Comcast Cares: Pay Us The $0.00 You Owe, Or We Cut You Off

from the customer-service dept

Years back, I was a Comcast cable modem subscriber. That was until they spent a whole month cutting off my service, every single day, from 10am until about 4:30pm. Each day I would call to ask what was up, and I was told it was “scheduled maintenance.” I asked for said “schedule” so I could plan around it, and was told that there was no schedule — which made for an odd form of “scheduled maintenance.” I also asked if it would be happening the next day as well, and was always told that I wouldn’t be able to find out until the connection disappeared again. I dropped Comcast and switched to DSL. Even though Comcast is now much faster than my DSL, that experience so soured me that I have no interest in ever going back.

While Comcast has received a lot of attention for its “Comcast Cares” initiative (the head of which recently left the company), it certainly looks like they have a few kinks to work out. Phil Anderson points us to the story of Comcast demanding the $0.00 a customer owes and threatening to turn off service if it’s not received.

It’s not hard to figure out how something like this happens. For whatever reason, the customer didn’t owe any money that month — perhaps a credit, or he had overpaid in a previous month, or something like that. But, Comcast’s system is probably set up with the recording of “a payment” separate from the amount, such that not receiving any payment sets off a red flag, with no simple check to see if the reason is that no money is owed. You would think that this is something that Comcast would have caught a lot earlier…

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast Cares: Pay Us The $0.00 You Owe, Or We Cut You Off”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: rtyhrth

Perhaps a better system to this

“This comment has been flagged by the community. Click to show the comment.”

system would be one where all the flagged comments didn’t show up anywhere and there is a single link that says, “show flagged comments” that allows you to show flagged comments?

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Who builds ...

Oh, that’s easy. A programmer.
Especially one who’s not an accountant…
and who has the typical vague nonsense of user requirements and no input during the software development cycle.

Really, it’s a systemic problem. Any programmer could have ended up doing that–but usually these problems start with the customer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Who builds ...

I certainly wouldn’t make this mistake either. It would take a particularly inattentive (or stupid) programmer to overlook something so basic, if you assume that functionality is simply contained in one code block with both the logical checks and the dispatch present locally.

As companies increasingly move to “enterprisey” business solutions though, the environments in which code lives become increasingly abstract, asynchronous networks of event dispatch logic and black boxes in which there is no one place you can look at to just see the requirements for an action and the invocation of the action.

Look at the kind of things you put together with Oracle SOA for example. Suddenly the problem isn’t “are my logical checks correct before I invoke the billing function”, but rather some amorphous and intractable situation like “did the monthly invoice document get sent into the ESB on time and with the proper header information correctly referencing the particular billing instance so that when the xml invoice document gets parsed and stuffed into the relational db in the ERP on the backend that the nightly billing daemon which has, among other things, the job of interpreting the corrective UBL rules and generating an EDI no-invoice-required message can insert the correct account number in the response before it directs the message to a web service at a trading partner outside the firewall?”

Boneheaded errors of this sort stem more from enterpriseyness than simple coding oversights in my experience.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Who builds ...

Even the most basic of accounting apps has a low limit to sending a bill. This is incredibly important when you are looking at hundreds of thousands of customers, and likely would be part of a regular audit for anything beyond half a million customers. So this was a screwup of an auditing department, and someone was likely fired or demoted for this, because it cost the company likely more money than the auditor’s entire yearly salary if it was applied to tens of thousands of customers.

Forge says:

As another former Comcast employee, I can tell you that this is trivially easy to trigger, hasn’t been fixed in 10 years or more, and could probably be abused easily to provoke a lawsuit.

Simply pay your bill multiple months in advance.

Say you pay 50$ a month (for round numbers, few people manage to keep their bills so low). Send a check for 300$. Call customer service, they’ll tell you that’s fine. Now sit back and make and return no contact to Comcast. In two or three months (depending on your internal credit rating), your service will be disconnected. Why? You made no payment that month or the previous month (even though none was due!).

