Cable companies must die

Bob Garfield goes properly ballistic against Comcast. We all have our horrible stories of waiting for the cable guy but this is a classic and Bob does a good and anally retentive job of chronicling the horror, the horror. The only thing that would have made it better is if he had recorded it — Bob is, after all, a Big Media Guy — and turned it into YouTube hilarity.

Call me an optimist, but I believe that every company — every industry — that makes its money by screwing its customers is doomed. We, the customers, can now coalesce and gang up on them and show them who’s boss. Yes, I’m thinking Dell Hell and its apparent turnaround. But this works only if the companies live in fear of losing us — that is, if they have competition. And this, of course, is why cable companies, phone companies, insurance companies, power companies, and other monopolies and duopolies — not to mention government — keep thinking they have us by the balls, out of which they can squeeze their money. But I think their day will come. New technologies could kill or at least bring competition into telecommunications. The insurance mess is finally going to get so bad that government will have to step in to fix it. Politicians themselves will have to learn that we can use these new tools to defeat them. The question is how we can speed this process up.

Well, Bob Garfield is an expert in media — as the cohost of On the Media — and also in advertising — as the critic at Ad Age. So I’ll throw the challenge back to you, Bob: How can we set the agenda on our dear communications ball-squeezers? How can we make their lives a living hell, like they make ours? How can we put pressure on those in power to take the power away from these horrible companies? How can we show their would-be competitors that there’s a great opportunity to come in and displace these fat and venal fools?

Let’s invent antiadvertising. Or maybe it’s unadvertising. Or customertising. If they can use media and messaging, so can we.

So, Bob, why don’t you make a commercial — not just a blog post, but a cool and slick ad — telling people why Comcast must die (your words). If it’s good — which, if you make it, it must be — and if it says something people want to hear and say themselves — and we know everyone shares this sentiment — then they will pass it around. Thank you, Google and YouTube. Maybe we can make a contest of it: make commercials against your least favorite companies. Free creative. Free media.

What if customertising takes over and beats advertising? Then we’d all go seek out customerisements and the ones with the fewest screeds out there must be OK.

I hate to be so negative about this. But as you can see in Bob’s screedlog, as we all know, the anger and frustration just build up until you have to scream.

Well, from now on, instead of screaming, expose the fools. Record your entire encounter with the cable company — every phone call, every visit — and use their failures against them. Our day has come. Or is coming.

: LATER: I missed the obvious name — customercials.

  • Bob Garfield

    Hmm. Anti-advertising. I like your thinking. I think I’ll work on this.

    While my blog post is, indeed, an expression of frustration and rage (I literally feared for my health. I had tachycardia for 12 hours), it is also an experiment in harnessing the power of the many against the abuses of the few. I’ll take the ad idea under advisement. But I’m open to other suggestions along jihadist lines at

    By the way, shortly after I hit “enter” on my post, Comcast began falling all over itself to solve my problems. I literally had two supervisors in my house for 4 hours yesterday, and at least 5 follow up calls. Does this make me happy? No, it infuriates me.

    They feared me, so they treated me like a VIP. They should be treating everybody like a VIP.

    Look, I’m not stupid. This all has to do with cost. They figure they can’t compete against the other telecoms — who behave the same way — if their costs of customer-service are too high. But somebody must be made an example of. And I firmly believe that the player that institutionalizes VIP-serice for all will eventually see cost REDUCTION. It’s less expensive to deal with a problem once than to pay lip service to dealing with it five times. And the telecom that becomes synonymous with service will win.

  • ben

    I hear nothing but horror stories about Comcast. I have some friends in Jacksonville, FL and they are always complaining about the poor quality of their cable service and the slow unreliability of their internet.

    I’m just glad I’m not even close to them.

  • Hear, hear. Comcast is probably the worst-run and most customer-unfriendly corporation I have had the misfortune to buy from.

    My hunch is they have bought a bunch of politicians and that is their true core competency, not providing internet access.

  • Jeff,

    I just referred this post to a colleague. She agrees wholeheartedly with the sentiment (as do I) but she disputes the idea that these institutions have her by the balls.

  • How can we use the same principle on cell phone companies?

  • PSGInfinity

    The problem with CableCrap, TelCrap & ElectriCrap is the upfront cost of setting up the network. Spinning this out a little, they “should” treat us shabbily: “Where you gonna go, punk?” So the real question is how do we duck the setup costs? A Muni-wide, meshed WiMax network might take out Big Cable. But how to get to the backbone? How to, then, cut out Big Telco? And BigPower?

