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Tech Blogger Tries To Cancel Comcast Service, Hilarity Ensues (techcrunch.com)
501 points by testrun on July 15, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 339 comments

There is a new law here in Brazil since last week [1]: a customer has the right to cancel any subscription of phone, cable TV or internet contracts without talking to a representative, by automatic system. Just press some keys on the phone or fill a form in the company's website and it's done, with confirmation code and fully cancelled in two business days.

If the customer really wants to talk to a representative to cancel the services, the cancellation must be effective immediately.

[1] https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=pt&tl=en&js=y&prev...

What a pain it was to cancel a Telemar landline and Velox DSL subscription. I had to report them to Anatel. It was the only way to get it cancelled.

There's only one easy way to cancel service with a company like Comcast. You have to lie and tell them you're moving to a city that they don't serve.

They don't transfer you to customer retention and you'll be off the phone in a few minutes.

The easiest way to cancel services with shit companies like this is by mail. Spend a few minutes typing a letter, pay the small extra fee for proof of delivery, and you are done. Your post office probably has an automated self-serve kiosk where you can do this in under 5 minutes. Time is money, don't allow a company to spend your time like this.

Sure, you should be able to cancel on the phone with no hassle but that is a pipe dream. This is one instance where the old-school method still works best. I've done this with Verizon & Sprint when I lived in the States and was even able to cancel without penalty (they raised SMS a few cents each time) and not deal with their retentions people.

Now it is my preferred method for anything that takes over 10 minutes on the phone. Even if they are on the line, 10 minutes is a hard cutoff and I hang up, type a short letter, and mail it. It's low-tech but very effective.

And for anyone else with Comcast, here's the fine print that Ryan should have read to save all this aggravation. Scroll down to section 9 b (1): https://www.comcast.com/Corporate/Customers/Policies/Subscri...

Maybe Ryan read down to 9 b (3):

"you may terminate this Agreement for any reason at any time by notifying Comcast in one of three ways: [...] (3) call our customer service line during normal business hours"

I'm going to be canceling Comcast around the end of the month. You're telling me I can just send a letter to my local service center and say, "Peace out!"?

I have canceled many internet service accounts (while working with customers) from both Comcast and AT&T. While infuriating, this is not representative of the vast majority of my experiences. Reason being, this is not how retention reps are trained. This guy was clearly on a personal mission. I would be surprised if he still works for Comcast.

Here's a really simple guide to getting past customer retention:

1) Be courteous. There is no better way to get mired down in customer retention hell than to give the rep a reason to run you around.

2) Feel free to share your reasons (briefly), but be clear (politely!) that your mind won't be changed. "I need to see for myself" is always a good way to dismiss the rep's reasoning.

3) In the off chance that you get a rep like the one featured here, simply hang up and call back in a few minutes. There's absolutely no reason to invest this much frustration in a company like Comcast.

I've only had one or two cases where I simply hung up on an overzealous rep. In all other cases, the process consisted of answering two or three questions, then I was on to cancellation.

In all other cases, the process consisted of answering two or three questions, then I was on to cancellation.

It's not my job to play along with their script and help them raise revenue. It's their job to cancel service, no questions asked.

I certainly agree. I'm only offering practical advice for those who wish to call, however. If you'd rather write a letter, then absolutely do so.

There should be only one question from the rep: Is there anything we can do to change your mind? If the customer responds with anything indicating a willingness to discuss rates or packages, then by all means continue. If the customer says: No, I just want to cancel. Then turn it off.

Don't forget to include a few particulars:

* Who you are

* Where you are receiving service

* Your account number

* What date this cancellation is effective on

That's right. Keep it very short and sweet, and include the information they need to process your request. "Dude, cancel me" probably isn't going to work so think it through and refer to the contract. Everything you need to cancel is in there.

If you have any equipment to return add that too, and tell them you will be returning it to the store (you might even mail it if it's just a card).

A properly written letter is really effective, and makes great evidence in court if things go wrong and the company fails to honor their side of the bargain. Been there, done that, and won.

> Been there, done that, and won.

That would be an interesting write-up to read about.

Assuming you have Comcast equipment if a local service center is accessible it might be worth your time to walk in and drop the equipment off when you cancel. There can be a long tail on these if you have to send back equipment. The folks working the counter at these places also don't have a "retention specialist" they kick you to.

I have to say I canceled Comcast for a few months between houses my experience was pretty painless, I called in and they in-fact even sent pre-paid shipping boxes to return my modem and cable box.

Heck considering the profile this call is getting I'm guessing their "retention specialists" are going to be pretty light touch for a while.

I typically have the best results by being rude.

"I'd like to cancel my service."

"But why w-"

"I'd like to cancel my service."

"Buy we co-"

"I'd like to cancel my service."

It's not something I particularly like to trot out, but if I have to spend more than 5 minutes on the phone for something like this, it's what I tend to trot out, and I don't have to repeat myself (and interrupt them) more than two or three times for them to get the point.

"Cancel my service"

"Can you cancel my service?"

"I won't be answering any of your questions, just cancel my service".

"Cancel my service or transfer me to someone who can"

The use of worlds like "Please" and "I'd like to" just tells them that you'll indulge their scripts and tactics. It's not rude to steamroll a system intentionally designed to make it hard to cancel.

I learned that panhandlers, at least in Chicago, interpret polite negative responses as opportunity and will continue to bother me. So, I have taken to saying flatly, "Not happening." It's not so rude or demeaning that I inadvertently pick a fight, but it's blunt enough to let them know that they're just wasting their time with me.

When I'm in a place where these folks will follow you around, I turn as robotic as possible and answer once (or maybe twice to make things perfectly clear) with a simple "no". I try to leave no room for interpreting playfulness or agressiveness.

It's an interesting line to try to find: the least rude way to shut down a solicitation with one sentence or gesture.

I've found a hard stare and a subtle "no" gesture with my head generally does the trick with street solicitors.

I've had similar experience while dealing with Comcast installation techs.

The installation tech insisted that he needed to use my computer to complete the installation. My computer (running Debian, so using it was out of the question anyway) was sitting right in front of both of us. I told him that he didn't need to use it (which is true) and he insisted that he did. Then I told him that I did not have a computer. We could both see it, but only by insisting that I did not have a computer was I able to get him to complete the installation without using it (he made a short phonecall, and that was it).

Nice idea, so long as you're in the US where you don't really have an 'official' location...

I tried to do this once in Berlin to cancel a gym membership outside of the contractual limits. They required showing an official 'de-registration' from the city of Berlin. I was moving within the city at the time, so instead of telling the city I was moving, I instead told the city I was leaving and then a few weeks later reregistered with my new address.

Unfortunately I wasn't aware that this would reset the amount of uninterrupted time spent in Germany which is needed for getting a permanent residency. D'oh!

Why is a gym allowed to demand such documentation in the first place?

I was with Anytime Fitness until I moved, and I could only get out of my contract by sending them a copy of my new driver's license. I was willing to pay the ETF, but they demanded I show them my license in-person to get out, when I was hundreds of miles away. Finally I cancelled the card they were charging, let them sweat for a bit, then called and said "offer me some other way and you will get your money". They then let me email them.

But yeah, if I didn't have proof that I moved, I would have been stuck in the contract forever.

Isn't that fairly risky? What if they had passed the account to collections?

I had a record showing that I had tried to be reasonable, so if anyone reasonable was willing to talk to me, they could see that. But the reason I didn't just cancel the card and leave it at that is exactly that reason. After a month of them trying to bill me on a cancelled card, I called them and offered to pay the ETF PLUS the late fee if they would just let me email them proof that I had moved. It was still cheaper than flying back just to show them my drivers license.

I'd be more concerned with having to register with a city....

This is common if you live abroad - registering with the foreign police.

Sounds like s/he signed a contract with the gym which s/he only break if leaving town.

It wasn't quite that bad... I could cancel for any reason, but only up to something like a month before the next billing cycle.

I of course realized this around 2 weeks before the next billing cycle, so I would have been forced to pay for the whole year if I didn't show that I was leaving the city.