I’d imagine that getting all the relevant statements on tape would be enough to merit a lawsuit over Comcast’s “harrassment”.

btr1701 (profile) says:


Here’s a possible explanation from the Gizmodo comments:

This happens because your bill has sub-cent values in it. What happens is your bill comes out to $90.521, which is printed as $90.52, and you pay $90.52, but your account balance is actually $0.001.

Most companies ignore this (remember the old “fractions of a cent” bank interest?) and just round the bill to the nearest cent. But companies like Comcast and others often collect the total and then put in a line item like “Bill rounding” every so often to keep things “even”. Else you’ll probably notice your bill every few months goes up by a penny, which happens because the amount due exceeds 0.5 cents so you’ll be in a sub-cent credit for a few more months.

And yes, they get to keep the fraction left over because it prints out $0.00.

Ron (profile) says:

Re: Explanation

It’s true that there are the sub-cent issues but, generally speaking, the definition of a data element meant to contain dollars will have 2 decimal places. So, even if the result of a computation results is a value of less than .01, the field containing the value in the data base will truncate any digits to the right of the penny position. Sounds more like they’ve got a converted credit card system.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Explanation

Not necessarily, I’ve done plenty of programs that need to handle 4 decimal on dollars amounts. When you’re dealing with millions of customers (or millions of units charged) those fractions of a cent add up. You also often need them for rounding purposes (eg, 0.014 = 0.01, 0.016 = 0.02).

Having said that even if let my 5 year old loose on some code I’d expect him to either handle the rounding in the balance due test, or even better to but a filter in that if the balance due was less than my cost to process the payment then ignore it (ie, it will cost me money to post letter, receive payment, bank it, etc… no point collecting a 0.10c debt if it costs be $10.00 to process it)

Ven says:

Re: Re: Re: Explanation

Rounding is one issue, another is that IEEE floating point numbers are inaccurate for common values. I write transaction processing software for a living and I’m always surprised how many of the previous programmers here didn’t know that 0.3 – 0.1 – 0.1 – 0.1 is not equal to 0, instead it’s a -2.77555756156289e-17 a very very small negative number.

If code to send bills is activated when an accounts balance is less than zero it would send a bill but show a balance of $0.00.

Peet McKimmie (profile) says:

It's not just Comcast

Aberdeen City Council once started demanding a £0.00 rent payment from me. They sent several reminders, but every time I ‘phoned to query them I was told not to worry. Then came a “final reminder” followed by a letter telling me that they had contacted a debt collection agency and were taking steps to have me evicted.

They were most unhappy when I turned up at their payments desk with a cheque for £0.00 and demanded a receipt.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: It's not just Comcast

Peet McKimmie wrote:

Then came a “final reminder” followed by a letter telling me that they had contacted a debt collection agency and were taking steps to have me evicted.

You should have waited to see what would happen next. I’d like to see any debt-collection agency treat a request to collect £0.00 seriously…

weneedhelp (profile) says:


I have no other choice in provider. I run an Exchange server, have since 2000, and I stopped receiving emails. This coincided with my 2010 upgrade. I finally tracked it down to port 25 being blocked. I was told it was for “security” reasons with all the “viruses” out there. I tried to explain that that made no sense unless a machine was specifically listening on port 25 and capable of accepting emails. Well the slug on the other line did not understand, and told me to call their security dept in NJ. I was using their email servers as a relay, and 2 days after that I started receiving invalid sender domain errors. I was furious. How could they break fundamental operation of the internet? I understand why they would block outgoing mail to prevent spambots from operating. But incoming? Its not like my maybe 50 emails a month were causing that much traffic. They then tried to suggest I get a business connection. Scumbags.

Never had this issue with RCN(6 years), or Verizon(2.5 years)It just pushed me to use other pay services to get around them. Best 300 bucks I ever spent. HEAR THAT COMCAST? ITS WORTH 300 BUCKS A YEAR TO ME TO F YOU.