    …Any ideas?

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  • Nate

    I love the idea of consumer-created ads. If I was an advertiser, I’d pay for impressions of consumer-created ads and can my ad agency. Negative ads you say? I’ll fire product managers and customer support folks one-by-one until the ads improve.

    I download all my content through my neighbors’ wi-fi networks. I have no idea who their service providers are, so I don’t know who to love. I guess I’m to make a video about my neighbors and how much I appreciate them not securing their networks?

    If those service providers were smart and wanted to make some money instead of pissing off their customers/prisoners, they’d run the wireless networks for free and use an ad network to mix paid consumer-created ads into the content run over their routers.

  • Nate

    Is it just me, or are others seeing a womanly butt on the ad at the top right? Wow. I guess that’s one way to get my attention. Seems out of context with BuzzMachine though. I’d expect it on Friendster or something.

    Sorry about the second comment – if the BuzzMachine server let me, I would have appended to my previous comment. (There’s a suggestion in there.)

  • User Generated Advertising is a properly powerful thing.

    The worst possible thing is to do the dirty on an advocate.

    The lesson is that for all that we understand about the viral power of alpha users, it also works in reverse.

    Take this case with me and mobile operator 3.

    Duhumanising customer relations:

  • Back in 2001, my labmates used to gather ’round anytime I called Comcast (though I think it was still AT&T back then — but with the buyouts, it’s all the same) to inform them how the last technician shafted me and ask when the next shafting would be. There was much screaming and jumping up and down on desks, and I think it took about a month and a half to finally get my cable working. I wish we had YouTube back then…. Whatever you and Bob come up with, I’m in. I can’t wait to hear the next OTM podcast.

  • Agreed, Jeff. I’d like to nominate CHARTER CABLE to the hitlist, as well, and DISH NETWORK for becoming lax and complacent far too early in their allotted lifespan.

    For Dorian:
    “How can we use the same principle on cell phone companies?”
    Get yourself a lightweight laptop and a headset and download yourself a copy of SKYPE. If you’re truly dedicated to the cause, you’ll relish the minor inconvenience of sitting down to make a telephone call or to take one. Spread the word and take no prisoners.

    for PSGInfinity:
    the post you made hearkens back to a tale I once heard about QuarkXpress, once *THE* solution for computerized page-layout. A customer waited on hold for 45 minutes at Quark tech support, and when he finally got a human, and complained about the wait vociferously, the tech rep laughed in his ear and said “Yeah…? Who ELSE are you gonna call?” Since then, the Quark user demographic has plummeted, thanks to the introduction of InDesign. Thank you, John Warnock and ADOBE…

    For Bob Garfield:
    More power to YOU, Bob. Agreed, we should ALL get that level of service and attention – and SCREW the COST, because word-of-mouth of superior customer service will OUTSELL fast deployment every time. I work with people who are spitting mad a QWEST and DIRECTV over the current snafu on billing these two companies are generating due to their FBI/CIA-style Non-Info-Sharing tacit agreement…a couple of Bozo-level companies if there ever WERE any…

    To all reader/viewers:
    Never forget the power of the BOYCOTT. If you want to hit these companies where it hurts the most, CANCEL your cable and take out a subscription to NETFLIX, buy a set of rabbit ears antennas and get your news from PBS, as well as some damned fine entertainment, or read your news online and just hang-out that way for a few months. Let the cable guys STARVE a little while…

  • Rick

    BIG issue: how do you keep libel lawsuits at bay? Even if you are completely in the right Big Company can nuisance-suit you if you say CableCast Inc. sucks. Because inevitably someone will make a fake video/picture, put it up on, and CableCast will assert damages even if “someone” says later it was all a joke.
    Don’t doubt it will happen.

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  • We are appalled by the experiences that some customers have recently shared on blogs and in other forums. Where we have been able to identify customers who have had unsatisfactory service interactions, we have taken action to fix their problems. We recognize that it should not take a public event to have good customer service and we are working hard to ensure that all of our customers receive the best possible service.
    Suzanne Keenan, Comcast Senior Vice President of Customer Operations

  • I’ve recently discovered that I can live quite happily without cable. it started off as a money saving move (got a wedding to pay for coming up) and I’ve realized how much money I’ve been throwing away on the service.

    The two network shows I watch – LOST and HEROES – are streamed on the network sites the next day. Other series I watch more casually – GALACTICA, SMALLVILLE (I’m such a geek) – all get DVD releases, so I can wait for them. CNN and the other news outlets all update their websites and offer streaming video of most stories.