So I certainly have some blame to my name for not having read the contract more carefully... it just all seemed a bit crazy at the time for a gym membership.

"Outside of the contractual limits".

I usually cover all bases by claiming I'm emigrating and leaving the country - only way to be sure :)

"Well, do you serve the International Space Station? No? Then I will not be able to use your service."

"I an in the Navy, and will be in a submarine for the next two years"

Just don't get caught lying on a recording about being a military member. That's a felony. ;)

No, it's not.

I assume you're incorrectly referring to the Stolen Valor Act (of 2013, as the earlier one was struck down for violating the First Amendment). That law specifically handles cases in which someone claims they are a recipient of an award related to combat AND does so with the intent to receive money, property or a tangible benefit.

Simply lying about military service to a Comcast Support Technician is not a crime.

It rather depend where you are. [Yes the assumption here is North America / USA, not sure on Comcast's reach?]

In the UK under Seamen’s and Soldiers’ False Characters Act 1906 Section 1, due to a technicality (excision of restricting terms) any [im]personation of HM Forces' seamen or soldiers is illegal.¹

It's been superseded by the Fraud Act 2006 which is more strict in needing a fraud to be committed viz "he false representation is made dishonestly and with the intention of making a gain".

1 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Edw7/6/5#commentary-c578...

2 - http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/lc308_Statute_Law_R... at page 39 (PDF page 43)

Getting rid of Comcast would definitely be "making a gain". Ugh.

That is the act that I was referring to, and I wasn't aware it was struck down. To the best of my recollection it was specifically targeted at people who lied about service for some personal gain. (However negligible that gain may be.)

Seems I was wrong, though it is kind of hilarious that got 4 downvotes. It was an honest mistake.

Comcast doesn't serve Madison, WI in case anyone needs a city for this.

I just hang up and call again. You'll eventually get someone who doesn't care and will just disconnect you.

I once had a Comcast agent claim that he needed my father's death certificate to cancel my service! (No it was not under his name, it was always under my name.)

I once had a Comcast agent claim that he needed my father's death certificate to cancel my service!

Wtf, really? That is simply unconscionable. Are these even people on the end of the line? What kind of worthless piece of shit asks someone for their father's death certificate to cancel a cable service?

That's the instant that you tell them to escalate to their supervisor.

What is terrible is you have to LIE. I understand the OP POV. He has the right to disconnects without justify himself.

This is a privacy matter.

The operator acting is barely legal.

The operator acting is barely legal.

Still technically legal, bad faith business dealings? For better or worse (worse imo) this is just how businesses currently operate by default.

It's "just business" when you're perpetrating it, and the sky is falling when it happens to you. For a handful of reasons, the powerful (read: monied) are spared the brunt of the ugly end. Comcast is a regional monopoly that sells service to a lot of poor people. Welcome to the retention department.

I agree, I hate the idea of normalizing this kind of behavior.

I've done something similar with phone contracts. I usually tell them that I am going to live in the woods for a year and do some coppicing.

Accidentally downvoted you, meant to upvote... sorry about that.

Anyhow: I was actually moving, told Comcast so, and I was indeed off the phone in a few minutes. "I wonder what everyone's concern about Comcast is anyway," I wondered. Then, a few days later, the "follow-up" calls began. It got to the point that I had to block the Comcast number just to get some peace.

It often works to ask to be put on their courtesy do not call list.

Systematically, they don't actually want to spend effort on people that don't want to talk to them and the 'courtesy do not call list' line says 'stop calling me' without inviting an argument.

It's probably more effective if you don't mind talking over their initial spiel.

I believe they could also be fined up to $16,000 if you put your number on the "do not call" registry and ask them not to call you again.


I know I'll never follow up on that so I'm more focused on convincing the operator to give up on me with a minimum amount of grief and fuss (on both sides).

Or just tell them that Frontier offered you a free pony if you switch. Pretty sure that's not in the script ;)

Yep top tip, always say it's because I'm moving country, only way not to get passed to the customer retention department and it's usually processed immediately with no hassle.

I just stand in line at their customer service center, say I'm closing my account and return the cable box. It's over in a few minutes.

This being HN no one likes to talk about regulatory solutions, but the silence on this one is startling. Wasn't there a day in the US when companies would be fined for this sort of business practice?

Why can't we go there today? Is it simply the triumph of free-market orthodoxy and a tacit acceptance that to be a consumer today one must subject oneself to this sort of rapaciousness?

I think you're missing the point all together. The only reason a company can behave this way and retain the number of customers who would have otherwise moved elsewhere is because there isn't a free-market. The companies are run as oligopolies. It is government intervention and protection that has caused this problem in the first place which is what most people don't realize.

Nope, I get it. What I'm saying is that a backdrop of consumer protection legislation can deal with the reality of this situation (which, sadly, doesn't look like it is going to be fixed any time soon), without being intrusive when the market is allowed to work.

A company that presents only the choice of paying for service one doesn't want or being put into collections and having one's credit destroyed should be fined until it corrects its behavior or goes out of business.

You seem to be arguing that government intervention is what caused this mess, so more government intervention is not the answer.

The trouble is that "government intervention" is such a general term that the statement is useless. It's barely one step better than "doing things caused this problem in the first place, so doing things is not the solution to it."

There's good government intervention and bad government intervention. That bad government intervention caused the problem doesn't mean that good government intervention can't help.

> You seem to be arguing that government intervention is what caused this mess, so more government intervention is not the answer.

People always say that, but I don't agree with it. Yes, the government caused the mess, but that doesn't mean they can't fix it. When I break someone's website with bad code, no one says "well, you caused this problem with code, more code is obviously not the answer so get the hell out." I iterate, fix the bugs and improve my solution. Why shouldn't government regulation get the same approach?

read the rest of your comment... we're arguing the same side. Sorry. I'll let my comment stand though.

Hey, there's no law that says any reply must be an argument against the comment it's replying to. At least, not until out-of-control government regulators mandate it.

(edited for source)

There is no such thing as a free market: it is an idealistic theoretical construct.

And even if it were real, it would only be efficient if P=NP[0].

0. http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.2284

The whole trick behind that paper is to take the definition of "market efficiency" to mean that all profit opportunities, even those requiring solving difficult computational problems, are identified immediately. Then, you encode NP-complete problems as exchange offerings, and the efficient trader would have to be an oracle for it.

This is, obviously, not what most people have in mind by market efficiency, and simply means that the definition needs to be generalized to account for lags in pure inferential operations -- i.e. "all profit opportunities are exploited as soon as a real-world computation system could notice it". Still a strong claim, but not trivially refuted by turning exchanges into oracles by clever choice of exchange offers.

Note: no one thinks all markets are efficient in the "EMH sense", only highly-liquid ones like electronic securities exchanges in developed countries. Also, it's different from the sense of Pareto-efficient that most political advocates of markets mean when advocating them.

"And even if it were real, it would only be efficient if P=NP."

Because finding global optima is hard? I grant that, but:

1) things can be intractably hard even if P=NP - O(n^10000) is in P, and there are complexity classes strictly harder than P (e.g. EXPTIME)), and since there are innumerable moves anyone could take out into the future "optimal resource distribution" could plausibly fall in EXPTIME.

2) Regardless, any single entity determining optimal resource distribution also needs to solve the same problem.

If you were saying something else, please clarify.

My edit cited the paper in question, where the author shows how to use markets to solve NP-complete problems.

Either markets are weak-form efficient and P=NP, or markets are not weak-form efficient and P≠NP.

Ah. Cute, but doesn't look like something that can actually be applied to the real world.

Kind of like theoretical free markets.


The difference is that you can have a model that is not precise and which still makes useful predictions. You can't have a proof that's not precise and still proves P=NP.

Note that it is not "the existence of free markets" that is assumed and breaks things, but the existence of free markets with a particular formulation of a particular property. As strictly defined there, weak-form efficiency also allows seems to allow FTL communication.

Your point is technically true, but you can consider it an idiom for either "maximally free market" or "sufficiently free market".

