Behind The Veil Part 3: Comcast Rep Confirms That You Should Always Record Customer Service Calls

from the we're-listening dept

As you probably know by now, Comcast has been in the news quite a bit lately for all the wrong reasons. It started with a recorded call of one Comcast customer attempting to cancel his service before being passed over to a “customer retention” representative who had watched entirely too much Boiler Room. Comcast made a great deal of noise about how this wasn’t how they told their reps to conduct their business, which, thanks to the Verge’s call for input from past and current Comcast employees, was shown pretty conclusively to a complete lie. It’s been a pretty, nice, little lesson in why breeding the kind of monopoly that Comcast tends to hold in many areas of this country is a really crappy idea. The other lesson that this should be teaching all of us is the importance of recording customer service calls with Comcast*.

And that appears to apply even for customers of Comcast that aren’t trying to flee their brand of customer service. Tim Davis uploaded a (NSFW due to language) recording to YouTube of a couple of conversations he had with Comcast’s customer service.

If you can’t listen to the audio, or want a quick breakdown: Tim had moved recently and chose to relocate his Comcast service because, according to the video, he didn’t have a choice due to a lack of competitive providers. I’ve gone through this myself several times in Chicago; it sucks. In any case, he did the internet portion of the install himself, as I too have done several times. All went well until a few weeks later when he was experiencing intermittent outages. An initial call with Comcast confirmed the problem was with the wiring outside the home, not the internal setup. Tim recorded that conversation, including when a Comcast rep confirmed that there is no charge to have a technician do work on outside lines to provide adequate service. Makes sense. A tech comes out, fixes the outside line issue, tests the network inside the home to assure connectivity is restored, and leaves. Then this happens.

All is fine until a week or two later when Davis receives a bill that includes $99.99 for “Failed Self Install,” another $32 for “Failed Video [Self Install Kit],” and $49.95 for “Wireless Network SET Up.” That’s $181.94 in total. But, insists Davis, the problem wasn’t that he failed to do the self-install correctly or that there was a failed self-install kit, since the problem involved cables entering his property that he never touched. Similarly, the tech never set up or did anything with Davis’s WiFi system, so the set-up charge is bogus.

When Tim calls up to dispute the charges, he’s told several things. First, the rep applies a “discount” that wipes out about fifty dollars. Then she insists she cannot apply any credits because all of the tech’s service charges are valid, despite Tim informing her of both the recording of the call with the other rep that said there would be no charge and the fact that the tech would have had to have the apartment landlord’s approval to access what the tech claimed he’d worked on. Instead of applying a credit, she suggests she upgrade his internet for a year for free instead, which would be of a $60 or so value. $121 or $60 in temporary service upgrades…guess which Tim wanted? He insisted the bogus charges to be credited back to him. The rep then claims she’d get back to him. When she did, she confirmed that everyone on the planet should be recording their calls to Comcast’s customer service.

She eventually calls back later than planned, and after escalating his call one final time she tells him that the full $82 will actually be credited back to his account. When Davis asks why she couldn’t simply do that during the earlier call, her explanation is enough to make you pound your head through a wall in frustration.

“We try to negotiate, and again, that is a valid charge,” she answers. “But since I advised my manager that there is a recording and you were misinformed, then she’s the one who can approve that $82.”

Seemingly flabbergasted, Davis asks to confirm, “You’re telling me that if I didn’t have a recording of that call, you wouldn’t have been able to do it?”

“Yes, that is correct,” answers the rep, confirming that the only way to get Comcast to erase a bogus charge from your account is to have recorded evidence that you were promised in advance that the call would be free.

Everyone got that? Customer service reps dealing with disputed charges will try to “negotiate” with you and you only have a chance at legitimate recourse if you record all your calls with them. Keep digging, Comcast. I don’t think the grave is big enough yet.

* Oh, but if you’re recording your call, you may want to pay attention to the local laws about such things.

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Comments on “Behind The Veil Part 3: Comcast Rep Confirms That You Should Always Record Customer Service Calls”

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ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Something I've always wondered

If you’re told a call may be monitored for whatever reason, shouldn’t you be able to record the call regardless of local laws? The idea being that both parties already know the call can be monitored and proceeding apparently indicates consent (the party recording is almost never explicitly stated.)

