Comcast Requires 5 E-Mails To Not Remove Birds From Outdoor Cable Box

Imagine that one day you notice that a box from which several Comcast connections sprout has recently become home to a nest of birds. Probably not a good thing for folks’ cable and Internet connections, but it seems like something that should be easily resolved with a simple e-mail to Comcast, right? Well, welcome to Kabletown…

Consumerist reader S thought she was doing a simple, good deed when she sent off the following e-mail to Comcast:

Our neighborhood”s cables are all connected to a box on the building next door to me. Someone apparently left the box open. There is a large bird nest in it, with birds flying in and out. It is on the west side of the building at XXXX.
Please remove the nest and close the box. Thank you.

In theory, this should have been like S telling someone they left their headlights on or their baby on the car roof. The response should have been a simple, “Thanks for the heads-up. We’ll get that taken care of ASAP.”

But this is Comcast, which means she gets the following reply:

Thank you for contacting Comcast home of Customer Guarantee. You have reached Xfinity Email Support. My name is D*** and I will do my best to assist you with your concern.

I understand that the cable cabinet in your area is being inhabited by birds. I know the importance of having that fixed. I appreciate you reporting that problem as it may cause problems with the service in your area, or pose as a hazard even. Please contact on of our chat representatives to setup a tech appointment to fix that cabinet in your area. Comcast offers quick-response solutions regarding account problems, especially those technical in nature. Please contact one of our Customer Account Executives and they are available 24/7 to assist you. Here is the link to chat with us:
https://www.comcastsupport.com/chatentry/
To ensure the time you need to spend online is as short as possible, I suggest you have the following information available when chatting:
1. Comcast Account Number,
2. Last four digits of the Social Security Number associated with the account,
3. Address where service is provided and mailing address if different, Account name, and Phone number;
4. Date and amount of last payment made and
5. A list of Comcast services that is installed in your home.

If you need assistance in the future, please feel free to contact us through the following means of communication:
E-mail:
http://www.comcastsupport.com/redirects/com/useremailstartcom.asp
As part of our Comcast Customer Guarantee, you can always contact us at your convenience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-COMCAST (1-800-2662278).Comcast also offers excellent FAQ and Help forums located at http://www.comcast.com to help you reach a resolution independently.

To ensure the proper tracking of this issue, please take note of the reference number should you contact us regarding the same issue: XXXXX

Thank you for choosing Comcast. We appreciate you sharing your concerns as we continue to strive for total customer satisfaction. We value your business and have a great day.

Sincerely,
D***
Comcast Customer Care Specialist

S. then tries to explain that she should not have to go and start up an online chat when she was simply trying to do a nice thing by alerting Comcast to a problem with one of its one pieces of equipment.

That got a second reply:

Thank you for contacting Comcast home of Customer Guarantee. You have reached Xfinity Email Support. My name is D*** and I will do my best to assist you with your concern. I understand that you do not want to setup a tech appointment. I am sorry about that but we cannot book appointments on our end. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are continuously working to increase customer satisfaction and are putting a tremendous amount of resources into improving our customers’ experiences with us.

We want to assure you that we do in fact recognize and acknowledge that we have room for improvement in our customer service, and that we are working diligently to ensure we can deliver a great experience to every customer, every time. Our goal is to deliver a positive experience to every customer we handle, every time Comcast offers quick-response solutions regarding account problems, especially those technical in nature. Please contact one of our Customer Account Executives should you want a tech to fix that cabinet, they are available 24/7 to assist you. Here is the link to chat
with us…

It then goes on to repeat the same list of ways to reach Comcast’s ineffective customer support.

Again, S. tried to clarify, writing back, “I don’t need an appointment. You need to forward this to your service department.”

Which earned her yet another fill in the blank reply from Comcast.
As they say in the song, third verse, same as the first:

Thank you for contacting Comcast, home of the Customer Guarantee. My name is Marifi and you have reached Xfinity TV email support. I will do my best to assist you with your concern.