Unfortunately, in a market where the number of choices available are limited by physical space (Do you know what it looks like when 15 different ISPs all run their own last-mile hardware? Would you like to live in a city where 8 different sewage disposal companies all run their own waste pipelines?), a sufficiently free market is practically impossible.

In some cases, even a nebulously defined "sufficiently" free market is impossible.

Bitcoin is a free market.

The theoretical limits on efficiency also apply to regulated markets. The question worth asking is, which one is more efficient?

A currency is not a market.

Unless the only thing that can be bought is Bitcoin. With Bitcoin. In which case, yes. You're right. It is a free market. And completely pointless.

This sounds like woo science. A link to a paper proving this assertion would be cool.

NP problems are still solvable, so if the problem of finding an efficient solution is NP then that means that it can be efficient.

We're an entrepreneurial community and here is a case of demand.

Why not meet the demand to cut off internet services?

One idea: create a phone service where I call a third-party (you, the entrepreneur) that connects me to the best number to cancel my service. The third party determines if recording the call is legal and records if so, posting the recording online, along with metadata: date, duration, agent name, locale, etc. If recording call is not legal, still post metadata, or also get all parties' permission to record.

Possibly create script through trial and error to counter their script. Can compile data on agents and supervisors names, can follow up with complaints for agents or supervisors to customer service, etc. Can file complaints with elected representatives, FCC, etc... stuff individuals don't have time for but want to.

Another idea: create a web site that takes subscriber information and mails effective letter, registered if necessary, to best address for service provider, using language to set up legal case if necessary.

In both cases, the company could, over time, compile statistics on each service provider's difficulties, giving some accountability. It could also discover their weaknesses and overcome what individuals might not be able to.

You can probably think of many other ways to attack the problem and satisfy the unmet need.

Might not make huge money, but could create great visibility for the entrepreneur. Then again, it might make huge money too, since so many companies play hardball retaining customers.

Or, if you need to cancel your service, make a short phonecall informing them that you are cancelling your service effective immediately and if they attempt to charge your account again, the charge will be contested and complaints will be filed with the Better Business Bureau. Then hang up.

You don't actually need their permission to cancel your service with them at all. You shouldn't be ASKING to cancel your service, you should be TELLING them it's cancelled. If they continue to ask questions, that is their business, hang up on them.

If only the BBB had any actual power!

Then again, it might make huge money too, since so many companies play hardball retaining customers.

How would that result in this endeavor making money?

In any case, this is not actually a problem that is difficult to solve. Yes, a phone call like that is utterly infuriating, but you can still cancel your service at the end of it.

Maybe people would pay money to avoid dealing with that. Maybe. But you do it, what, once a year at most?

Actually, there was a company that would take all your bills, call up the companies representing you, and get your bill lowered. They made 10% off that (so if they lowered your comcast bill from $90 to $60, they'd make $3 on it).

There is a name for the practices of cable companies, cell phone providers, and banks - adversarial value extraction.

I'd like to know if this company exists and how to find them. And if they don't exist, why they failed?

If you take away the adversarial part of the idea and don't assume that you have to work against the company, it becomes more profitable. Companies that infuriate their customers would be named and shamed, but shown where their customer service is failing, and how to do better. Mystery shopper companies work on the same principle.

With a company like Comcast, they do not want to do better. Doing better costs money, and it won't make them any money. Their video distribution service is destined to die. Any 12 year old with an Internet connection can distribute video content BETTER than Comcast can (because Comcast is bound by all sorts of silly distribution agreement contracts that restrict what they can do, something that was necessary 30 years ago but not today). And they know your options for Internet access are Comcast or nothing (or next to it with things like DSL and satellite being jokes) in the vast majority of their market.

Ooooh. Like the parking spot auction app? Comcast sets up a company to handle cancellations and charges fees for it. Then, they make their cancellation procedure so arduous that people pay to leave. Then, they sell a subscription to the service.

It's like win-win-win!

Just tell them you're moving to another state/country. Works for me

Indeed, I used that angle when I called to cancel. It was pretty painless. When they asked me where I was moving to, I just said, "moving" and the rep pursued again, and I said "The moon".

That particular rep left me alone after that. I've received two phone calls since, to which I said, "I live in a yert in manitoba now" and the second call I just hung up. I still 9 months later receive occasion break up letters from comcast, asking me to come back.

Or tell them you got free internet and cable for life from one of their competitors (and if they ask how you got it, tell them you changed jobs and you now work for them). It would be impossible for them to match that offer, so they'll just leave you alone. If they do match that offer, it's still a win!

It has already worked for me more than once (unfortunately, nobody ever tried to offer me free service).

that only works if there IS a comparable competitor in your local market.

Tell them you work for Boeing as an Iridium technician. It's like having free access to the world's most complicated ham radio!

"Oh, you want to transfer your Comcast account to a new home? Tell me your new address and we can start the migration process."

Totally sleezy. No self respecting person would do this. That said, I've dealt with comcast before. After telling them I would cancel due to their arbitrary "end of promotion" I was redirected to their "loyalty department" which miraculously found another promotion for me that would prevent me from paying $80 a month for slow buffering internet.

> Totally sleezy. No self respecting person would do this

If it even occured to them it might be sleezy, they'd rationalize that they do it to please their boss and keep their job, and that it's more important to them than being decent to a random stranger :/

Yaguarón 1414, Montevideo, Uruguay

I love this. The letter route might be the best way to go with some providers. Perhaps the service would require the client to sign a very very limited power of attorney- to disconnect the service- in order to get e.g. Comcast to comply.

Servicenuke.com is available...

I built a tool around FreeSWITCH to do this in some down time between gigs. Trust was the biggest issue; the 3rd party recording the call hears account information, mothers maiden, secret codes and silly things like this. Trust was hard.

Along this line, I'd love it if there was a service that would go around and remove you from all the shit websites out there. Like this, but something that wouldn't eat up days of my time to do it.

* HOW TO: Remove yourself from ALL background check websites. Thanks to LawyerCT. : technology || http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/j1mit/how_to_rem...

I've had lots of trouble with ISPs before. About a decade ago Bulldog Broadband were the first to offer 8Mb service in London, and at a reasonable price, and they oversold so massively their staff couldn't cope.

After a month of no service I called to cancel, and after 45 minutes on hold I gave up. I tried again. And again. Eventually I got through to someone who processed the cancellation. I got an email saying "To confirm your intended cancellation, send an email to cancellation-confirmation@..."

That address didn't exist. The next month they started to charge me for a service I wasn't getting. I had a different ISP by this point. I called and got the money back. They took it again the next month. I called and got the money back. The third month I got a letter saying I hadn't paid for three months, so they took three months money from my card. This time I called and got the money back and demanded they remove me from their systems. Eventually someone said OK.

Six months later I got a demand for 9 months service charges. I called and told them to stuff it. Another six months later they started demanding even more money and making threats. That's when I started the official (UK) complaints procedure. You start by writing a long email setting out your demands, end it by saying "This will also be sent by registered mail, and you have 30 days to resolve this until I report you to the communications ombudsman"

The first response I got to that was a letter saying "We understand you'd like to cancel your service?" So I sent another letter, stating my demands and that no, there had never been a service to cancel, and by the way this is being sent by registered post and you have 18 days before I contact the ombudsman.

I think by the third letter it had been resolved, almost 18 months since I first tried to cancel the account. I had to move house shortly after that though, and I've worried since then that one day they're going to turn around and say "hold on, this guy owes us for ten years of broadband! Let's ruin his credit rating!"

I don't understand why you put up with them charging you so many times. After the second fraudulent charge, I'd just deal with my credit card company directly. Call them up and have the charges reversed. You get your money back and they get punished by their card company for the fraudulent charge.

If more people did this, instead of waiting on hold for hours to fight with customer service for your own money back, the ISP would likely lose their merchant account for their fraudulent activity.

Edit: one other note when cancelling, make sure to take down the date, time and operator name & number during your interactions and note what was said. When I've had trouble with managing accounts, referencing that information strengthened my case dramatically.

