Saturday, November 15, 2008

Comcast revisited

I've just read this thoughtful post by Dave Winer (of the RSS fame). It seems that he gave his problems even more thought than me. And he also found that blogging about his experience is the only way things may get fixed. Dave's previous post about Comcast problems (A new reason to hate Comcast) got 150 comments. Comments on that post (and the post itself) are a great read too.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Someone has just pointed me to  Apparently this is also a good place to publicize problems with Comcast.

Another story about Comcast

I just read a post titled "Comcast Lies".  Lying by Comcast was one of the reasons for my canceling their service, so I feel a lot of sympathy for Mikal.  There were other reasons:
  • their DVR had problems with playback,
  • there was no program guide information for one of the channels we watch and so we couldn't use the DVR to record any shows on that Channel,
  • the Internet connection didn't work with our setup and the tech support person I called was incompetent and rude,
  • the way they installed it, I couldn't use the Comcast phone service in the same room as the computer.
But the biggest reason was that when I ordered the service, the Comcast rep I talked to promised (and I asked multiple times to make sure) that the phone service they would provide would be standard phone service and not VOIP and yet it turned out to be VOIP.   I tend to blame incompetence over bad will but it's hard to believe that the Comcast rep who sells me service wouldn't know the difference (especially that he obviously knew the term "VOIP"), so in this case, lying is a much more likely explanation.  Or perhaps it is just misinformation since Comcast Digital Voice is different from VOIP in a subtle way.  But in any case, the assurance that I would get a regular phone line wasn't true and what's more the Comcast technicians who came to install the phone service, also referred to the technology as "VOIP".

Monday, October 13, 2008

My refund from Comcast arrives

The refund from Comcast has finally arrived today. I still haven't received my final statement by mail but Sandi who followed up by email to make sure that I received the check was nice enough to email the statement to me.  So, it seems that I was able to cancel my service with Comcast after all.  It was a very painful process and I hope that other Comcast customers are treated better than me but at least I'm done.

I should write another post later that summarizes all the advice I got about this issue.  But I can say quickly that complaining publicly is much better than trying to talk to customer service of Comcast because (at least in my experience) their customer service reps are not capable of doing something as simple as closing an account even after you talk to them month after month for 5 months.

So, if you're not having luck with the Comcast customer service, try @ComcastCares on Twitter and if at all possible, get a story on Consumerist .  This approach worked for me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Comcast (intentionally?) provides incorrect mailing address

You may remember from my earlier post that I couldn't find any mailing address on the Comcast web site.  They provide 6 ways to contact Comcast but none of them by paper mail.

Well, at least the monthly statement provides a return address (1400 Middlefield Road, Mountain View, CA 94043).  You can see a copy of the statement dated 9/20/2008 in this post.  So, I can use the address to send Comcast a letter, right?  Sounds obvious?  This is what I thought and on 9/30/2008, I sent them a certified letter to that address.

Guess what!  The post office returned this letter to me today because Comcast moved and their forwarding expired on 10/1/2008 (I don't know when it actually expired, so more precisely it expired on or before 10/1/2008).  Here's what I get when I enter my letter's tracking number in the "Track & Confirm" box on the USPS web site (highlight is mine):
Label/Receipt Number: 7007 3020 0003 2435 9805
Detailed Results:
Delivered, October 07, 2008, 9:09 am, PALO ALTO, CA 94303
Notice Left, October 06, 2008, 2:06 pm, PALO ALTO, CA 94303
Forward Expired, October 01, 2008, 4:51 pm, MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA
Acceptance, September 30, 2008, 8:51 am, PALO ALTO, CA 94303

And here's the letter I got back with the "Forwarding Order Expired" box checked:

What happened?!

As far as I know USPS provides one year of free forwarding of first class mail and the address in question was still valid in June since I went to this office myself, so it seems that Comcast had to do something special to ask the post office to stop forwarding mail sent there.

Let me get this straight: on a statement sent to me on 9/20/2008, Comcast still used that address as the return address and they request that mail forwarding stops on or before 10/1/2008 before the free forwarding by USPS expires.  Can you think of any explanation other than that they intentionally do what they can to make it hard for customers to contact them by mail (especially in light of the fact that they refuse to provide a mailing address on their web site)?  Of course, as some people say, "for any given event that may be explained by either incompetence or conspiracy, incompetence will always be the correct explanation".  Or perhaps someone has a better explanation?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Comcast's response on The Consumerist

I wanted to thank everyone for help.  I will keep everyone posted about the developments.  Hopefully, this time I will really receive the refund and Comcast's records will really be updated to show that I'm no longer their customer.  And I also hope that they find out what went wrong, so that other customers do not end up in the same situation.

