Oddly, Though Ethics Alarms Had Already Named Comcast “Corporate Asshole Of The Year,” The Company Felt It Had Something Left To Prove…


I really don’t understand this at all. In October, when the viral story of how Comcast managed to get a customer fired from his job for insisting that the communications giant address his legitimate complaints, I wrote:

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.

Yet amazingly, Comcast has managed to have yet another tale of atrocious service and customer abuse get widespread publicity. This video, by YouTube exhibitor Sweetlethargy, tells the whole  jaw-dropping story:

In any normal consumer setting, a customer able to prove that he was  induced by a company representative to purchase a service under false pretenses would immediately receive an apology, and the service promised for the price offered. In this case, however, as you can see in the excruciating video, Comcast’s reaction is, “Sorry, we won’t honor what you were told.” Translation: Screw you. Sue us. Good luck with that.

The is reminiscent of the running gag that was once famous on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” the chaotic Sixties comedy show, in which comic Lily Tomlin would play a cruel, smug, nasal-voiced and snorting Bell telephone operator named Ernestine (above). Her specialty was telling infuriated customers who were receiving rotten telephone service that their complaints were futile. “We don’t care. We don’t have to care. We’re the telephone company!” she’d say.

Apparently this is Comcast’s attitude. Horror stories about Comcast service are all over the internet and social media, and heads aren’t rolling, the Board isn’t screaming, press releases aren’t issuing, and documented customer abuse keeps turning up. The company has nurtured a culture of carelessness, callousness and arrogance, and apparently believes that its services are too essential to suffer significant consequences.

What have you heard about Bell lately?


Pointer: Fark

Those Unethical Noncompete Clauses

noncompetesIt would not unseat the presumptive and early-declared winner of the 2014 Ethics Alarms Corporate Asshole  Of The Year Award (of which, by the way, there is new news: the consumer Comcast got fired for complaining about its lousy service is suing), but sandwich chain Jimmy John’s outrageous noncompete clause in its employee contracts puts it in an enviable position of strength to be runner-up Corporate Asshole, if that is its aspiration.

It must be. Non-compete clauses are roundly detested in the law, often illegal, and frequently struck down by courts as unconscionable. They are justified, if at all, when an employee has a management-level position in a high tech or sophisticated knowledge and innovation field, or when he or she is a prominent industry figure  who could instantly harm a company by leaving and launching direct competition. Increasingly, however, companies have been using tight job markets to foist noncompete provisions on lowly service employees too, as fine-print additions to contracts that the employee is unlikely to have thoroughly read or understand. The New York Times reported on a Massachusetts man who sprayed pesticides on lawns for a living, and who had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement to do it. A  standard textbook editor was required to sign an agreement banning him from working for another publisher for six-months if he left his position. A marketing firm pressured a newly-minted Boston University grad to sign a one-year noncompete pledge for an entry-level social media job, and a even summer interns at an electronics firm had to agree to a yearlong ban. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Appearance of Impropriety II: “Here’s Approval For That Deal You Wanted…What? Sure I’d Like to Work for You! Wow, I Never Saw THAT Coming!”

What's there to be suspicious about?

Meredith Attwell Baker, a member of the Federal Communications Commission who voted to approve Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal in January, is leaving to  become senior vice president of government affairs for ….Comcast-owned NBC Universal.

Hey, why are you so suspicious, you jaded cynic, you? Comcast says it did not begin discussions with Baker about a possible job until after the takeover had her seal of approval. So it’s all on the up and up! Right? Right?

Okay, let’s say we believe that, since doing otherwise would amount to bribery. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t care. Taking a major job with  a company whose back you scratched with a favorable ruling as a government regulator looks terrible, promotes public distrust, erodes faith in regulatory structures, and is unethical. There are other jobs in the world for people with Baker’s credentials; she doesn’t have to take one that makes the U.S.  government’s business regulatory apparatus look like it’s fixed.

A condition of any regulator’s employment with a federal agency should be a pledge that he or she will never accept a paid position for a company that has benefited from the regulator’s rulings…not in a year, not in a decade, not ever.