    Most of the other stiff that I’ve watched or had on the set while doing something else I don’t miss at all.

  • The fine gents at Charter Communication’s 800 number referred us to their local office for a problem with a cable TV remote. Fine – but not only did they not have the hours the local office was open, they advised that said office did not give out its phone number. So, you know, drive by once in a while.

    • It was probally a good thing that the local office was closed. I wanted to terminate my internet service after three failed attempts by thier techs to make it work. I called Charter and told the I wanted to stop my internet service. I was told that I had to take the equiement to the local office and turn it in and stop service there. Once there, the clerk could not generate an itimized final bill. I paid their total bill. Now for two months I have been billed for internet service I do not have. Now they want $275.52. They now tell me I did not cancel the internet service. I want to scream. I am getting U-Verse as soon as I can. Death to Charter Cable

  • I found a refernce to Bob Garfield’s Comcast horror in today’s NYTimes. I had a similar experience. I existed without internet/phone/cable service for 9 days.

    However, far worse than that was being jerked around and put on hold and spoken to obnoxiously by Comcast representatives. The worst was a woman who told me it “was not my fault [her fault]” that I had this problem so I should not be so upset.

    Then she told it was IMPOSSIBLE for me to get an appointment the same day. She solicitously put me on hold and said she would see when she could get me the next appointment.

    Ten minutes later I was rolled over onto Comcast Canada.

    Finally I got someone who heard how I was shaking with anger and frustration. He had someone there in 30 minutes. However, my phone doesn’t ring. So I have no idea when people are calling me.

    I have fought really horrible people [neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier types]. They have tried to really muck up my life.

    Never have they reduced me to the shaking mass of nerves that COMCAST did.

    They are a horrible excuse for a company.

    If Comcast monitors this they can leave me a message at

  • I just noticed that Susan Keehan has left a heartfelt apology on this site.

    When I was without any method of communicating with the outside world, I went to my office [in the middle of the night] to try to reach Comcast Executive Offices [not that I expected anyone to be there but I figured I could leave a message].

    It is impossible to get their number or get through to them. You can find Susan Keehan’s name but you can’t reach her.

    She may be Vice President for Customer Service or something like that. But I bet that she is a virtual person because Comcast has no cusormer service.

    Oh yes, when I finally got a hold of someone there and they berated me for not being home when they came to fix the problem, I said but no one told me you were coming. Comcast: we called you and left a message.

    Duh, they were coming to fix my phone!!

    [And oh yes, they had my cell phone number but never called it.]

  • Luccia

    I was not surprised to see DirecTV mentioned as a company with abysmal “customer service.” We became tired of billing errors and decided to discontinue our service. After 6 months, we decided to try again. We took advantage of an offer to former customers to enjoy three months of free premium channels. They sent an installer out and he was surprised to see we already had a DVR (Tivo) and receiver. He got everything going and when we got to the paper-signing part of the day, the last one was a lease agreement for the Tivo. We already paid for it. It was ours. After two phone calls, a DirecTV supervisor explained we were actually leasing the software and not the equipment. Uh, huh.

    After the free premium time ran out, we elected to keep HBO and Showtime. However, these services were gone, as well. A call to customer service revealed we never had any premium services and I was transferred to billing, who was now charging us for three months of premium service. As I became angry, I was put on hold for 15 minutes. I hung up and tried again. I got a young man who was a sexist jerk, i.e., “Maybe you need to get your husband to explain this to you, lady.” I asked for a supervisor. He set his headphone on his desk and every five minutes came back to say, “I’m trying to find one.” He’d walk away laughing and I would hear him joking and chatting with co-workers. After forty minutes, I called the salesperson on my cell phone who’d engineered our new account three months earlier. She was appalled. She transferred me to a customer service manager who took care of the billing problem, restored our HBO and Showtime, and, as I could hear from the jerk’s still open phone line, tracked down and dressed down her subordinate. We were given another free month of service.

    However, after four months, billing errors are starting again and DirecTV doesn’t seem to want to sort them out.

  • Goombahead

    I love the idea of user generated content created to increase the awareness of these customer service nightmares. I’ve worked at enough large companies to know that even a little bit of arm waving in public gets their attention. No-one wants to end up as a story on the 6 o’clock news, and the PR people will be working overtime to counter any public perception threat they feel is occurring.