Now I know there will be a couple of bitches that will say oh your not supposed to run mail/web servers it is against their TOS. F you. I WILL do what I want with MY connection, and its my job. Ahh that feels better. 🙂

former potential comcast customer says:

comcast does all

i recently moved to the denver area and comcast is the major provider of cable modem service. i researched my options online and called to ask a couple questions and sign-up for service. i was told that i could only sign-up for that plan online and was force-fed another bundled package (the only way they can sell home telephone service now days). i went back online and tried to sign-up for the features i actually wanted. comcast has an online chat feature with support reps, so i decided to chat with one. i actaully spoke with two different reps and was, again, force-fed a bundled package. i told them both the exact service i wanted and neither one could help me sign-up. i was given the “installation” number to get what i actually wanted. i called the installation number and was again turned away and told that i had to sign-up on the internet but she could offer me a bundled package. after being given the run around by four customer service reps, i finally decided that if it was that hard to sign-up for service then i certainly didnt want to deal with them in the case of an actual support issue, so i decided it was in my best interest to never consider comcast for anything.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: @weneedhelp

No no. They didnt want to stop it, they just wanted me to pay them. It turned out to be way more than 300 bucks a year. If they would have offered a decent price based on actual usage, and the security tech I talked to did admit that it was a low amount of usage, and even offered to unblock it but couldn’t assure me that in a month it wouldn’t be blocked again.

Thats ok, wait until they block you little file sharing apps, and you cant download your favorite mp3’s and movies, or better yet, you get that letter from them, as my co-worker did, letting you know that your internet connection was used to download -insert movie name here- and continuing to do so would result in termination of service. We will see how quickly you find a work around to…”figuring out how to prevent you from doing what they tell you very plainly you can’t do on their service”

“you can say “F you”, but that doesn’t change your own level of intelligence.” My own level of intelligence?
Stop trying to sound smart, it FAILED… miserably.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: @weneedhelp

Get over yourself. They’re not doing this to spite you.

For one, Comcast is far from the only ISP that is fairly heavy handed when it comes to port 25 traffic. If anything, most of them have recently started heavily limiting what comes out of port 25 due to virus activity. If you don’t understand the problems that hundreds of pieces of outgoing mail from an infected machine can cause, I don’t think you can be helped.

Also, has it ever occurred to you to just change the SMTP server port on your Exchange box? It’s really not that hard to do and would allow you to continue violating Comcast’s ToS.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: @weneedhelp

AC opens her email program, uses her email account,, and writes an email message to Her Outlook Express sends the message through TCP port 25 of AC’s Internet connection, then to wnh’s SMTP server (still on TCP port 25).

If it listening on 26 then how does the mail ever get there? ERR!

Also, has it ever occurred to you to just change the SMTP..
Yes dumbass, but I know how the internet works and knew that was not an option.

Skout (profile) says:

Re: Re: @weneedhelp

Wow.. lol

Dude… #1 – I am not a Comcast customer. I switched long, long ago.

#2 – I did not ever say that I followed or condoned their rules.

#3 – You’re the one who came here whining that you couldn’t make your server work on residential service, not me. All my servers work just as they should.

#4 – Yes, your own level of intelligence – or lack thereof, in this case.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: @weneedhelp

Dude… #1 – I am not a Comcast customer. I switched long, long ago.
Excuse me ma’am, but there is a high probability that whatever service you use has a similar TOS. FAIL

#2 – I did not ever say that I followed or condoned their rules.
But you wanted to insult me because I didnt as well? fucking hypocrite. FAIL

#3 – You’re the one who came here whining that you couldn’t make your server work on residential service, not me. All my servers work just as they should.
You reading comprehension skills suck. They work, I had to use another service to do so. FAIL

#4 – Yes, your own level of intelligence – or lack thereof, in this case.
Again, comedy FAIL.