I have a Google Doc that I keep for all these notes. While I'm on hold, I open up the doc and get it ready. Be clear that you're taking notes and they'll take the conversation more seriously too.

I think they had my debit card details rather than credit (foolish) on the third occasion I wanted to make sure they left me alone and it seems I was at least successful in getting them to delete my card details from their system.

After that they just sent demands, as they had no card to charge.

But yes, should have just called HSBC and told them the charges were fraudulent, I know better now!

You can pay bills with credit cards?

Here in the UK most large (and many small) organisations let you pay bills (one off or recurring) by credit card, debit card, direct debit, bank transfer (and occasionally cheque in the post). Some will charge a small fee for credit cards, but most won't.

For many cases, yes. (At least in the US.) It's an easy way of earning points if you have a reward card.

Bank charges are also reversible.

I don't use a debit card much but I heard that you don't get as many consumer protects with debit cards as you do with credit cards. If you're going to pay bills, for many reasons, use a credit card instead of debit cards.

You have virtually NO consumer protection with a debit card. Once the money is gone, it is gone.

This is why merchant acquirers charge a flat rate of a few pence for debit card transactions, and an extortionate percentage for credit card transactions - chargeback risk. Cannae do with a debit card without bumping into Dante and his buddy in their digs first.

> You have virtually NO consumer protection with a debit card. Once the money is gone, it is gone.

Only if it's a card-present debit transaction (i.e., you entered a PIN). If you use your debit card and don't enter a PIN, it's automatically run as a credit card, and you have the same protections.

> a few pence

Is that the case in England? In the States, there are many debit card protections, they're just not as extensive as credit card protections.

There are some protections in the UK for debit card use, but less than for credit card. Credit Card use has more legal protections because it is an instrument of debt, and the CC provider is legally a party to the debt, which comes with a whole bunch of responsibilities. Debit cards are protected by some legal stuff and the banking code.

In this case debt is good :)

Additionally, if you're in a one-party state, recording the call can never hurt.

Usually they are recording the call anyway (or reserving the right to). A robot normally mentions it at the beginning of the call. I'm no lawyer, but maybe this is enough to give you permission to record your own copy?

If both parties are aware that the call may be recorded, then either party may record it. That is covered by the boilerplate "this call may be recorded" language that pretty much every call center uses.

afaik Europe doesn't have the same rules regarding chargebacks and it's much harder to successfully dispute a charge there.

Chargebacks only work the way they do in the U.S. due to regulatory requirements that the card companies allowed to go into law because they'd figured out how to profit any time a chargeback was filed.

Chargebacks in the UK are protected by law, where credit is concerned, because the CC company is a party to the debt they are legally compelled to return the money to you pending an investigation.

I don't know about the rest of Europe but here in the UK it's just as easy as the US and just as black and white.

This reminds of a guy who was on Leno back in the early 2000's. He got a bill from his energy company telling him he owed $0.00 and should pay immediately otherwise his service will get shut off.

He ignores the notice and every couple of weeks, he starts getting threatening letters from the company. When he finally got the shut off service warning letter, he figured he'd better do something.

He sent the company a check for $0.00 and within a week got a notice back thanking him for his payment. He not only brought all the notices, he brought the canceled check and the final thank you letter.

Automated billing systems can be unreal sometimes.

It looks like a pretty old tale... http://www.snopes.com/business/bank/zero.asp

Hey, shared experience here - I also jumped on that bandwagon, and had the same experience when trying to cancel. By the time they acknowledge my numerous and increasingly furious demands, they'd flogged their customer base to Virgin, who insisted I had a deemed contract with them and couldn't cancel.

I went down a completely different route to you, ultimately - I took them to small claims court on the basis that they'd charged me illegally and therefore owed me £600 or so, they failed to show to either mediation or court, I got a default judgment in my favour, they didn't pay it, but they did stop contacting and invoicing me, and my credit score wasn't dented.

Now, British Gas and the electricity meter that ticked over from 99999 to 00000 and resulted in a £15k power bill is another story entirely...

I wonder if you could sell that debt to a collections agency.(I don't know how things work in the UK.)

I'd like to hear the electric meter story, too.

Iv got a similar story.

I had internet from our national monopoly for couple of years. Cancelled it in one of their brick and mortar rep centers no problem.

One month passes and new bill shows up, its like they didnt notice me cancelling. Called them, rep confirmed bug in system, said he resolved it and gave me confirmation number. Next month same thing. This time my first words were 'im recording this, state your name again' followed by 'I am holding you personally responsible if your company tries to extort money from me ever again, your name will be on court papers'. Worked like magic, no more phantom bills.

I dont care its just some some poor sob working for the man in call center. Company tried to steal my money and they were part of that system.


I tried both Speakeasy (now MegaPath) DSL and ClearWire WiMax. They sucked. The 10mbps DSLs downstream sometimes reached up to 200kbps. The TCP/IP behind the WiMax would regularly disappear for hours.

For each, I called to get the RMA (to send their gear back), cancel service, and then I immediately canceled the credit card on file.

Both then sent me to collections. I tried contesting the bills. "Sorry, we don't have any record of you canceling." (You'd think possession of the modems would be a clue.)

Neither have sent these bills to a credit rating agency (e.g. Transunion, Experian), so I've ignored them.

I'm in the Bay Area. I recently switched from a Comcast business circuit down to a residential circuit. The Comcast Loyalty Rep was fierce. Insisting I owed them 60 days notice, even though I was in a month to month contract. Told me he had to have me sign paperwork to cancel that was going to take up to a week to e-mail to me. I put up a fight, insisted on a supervisor, whom conveniently was in a Chicago office for another week.

So what did I do? I called 3 other times in a row, got 3 different people, asked to speak to a supervisor. Each said I would have a call back within 24 - 48 business hours.

I did. They called.

I explained all about the paperwork and supervisor out of town and it was literally all made up. All of it.

EDIT: My better side is resisting not calling out the guy who gave me the hassle by posting his name and e-mail.

EDIT 2: I forgot to mention that the rep tried to tell me that the "Terms Of Service" I signed the contract with wasn't valid anymore because it was to old. I asked well I didn't get any new paperwork to agree to the new Terms Of Service. His reply was that paying my bill every month was agreement enough, I didn't need to be told about changes. Doesn't make any sense.

One way to guarantee a reason to get a supervisor is to state "Because of the security nature of this call I am unable to reveal that information."

That is an interesting idea!

Out of curiosity why switch back to residential? I've been generally happy with their business service in both MI and FL. Seems like normally you don't have to deal with most of the BS that residential people do.

1. They raised my business circuit from $69/mo to $99/mo for 20/5.

2. They raised the cost of statics, from 5 for $9.99 to 5 $19.99.

3. They sent me a letter saying that there has been a billing mistake for the last 6 years, I have been being under billed for my service.

4. They raised the monthly modem cost to $9.95/mo and you have to use their modem as a business customer.

So I went down to a residential 50/10, no contract, provided my own modem for $44.95 a month.

Here in the Netherlands the situation got significantly better after a famous comedian (Youp van 't Hek) went completely public with the misery that ensued after calling t-mobile to get a problem fixed with his sons iPhone. (http://www.nrcnext.nl/blog/2010/10/25/youp-vant-hek-brengt-t...)

T-mobile found themselves suddenly completely on the defensive in various TV-shows. They apologized profusely. It was very funny, things really got better.

Is there an English translation of this floating around somewhere? I'm curious to know the specifics of the exchange.

I can't find it if there is any. I'd Google "Youp van 't hek tmobile" and use Google translate, sorry.

I'm amazed at how calm he remains during this. I would've called the guy - regardless of whether he's "just doing his job" - every name under the sun and probably threatened to pay him a visit in person...

That said, I guess if I were recording it to share on the Internet later, I might've been able to control myself slightly more than usual.

This guys have it rough. I used to call them a lot and I can't recall a single instance where I saw someone raising their voice had a better outcome. The only had a more stressful call.