I understand that you would like to inform us that there is an open cable cabinet in your area that you would like to be fixed. I know how important it is for you to have this issue resolve to avoid accident or service interruption in your area. It is my pleasure to provide you information on how we can properly address your concern.

S***, at Comcast, we are focused on providing our customers with the most secure customer support experience. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please be advised to contact us through live chat so that we can set up a service request order in order to fix the open cable cabinet.
To make this process easier for you, we recommend that you use our secure live chat channel through the link I provided below. One of our Online Customer Support Specialists will be happy to assist you. Our agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
http://www.comcastsupport.com/chat
To ensure that the time you will spend online is as short as possible, I suggest that you have the following information available when contacting:
1. Name on the account
2. Complete service address
3. Telephone number associated with the account
4. One of the following:
4.1 Last four digits of the account holder’s Social Security Number
4.2 Account Number
4.3 Last payment date and amount
4.4 Services listed on the account.

This is when S. demanded that Comcast stop sending her this form e-mail. Either fix the problem or don’t, she replied. She had done her duty and was not going to set up a service call for something that didn’t require anyone coming up to her apartment to resolve the issue.

That finally got the attention of someone who wrote back saying her complaint had been escalated and that someone higher up would be contacting her within 72 hours.

She replied that she didn’t actually want anyone to contact her. Just do something about the birds; it’s Comcast’s problem, she was just trying to be a good person and let them know before any damage was done.

And in spite of her request to not be contacted, someone from Comcast’s executive customer service department wrote her. But last this message said what the very first one should have: That the problem had been forwarded to the right people and someone would be out to look at the box in the next couple days.

But wait — there’s more.

When the Comcast tech finally went to check out the box, he not only attempted to enter the customer’s building — where the box is not located — but also told her there was nothing he could do because he can’t remove the birds without calling Animal Control.

So between the numerous e-mails and the tech’s fruitless drive out to look at the box, how many hours were wasted that could have been saved if Comcast had simply read her original e-mail and responded with appropriate measures?

Comments

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  1. baineschile says:

    Can Comcast remove nests? Isnt that animal control?

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Even if it is animal control, Comcast should initiate the contact and follow through to make sure it’s done.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Comcast is too busy putting a “tremendous amount of resources into improving our customers’ experiences” to bother with petty things like a birds nest.

    • catskyfire says:

      It would likely take both groups. Animal control to remove the nest, Comcast to permit Animal Control to mess with their box, and Comcast to close the box when it’s done.

    • chizu says:

      It might also depend on the birds. I worked on a project once where hawks (? or some other protected birds) nested on a pole. They weren’t allowed to do any work (by law) until the babies matured and the whole family left the nest.

      Not to side with Comcast, but without knowing what kind of birds they are, they were probably bounded by law to not do anything until they left. (It still doesn’t excuse Comcast’s incompetency, but the OP should not assume it will be their responsibilities entirely.)

      • Firethorn says:

        Disclaimer: I work the government, am a ‘building custodian’, and have birds nesting on the building.

        There is ‘no kidding’ federal laws on the books making it a FELONY to disturb the nests of certain species of birds if there are eggs or chicks. Specifically mentioned to me are raptors and migratory birds.

        The swallows reached the nest early and due to positioning we couldn’t verify lack of eggs, so the nest stays up another year. I’m not worried about it, the nest isn’t in a bad spot, but the base managers wanted ALL nests removed from buildings.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    Forget the Comcast article, where in the world was that photo taken? That is just too cool.

    • CortJstr says:

      It’s the Visonary Arts Museum in Baltimore. I was there recently and walked out on the nest. There’s also a giant hand that “holds” a screen for outdoor movies.

    • mysterydate98 says:

      I believe that is taken outside the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. They have a few outdoor installments and this is actually attached to a second building they use for events and such.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        When I was there 2 months ago there was a giant metal bird mounted on the ground next to it. Awesome sauce.

