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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:15pm

    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.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Comcast to English Translation

    Comcast:
    We try to negotiate, and again, that is a valid charge,

    English:
    We always f*** over our customers whenever possible, and like I fraudulently claimed before, that is a charge that our system puts on every bill that we send out as long as a technician has been dispatched to your general area,

     

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  3.  
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    Manabi (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Something I've always wondered

    Well, logically it should work that way. But that's unlikely to keep Comcast from trying to sue you for making them look bad publicly. You'd likely win, but it'll cost you dearly. So check the laws to be safe, and notify them you're recording them if your state laws require it.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Something I've always wondered

    Monitoring and recording are VERY different in some areas. Regardless, in CT at least, the law is clear that if you are doing the recording, you need to request and be granted consent.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    alternatives(), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:22pm

    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.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:23pm

    May a nice tech from Comcast will post an anonymous video showing how to fix outside lines and Comcast can sit & spin.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    I'll have to check and see if my cellphone has phone call recording capabilities. I can't believe Comcast tried to extort this guy for $200.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:36pm

    And this is the internet provider that wants the FCC to approve the buy out of Time Warner? You gotta be kidding me!

    It's bad enough we don't have competition to drive improvements but this just adds insult to injury.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:37pm

    Re:

    "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."

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

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:40pm

    For the legal eagles here:

    Does that mean that Davis can sue for attempted fraud?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    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.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Whatever, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:48pm

    (parody)

    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.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:54pm

    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?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:54pm

    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?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Something I've always wondered

    Everytime I hear the usual 'This call may be recorded for ...' , I always say, in a clear voice, 'Thank you, I think I will.'

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    Re: (parody)

    Oh, you know me, I just live to deceive people for...some reason?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 1:02pm

    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.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Something I've always wondered

    being told you're being recorded, constitutes consent on their part to record, and if you stay on the line and don't clearly object, you consent.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re:

    1. You sue them in Small Claims Court. They most likely won't show up. If so, you have iron-clad evidence.

    2. Hope you have another provider ready because if you sue them they will probably blacklist you.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    $82, but why should any news stories report the real amount?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Bob, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 1:16pm

    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.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymouse, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    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.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    jackn, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 2:17pm

    Re: (parody)

    The two are related. They have no incentive for good service, because, you know, whacha gonna do?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 2:31pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 3:03pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 3:18pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Re: Something I've always wondered

    Another fun one on "this call is being recorded" tell them you are doing the same and see how fast they drop the call.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 3:51pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 4:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:


    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.

    How are you supposed to do this if the only ISP in your area has you blacklisted?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 5:37pm

    edit: a word

    "...conclusively to a complete lie."

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 6:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sneaker-net to a friend or public connection, like the library.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 8:39pm

    Re: Re:

    IANAL, but that's a small enough amount that you can take them to small claims court, where they can't bring $3000/hr worth of lawyers, isn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 9:29pm

    Re: Something I've always wondered

    In theory, yes. In practice, all it would take to jail you for recording would be the phone rep claiming he didn't remember that his employer recorded calls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 9:31pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 9:32pm

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

    So instead, tell the living person you wind up connected to that you live in an all-party state that prosecutes people for recording secretly, so you give permission that the call can be recorded. After all, you don't want some innocent CSR to wind up a felon, do you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 9:34pm

    Re: Comcast to English Translation

    More accurately, I think it would translate to:

    "We're trying to negotiate with you but your failure to agree with everything we say is causing the negotiations to fail."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    Greevar (profile), Aug 12th, 2014 @ 10:20pm

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

    Except if it's one-party consent. As long as you know, and consent to a recording the the conversation, you're entitled to do the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    tracyanne, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:00am

    FYI

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    hacvumre, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:14am

    hac ve umre

    its very nice makale
    www.hacvumre.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    hacvumre, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:15am

    hac ve umre

    onun çok güzel Makale
    http://www.hacvumre.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Almost Anonymous, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 6:10am

    Re: Re:

    It seems you are intimately familiar with the story and the amounts in question. Would you mind breaking it down for us? And if you could provide sources, I might even believe you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 7:16am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Blue Sweater (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re:

    So if he didn't bother to look at the bill and just let the payment go through it would have been $82 not $181.94?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 10:43am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Michael, Aug 14th, 2014 @ 9:51am

    Re: FYI

    How do you send letters?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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