    I guess my only suggestion with the idea is that it not be limited to purely NEGATIVE experiences. While the negative ones are often the more entertaining, I fear that all this will do is devolve into a giant video bitch-fest. When pressed, I’m sure that there are people to be found out there that have had negative experiences with every company on the planet. It’s just human nature, for the very reasons mentioned in both this and Bob’s blog. If it’s not balanced by positive experiences, it will just become so much one-sided noise that it loses all relevance, in much the same way that people discredit any number of online user forums, because everyone knows that most people are more motivated to complain than to praise.

    But that being said, I cast that wide net around myself, and admit that this has the potential of becoming a great sit-com, reality series, or documentary exposing the decline in customer service nationwide. It’s not as serious an issue as health care, but it would be entertaining none-the-less, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what this is all about?

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  • Shafted by Comcast

    I cannot even begin to tell you what I have been dealing with since October 3. I have been a cable customer since 1986 and signed up for on-demand, and Comcast phone service. Huge mistake! Cable here is out a lot and the service rep said just because the cable goes out, your high-speed internet and phone will not go out. The Bears game was on and I could not watch that, use the internet or use the phone for three hours on a prime-time Sunday evening!

    Calling Comcast is a total waste–with their horrendous prompts and when you do get a live person all they can say is “We apologize” without any real meaning. Then you get connected (maybe) to a tech person–I could not understand the tech person–she talked someother language!!!! She had not one clue what to do–There is a serious disconnect between sales, customer reps and techs. I was disconnected–so then you call back and go through those stupid prompts again–then I was put on hold for twenty minutes while they looked for a supervisor–who was dumber than the tech person.

  • check out

    Comcast Sucks

    I am not a writer or professional activist, but just another person screwed by the out-of-control Comcast machine monopoly.
    I do NOT condone violence to resolve problems, and everyone has their own opinions as to Mona “The Hammer” Shaw’s actions.
    Some of you think she should be imprisoned, some think she is a Hero, others think she did NOT go far enough.
    No matter what YOU think, one thing is sure … If one Internet search turns up over 1 MILLION hits for the words “Comcast Sucks”, then something Really BAD MUST be going on there !!
    If a company is rotten from the top down, how can anyone expect the service / cust. service to be anything of value ?
    And it’s up to US, as consumers, and VOTERS, to either change that or decide to live with it.
    NOT through violence, but political power, we hope to force Comcast to either change or ‘get out of town’.

    I have been protesting with a picket sign, several days a week, with my simple message
    which is a website started with the sole intention of getting enough signatures on petitions to get our local Nassau County ( Florida
    ) commission to hold hearings to determine if they will revoke the local Comcast franchise.

    ( ALL of you can do the same in your own localities, but TOGETHER we all have a stronger voice !)
    The website comes up about #12 on an Internet search list of over 1 Million for the phrase “Comcast Sucks”, which is not bad, but it COULD be number one when you type-in “Comcast” AND “Comcast Sucks”.

    ANY of you with organizing experience who can help US plan our ‘events’, please contact me.
    Whether you can help with picket signs, website creation and marketing, video productions or just getting the word out, anyone who wants to help, no matter how small the gesture, is welcomed and appreciated.
    And, PLEASE add the link to all your social networking sites and friends … Spread The Word !!.
    I can easily envision public meetings and gatherings with enough numbers to “ROCK Comcast’s boat” and put the fear of the Voters in the powers that (supposedly)’oversee’ them.

    Comcast does not think that a ‘grassroots’ effort against them can be successful, but we think otherwise.
    As you decide what you will do when you read this message, I have one more comment :
    “Whether You think You CAN, or whether You think You Can’t, either way, You’re Right !!!”
    (I don’t remember who said that, but it’s true)

    I appreciate you taking the time to read this message …
    … THANK You ALL !
    PLEASE take the time now to visit the website
    and email your comments to me.

    Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks

    WOW … Comcast is getting sensitive to people saying “Comcast Sucks”, and now Comcast is PAYING for Google AdWords ads to appear in searches for the words “Comcast Sucks”, trying to sell you a bill of goods disguised as an apology, of sorts.
    Buyer BEWARE … Don’t FALL for it !

    Their idiotic ad/letter titled, “Comcast Customer Care”, is a bigger oxymoron than “Military Intelligence” or “Jumbo Shrimp” !!

    It seems it would have been much easier to just treat people right, in the first place, but that’s NOT the way they do business.
    Heck, with a monopoly given to you, you can do just about anything you want, RIGHT ?
    Well, Maybe … Go to
    to find out MORE !!!

    Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks Comcast Sucks

    PS: every time someone clicks on their ad it costs them money

  • Huey Newtron

    Unsub from cable and go outside.

