Early Ethics Alarms 2014 Award: The Corporate Asshole Of The Year Is….Comcast

Yeah, just try getting Comcast to fix your service issues, and you may find out exactly what it cares about, when you get your severance paycheck...just ask Conal O"Roarke.

Yeah, just try getting Comcast to fix your service issues, and you may find out exactly what it cares about when you get your severance paycheck…just ask Conal O”Roarke.

I don’t want to spoil the suspense or anything, but when a company gives a customer horrible service, keeps botching its attempts to address it, and then calls the customer’s employer about the persistence of his complaints, getting him fired as a direct result, attention, as Mrs. Willy Loman memorably said, must be paid.

Here is the whole awful story, as first described in Consumerist.

Conal O’Rourke  subscribed to Comcast in early 2013.  The company charged him, he says, for set-top boxes that hadn’t been activated; some of his bills were not being delivered as well, because they had his name wrong on the account. He met with a Comcast rep in May who said all would be resolved. It wasn’t. The problems got worse. In addition to still being charged for unactivated devices in his house, Comcast charged him twice for an additional  modem he did not have.

He decided to to cancel his service from these bozos in Oct. 2013,  but says a Comcast rep convinced him that the billing issues would be resolved and that he would get free DVR service and The Movie Channel for three months as compensation. I’ve been there, with DirecTV…except that my satellite service actually did what it said it would. Not Comcast, apparently. It sent Conal O’Rourke about a dozen pieces of equipment that he never ordered and didn’t want–DVRs, modem, standard boxes other stuff—and billed him $1,820 for it.

He returned all the equipment to Comcast and, since he is an accountant, prepared a spreadsheet detailing every charge, overcharge, payment and credit on his account for his time as a (miserable and abused) Comcast customer. Comcast then sent Conal’s account into collections in early 2014.

On Feb. 6, 2014, having had enough of the runaround, O’Rourke went around Comcast’s customer service and  contacted the office of the company’s Controller. There he was promised that he would receive a call  to address all of his problems. What he got was a mysterious contact “with the rep not identifying which company she was calling from, just starting out with ‘How can I help you?’ Then she kept insisting that a technician had shown up for an appointment, but wouldn’t specify which appointment. The rep then began asking him for the color of his house.”

Strange indeed.

O’Rourke, who has the patience of Job, responded by calling  the Controller’s office once again, to complain that the promised call had just wasted his time. He pointed out that Comcast’s billing and accounting conduct should be investigated by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) that Consumerist describes as “a private-sector oversight operation.” Comcast then scheduled two service calls, but no one showed up. I would suspect this to be harassment; I don’t know if it was.

Someone at Comcast checked, and determined that O’Rourke’s accounting firm was Price Waterhouse Coopers, which counts Comcast among its clients, though it does not do the company’s accounting.

That someone then complained about O’Rourke to a partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers.  This triggered an ethics investigation, and, astoundingly, Conal’s termination.  The firm says that O’Rourke violated its policies, presumably by bringing its name into a personal issue, but is unclear about exactly what the accounting firm thinks he did that was so bad it warranted firing for cause. There is no question, however, that Comcast’s complaint set the stage for his fate. A Comcast exec has officially apologized to Conal O’Rourke, but says, cryptically, that “nobody at Comcast asked for him to be fired.”

Well, of course not. But the apology does not deny that Comcast called Conal’s employer, and since Comcast was a client, it doesn’t take an excess of imagination to guess how such a call could prompt the accounting firm to conclude that it had a better chance of keeping the communication giant’s business if its troublesome employee was sent packing. If that is what PWC did, I can also announce the runner-up for Corporate Asshole of the Year.

The bottom line, since we are talking about accountants and accounting firms, is that there is no conceivable justification for a company that has so egregiously mishandled a customer’s service to ever contact the customer’s employer. This is none of the employer’s business, absent a recording of O’Rourke threatening that he would see that PWC screwed up Comcast’s business as badly as they were screwing with him. The ability to resolve the issues with O’Rourke’s service was entirely within Comcast’s power, as the letter of apology acknowledges. Instead of making things right, Concast apparently took punitive measures against the customer it was mistreating.

This won’t happen, of course, but Comcast should get O’Rourke’s his job back, or offer him an equivalent one, not that he would be sane to work for a company that behaves this way. There should be about ten Comcast employees fired in his stead.

I know he’s just one customer, but I have never heard of even one customer of any company losing his job as a consequence of that company’s refusal to address legitimate complaints. That is why Comcast gets its Corporate Asshole of the Year award early.

Nobody’s going to top this.


Pointer: Alexander Cheezem

Facts: Consumerist 1, 2, 3



12 thoughts on “Early Ethics Alarms 2014 Award: The Corporate Asshole Of The Year Is….Comcast

  1. Hear hear!! You nailed it Jack. If every company conducted themselves this way, I would have been fired from multiple positions. This is but the latest evidence of this corporate bully.not caring what anyone thinks. This hilarious video says it all. Enjoy!

  2. Looks like they are trying for a back to back golden poo award. They are so big, too big to be effectively penalized. This is a growing problem with huge aggregate entities, and it will take sustained efforts by many people to curb.

    • Big is inherently inefficient. What keeps competitors from compelling it to break down into smaller more efficient entities?

      Is it that the other big competitors have all quietly given in to cartel-like behavior?

      Is it that there is some sort of unseen protection in the myriad regulations governing that industry?

      On the opposite end, is entry into that industry so difficult due to regulations that no small competitor could afford it?

      As for the ethics question- this is appalling of course. But disgustingly expected when big begins to ignore the people to whom they sell…

  3. And just think, if the Feds approve Comcast’s acquisition of Time-Warner cable, Comcast will have nearly twice as many customers nationwide to “serve” in this manner.

  4. Jack, what we need to do is to publish the personal addresses and telephone numbers of both the CEO’s of ComCast and Price Waterhouse Coopers and organize public protests. They have sowed the wind; they shall reap the whirlwind.

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