The operator pushes it a lot but consider this: he is probably paid like shit and he probably get commission on how many customers he can retain. Maybe if he loses too many he can even lose his job. Knowing this and knowing that their job is extremely horrible(getting called names all day) what I see here is not the operator's fault at all. I see a person crushed by a job that he might be losing taking the blame for problems that he didn't cause(maybe in this instance but they often do). The only thing I have for someone like this is a kind word instead of rage. If you are unsatisfied at the end of the call, send a complaint letter about the service, do not take it on the operator.

(Obviously there are exceptions where the operators are just assholes)

You must be a saint.

I don't really care much for the commissions, or the livelihoods, of people who knowingly take jobs that make other people's lives worse. I know in some locales call-centre jobs are the best (in terms of compensation) they can get, and I'm sorry that that's the state of affairs the world is in, but if they're willing to make my life miserable to make theirs a bit better, they can put up with being shouted at from time to time.

As far as I know call centre jobs are not very high paying, they are just the only job people can get.

Except it's more like they're willing to make your life a little more irritating in order to massively improve their lives and those of their dependents.

That is a bit like worrying about the innocents working on the deathstar.

They know what kind of job it is. They do it anyway.

Very few people have the job flexibility that many of us here on HN have. This may be the best-paying job available to this person, or the only job they were able to get that they can effectively travel to -- regardless, given the unpleasant nature of the work, it's unreasonable to assume that they meaningfully "chose" the job without additional evidence.

It's not exactly working for the Spanish Inquisition. The guy was annoying and wasted 20 minutes of the client's time. I wouldn't say it's ethical, let's not overreact.

Sure, but you're not going to hurt the Death Star by screaming at one of the welders and insulting him. How does that help anything?

Ah, the famous "Only doing its job" excuse.

Yes, their job is shitty, but when your job is to bully people (by phone or otherwise), don't expect rainbows and unicorns.

I don't know how the situation for jobs in the US is but in Italy, where I had my experience, the people that do this job don't do it because it's their dream job but because they have bills to pay and finding "something better" is not always easy.

But this is hacker news, where homeless people just need to learn how to write apps and bootstrap themselves out of abject poverty.

Part of accepting capitalism to such an extent as HN is a brutal lack of empathy.

Job market isn't great here either (France, so not as bad as Italy), and I perfectly understand one taking a shitty job to support one's family.

Still, getting a job where you are paid with my money to harass me is not the way to get on my good side. Either way, I never take those calls, and never take anonymous calls either, unless I'm looking for a job.

Beside, that kind of behavior from a company here (in France at least, and probably most of Europe) is probably illegal.

They may have it rough but there is no way I would take the kind of abuse that was on the recording.

Raising his voice and getting audibly angry would have likely shut down her incessant line of questioning pretty quickly.

It doesn't even have to be a genuine anger...I've done this quite a bit. If I am in a hurry and a service rep ever starts to pry questions into the conversation I just make a little huff and puff and they will generally decide to move the conversation along by just doing as I asked in the first place.

You don't have to be abusive to get your point across...just let them know you aren't listening to their bullshit.

I think I'd try negotiating directly with the operator: "How much commission do you get if I don't cancel? Oh, $50? Well, tell me your paypal or bitcoin address and I'll send you that much if you disconnect this right now..."

Get. A. Better. Job.

But this job has much better service, guaranteed! You've been with us for a long time, why leave now?

Put your money where your mouth is. Go to these people. Teach them how to get better jobs.

Or just hire them.

Only if he's going to give them a better job than what they have. Otherwise it doesn't count.

I generally find it's pretty effective to get very briefly loud and angry, and then say something like, "I'm very frustrated with this situation and I'm trying not to take it out on you," and resume politeness at that point. It seems to shock people out of their script a bit.

That said, I've never dealt with anyone quite as tenacious as the guy in that recording.

Yeah, this is actually amazing. I don't think I would have lasted more than 2 minutes answering the same question over and over again.

He wasn't answering the question over and over; he was refusing to answer the question.

Which is, of course, his right. And maybe it would turn out that the rep would refuse to recognize his answer. And there is some social value in there occasionally being a crank who refuses to play by the rules just to expose them for the silliness there is.

But realize he wasn't trying to get through this call easily. He was trying to make a point.

I don't think that's fair to the caller. He was polite, and was clear in what he wanted. Had the Comcast agent said "Okay, I understand that you don't want to tell me that, let's move on" the call would have moved on and not ended up on the internet. He wanted his service cancelled, and did not want to engage in a conversation about it. How else could the caller have possibly handled it?

Also, the caller was not a "crank who refuses to play by the rules." There is no rule that says customers have to fill out a survey upon canceling service. It was clear to me that the Comcast agent was also not asking those questions honestly. He was using them as a rhetorical trick to get the customer to eventually say, "Fine, don't cancel my service."

How else could the caller have possibly handled it?

This is obvious: by answering the question. I'll repeat that he was under no obligation to answer that question.

My mother-in-law does the same thing this guy does: stands her ground and refuses to answer any questions. It's completely her right to engage in that manner, but she neither asks for nor gets any sympathy for how long she has to stay on the phone with people.

Maximally demanding all your rights all the time is usually not coincident with smooth interactions with other human beings.

If you had read the article properly, you would have seen that he did answer that question. The call went for 18 minutes, he answered the question at the start if the call: he states this.

I think my answer (after being asked so many times) would be:

"I've had horrible customer support from a Comcast rep, and I don't want to continue to patronize a company that would hire someone who acts that way."

(The next logical step is to ask for the offending rep's name, to which he could respond "what was your name again?")

What's the retention angle from that point? Is it "I promise if you stay with us, I'll go right to my boss and have him fire me"?

Yes, but answering the first question would lead to a million other questions since the rep obviously set his mind on something from the start. He said he's moving to a different service, then the rep says why are you moving, don't you want the #1 internet & tv, etc.

He did answer the question, multiple times, just not in a way that the Comcast agent could use. Again, it was not an honest question. It was a rhetorical trick.

Maybe. But he says he started recording 10 minutes into the call, and that he and his wife (who started the call) were answering the rep's questions, but not getting anywhere.

This is a great example for how setting goals can do more harm than good. If you start measuring people, they'll optimize for what you are measuring.

The preamble text was pretty clear, this was 10 minutes into the call and after he had already answered these questions. They have a scripted response to every possible answer and none of them lead to "OK, we'll disconnect you" except for moving to an area they don't serve.

Just because they ask it doesn't mean you have to answer; I'd just say "I'm not continuing this conversation until you inform me you've canceled the service", then put the phone on speaker and do something else until he came around.

"The customer declined to continue with the cancellation process."

Can they cut you off? In the call centers I know, they need the supervisors' permission to hang up on someone.

What usually happens to me is that they'll put me on hold, and after five minutes, I'll get disconnected.

I was swearing while listening to the conversation.. having one would have given me a hemorrhage.

I've heard multiple times now that it's hard to cancel contracts at various providers, but I don't really see how this is an issue.

If the official way (according to the contract) to cancel a contract is a phone call, what difference does it make if the remote party accepts this cancellation? Just state that you are cancelling the contract, make sure to get a recording (if legal in your jurisdiction) and chargeback all unauthorized future credit card charges.

And then they'll eventually send your account to collections, where it will be an even bigger pain to straighten out.

Something similar happened to me with AT&T (now Comcast, I believe) in Chicago. I was moving away so I canceled service, returned my equipment in person and even got a receipt! But someone forgot to log something somewhere, so they kept sending me bills. For months, I kept calling and (foolishly) believed them when they said it would be straightened out soon... until they threatened to send my account to collections.

In the end, it took a letter to the office of the CEO with the whole story and a copy of my receipt to fix things (and if it hadn't I'd already started researching my legal options).

The last time that happened to me, collections took one look at the notes on the account, apologised, informed me that his manager was now writing an extremely annoyed email to billing, and had it fixed before I was off the phone.

Collections tend to be more likely to play hardball, but they often also tend to contain smarter humans. Sometimes this helps.

I did this once, and was impressed with how intelligent, friendly, and helpful the collections agency was.