All my servers work just as they should.
Really? With inbound ports blocked? Without another service? Share with us. Tell us oh great one how you got your “servers” to receive/send email with 25 & 110 blocked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 @weneedhelp

butthurt#3(first time I saw that)
Getting your feelings hurt, being offended or getting all bent out of shape because of something petty or stupid.

Ehhhhh, ok, I kinda agree LOL.

Hugs and kisses are overrated.

If you attack someone, you should expect retaliation, and if you dont, then in my experience, they think they can walk all over you.
Like AC saying:
Also, has it ever occurred to you to just change the SMTP server port on your Exchange box? It’s really not that hard to do.
It appears AC has never touched an Exchange server, but he/she thought he/she was going to be slick with a link provided with a quick web search.
It infuriates me when some dumbass tries to make someone else look stupid when they obviously have no clue. Especially coming from EvilAC. I know, its a character flaw I have to deal with. LOL. If your going to insult someone, do it tactfully, like you did. 🙂

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 @weneedhelp

I’m assuming that you’re actually weneedhelp and forgot to sign in and not just an AC. Glad you didn’t mind my jab and took it in the spirit in which it was intended. Don’t get me wrong, I was enjoying your indignation but as the saying goes, “Arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded.” Not that you are retarded, but you know what I mean. No sense getting worked up over nothing. Of course I rarely practice what I preach.

Patty (profile) says:

Comcast 'Service'

I had Comcast years ago, right after they took over from Adelphia. I was optimistic. I figured no company could be worse than Adelphia. I was incorrect. I, too, spent everyday on the phone be-cause of service outages. Eventually I reached, by some miracle of persistence, The Guy in the Basement. You know the guy, the one and only guy who knows what’s what. He told me they were having problems getting it to work in my area. No one I had talked to, through all the modem un-pluggings and assorted methods of ‘troubleshooting’ had mentioned that they were having diffi-culties with my entire town! As soon as DSL was available I switched. I loved it – No problems, Then FIOS became available and I love that even more. I will never ever be a Comcast customer again and have made it my life’s work to get people to switch to FIOS.

andrunix (profile) says:

comcast still owes me

I used to subscribe to Comcast. I cancelled them and went with Dish Network. At the time, I had overpaid 30-something dollars. They sent me invoices with a credit amount for about 6 months. Each invoice prompted me to call and ask for a refund for the overpaid amount. Each time I was told that a check would be mailed the next Friday. I never saw a cent.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Can't Hate

I’d love to hate Comcast. I pay them way to much for TV and video content…but I just can’t.

Here’s why:

40Mbps down, and 4 Mbps up on my DOCSIS 3 modem and the $52 plan. Uptime has been rock solid for my 4 years in this house.

I know, I know, it’s faster in Japan. Can’t help it. 40 megs just makes me warm and fuzzy all over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Can't Hate

How does it handle sustained transfers?

Most cable Internet providers have started using PowerBoost, which drastically increases download speeds for the first 10MB, so if you’re downloading anything substantial you’ll see ridiculously high rates (when I lived in Maryland and had Comcast, my service peaked at about 20-25 Mbps) followed by a sharp decline (mine usually hung around 8 Mbps after that point). Still faster and more solid than my current DSL service, but it took some time to get used to.

The cynic in me believes that they just want to make themselves look better on broadband speed test sites and the optimist in me believes that they do it because most downloads that people do are under 10MB. I’m not sure which one to listen to. 🙂

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Funny Money

I think the last time I encountered that kind of thing was back in 1976 or so, when I was registering for college courses. I was told I had a payment problem, and got sent to a special office– only to be told that they owed me money.

to btr1701, Comment #9:

Well, there’s a right way and a wrong way to represent money. The right way is to represent it as a signed integer count of the least significant unit, in this case, cents. You should use a 64-bit integer, which is available even on the old 80387 numeric co-processor. That gives you a range of about plus or minus eight “exa-cents,” or eighty “peta-dollars.” Since the GNP is in the low trillions of dollars, that should be enough for the time being. You could use 32-bit integers, but that is probably a false economy, as it is only plus or minus twenty million dollars, and it might lead to faults when totaling up the company’s gross revenue. It is safer to adopt a consistent practice throughout, and avoid special cases.

