A frustrated Comcast customer has apparently discovered one way to avoid terrible service from a cable company: Record every conversation you have with it.
An Oregon man, who goes by "Tim Davis" online, on Sunday published a recording of a series of phone calls he had with Comcast customer service representatives after his Internet went on the fritz. Those recordings saved him from $182 in bogus charges, he claimed.
At first, Comcast told him that he wouldn't be charged for fixing his service, but then gave him a surprise bill for $182. The company insisted he pay that bill -- until he told customer service that he had recorded all their past conversations.
Comcast customers around the country consistently have nightmarish customer-service experiences. Comcast is currently seeking regulatory approval to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, a deal that would make the largest cable company in the world even bigger. Critics of the deal argue that a telecom so large would have even less reason to offer decent customer service.
When Tim, who declined to share his real last name to protect his privacy, moved to a new apartment in Eugene, Oregon, about a month ago, he installed his modem and set up his Wi-Fi himself, he said on his YouTube account. Soon after, his Internet connection began to stop working for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
“I do a lot of work from home, and it was an issue not having Internet,” Tim told the Huffington Post over the phone. He said he works as a senior IT analyst for a large company.
He called Comcast. Tim and the representative figured out that the problem was caused by the cable outside of the apartment and that Tim hadn't done anything wrong. The rep said Tim wouldn't be charged for the repair. He recorded this call and all his subsequent ones, which you can listen to below. The story was first picked up by the Consumerist.
Warning: This video contains profanity.
But after a Comcast technician fixed the problem, Tim was billed $132 for failing to install his modem properly, which was never the issue. To boot, he was charged another $50 for having Comcast set up his Wi-Fi network -- something Tim had already done himself.
So he called up Comcast again. Tim said he was put on hold for an hour before he hung up. When he called back, a rep named Daisy said she had good news: Comcast had subtracted $100 from his bill for "service discounts."
But that left Tim still on the hook for the remaining $82. When he protested, Daisy offered to upgrade his Internet connection instead of refunding him, arguing that there was simply no way she could remove the charges or reimburse his account.
Tim said he had a recording of a phone call in which Comcast told him he wouldn't be charged. Finally, after one more phone call, Comcast backed down and gave him back his money.
"Why were you not able to do that before?" Tim asked.
"Again, that is a valid charge," Daisy said. "But since I advised my manager that there is a recording, and you were misinformed, then he's the one who can approve that $82."
"You're telling me that if I didn't have a recording of that call, you wouldn't have been able to do it," he said.
"That is correct, yes."
Comcast told HuffPost that it's investigating the calls.
“This is not the type of experience we want our customers to have, and we will reach out to Mr. Davis to apologize to him," Comcast representative Jenni Moyer said. "Our policy is not to charge for service visits that are related to problems with our equipment or network. We are looking into this to understand what happened and why it happened.”
As an IT specialist, Tim said that he has trained tech support teams before. “The reason I recorded this call is that I expected this,” he said.
What he didn’t expect was the tremendous reaction to his video on websites like Reddit, where his video became the top post shortly after it was published.
“If you look at the comments on Reddit, hundreds of people have had the same experience,” he said.
Last month, Comcast made headlines after another customer recorded and published a phone call with customer service. In that call, a Comcast rep refused to let a couple cancel their service when they wanted to switch cable and Internet providers.
Internal documents later published by The Verge show how Comcast's "retention specialists" systematically try to dissuade subscribers from canceling.
Earlier this year, a survey of 70,000 U.S. consumers found that cable companies and Internet service providers each constituted the two most hated industries in the entire U.S. economy. Comcast, which is in both businesses, was rated the second-lowest in customer satisfaction in the two sectors.
This post has been updated throughout to reflect comments from Tim. It has also been updated to include a warning about profanity in the embedded video.