Before HARDBARNED! became a book in 2016, it was a blog I began in 2008. It still is, from time to time, and you have found its home. Scroll through it all here, or browse selected posts at Medium. In case you were wondering…none of this blog content appears in the book, which is its own separate thing and mostly about working for a living. The blog is usually about pop culture-type stuff. Cheers.

An Open Letter To Comcast

Dear Comcast,

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways. If the Supreme Court is right and corporations are people, I'd like to volunteer to wait in line to punch you in the face.

Let me make this perfectly clear: my anger is directed at you--the empty, faceless corporate entity--not at your thousands of minions forced to earn a measly hourly wage by doing your bidding, ignoring your customers' real questions, avoiding substantive answers, adhering to your carefully calculated script at all costs, changing prices like a drunk with the price-tag gun at Kmart during a blue light special in 1992, creating indefensibly fluctuating pricing tiers, revealing absolutely nothing when asked to explain the dubious nature of your shape-shifting service plans and wasting significant portions of your customers' lives whenever they have the audacity to disagree with you or to question any one of your multitudinous asinine policies.

After my latest incredibly frustrating interaction with you, I decided to turn my feelings into a post and share, because writing is therapy and sharing is caring. Wouldn't you agree? No, I guess you wouldn't. Because even though you like to spout off about how important it is to you, you wouldn't recognize customer service if it ran over you like a delivery truck full of telephone scripts for the human-bots you employ.

I guess you wouldn't know it because you'd be dead if the truck hit you, so this is not the greatest of illustrations, but the canned responses that you force upon your desperate and abused customers is but the tip of your carefully chiseled anti-consumer iceberg. Anyway, I need you to be alive to get my point across, so please shake it off and listen up. I know you don't care and aren't paying attention, but you need to hear this.

I am so very tired of dealing with you. I have stood by, complicit for approximately two decades as you have sucked money out of my wallet, month after month, like a morbidly obese future-human suckling a bottomless bucket of soda in the movie WALL-E. (I know you've seen it).

Meanwhile, you have managed to distance yourself entirely from any real interaction with your customers. I'm just the bot squirming at your feet to ensure that the tap of green keeps flowing from that wallet and that your mouth stays wide open to receive funds, as you struggle for balance while reaching out in every direction for more funds.

Building an impenetrable wall of babble around yourself with script readers mouthing prescribed, Orwellian corporate-speak, instead of real people offering truly interactive services, you bury the genuine individual you have hired beneath your required talking templates. Mercilessly insisting that your workers assimilate and toe the Borg/Comcast party line, you extract all semblance of humanity from your company's interactions with those whose money created and supports your very existence.

About those pricing tiers: I'm tired of the price of my internet service increasing every six months, and no, I don't want to upgrade, and I still don't want your television programming. I'm tired of spending hours on your worthless chat system every six months, wasting my life trying to get the chat-bot on the other end of the connection to ditch the script and level with me. I'm tired of spending even more hours being passed around a series of customer service representatives on the telephone after getting nowhere with your chat, still trying simply to get the same service at the same price from this day forward ad infinitum.

So maybe it is unrealistic of me to expect the bill to stay the same throughout eternity, but what customer buys into any kind of service contract and agrees to a responsibility of renegotiating the price every few months, forever? I can't think of one.

In November, when my price went up again, I knew better than to waste my time with your chat system. I had already been through several levels of your telephone tree of urgency, threat level defcon four, and having saved that number from the last time I talked to four different people, I called the fourth number directly into the "customer hates us and will most likely cancel" queue, where I still suffered through a 15 or maybe 20-minute hold.

I was subjected to the usual rigmarole about how my price was a "promotional rate" that had expired, and that no other promotional rates were available to allow me to keep my current rate of service at my current price. I told the script reader that I was fine with that because I was finished with promotional rates. I did not want another promotional rate. I think you know where you can shove your promotional rates. I wanted the same service at the same price to continue without having to go through this colossal waste of time and the accompanying headache ever again. 

One renegotiation every six months for a couple decades was just about enough for me. The script reader would not veer from the script despite my most heartfelt entreaties of human interaction and bumped me up to the next level of "stop this person from canceling before they turn off the tap of delicious green" or whatever you call it at your house, Comcast.

This next person sounded a little more human. She listened to me and quickly noted that I would be able to keep the same price, for an entire YEAR this time, if only I would agree to cutting my internet speed in HALF. Well gee, that sounds reasonable, right? No, but I agreed to it because I have no real alternative and could not accept a price increase. Unless I move to another neighborhood that you don't have firmly by the balls, I will still have to do battle with you again in November, but at least this is over for a year this time instead of a mere six lousy months. Or so I thought.