Anonymouse says:

Re: Re: Something I've always wondered

You know that’s a cute trick. Interpreted that way yes, they are granting permission for you to record it. Problem solved.

Its their fault for not asking permission but assuming it, and using badly worded warnings via automated message. It is never the reps that say it anymore, its the IVR that informs you of it. No option to refuse and continue, you have to get to a rep and then go round and round with them…most places now reps have the option to force record so their managers^H^H^H supervisors have more records to pick and choose from, but the system still automatically will record without the rep knowing if they are being recorded.

Still, i like your style Anon, even if i have no idea how it’ll fly in court.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Something I've always wondered

Problem not solved. The automated phone system now knows it’s being recorded, but the live person you eventually talk to probably doesn’t know you’re recording.

All it would take to send you to prison for wiretapping (or local equivalent) would be for the living human you eventually talk to to claim he forgot that his employer records calls, or claim he didn’t know that particular call was being recorded.

Bob (profile) says:

Re: Something I've always wondered

It might be different for each recording. They are permitting their own recording and you are too by hearing the notification and continuing with the call. Your recording is only being permitted by you. This all might not matter and hopefully it means if people are aware it’s recorded in any way then anyone participating can record their own but who knows? Just guessing a possibility.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Something I've always wondered

“all it would take to jail you for recording would be the phone rep claiming he didn’t remember that his employer recorded calls.”

I think that would be a pretty hard claim to support in court. From what I hear, phone reps can’t ignore that the calls are being monitored, since that monitoring is used to evaluate their performance.

alternatives() says:

Customer service reps dealing with disputed charges will try to “negotiate” with you and you only have a chance at legitimate recourse if you record all your calls with them.

You need to record your interaction with the tech also.

$200 for Pivothead glasses do I fine job of recording interactions.

Then, when you get the bill, inform them of your Tort Letter that you will sue for attempted fraud for treble damages.

Let a judge settle the matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you think judges favor mega-corps to little guys irrespective of the facts/law, then you must have little experience with the legal system.

Now it IS true that the mega-corp will more likely comply with legal and procedural rules better than the little guy, which gives them a better chance of success.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You vs. a mega-corp. Do I have to tell you which one the judge will favor?

That is what the appeals court is for.

That is why you have a court reporter making the record.

That is why judicial and bar grievances exist.

The legal system is corrupt.

Yes, but here’s the thing – you have the power of the press via the Internet. If you document this, you can then pick a fight over the corruption.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Technically you can sue for anything. An attempt to deceive like this is not anything you would ever want to sue over unless there is evidence that a class has been injured enough for a class action suit.

Davis’ problem in a suit would be that since he caught and avoided any damage, there are no damages to sue over. Had he been deceived, he could sue for the $150 and possibly legal fees related to a suit.

I know that since we are in the US, people think that you can sue someone for millions of dollars just for being an ass, but that’s not actually the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Had he been deceived,

From California the affirmative defence:

To determine if the complaint is pled with specificity, you will need to carefully review all allegations, and determine if all elements are adequately described. The elements of fraud are (1) a misrepresentation, concealment, or nondisclosure by the defendant; (2) the defendant’s knowledge of the falsity of the misrepresentation; (3) the defendant’s intent to deceive the plaintiff; (4) justifiable reliance upon the misrepresentation by the plaintiff; and (5) resulting damage to the plaintiff. California Civil Code § 1709. In order to describe the first element, for example, a “plaintiff must set forth what is false or misleading about a statement, and why it is false.” Decker v. GlenFed, Inc , 42 F.3d 1541, 1548 (9th Cir. 1994).

At the point where you send them the tort letter they can avoid losing a fraud case by reversing the bill. If they choose to attempt to collect/report to a collections agency then #5 happens.

Just because they sent you the $150 bill doesn’t create the ability to win a fraud claim, Comcast has to blow you off.

Don’t argue with the phone-level staff…argue with legal.

Whatever says:


See Tim, now you’re going to use this single isolated incident a month from now to try to argue that Comcast has poor customer service and therefore the FCC should not approve the TWC buyout. You will try to confuse bad customer service with a lack of competition and people will get confused and think this post is about a lack of competition when it’s really just about bad customer service.