Floating-point numbers are properly used for things which have measurement error, and are inherently imprecise, for example, in scientific programming. You really don’t want to use floating-point in accounting, where sums are supposed to balance.

The old IBM mainframes had special Binary Coded Decimal hardware instructions, but that is another story.

Anonymous Coward says:

That was until they spent a whole month cutting off my service, every single day, from 10am until about 4:30pm. Each day I would call to ask what was up, and I was told it was “scheduled maintenance.” I asked for said “schedule” so I could plan around it, and was told that there was no schedule — which made for an odd form of “scheduled maintenance.”

That pretty much characterizes my experience with Comcast as well. I cursed their name on a daily basis for their shoddy service and nonexistent tech support.

Of course, no other broadband alternatives were available. It wasn’t until I moved clear across the country to the east coast that I was able to get away from them.

It seems to me that if there were actual competition in the broadband marketplace, a company as bad as Comcast could never survive.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Just Got off the Phone with Time-Warner Customer Service

Since my blood pressure is up, I might as well throw in my tale of woe. I just spend 20+ minutes waiting to talk to a customer service representative because the glossy we are your friends marketing brochure didn’t tell you how to find a particular channel. It even took the customer service representative several attempts and a few minutes to find the channel.

While we were fiddling around, I was reminded that the remote control is “disabled” when you are on a premium channel. With the “free” channels, when you press “exit” (search mode), you actually exit and return to your program. With the premium channels the “exit” key only returns you to the search mode. If you actually want to return to watching your programs, you have to find a “free” channel and then exit. I guess the hope is that you will hit the “select” key by accident and then be charged. Seems to be an endless “supply” of marketing dirty tricks.

That’s it for now, have to check my blood pressure.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have had nothing but good experiences with Comcast, so I am surprised customer service couldn’t handle this.

On the other hand I had this happen with a credit card company a few years ago. After a few months of 5% penalties, I finally wrote them a check for $0.00 (with an annotation in the Memo field, telling my bank why) and everything got sorted out. From what I could determine, in my case the programmer forgot there might be both a +0 and a -0 and most people pay down their debt to a zero balance owing, whereas I had overpayed and was spending down their debt to me.

There might also be a non-printing fraction of a penny owing.

Anonymous Coward says:

The only time I *didn’t* have a problem getting something done with Comcast was when my dad passed away and I had to cancel his service. The rep was super nice (they all are, really, effectiveness not withstanding) and informed me that after the proper documents were received there would actually be a refund in the offing.

Six weeks later: $3.98 to feed the estate account kitty!

I’ve never had a problem with installers or techs at my house (I’ve felt for them, one sat in my house for 3 hours waiting for someone to pick up the phone at the dispatching office!), but getting things actually done and working properly with Comcast has been an exercise in complete frustration time after time.


Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Why I call it...

This sort of cruft is why I have changed the name of Comcast to Comcrap… My experiences with them, and from what I can tell from others of my acquaintance who subscribe to their services, are consistently horrid. They have no customer service worthy of the name, their internet service is unreliable, they unilaterally alter the channels that they provide for their various service plans, and there isn’t much you can do about it except pay them more to get back the features you subscribed to in the first place.

These are only my opinions. Others may have had better experience with them than I have had, but honestly, I won’t hold my breath to find out…

Danielle says:

Comcast Support

I haven’t had that particular issue with Comcast but I was a long time loyal customer to the company. I was always trying to figure out why my DVR would randomly stop recording programs but then I realized I wasn’t getting enough value for my money. I was paying over $120 per month and I was having more issues to list. Soon after my breaking point, I began working and subscribing to DISH Network and I realized what I was missing. There is a reason that DISH has beat out Comcast for the last 10 years in customer satisfaction and I now know why. I invite everyone to check out DISH Network and experience the overwhelming value DISH gives you!


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