Unfortunately, billing responded to the collections agency by yanking the debt back from that collections agency and referring it to another, meaning I had to start all over again. I don't know if that's against the rules, but it didn't seem fair and certainly wasn't nice.

Comcast ran the same scheme on me when I cancelled. Sent me to collections for "unreturned equipment" after sending me a receipt confirming receipt of equipment. My assumption was that it was retaliatory since I had the bank stop payment on a recurring monthly charge they billed me for after I had cancelled my service. Took months to sort out. Stuck on DSL now, but when you count the time I don't have to talk to Comcast, it still feels fast.

Exact same thing happened to me with AT&T, and when someone informed me it was sent to collections, I informed them they would be hearing from a lawyer if it wasn't resolved in the next 24 hours. This was after I had documented proof that it had been paid. These companies are abysmal.

I doubt there is any kind of actual contract in play, so either party can choose cancel the relationship at any time. I would just send a written notice in addition to making sure they've heard about the cancellation on the phone (and recorded it). As long as they've been reasonably notified, you're not buying their services anymore.

Big business (and especially the collections agencies they usually send this kind of supposed "debt" to) love to say a lot of things, but that doesn't make it legal.

So they claim some account is "in collections", implying you have some sort of debt to them. If they say that publicly[1] and that hurts some future opportunity due to the "bad reputation", then a libel (or slander, as appropriate) lawsuit should be filed. While each case would be different[2], you create a lot of the mess by acknowledging their incorrect claims.

Business walk away from stuff all the time, and so can you. If any restrictions were desired, they should have been written into a proper contract beforehand.

incidentally; this is also why "identify theft" is a stupid term - nobody stole your identity, which is immutable. What someone did was defraud a bank to get money. You were not a party to that transaction (or crime). The fact that banks wan to be lazy ad not do proper background checks on people they loan money to does not give them the right to recover that money from a 3rd party, not does it put any amount of fault on that 3rd part). Calling such a situation "identify theft" instead of "lazy bank loses money and blame it on an innocent 3rd part" is a modern version of "they were asking for it" style victim blaming.

[1] I include Experian/Equifax/TransUnion/etc in this - despite. Saying something incorrect - with the purpose of advising another business that that you are probably an expensive risk - is the very definition of libel.

[2] As always, check local laws and ask a lawyer

Also chiming in: same thing happened to me, but they sent my account to collections without notifying me first.

When I was on the phone with the collections agent, I was very polite and told her I knew she was just doing her job. I then got her to admit that this sort of thing happens all the time with AT&T, and that a lot of her phone calls go the same way.

Since then I've suspected that AT&T's practices go beyond mere incompetence and into abusive territory.

It is a huge problem, it's bullying people into staying with them. Not everyone would be capable or willing to go through what you say you should do.

If you're willing to go through it, good for you as it's a good form of protest (they'll get charged a lot for each chargeback). But if it ever gets to the stage where this it is now, it's totally broken.

Exactly. Another horrifying example of this is eFax: never ever EVER subscribe to that thing :(

what difference does it make if the remote party accepts this cancellation?

The continuation of provided service, followed by a bill in the mail.

make sure to get a recording (if legal in your jurisdiction)

And how exactly do you prove that it is a recording of a conversation with Comcast if their lawyers decide to dispute it?

Call records, plus recording, plus subsequent chargeback, would likely be enough to contest a "nuh-uh!" from their end.

You don't have to prove things in a civil suit, you just have to provide enough evidence to show that it is more likely than unlikely.

I believe a more formal way to do it would be by registered mail. In Europe at least. Mail gets a timestamp that is trusted.

This plan seems to assume that there is a low or zero cost with the hassle of having to deal with those future billings.

Yeah, of course this guy didn't have to put up with a phone call like this. Comcast has bad service, but I highly doubt this is the norm. He could have hung up and called again, no problem. But he stayed on the phone because after ten minutes, he was already drooling thinking about sending this recording to his buddies at Techcrunch.

So yeah, maybe he's a bit needlessly overdramatic about this, but personally I'm thankful for the entertainment.

Hanging up and calling back does work but it can be time consuming. I once spent an entire day calling and hanging up on Comcast in order to fix a problem (I knew what the problem was, but they wouldn't listen because it wasn't part of their script). When I got a rep that listened, it was fixed in 20 seconds, but I had literally just wasted my entire day already.

Not buddies, his employees.

The guy who he was talking to works for Comcast, is pursuing Comcast goals (which aggressively punishes agents who don't have high enough retention rates), and is recorded and often monitored by Comcast. The Comcast agent clearly has a list of complaints/responses that they use to try to defuse all complaints -- not that they've actually solved your problem, but rather that they made you think the call was no longer worth it and just give up trying to cancel.

Their entire job as retention agents is to waste enough of your time, and try to press enough buttons, that you give up.

The whole "I am waiting for the system to complete the process, so listen to my arguments while we wait" nonsense, for instance. Credit card companies do the same thing for activations, using the "waiting for the system to finish" to pitch insurance and other unwanted products.

This is a problem. This is a major problem. This is why so many services allow you to sign up in seconds online, but require long, drawn out waste-of-time phone calls to cancel. To force you through this gauntlet, making most just forget about it.

Cynically claiming that this guy manufactured this situation betrays logic of this situation. He dealt with what is a profound problem that most customers deal with.

> This is a major problem. This is why so many services allow you to sign up in seconds online, but require long, drawn out waste-of-time phone calls to cancel.

And that is why businesses should push for legislation making it illegal. It is rare for me to sign up for a service using my credit card, and I'm not the only one. The bottom feeders make it hard for legitimate companies to get customers.

I was able to cancel my account with comcast, just two weeks ago, in under twenty minutes.

Are you saying that if he had hung up, and called again, he would have faced an equally long phone call?

My point is that he did not have to put up with this. Obviously there are going to be some bad apples amongst the thousands of comcast customer service employees. He could have hung up on this guy, called back, and gotten a much more reasonable employee to cancel his account.

In twenty minutes, at my hourly rate, I earn roughly:

- the entire hourly-equivalent salary of a new high school teacher (average, US) or

- enough to pay for my entire Starbucks consumption for over a week or

- enough to pay for almost two of my family's "luxuries" (netflix and one other service) or

- enough to pay for the entire quantity of gas I use every month or

- almost certainly double (or more) of the Comcast Rep's wage

This isn't meant to brag but to put in perspective what twenty minutes is worth via a common valuation (money). The lower the socioeconomic class, the more twenty minutes is actually worth, because they tend to have to work more hours to make ends meet, and thus their free time, unit for unit, ought to be valued more highly than mine.

Under twenty minutes is short? Seems like this blogger got it taken care of in 8:14, and that was still frustratingly long for all of us to listen to.

He states that he started to record after ten minutes, so he only succeeded after ~18 minutes.

Yeah, I was mostly joking about that, because bragging that it took 20 minutes is silly. I noticed it said he didn't begin recording until 10 minutes in, but the 8:14 was funnier ;)

Besides, the ~18 minutes is still faster than the parent poster's claim.

>I was able to cancel my account with comcast, just two weeks ago, in under twenty minutes.

It's hilarious how you say that like it's a good thing. Hint: No it's not.

But why should I have to waste my time playing that game?

Twenty minutes? Did you maybe intend to say twenty second? Because twenty minutes sounds rather terrible.

Secondly, realize that this guy's entire job is to do exactly what he did: This is what Comcast trains him to do; It's what they pay him to do; His rewards are based upon him doing exactly what he did. His role is not to fulfill your cancellation request, but to do everything possible to stop you from cancelling.

Bad apple? He is probably the star of Comcast's retention department. Comcast will probably play this tape as training material.

The only thing you say at this point is "I request you to close my account effective immediately. Is my account closed yet?". Anything else you say (e.g. "You're the reason I'm leaving" or even "I'm moving to Mars") will be used as conversational leverage against you.

Other than that, have fun with it. I got a manipulative rep when I canceled Sirius and told her I already threw away the radio when she tried to extend the contract. She was not prepared for that. :)

Step one: write letter saying you want to cancel your service.