Anonymous Coward says:

There's no way that this is an accident

(By “this” I mean the repeated Comcast stories that keep coming out.)

The only way this happens is that people are trained to do this and required to do this by management. Ordinary human beings placed in customer service roles don’t magically become lying, fraudulent jackasses: they only get that way if someone forces them to, on pain of losing their job.

So all this hand-wringing on the part of Comcast brass is bullshit. Not only did they know about all this, they’re the source of it. And I’m sure they know, to the last penny, just how immensely profitable it is to rip off their own customers at every available opportunity.

The guy in this story was lucky: he was clueful and paranoid. For every one of him, there are thousands of Comcast customers who are relatively uneducated, poor, elderly, and not nearly as well-equipped to defend themselves from vicious predators such as Comcast customer reps. What percentage of Comcast’s profits have come from those people?

Michael (profile) says:

Re: There's no way that this is an accident

The only way this happens is that people are trained to do this and required to do this by management. Ordinary human beings placed in customer service roles don’t magically become lying, fraudulent jackasses: they only get that way if someone forces them to, on pain of losing their job.

First, I think you are being overly generous to say that ordinary human beings are not already lying, fraudulent jackasses. It has been my experience that many of them are.

Second, people can be directed to this kind of behavior with both a stick and a carrot – having monetary incentives for retention and not giving refunds would work just as well (possibly better) than threatening their jobs.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: There's no way that this is an accident

“It has been my experience that many of them are.”

Many does not equal all. It’s been my experience that most people are reasonably honest and decent. The main problem is that you can’t tell who are decent and who aren’t by looking at them.

“people can be directed to this kind of behavior with both a stick and a carrot – having monetary incentives for retention and not giving refunds would work just as well (possibly better) than threatening their jobs.”

Which doesn’t address the problem at all. The problem is the behavior which Comcast is wanting (and getting) from their employees. It doesn’t matter what method they’re using to get that behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

so how come companies can record conversations when you, as a customer, dont want the call recorded or, as a customer, are not allowed by the company representative you are dealing with to record the conversation from your side? i’ll bet that even if you say ‘no’ to having a call recorded, the company rep will still do so or will refuse to carry on the conversation. what happens in the latter scenario? how are you supposed to get any issues sorted out then?

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You can refuse the call being recorded.

I have tried it a few times and have had reps forced to escalate the call to a supervisor, had them require I come to a physical location to conduct business, and have had reps simply be able to disable it (or so they claimed).

It can be pretty funny because it is typically not a request they have a script for.

Anonymous Coward says:

A customer recording the call shouldn’t be a problem: After all, the COMCAST ‘customer dis-service’ personnel KNOW that their calls may be recorded to “improve service”. There is even a recorded message that plays when you call that says so…and the message doesn’t say WHO is doing the recording, so why CAN’T it be the customer?

tracyanne (profile) says:


In Queensland, at least, one may record any conversation, without informing the other person, so long as the recording device is not also the device one is conversing on.

In practice that means a face to face conversation may be recorded, without informing the other person, as can a phone conversation, so long as the recording device is a separate device.

Patricia Walton says:

Comcast Dirty Policies

I have a dilly. Comcast of course is one of the most egregiosly corrupt companies on the face of the planet and they are in the business of screwing the public to make millions. That’s their main purpose, and the stupid sheeple they employ as “customer service reps” who are paid $12/hr (the reps are so glad to make that greeaat salareeeee”) who make diddly bonuses & promoted to “superviser” LOL by being as insulting &nasty to customers as they possibly can. They also lie and mislead customers at the behest of their managers who cajole them by promises to give them $5.00 raises per diem to keep their money train on track
My story is, I called Comcast to make a payment via my debit card on the automated pay system via phone (DONT EVER DO THIS). I am a senior citizen & my apt. pays Comcast for basic cable. I decided to get extended cable, went inti Comcast, but I signed no contract as the apt. has contract with them. I only signed doc for a new bix. After six mos.of having ext. Cable I have paid these creeps every month ($78 per mo which is ridiculous and I always have a balance. Anyway, went on auto system, so that lady recording asked me if I wanted to pay full balance due ($143 for past due plus upcoming bill) and I ckearly said NO! Well guess what, thats the only question asked so I thought I was paying the $78 when I gave my credi card I had said NO to paying full amount. You already know what transpired. My card was charged the $143 anyway and I was horrified. I am on social security on a strict budget and I could not afford for them to take the whole $143. I immediarely calked Comcast to tell them the auto system had malfunctioned and was told by s rep that the payment was “pending” and that she was preparing a “ticket” to get the overage payment returned to my card (LIES). My bank said they couldnt reverse the charge & I had to go through a stupid dispute process. So I called Comcast again on this past Monday to see why my card had not received the overcharge. Guess what this creep rep told me. He said just ti wait another 48 hrs and the overage woukd be back on my card. (another blatant lie. It just so happened I recorded this conversation on my cellphone) zi called Comcast again today & guess what? The rep told me they have “no record” of me talking to a rep on Monday, that Comcast had been paid the $143 so there is nothing they can do about reversing it. Of course I let her have it and told her I would sue the s**tnout of Comcast for fraud and misrepresentation. I could swear I heard her laughing under her breath. What they did was tell me to wait 48 hrs with the representation they would return the overage when they knew damn well they had no intention of doing so. They told me to wait 48 hrs in order for me not to put a stop payment on the charge through my bank
and wanted to get the payment cleared before telling me to kick rocks. How sneaky and utterly despicable can you get.
They, of course, have played me but they have messed with the wrong person. I am a retired legal assistant (30+ years in civil litigation) and I have worked with many attorneys and for various big law firms. When I am told I cant sue any entity, I say crap because where there is a will there is a way. My sister is an attorney and so is my nephew (prosecutor) so I am not afraid to go after any entity who has commited fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and in my case infliction of emotional and physical distress (because of their direct action of fraud and misrepresentation & refusal to credit my card, I do not have funds available at this time to purchase life-saving medications I am required to take (I am diabetic), Trivial you say? NO. I have sued a conglomerate before, I was told I couldnt do it, I did sue them and guess who won? I did and I prepared and filed the case In Pro Per (imyself nitially) then my attorney sister substituted in and kicked their a$$ royally. Dont let people tell you you cant fight for truth and justice against these pig companies like Comcast who think they can continue to rob cheat and steal from the public to line their alteady bulging coffers with our hard earned money. Even if I cant win against this reprehensible company called Comcast, I will pursue using every inch of the law I have available, including seeking injunctive relief on behalf of the millions they have cheated and defrauded to ensure they will be stopped from shoving their unfair and illegal business practices down our throats. They think I will go sit in a corner feeling helpless and fuming like everybody else does. Wrong Comcast. I may fail, but I dont care how hard or long it takes, or who thinks Im crazy or delusional, or who is laughing at me right now thinking I am having a senior moment (Im just 59), I wont stop until Comcast knows exactly who I am and what I stand fir. Join me, dont allow Comoutcast to prevail. FIGHT! Contact me at

Jeffry says:

Comcast Horrendous Service

I called Comcast about my TV on Demand and the system giving me an error. After many tries with the individual on the line said the an appointment was set for today 8-17-2015 on the hours between 9 and 12PM. Nobody came to my home or called me. I called back, after explaining everything that happened another appointment was set for Wednesday 8/19/2015 same time period 9-12 PM. I was told also that a supervisor was going to call me, which he never did. The supervisor’s name is Mr. Gerald, the person that I talked to was Andrea. Something has to be done about this company been so unprofessional. Now I am on the phone again talking to Mr. Anthony in the Fort Myers office, you can hear on the background people joking around and screaming. I told Mr. Anthony that I was recording the call and that it was very unprofessional it was to have people screaming on the background. He then tell me that the call center was big and noisy. I pay good money for this company to take care of my television services, they are not providing the services. I guess when they know that they are the only cable company in town, they can do whatever they want. I think they call this a “Monopoly”. At this time I am now on hold again… who knows how long.
I just finished talking to Mr. Steven (one of the supervisors in the Fort Myers Call Center). He was apologetic and informed me the same the information that I just described above (it will be now Wednesday before I see a person to come to my home. He also told me that he can see that I was not getting anything on my television. I requested for his supervisor to call me her name is Mrs. Leah Sampson. Once again the service that I paid for is not working but I am paying for it.

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