Earlier this month--that's three months since I signed up for your latest crappy offer--I got an email from you regarding my account "with recent changes." What recent changes? The email said that my "order" was confirmed. What order? It also said that the changes I had requested would be made. What requests?

Apparently my "order" included a bunch of cable stations, a digital converter box and another remote control for my collection. So yeah, I didn't order it and I still DON'T WANT IT. I even told the lady when I signed up for this three months ago that I didn't care about the TV option--that I just wanted the internet service.

So I replied to your email asking about why you were sending this to me--three months later--even though I didn't want it, had said so, and had not requested it or ordered anything. Of course, the email bounced back as undeliverable because you make sure that you can communicate with us via email, but we cannot reciprocate. Thanks.

I refused to waste any of my life trying to reach someone at your company and talk about this on the phone or via chat, so I didn't do anything else. When the box arrived with all the gear, I wrote "refused" on it and sent it back to you via the UPS guy, who is an awesome dude, by the way. Thanks Jeff.

Then, a week later, you sent me a letter telling me that you had sent me the box of stuff--as if it had just gone out the door--the same stuff that I had already returned to you a week ago--and that I should be on the lookout for it. Clearly it had already been returned to you.

What the hell is wrong with you, Comcast?

What customers want is a REAL HUMAN INTERACTION with someone who actually listens. We're not stupid. We don't need some corporate psychologist-penned soothe-speak to make us believe we're hearing what we want to hear. We don't need to be coddled and told that you understand how we feel because that claim is empty, shallow and insulting.

If you really understood what it feels like to be on the other end of the line, you'd be revamping your whole approach to the word service. Look it up. Like Inigo says in The Princess Bride, "you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." You cannot attain empathy and achieve real customer service until you allow your employees to actually listen, ditch your infernal script, stop designing your pricing structure like a cell-phone store on crack and solve problems accordingly. Yes, it will take more time. I think you owe it to us.

But wait, doth the human/corporation protest? You're not the only industry that treats its customers like this, you might argue. You're betting on us being lazy and stupid or both--that we will forget or simply choose not to wrestle with you, just like the insurance company that subtly overcharges us, the credit card company that cranks up our interest rates or the hospital that spanks us with its chargemaster.

I don't want to hear that, Comcast. Just because you operate in America doesn't mean you should use and abuse us like other American corporations do. You could easily choose to go your own way, earn your keep by streamlining and simplifying your plans, ditching your scripts, treating your customers like people and doing the right thing. Ha.

I'm cracking myself up here, telling you--a corporation that's legally a person--that it should treat it's customers more like people, but it doesn't have to be this way. You could be winning awards by designing simple plans for your customers and investing in human capital for real interactions with your staff and thereby attract even more customers, but what do I know?

I'm still paying you every month--until I don't, and by then it's too late--so why should you care what I think? Yes, of course I would go to another ISP for innerweb-service if I had the option, but lucky for you, you already have a monopoly where I live. One day, though. One day I will escape your infuriatingly manipulative, inhuman clutches and never return. That's a promise, Comcast. Unless you change.

I had already started writing this letter when the news arrived recently about your attempt to merge with Time Warner and complete your diabolical domination of American internet and digital television distribution. Never content to own less than the whole pie, you have steadily climbed the charts, dominating "worst of" lists among your subscribers steadily as you gorge yourself on ever-expanding chunks of market share, achieving number two status on MSN Money's Customer Service Hall of Shame and number four on Business Insider's 15 Worst Companies for Customer Service, both in 2013.

You can do this! Number one in 2014! Devour Time Warner's customers, treat them with as much disdain as you have always shown for us, and the title is surely yours! Maybe it's just me that thinks this merger is a horrible idea, but I don't think so. You make it hard to cut the cord, no doubt, but I'm far from the only "unbundler" out there who only wants fast, reliable internet service at a reasonable price that does not fluctuate and a real person who actually answers the phone or even chats as if they exist and have a pulse.

You can keep your crappy cable television stations, commercials, set-top boxes, extra remotes, DVRs and equipment rental fees too. We, the unbundlers are many, and we demand to be heard. We represent a trend that isn't going away. You are going to have to find a way to appease us without forcing your TV service down our collective throats. Treat us like humans and give us what we want. Nothing more, nothing less. Otherwise, we will leave you and never look back.



PS: From now until Xfinity, I will henceforth be referring to you as CRAPSHAFT.