In addition to emails and phone calls to me directly, Comcast (more specifically Frank Eliason) responded on The Consumerist article:

We have corrected this for Michal. We will make sure to credit everything back and expedite the refund. This should not have happened and on behalf of Comcast I apologize to Michal. We are still in the process of investigating what occurred, but it would appear that we did not schedule the disconnect to happen at the Customers location. This should have been picked up during any of the conversations this Customer had with us.
Thank you again for the feedback!
Frank Eliason
@ComcastCares on Twitter

Miracles caused by going public

Could it really be that the fact that I created this blog and that the blog was mentioned in a few places (most prominently The Consumerist) finally made Comcast solve my problem?  Today Comcast reached to me three times to say that my cancellation was finally done and two of those times I even got an apology!

First let me thank Frank, Sayid (I'm not sure if I got the spelling right from the answering machine message) and Sandi.  Here's what they said:

1. I got an email reply from Frank Eliason (aka @ComcastCares).  The email said:

From: Eliason, Frank
Subject: RE: I can't get Comcast to cancel my account
Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 9:29 AM

At this time the cancellation has been processed and credits are being placed on the account.  We will also work to expedite the refund.

2. While I was at work I got a message on my home answering machine from Comcast with an apology and return number to call to talk about my case.  (I didn't call back because I was asked to call until 5pm and I didn't return home until after 7pm.)

3. I also got an email from Executive Customer Relations:

From: Barnes, Sandi
Subject: Comcast Cares - ESL#715449
Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 1:07 PM

Dear Mr. Cierniak,

This is to inform you that our office has received your complaint, which was sent to our Senior Vice President, Rick Germano's office, regarding your account which was still being billed even after you have requested to disconnect back in May 2008. At Comcast, we strive to provide outstanding customer service and we welcome this opportunity to address your concerns.

First of all, on behalf of Comcast, I would like to apologize for  any inconvenience  this may have caused to you with the delay in closing your account . I want to assure you that your account has been corrected  and is now showing in closed status. I am currently working to get you your refund in the amount of $145.00 as soon as possible and mailed to XXXXXX, Palo Alto, CA 94303.  I have already requested this to be expedited. I will personally follow up with you until you receive the refund check.

In the meantime if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or you can call me @925-973-XXXX.

Thank you,

Sandi Barnes
Executive Customer Relations

The Consumerist

My story is now on Consumerist .  I like how they use humor to make it more readable than my matter-of-fact blog.  :)

My story has generated more than 10 comments there.  More exposure can only help my case, so I'm really happy to be mentioned there.  Colleagues have suggested a few other sites that may be good to contact.  I may try them as I find more free time.

I've looked around The Consumerist web site.  It's pretty addictive (and depressing) to see how many people run into problems with big companies.  The are a lot of stories about Comcast there!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Using twitter to solve my problem?

One of the comments to my earlier post suggested asking @comcastcares on twitter.  A colleague at work gave me the same advice, so I set the following message:
@comcastcares I can't get Comcast to cancel my service. Here's my story:
Within minutes I got the following response:
@cierniak Email the link and your account info and contact # to my team. We will get it cared for
I sent email with my account number to that email address.  Maybe this will help?  I got so many promises from Comcast in the past that I don't know if I should be hopeful.  I'll let everyone know how it worked out!  But in the meantime if anyone has other ideas, let me know.  Just in case.

How to contact Comcast?

I have already tried: going to the local office (twice), calling (I don't remember how many times but it was multiple times), using the online chat.  None of those mechanisms work.  I would love to mail them a real letter because I've heard advice that this would give me better legal protection than phone calls or online chat.  But guess what: Comcast's Conctact Us web page gives 6 ways to contact Comcast but none of them is a physical mailing address.  The bill that they sent me doesn't include a mailing address than then one for mailing payments (there's also an address of the local office which I guess I could use to send a letter to).  So, my guess is that Comcast also thinks that mail would give their customers a better legal standing and they intentionally do not provide it.

