Asleep on the Couch: The Ultimate Cable Company Customer Service Story
Don't mess with law students. Every business in the country knows that. Now, adapt that longstanding rule of thumb to modern times: Don't mess with law students who have video cams and blogs.
I don't think it is humanly possible to write a story that will make readers weep for Comcast, and I won't even try. But the tale of Georgetown University law student Brian Finkelstein and the most delicious revenge he achieved against the cable TV company that so many people love to hate makes you feel for pretty much everyone involved.
It starts, as so many stories these days do, with a video on youtube.com
Cleverly edited to poke fun at the cable company while also displaying a bit of anger, the vid shows the cable man asleep on Finkelstein's easy chair at his place in the District, ostensibly waiting on PermaHold for Comcast to answer their dang phone and help the technician proceed with fixing the law student's Internet service.
Having spent far too many hours of my life waiting on hold for the cable company, I sympathize with Finkelstein and congratulate him on seizing the moment to record the cable guy's nap. And posting the sucker on the web is a delightful form of consumer protest.
Within hours after Finkelstein put up the video, which by now has been viewed by several hundred thousand of his closest friends, whaddaya know, Comcast took action!
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported over the weekend, Comcast responded by sacking the cable guy. Which may well be justified, but is not going to do a thing to improve matters for their customers.
Finkelstein got his own problem taken care of. As he reports on his blog, a team of Comcast techs showed up 48 hours after he posted the video and spent the entire evening at his place. Problem fixed.
Finkelstein isn't talking--note the Go Away notice he posted on his blog for reporters--but as the comments on his blog indicate, lots of folks somehow fault him for standing up for his rights as a consumer. Predictably, they focus on his status as a law student at a fancy school. Please. Finkelstein didn't do the typical law student move of suing the company; he merely embarrassed them publicly. For which he deserves a free donut from Raw Fisher, which he is welcome to collect, though it might involve contact with--ewww, cooties!--a newspaper reporter.
But I do kind of feel for the cable guy. Sure, he was wrong to sleep in the customer's house, let alone in his special comfy chair. But what is he supposed to do if even he can't get his own company on the phone? My experience with cable repair guys is that they generally know what they're doing--indeed, quite a few of them know well enough to offer customers side deals on stolen premium channel service.
It's like people's attitudes toward Congress: Loathe the institution writ large, love your own representative. Your cable guy usually treats you well; it's the company he works for that customers often view as vermin.
So, does Comcast deserve this hit? Obviously, they didn't know the cable guy was going to fall asleep in the customer's house, and probably that's a relatively rare event. But none of this would have happened if Comcast hired enough people to handle its customers' calls (and its employees' calls.)
My neighbor in the next office, sports columnist George Solomon, takes these stories as further evidence that there is but one solution in life: Get the dish.
As a non-dish owner, I'm willing to hold out hope for some cable company somewhere to get the service piece right. But I'm not going to hold my breath.
So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to offer up a company for Comcast to learn from, an example of a company that gets the phone customer service piece of its business just right. Suggestions?
POSTSCRIPT (11 AM): The National Association of Broadcasters, the lobby that represents over-the-air TV folks, is gleefully spreading word of Finkelstein's video. The NAB press office greeted reporters this morning with emails linking to the Finkelstein video and news coverage of the story. Don't you love Lobbyist Wars? One of our great Washington sports.
By Marc Fisher |
June 27, 2006; 11:05 AM ET
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