Step two: send the letter via certified mail to the company whose service you're cancelling, cc'd to your state attorney general's office.

Step three: there is no step 3.

A few years ago I had some problems with my credit report being corrupted with incorrect data. The official mechanism for correcting errors is to file a dispute for one item, wait for something like 30 days while they review it, then you can file another dispute. In my case there were more than a dozen errors (including bullshit like an alternate SSN, alternate birthday, etc.). I did some digging on the internet and found out an alternate method, which is to print out your credit report, make note of all the disputed items, add a cover letter and any supporting evidence, then send it via certified mail to a secret PO Box you can't find on any of the credit reporting agencies' websites. It worked like a charm.

How does one cc a letter?

cc stands for "carbon copy", which was a mechanism for hard copy letters.

I thought the point of "cc" on an email was to prove you've sent something to someone.

How can you achieve the same with a letter?

I can obviously just write the same letter twice and send it to two different places, but neither will know the other was also sent the same thing.

> I thought the point of "cc" on an email was to prove you've sent something to someone.

It doesn't prove anything, but it does provide notice.

> How can you achieve the same with a letter?

On a letter, you can acheive the same thing that cc: <email address> does on an email by putting cc: <recipient name> on the bottom of the letter, after the signature line, and then making identical copies of the letter and setting to both the addressee and the other recipient named in the cc: notation.

Which is the practice that inspired the use in email.

This is a fascinating thread. I wonder if formal letter writing is still taught in grade school?

No but it was practice to put CC: Name at the bottom of the letter

I couldn't cancel my Comcast service via phone because the automatic system hung up on me (I tried again the next day).

I just stopped paying (removed my credit card from the system), and after calling me multiple times about the outstanding charges, they eventually figured out that I wanted to cancel.

They still tried to bill me for the time between when I attempted to cancel and when the service was actually disconnected, even though I explained I was unwilling to pay this amount. Ultimately, they transferred the bill to a debt collection agency, and unfortunately I failed to dispute within 30 days (was traveling), so I ended up having to pay it.

Its a corrupt market. Their job is to lie to you, your job has to be to lie right back.

"I'm moving to (insert name of city owned by competitor)"

"I've recently discovered God, and decided to disconnect from the Internet, as it is the tool of Satan. Tell me, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior?"

"Tell me more, fellow brother in Christ! Stay with us, we are especially holy, which is why our speeds are so high!"

>Their job is to lie to you, your job has to be to lie right back.

I usually use some variation on "I'm moving in with my girlfriend, and she already has <type of service I'm cancelling>"

Alternatively, call, say you want to cancel, and if they give you shit just claim firmly you are unhappy with the service representative and hang up. With any luck they were recorded / reviewed. Just move on to the next guy.

Of course, usually these numbers are paid, so you pay a small fortune just to get to call someone that will do his job.

>"I'm moving to (insert name of city owned by competitor)"

Unfortunately, that's becoming harder and harder to do...


"I'm moving to Berlin"

I told TimeWarner I was moving to Manitoba to get them to stop hastleing me to move my service to my new address.

Antarctica is surely always an option..?

Very true. I truthfully told Sprint I was moving to Ireland and they let me cancel with no ETF.

Wow, reminds me of the guy trying to cancel his AOL account: http://consumerist.com/2006/06/13/the-best-thing-we-have-eve...

Yeah, the first thing I thought was "AOL employee gets the AOL treatment."

I used to work in consumer service at Nintendo. On the very first day of training, the instructor made us listen to this call as a example of worst practices.

Indeed. I think this must be karmic payback for how onerous the "process" of canceling an AOL account used to be.

I only had a little bit of difficulty canceling my comcast service. After I figured out what the customer service guy was doing, it went a little like this:

- I don't owe you an explanation.

- I'm in a hurry. Cancel my service now.

- I have your name. I will call back to complain about you.

- If another bill comes, I will not pay. If you send a collection agency and it affects my credit rating, I'll take you to court.

- You have 30 seconds to comply.

At some companies, reps are trained to trigger on phrases like "talk to my lawyer", "i'll see you in court" and "i'm going to sue you" and transfer you IMMEDIATELY to a legal department.

I learned this the hard way with a car moving company; from that point on, my account was tagged with a "transfer to legal" and I couldn't even talk to a rep.

YMMV, but mentioning legal action is one way to get yourself into limbo.

I'm only halfway through but this is driving me crazy. I'm actually feeling extremely furious.

This is why I hate to pick up the phone to talk to companies and instead want automated systems where I can fill out forms and get my job done under 3 minutes, no questions asked.

This reminds me of that study a few months ago about how customer satisfaction has no correlation or possibly a slight negative with profitability. I guess I see why now.

One example link to a new story covering the result: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-17/proof-that-i...

Aaaaah! Get meta!!! We can all appreciate the value of having this recording be available as a learning opportunity for consumers.

If you have the sense to know you are being strung along, become the questioner and outflank the rep every time.

Them: "I'm just trying to understand..." You: "I find Comcast's customer service to be poor. Let's see if you can help with that. Can you tell me if you are empowered to quickly cancel my service without probing any further?" Them: doesn't matter if they do anything but answer your question You if "yes": "Let's cancel and ask no more questions then." You if anything else: "I need to talk to someone who is able to execute my request. I'd like to talk to your supervisor."

You will be put on hold and forced to wait.

You do not ratchet down the intensity of your demands unless you know that your request is in motion. You mostly continue to treat the call as being with one entity (it is). If the next person makes any inquiries/reasons, etc.

You: "I am not answering any further questions. I am cancelling the service. Are YOU empowered to execute this process without further probing?"

Leave them only with yes/no answers directly related to them executing the action you want. Any words you provide other than repetition of the action or requests to escalate will be used against you.

If not, keep asking for supervisors. Poor level 1 is just doing their soul-crushing job. Every middle manager is desperately trying to not do that any more.

Until they have so many people trying to jump over level 1 will you ever need to waste time in level 2. I've only once had to go to level 3.

Does Comcast hire from the list of people with restraining orders on them? Sounds like some guy trying to not get dumped.

> If you have the sense to know you are being strung along, become the questioner and outflank the rep every time.

Seems similar to the anti-callcentre flowchart: http://egbg.home.xs4all.nl/counterscript.html

I've yet to use it, but it's bookmarked for some fun day...

Is your goal to sound like a robot?

I am cancelling your response service. Are you empowered to do this? Can I speak to your supervisor?

The goal is to cancel/get service/refund/etc with as little wasted time and energy as possible. They have scripts and procedures.

My strategy is equivalent to punching 0 to get to the human. in the phone tree maze. Putting a human shield on the other end is not stopping me from cancelling and they will not cry their tear ducts raw about my cancellation or my intolerance for their bullshit. I'm not being abusive, just terse.

Corporate service reps don't reward style points.

I thoroughly dislike Comcast and would go to great effort to avoid their service.

That said, as funny as this is, this to me is more of a failing on a personal level than by Comcast as a whole. He seems more angry at the caller because he's losing the argument and not getting any concessions and just wants some sort of response or willingness to hear what he's saying. I sincerely believe that by the midpoint of that recording he was no longer interested in keeping the customer, he just wanted to win a point in the argument to protect his ego.

Interestingly, these are the last people you want handling sales/customer retention calls because they don't empathize with the customer or see the situation from their point of view at all. They're more worried about their appearance than the ultimate business goal, which is increasing sales.

I'm pretty certain that he would be reprimanded for this behavior.

"I'm pretty certain that he would be reprimanded for this behavior."

I could not disagree more.

That makes the huge assumption that the retention department is measured and paid by metrics like "increasing sales". I am almost 100% certain that would not be the case.

The longer you keep a quitting customer on the phone the less likely they are to leave, the more likely they are to give up hope and keep paying. Awesome job.

The company pays the retention rep to read arguments from a script to a quitting customer, and the rep read all of them, awesome.