Instead of mailing a letter, I tried something else.  The same Contact Us page has a way to send feedback to Rick Germano.  Who is Rick Germano?  Here's what the Six Ways to Get Help page says:
"Hi, I’m Rick Germano, head of Customer Operations at Comcast."  Here's a picture of Rick:
He looks like a nice fellow, so I thought that it was worth a try.  Here's the letter I wrote to Rick:

My account number with Comcast is XXXXXXXXXX.  On 5/29/2008 I visited the Comcast office at 1400 Terra Bella Ste D, Mountain View, CA 94043.  I returned my equipment and requested to cancel all my services (I would be happy to email or fax a copy of that receipt of the equipment return).  In the following months, Comcast has been billing me for services I no longer receive and for rental of equipment I no longer have.  Whenever I receive a new monthly bill I am contacting the customer service.  I was first calling Comcast and I visited the same office where I originally returned the equipment.  More recently I have been using the online chat on the Comcast web site to have some kind of record of talking to your customer service.  I used the chat on 7/25/2008 with Melinda (chat id 28370746), on 8/25/2008 with Brenda (chat id 29465037), on 9/23/2008 with Marco and on 9/25/2008 with Zhenaida.  Both Melinda and Brenda acknowledged that this a problem with the Comcast records and they both said that they will make sure that I will stop receiving future bills and they both said that I would receive a refund of $142.29 in 4-6 weeks.  Not only I haven't received any refund but I still keep getting bills from you.  The most recent one arrived today and adds false charges for 9/23/2008-10/22/2008 to what it assumes I already owe.  The other two analysts I talked to (Marco and Zhenaida) were not able to help me because "the program we use to access your account information is currently being upgraded to serve you better".

The situation is completely ridiculous.  Please fix this problem immediately and send me a confirmation that this issue has been resolved and send me my refund.  My address is:
Palo Alto, CA 94303

Michal Cierniak

I sent this letter on the evening of 9/27/2008 and immediately got this automated response:

From: Comcast ECARE
Subject: Thank You for Contacting Rick Germano! Your Message Has Been Received (XXXXXX)
Date: Saturday, September 27, 2008, 10:32 PM

Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback regarding your
experience with Comcast.  Your feedback will assist us in our efforts to
continually improve the Customer experience.   To respond as quickly as
possible, I have asked members of my leadership team to join me in 
addressing all "Ask Rick" messages.

Thank you for being a Comcast Customer.


Rick Germano,
Senior Vice President of Customer Operations

This is an auto reply message letting you know that we've received your
e mail, so please do not reply to this message

No response yet but I'm hopeful that Rick or his staff will be able to help me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


This has been an absolutely horrible experience.  I canceled Comcast service on 5/29/2008 by going to a local Comcast office and returning their equipment.  However every month since then, they have been sending me a new bill for another month of service.  Each time I get a new bill, I contact their customer service and they say that there has been indeed a mistake and they claim that they will make sure that I will receive no more bills and that they will send me a refund in 2-6 weeks.

This desperate blog post is my attempt of getting advice how this problem could be fixed.  If anyone has any ideas, please either leave a comment at this blog or email me (cierniakmail-comcast at

Here's a more complete timeline of my story so far:

  • 5/29/2008: I go to the Mountain View, CA office of Comcast to return my equipment and request that they stop my service immediately.  Their staff takes the equipment, scans the barcodes, types something on their computer and hands me a receipt saying that I'm all set.
  • End of June 2008: I receive a new bill from Comcast that charges me for service from 6/23/2008 to 7/22/2008.  I call their customer service and they say that they have no record of me returning the equipment and canceling the service.  They tell me to go to the local office again.  So I go to the Mountain View office again and show the receipt they gave me.  They apologize, acknowledge that there has been a problem and spend 15 minutes doing something on their computer and say that everything is fixed now and I should receive my refund in 4-6 weeks.
  • 7/25/2008: I receive a new bill from Comcast that in addition to what the June bill charged me for, adds charges for service from 7/23/2008 to 8/22/2008.  This time, I try the online chat with Comcast.  I get connected to Melinda (this chat id is 28370746).  Melinda does some research and says that everything is fixed and "This $142.29 credit should arrive in about two weeks or less."
  • 8/25/2008: I receive a new bill from Comcast that in addition to what the July bill charged me for, adds charges for service from 8/23/2008 to 9/22/2008.  I try the online chat with Comcast again.  I get connected to Brenda (this chat id is 29465037).  Brenda looks into my problems and notices that something is weird.  She says "My supervisor and a lead are helping me make the necessary changes to get this problem fixed for you tonight".  This makes me feel a bit better and I wait patiently as they research my problem (it took them quite a long time).  Eventually Brenda says "We were able make sure your account appears as cancelled as of May 26th" and "Your refund check will be 142.29, you should be expecting that within the next 4 to 6 weeks".
  • On 9/23/2008 and 9/25/2008, I contact Comcast to confirm that everything is settles.  Unfortunately their computer system is down and they can't help me.
  • 9/27/2008: I receive a new bill from Comcast that in addition to what the August bill charged me for, adds charges for service from 9/23/2008 to 10/22/2008.  I try the online chat with Comcast again.  I get connected to Juan Paolo and ended up talking to the supervisor, Noel.  Unfortunately, they were not able to help me since their computer system was down.  Juan Paolo's advice was to ignore the bills and Noel's advice was to contact the Mountain View office.  He told me to contact them soon but not right now because the computer system is down.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another month, another bill for non-existing service