    Maybe you can get together with & comcastmustdie and shut them all down.

  • ricky

    charter cable sucks come on even the employees are sueing them 8000! of them over ,overtime whats that tell you??

  • ~tanya

    i’m really old, so i just remember having no problems with bellsouth (tha wave of tha past) and this cable company is my only option in my area (ooooooooh, for tha good ole days.)

    i’ve kinda spilt my (very demure) guts to who knows who at charter, cuz i dunno who does what and neither do they.

    yup, bi-weekly (at least) there’s an “outage” in my area, but it’s only ME ! (i figgered that out in about 9 weeks, i’m’ah genius) and could probly spend up ta 8,982 at Tutweiler Prison for some’ah crap i’ve spouted, but hey… i was’ah lil peeved, sue me.

    the internet isn’t just for cyber-sex and chat room lovahs anymore, the phone isn’t for findin’ out “who fucked who after bingo at tha baptist church last friday nite”.

    in FACT, i make my living publishing a magazine on this hot lil box that requires high speed.

    my Mom has recurring congestive heart failure and my Dad’s stroke dictates a phone requirement.

    (they don’t generally pick up their phones ta see’f there’s a dial tone, but i do) and if my Mom had an attack, there’s about a 5 minute window to call 911 or it’s off to tha pearly gates.

    strange, but ya gotta make CHAR-TIER aware that their service is dead. they don’t have a “department” for that kinda ‘waste’ah their precious time’ stuff.

    without notice, my parents’ phones have been kaput at least 15 times for up to two days at a time and that within the last couplah months.

    i sorta made THEM aware that should my parents suffer any health issues persuant to their lack of service, that it’d be NO problem-o for me ta see to it that any ignorant lyin’ asshole that janked my ass ONE MORE TIME tracked down, their home found, and blah blah blah. OH ! and in no way would harm come to them, but just their kids. cuz………. my loved ones suffer? so da theirs. and i can hang at’ah bus stop for days on end with tha appropriate amount of caffeine. (i’m kinda a tit for tat sorta chick.)

    now when an uninvited “i’m comin’ ta take yer modem away, ah ha hee hee” guy came to my Dad’s home (where i was staying, but i was away at the time) mistakenly (WRONG ADDRESS, HE HAD, I GUESS), Dad let him in, as stroke victims aren’t exactly as cognizant, post-stroke, as they were pre-stroke and don’t, sometimes, make decisions with the rationale they once did, i’ve found. mistah char-TIER not only discombobulated my internet and took my modem, he also took my medication.

    don’t get me wrong, i’m open to mistakes, but when my lithium, xanax and adderall (and a few others) come up missing along with cash, i get a lil antsy.

    (me, unmedicated, is one thing. me, noticing my meds have been stolen, is another… and neither is’ah blissful day at tha rodeo, count on it.)

    the psych ward even asks me ta leave on occasion cuz i can be quite annoying even WHEN medicated.

    ole boy learned that, and with what in MY world (maybe not anyone elses’) is’ah “gentle” lesson in ‘choose the behavior, choose the consequences.’ he was surprisingly attentive and ALAS, no homicides were reported on that day.

    yeah, the shit still shuts down, but now that they know that the only thing worse than a crazy bitch is a CRAZY BITCH WITH NOTHIN’ TA LOSE AND NOTHIN’ BUT TIME ON HER HANDS is in da house, the quicker picker upper got a lil quicker.

    yesterday a guy came by and offered to pick up yet ANOTHER modem (whaddam i, a modem collector?) and i told him “uhhhh, no”… he said he was gonna cut my service off at the pole. i politely told him he’d come down much faster’n he got up there, and glory be, i still have muh modem.

    oh, let’s not forget tha guy that originally turned my Dad’s service on, only to cut it off 2 hours later due to non-payment by a former home owner. (whadda cutie !) much ta his chagrin, i’d asked him to call my phone from his personal cell phone during installation ta see’f it was workin’ (i’m so ingenius) and damned if i didn’t have his # on my caller ID. i found that boys house in due time, and i didn’t come equipped with’ah nice suthern mint julep, nope-ah-ti-nope, (nor did i come un-equipped.)

    he graciously returned to restore the service, whadda guy !

    i could go on… but i’m boring, so i won’t.

    maybe i can stop with tha ole “JUMP UP MY ASS AND EAT DINNER” speech (paraphrased, of course) …

    …cuz suffice it ta say, i smell’ah class action lawsuit in tha works.

    (or maybe we could just all join hands’n sing “kum-bah-yah”)