts for the good of the country. Most would have no clue about the 1943 penny and why it is not made out of copper.

Now long known colloquially as snail mail, people paid bills by a check in the mail. Large corporations have to maintain a poorly paid data entry force to enter the checks into the system and they are none too happy about this. They often pester and talk down to elders in trying to get them to “join the 21st century” and just give us your credit card information and trust us, we’ll take care of the rest.” So says the mega-entertainment corporation. So says today’s crop of politicians while gutting health care etc.

I worked for the largest telecommunications company in the United States for a number of years in mid-level management, and I can attest to what a Data Support Group does. That’s a specialized group trained and authorized to track down data entry errors and correct the database tables in large corporate customer database tables.

Protocols such as Consumer Protected Network Information (CPNI) to Sarbanes-Oxley reporting and record keeping practices have indeed grown more onerous over the years, yet customer service provided by large corporations has suffered. That’s a direct result of such accounting scandals as Anderson Accounting and Enron when it comes to proper record keeping and then often cutting customer service to make up the difference.

Consumers should not have to pay the price for poor quality control of basic accounting practices that can steamroll an older person without the technical expertise or the stamina to run down every scrap of paper that these bureaucrats demand when fixing a problem that they themselves created by letting down longtime customers.

A little old lady in Palm Springs didn’t do it.

"Tom Karinshak serves as Senior Vice President, Customer Service for Comcast Cable. In this role, he and his team work to ensure we are delivering an excellent customer service experience. Tom oversees call center operations including phone, chat and social media agents, in addition to other key touch points and service channels with our customers." width=

Tom Karinshak serves as Senior Vice President, Customer Service for Comcast Cable. In this role, he and his team work to ensure we are delivering an excellent customer service experience. Tom oversees call center operations including phone, chat and social media agents, in addition to other key touch points and service channels with our customers.” Ironically, Comcast’s Chat feature goes to a 404 file not found page when trying to access it as a customer. Go figure…

And as I explained to the minion assigned to this case by Tom Karinshak, the supposed Senior Vice President of Customer Service for Comcast Cable, we trained and were trained to recognize that some older customers were simply going to balk at handing over their credit information to be automatically charged. It was our job to help educate our customers that autopay billing actually protects the consumer from having an underpaid, overworked data entry clerk mistakenly enter information from a canceled check. And it’s convenient as well; as long as the trust level is there carefully built up by outstanding customer service.

Our company’s mid-level management was trained to treat our in-house consumers of data as customers as well; the focus was relentless on one ideal: solutions.

Once someone spends the time to explain how it is actually safer and leads to greater peace of mind because the bill will be paid and there are laws and regulations to ensure the customer is not going to be overcharged, they will be an educated consumer and customer with their mind put at ease. At least in our case:

If a Director called my desk and asked about a customer being treated like this, I would have been directed as follows: “Get your best troubleshooter right now, have them put on a clean shirt and hat and make sure they have their ID on the company lanyard, and get them over there with whatever terminal equipment you think should be on the truck and get them there this afternoon! I expect a report on my desk in the morning that this customer has been taken care of and credited for future service to compensate for the time the company has let her down.”

And I would get it done because it was the right thing to do according to my training and my ability to pay for the house note and kids college would be flashing before my very eyes…

I provided repeatedly the necessary information about Mary’s address, telephone number, the dates in question, the canceled check number etc and it took me two days of begging, cajoling and threatening to write this article before the assigned minion in this case even bothered to call her on the phone associated with the account! This horrible level of service is simply appalling. They acted as if I was trying to get something from them when all I wanted to do was get them to read the notes on the account, call her on the phone number I provided them, her direct line associated with the account and let her know someone was on the way to fix her up.

To not placate with cut-and-paste condescending pap like this one I got at least three times:

Dear Mr. Hess,

Thank you for your feedback and commend you on your efforts to assist your neighbors. I have been in contact with [Mary] and am confident that the team I have reached out to will resolve her issue.

Adding insult to injury the nonsensical form letter response is filled with the usual:

Mr. Hess, I do apologize that I was unable to assist further with [Mary’s] situation. If you are ever in need of assistance in the future, please feel free to contact us at your convenience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through e-mail, chat or at 1-800-XFINITY. Remember, also available to our Comcast customers is the ability to access the online HELP for any future issues at www.XFINITY.com/myaccount.

Remember, Comcast’s Customer Chat is broken and leads to a 404 error. Remember we called the infuriating telephone line that wants you to talk to it and it hardly recognizes even the most basic words! Getting a live body on the line is a half hour long ordeal, we finally do so, and it’s going on six days since this started and still no truck! Comcast happily deposited the money though months ago. The Comcast NBC Universal Corporation got their money.