Today is 9/27/2008.  It has been 4 months since I canceled my service and a month since my most recent conversation with Comcast Customer Support that promised: "We were able make sure your account appears as cancelled as of May 26th" and "Your refund check will be 142.29, you should be expecting that within the next 4 to 6 weeks".

And I still received a new bill from Comcast.  By now they claim that I owe them over $500 even though in fact they owe me money.  Here's a copy of the header of that latest bill.

Monday, August 25, 2008

eSupport Chat with Brenda

I got another bill from Comcast.  Melinda's promise from last month turned out to be false.  This time I talked to Brenda and she made a new promise to fix my problem.  Here are some highlights from the chat with Brenda:

  • "My supervisor and a lead are helping me make the necessary changes to get this problem fixed for you tonight"
  • "We were able make sure your account appears as cancelled as of May 26th"
  • "Your refund check will be 142.29, you should be expecting that within the next 4 to 6 weeks"

The complete transcript follows (I only deleted my street address):

eSupport Chat Transcript

Michal > You keep billing me for service you stopped providing on 5/29.  Can you finally send me my refund?  See also my previous chat ID number of 28370746 which claimed that you fixed that problem.
Brenda > Hello Michal_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Brenda. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Brenda > I can definitely look at your refund status. 
Michal_ > thanks
Michal_ > it's not just the refund status
Michal_ > you keep billing my for service i don't have
Brenda > How did you cancel your services? 
Michal_ > i went to the
 local office.  i returned the equipment and told them to cancel my service
Michal_ > i have receipt for this
Michal_ > dated 5/29
Michal_ > i can email you a copy of the receipt if it helps
Brenda > I see the notes on your account Michal. Thank you.
Michal_ > so, where are we going from here?
Michal_ > can you escalate this problem?
Brenda > On
 e moment, please, while I review your account. 
Brenda > Thank you for your patience.
Michal_ > thank you
Brenda > You're welcome.
Michal_ > Are you still there, Brenda?
Brenda > I am doing some research.  Thank you for your patience.
Michal_ > ah, thanks.  just checking.
Brenda > Thank you for your patience.
Brenda > There seems to be some problems with your account.  Your account is still showing as active.  That is the reason you are still receiving bills.  
Brenda > My supervisor and a lead are helping me make the necessary changes to get this problem fixed for you tonight. 
Brenda > I apologize for the 
 inconvenience this has caused you. 
Michal_ > thank you for looking into this
Michal_ > do you think it will be fixed tonight?
Brenda > You're welcome.. 
Brenda > Yes. Please standby.  It will take about 5 to 10 minutes to get this resolved for you.  I will let you know what your refund amount will be. 
Brenda >
 ; Thank you for your patience.
Michal_ > I will stand by.  I really want to have this resolved.
Brenda > Thank you.
Brenda > We are still working on it. 
Michal_ > thanks for the update
Brenda > Thank you for baring with us. 
Brenda > Thank you for your patience Michal.  We were able make sure your account appears as cancelled as of May 26th. 
Michal_ > thanks!
Michal_ > I hope that it works this time!
Brenda > Just one more moment. 
Michal_ > OK
Brenda > Let me find 
 out if I can get that refund total for you. 
Brenda > Your refund check will be 142.29, you should be expecting that within the next 4 to 6 weeks. 
Brenda > Where do you want this check to be mailed to?
Michal_ > same address as what you have on file
Michal_ > XXXXXXXXXX, Palo Alto, CA
Michal_ > can
  you also give me the chat id
Michal_ > And email the chat transcript to me?
Brenda > You may choose to email yourself this script at the end of our chat. 
Brenda > One moment, please.
Michal_ > OK
Brenda > You are all set.  My chat id is 29465037
Brenda > It was my pleasure to assist!  Is there any thing else concerning your Comcast service that I may assist you with at this time?
Michal_ > Can you give me the chat ID?
Michal_ > For my records...
Brenda > My chat id is 29465037
Michal_ > Thank you!
Michal_ > Good night!
Brenda > We strive to exceed your expectations and hope that you will take a moment to complete the 3 question survey that will follow our interaction, your feedback will help us to continue improving how we serve you.
Brenda > Thank you for choosing Comcast as your Cable television provider. Should you have additional questions, please feel free to chat back with one of our Online Customer Support Specialists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at