Lets say we get $150/month from this customer and it costs us $8/hr for this customer's monthly hour long call to argue and lie to the customer. The company is not seeing a financial problem here. At $5/day revenue even if all the rep does is slow down the customer by one pro-rated day, as long as the rep spends less than 30 minutes per call the company is still making a "profit". More typically if you just lie to the customer and get on average half a billing period out of them, thats an awesome profit.

You get what you measure and select for.

"because they don't empathize with the customer"

Why would a monopoly provider want to do that? It doesn't even make sense. Like hiring a police chief based on how well he empathizes with the crooks, or promoting a military officer based on how sympathetic he is to the other side, or appointing a religious leader based on how strongly he believes in the opposition's point of view.

Believe me, I understand the "this makes good business sense on paper" angle. To me it is very clear that this guy is not reading from a script. He is clearly angered and frustrated on a personal level by the customer's unwillingness to talk to him. The best example of this is probably at the end of the call when he refuses to give a confirmation code. I'd bet a week's pay that he had one to give, but was so angry that he just wanted to be argumentative to score a point in the argument. It almost reminded me of childhood fights I had with my brother when I was twelve.

Why would a monopoly provider want to do that?

But Comcast isn't a monopoly in most major markets, and I'm guessing if this guy worked as a tech blogger he probably lives in a market where he can choose from Fios, Uverse, Comcast, etc. Increasingly people have more choice in which service provider they use, and even in the markets where Comcast is a monopoly, it is seldom good business to piss off your customers. There's a difference between putting up barriers between somebody who is upset and is threatening to cancel service and somebody who clearly has made the decision to leave and wants the service to be disconnected, which clearly this guy was.

When I worked in a major telecom we used to review customer service calls and I can tell you that this guy would not be applauded for that behavior. Probably given a stern warning and possibly terminated. Telecoms may be ruthless business people, but nobody is stupid enough to believe that this kind of behavior is good business. The guy was frustrated and did his job poorly. That's pretty much what this boils down to.

Having worked in Customer Service (at a different company) on the phones, I see very little chance that this isn't the way his entire office is run. Most likely they weekly have their phone calls listened to by supervisors and evaluated, as well as constant tracking to see who has the most cancelations -- with serious consequences for those cancelations.

Could be just an individual, too. Or something in between. I just doubt that.

> I'm pretty certain that he would be reprimanded for this behavior.

I reckon he'd retain more people and thus get better bonuses, and not reprimands.

I cancelled my Comcast on Friday. It was incredibly easy. I didn't have to stay on hold, and they even offered to mail a postage-paid box for me to return my modem.

I was pleasantly surprised.

OMG is Comcast brainwashing their staff? This guy sounds like some Scientology nut.

No, this guy works in the cancellations department, to which you are connected when you indicate that you want to cancel your service. That means it is his sole job to convince persons to not cancel the service. He also receives a bonus for every phone call he makes that does not result in a cancellation. For you it's 15 minutes of time wasted, for him it means 15 minutes of hard work that came very close to paying off.

Or losing his job if he hasn't rescued enough accounts. Call centres are soul destroying places to work.

I wonder how long I could manage to get that guy to stick on the phone... I love being an asshole.

There must be a business opportunity here. Connect people who hate dealing with this stuff to people like you who love being an asshole. They get their service canceled without dealing with crap on the phone, you get to play the bad guy, everybody wins.

Its called being a lawyer. Its more about form letters sent via registered mail and filing legal injunctions than talking on the phone.

A decade or so ago, I came within days of needing one merely to disconnect a DSL line.

Once the cost of fighting the collections agency and the cost of the hit to your credit record exceed the minimal cost of hiring the lawyer, its a pretty obvious move.

Not kidding around at all, although its probably a better topic for a law blog than HN.

The main problem they're likely to have is authentication. Helping people is fun. Helping people who like having fun by disconnecting other people (-ex's, etc) is a problem and you need to authenticate them cheaply.

Exactly, I can't believe they pay to be like that. They surely might train you to try and retain unsatisfied customers, but that employee looks like a bit too dedicated to the mission.

Im in Australia, and have been with about 12 ISP's over the years and have never had this sort of problem. Not that our Telcos are without problems, they are often horrible to deal with when requiring support. One thing we have which may be a deterrent for this behavior is the Telecommunication Ombudsman (TIO) which is basically a government watchdog for the Telcos. Every formal complaint to the TIO results in a fee charged to the Telco even if they are not at fault, and if they are proven to be at fault the cost is much greater. I would think that Comcast would think twice about this sort of behavior if it was going to result in a governmental fine in every case.

I had an issue like this with Three in the UK, everyone in the office who was listening for 25 minutes of my lunch to the conversation.

-Hi, I'd like to cancel.

-Cool, we are upgrading your account so you don't need to. -Umm, just cancel it please.

-Today only, you get 5GB for free

-I don't care, I want to cancel.


-Because I don't need your service anymore.

-But what about the free data!?

-I don't need you, I am moving country.

-What country and when? Do you want another month before you leave?

-I am leaving tomorrow.

-But what about the free 5gb?

-If I say yes to the free 5gb, then what happens?

-Well we can't make more than 1 change to your account in a day, so you can't cancel if you accept our upgrade.

-Then just cancel.

-Ok putting your through to the right department

line goes dead

Next attempt, they take my number in case line goes dead, it does, they ring back, after one ring, line goes dead.

Third attempt, they cancel it.

I begin to suspect going nuclear is the only option. "Hi, I'd like to cancel my service" "But what about X?" "Ombudsman and or Lawyers. Cancel. You have been instructed, the next time I say this will be in court/writing/etc".

They'll just transfer you to legal. Worst case, they tag your account and do this every time you call, and you're in limbo for months. Ugh.

That's not how it works. They won't transfer you to a lawyer: those are damned expensive.

In Australia, if you threaten to go to an ombudsman, companies tend to listen. Ombudsman cases are very expensive.

Legal department are not lawyers, and are also usually much much smaller in size than customer support as a whole. Also legal departments are typically fairly terrible at resolving disputes in a reasonable amount of time (before months have passed). Even if your issue is simple or a misunderstanding, if you get transferred to legal, it is no longer simple at that point.

You don't get a lawyer, you get the legal department. Big difference :-)

What limbo? I dont care who am I speaking with. "I am cancelling thank you" + recording is all it takes.

I've cancelled Comcast a few times before when ATT had a better deal and it was never this bad. They usually try to give me a better deal but sorry I've made my decision thats why I am calling, if you gave me a better rate to begin with I might not be leaving.

With Comcast you can usually just hang up and call again if you get an employee with an attitude. This method works with tech support too, hang up and try again if you get someone who just wants to keep reseting your router or doesn't have any idea.

> With Comcast you can usually just hang up and call again if you get an employee with an attitude.

I'm guessing that this tactic might actually make the nice employees look bad. The employees with an attitude will have better customer retention metrics; then the nice customer service reps risk losing their jobs or also developing an attitude.

Even if that's true, Comcast's bad metrics aren't our responsibility.

The point is that this tactic would be selecting against the nice reps in the long run. Of course, I can't think of any other tactic that wouldn't do so.

Understood, but my point is that it is their responsibility to select for nice reps, not ours. If their metrics combined with the natural customer reaction selects for bad reps, that's their fault and their problem.

It really depends on how intelligently companies run their retention metrics. Rather than measuring if a customer was retained for that phone call, it makes much more sense to measure which customers are retained after a month or so. Of course the first metric is easier to run; also large corporations "competing" in highly uncompetitive markets (internet, health insurance, etc.) have little incentive to provide any sort of reasonable, adequate customer service to begin with.

As a customer I don't care. I just want what I've called for. Comcast is the single worst customer service I've ever dealt with.

I called Comcast trying to sign up for their top-tier service when I was working from home. The guy on the other side kept asking me what on earth I'd need the top tier service for and kept asking me questions. Then he scheduled the visit for the tech on the wrong date. Every time I deal with Comcast, it's a hassle.

I can't believe I got interrogated when I signed up for service. Worst customer service ever.

Chances are they were getting better commission on a lower tier. Or some internal contest to see who can sign up more people on a certain plan.

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