A new customer would have already been hooked up.

The only possible email going on was on Mary’s behalf from me, because she has had no Internet service for months. And going to xfinity.com is also out of the question for Mary because again, how do you go visit your account when your Internet has been inexplicably been turned off through no fault of your own?

And here this minion is simply sloughing off the problem and apologizes for the non-service and blows me right the hell off, pretty as you please. [email protected] my aunt fanny. Keep those Tweets coming!

Comcast NBC Universal puts out a public relations campaign handout entitled most recently the 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. The link itself touts the headline crafted in bold type at the top of the page: A Single Day, A World of Difference.

And yet for Mary, such glowing corporate self-back-patting is simply meaningless as when this article goes to press, she has gone through upwards of 180 days, ignored, battered, and condescended to by faceless corporate bureaucrats who simply do not care enough to call her. And now nearly a week goes by with still no service even though “Kay” admitted to us that the bill was long paid and it is the fault of Comcast.

I provided to the office of one “Tom Karinshak”, supposedly the Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, the customer’s telephone number associated with the account, her name, her street, a rough transcript of the call with the Call Center’s “Kay”, my email, my phone etc, and he never personally contacted either one of us, he sent a minion to repeatedly send the most ridiculous and infuriating cut and paste boilerplate nonsense trying to placate me by “commending” me on helping my neighbors.

Google helpfully provided me with the most used search terms about Mr. Karinshak. It seems many many others have searched Google for Tom Karishak seeking the following keywords in order. Comcast, email, salary and contact. It appears that Mr. Karinshak has a following.

I could give a rat’s ass about receiving such condescending bullshit commending me for doing their job from a now not-so-faceless bureaucrat who cannot be bothered to get off the golf course long enough to ensure that this elderly customer is taken care of immediately, in that fake corporate double-speak of: A Single Day, a World of Difference.

It’s been around 180 days that Mary has been allowed to twist in the wind by yet another large corporation unaccountable to no one except the bottom line of the Corporation and it’s greedy shareholders who just want the profits.

Indeed, the legislators who could be doing something to protect the American consumer and average Americans are quite busy, as I type this, in removing consumer protections to let large corporations continue to run roughshod over average Americans; treating all of us Americans as mere numbers and a corporate revenue stream as if it is their right. Citizen’s United anyone?

Mary is not alone in going through sheer horror with Comcast. Meet Dann Furia, profiled in a Huffington Post story of a very similar nature in September of 2014:

Dann Furia, a 35-year-old full-time tutor from Havertown, Pennsylvania, said he spent nearly nine months documenting his unsuccessful attempts to fix, and then cancel his Comcast service. It was only when Furia decided to go public with the whole experience, writing about it in a Reddit post that went viral in mid-August, that he received any attention from the company. By then he was facing $1,320 in fees.

There are dozens of these horror stories from Comcast customers.

I believe that Mary is entitled to be re-embursed with six months prepaid Cable broadband service from Comcast, and then from January 2018, she is willing to go on the autopay to pay her monthly bill for broadband Internet service only. No added nonsense, just fast Internet as she was paying for until Comcast screwed up and lost sight of the fact that Comcast Corporate Financials arm had long ago deposited her money and put it to use to pay useless bureaucrats who claim to be high-level customer care people. I have the feeling that the faceless nameless minion who is not even willing to sign her last name to her Comcast “ECare” emails never even got this to the actual desk of Tom Karinshak now, not so faceless, as a result of this article.

It would behoove Comcast NBC Universal to remember Mary during that next corporate public relations stunt they like to call “A single day, a world of difference” by sending some young people over to her house to help her move some furniture around to clean and tidy up.

I’m betting Tom Karinshak knows about this now. And so does the Comcast Board of Directors. I’ll make sure of it and I will update this article with any progress. But I won’t be holding my breath after the deplorable service I have seen for myself out of Comcast.

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Michael Hess

Michael Hess

I started writing and editing BBSNews in 1990. Before the 'web, back in the Bulletin Board System (BBS) days. My pursuit of factual and reality based information informs my worldview. The ever evolving BBSNews contains New Mexico news, South Florida news and features, national and international news, politics, space, foreign policy and in particular; news and facts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have a long background in technical engineering, I hold several patents including on Disaster Recovery based on work after Hurricane Katrina and I am dedicated to finally seeing the rule of law properly and across the board evenly applied and enforced in the Middle East, particularly with respect to the state of Palestine. See our About Us page for more details.