Friday, July 25, 2008

eSupport Chat with Melinda

Today I have received a bill from Comcast that is billing me for service from 7/23/2008 to 8/22/2008.  This time, I try the online chat with Comcast.  I get connected to Melinda.  Melinda does some research and says "I confirmed all equipment is off the account XXXXXXXXXXX" and "This $142.29 credit should arrive in about two weeks or less".

The complete transcript follows, I only deleted my account number and email addresses (mine and Melinda's):

eSupport Chat Transcript

[01:10] Michal > I canceled my service on 5/29 but you keep billing me in spite of me calling and visiting the local Comcast office
[01:10] advanced_tool_log > user Michal_ has entered room
[01:10] advanced_tool_log > analyst Melinda has entered room
[01:10] Melinda > Hello Michal_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Melinda. Please give me one moment to review your information.
[01:11] Michal_ > Hi Melinda
[01:11] Melinda > I will be happy to assist you, Michal, with this bill as I'm sure it was sent in error.
[01:12] Michal_ > I have a copy of the receipt I got from the Comcast office that proves that I returned all the equipment on 5/29
[01:12] Michal_ > Is there a way I can give this to you?
[01:12] Michal_ > Email perhaps?
[01:12] Michal_ > Whenever I call, I hear that you have no proof of me returning it
[01:12] Melinda > That shouldn't be necessary, but later if I need it, I'll have you fax a copy of that to us or email me at
[01:12] Melinda > For your protection, before I can discuss any account specific information, can you please verify any one of the following: the last four digits of the primary account holder's Social security number or the account
 number (a 16 digit number that starts with 8) or the exact amount of the most recent payment posted to the account?
[01:13] Michal_ > acct number: XXXX XX XXX XXXXXXX
[01:14] Michal_ > $196.72 was the past payment
[01:14] Melinda > Thank you Michal.
[01:14] Melinda > Please hold on while I check.
[01:14] Melinda > Just one moment.
[01:14] Michal_ > thanks
[01:15] Melinda > I confirmed all equipment is off the account XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.
[01:15] Melinda > Instead you're getting a credit back of $142.29.
[01:15] Michal_ > yey!
[01:16] Melinda > This $142.29 credit should arrive in about two weeks or less.
[01:16] Michal_ > great!
[01:16] Michal_ > can you give me some kind of confirmation number or something?
[01:16] Michal_ > i was already told once that everything was resolved...
[01:18] Melinda > Sure as it's this chat ID number of 28370746 plus I will email you a copy of this chat transcript and left notes indicating what we discussed today in chat at
 Melinda > To ensure that you have this information when the chat ends and so you may review at your leisure, you will be able to print or send yourself a copy of this chat transcript.  Feel free to copy now or please click the "End Session" button on the top of the page to save this chat. Therefore, is there anything else I can assist with or answer ?
[01:18] Melinda > I have emailed you now at
[01:18] Melinda > We strive to exceed your expectations and hope that you will take a moment to complete the 3 question survey that will follow our interaction, your feedback will help us to continue improving how we serve you.
[01:18] Melinda > Is there anything else I can help with tonight?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Returning equipment to Comcast

First there were problems that made me cancel Comcast service but real problems started on 5/29/2008 when I went to the Comcast office in Mountain View, CA to cancel my service.  I brought with me all the equipment (the Internet/VOIP modem, the DVR and the remote control).  I got a receipt for the equipment and I was told that my service was canceled.  Little did I know about what's going to unravel.

Here's a copy of the return receipt.  I blacked out personal information like my account number and parts of serial numbers of the equipment but otherwise, this is exactly what they gave me.