  3. punkrawka says:

    Man, their customer service is Xfinitely useless.

    • Lucky225 says:

      The funny part is how they keep inisiting for her account info, I would have shot off that ‘look, I’m not a comcast customer, I’m just informing you of YOUR problem, good day sir.’

  4. CubeRat says:

    OK everyone, this is our fault for letting tech people rule our lives.

    What about the building super/manager/owner (for the building affected); can’t they get rid of the birds? I must admit, the tech is correct, animal control should be contacted.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Hey, jackass, we don’t have fuck-all to do with the problem. You want to blame someone, blame the management assholes who refuse to allow anyone in a company to *DO* anything or take any initiative.

  5. daemonaquila says:

    No, Comcast’s answer should have been “We don’t kill birds for your convenience. If it interrupts your cable, we’ll give you a credit and remove the nest and fix it after the babies have fledged.”

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      You don’t know what species of bird it was. If they were an invasive species (european house sparrow, starling, etc.) then they should be killed immediately.

      • El_Fez says:

        Um. . . no. No they shouldnt.

        • TheMansfieldMauler says:

          According to the Federal Govt, they should. Please look up house sparrow and starling eradication programs (here’s an example: http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/animals/eurostarling.shtml).

          Your state government most likely also has eradication programs in place as well.

          Funny how people who think they’re animal “friends” or whatever don’t understand the impact that invasives have on native species. If you had any idea about conservation in even a very general sense, you would not want to protect invasives.

          • Firethorn says:

            On the flipside, there are also bird species that are protected, and will land you in jail/with massive fines if you disturb the nest when there’s eggs/chicks in there.

            • JennQPublic says:

              It’s okay, I’m sure Comcast techs are trained to differentiate between various bird species.

  6. dush says:

    Why did she call comcast about birds? Why didn’t she call animal control? Duh.

  7. Golfer Bob says:

    So the point of this story is that the good samaratin becomes a victim because it turns out it was just a bit too inconvient to be a good samaratin?

    • Golfer Bob says:

      Also, Comcast did not require 5 emails to respond to the issue. Only one, which thanked the good Samaritan (nosey neighbor) and gave further instructions on how to proceed, which the good Samaritan chose not to follow.

      I’m not defending Comcast, but this is a perfect example of how the customer makes customer service more difficult for themselves and in the process ramps themselves up to a level of faux outrage that can only be appeased by be an equally disproportionate and outrageous form of compensation.

      Although the article did not specifically mention compensation, I would be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that once the “higher ups” contacted good Samaritan, compensation for the “inconvenience” became part of the equation.

    • Something2Say says:

      That’s what I was thinking. It seems like it would have been less time for the OP to simply engage in the tech chat, explain the situation, specify that it’s not something inside her apartment that requires her to be at home when the technician comes out, and let them “officially” schedule someone to move or not move the nest.

      I mean, yes, it is kind of an inconvenience, because this situation isn’t typical and seemingly shouldn’t follow the regular format, but it’s either that or go through rounds of e-mailing Comcast (all the while hoping that the birds don’t take out your television) just because you “shouldn’t have to” do it.

  8. grebby says:

    Tell them the birds are stealing cable. They’ll have someone out that day.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Comment of the Day.

      Thanks for a great laugh.

    • Golfer Bob says:

      Ha, then we would be reading the post “Comcast Murders Birds So You Can Watch Your Soaps” once the other nosey neighbor writes that complaint letter to Consumerist.

  9. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I’d contact the super and let him deal with it, which will probably entail opening the box, knocking the nest out with some tongs, and then closing it up.

    I’ve never lived anywhere where animal control would deal with this kind of stuff. For an animal infestation, they’ll just refer you to an exterminator or provide advice on how to get rid of the animals.

    Comcast is a crappy company and is a huge bureaucratic mess. It doesn’t make it right but I’m not surprised that they can’t handle a service call that isn’t linked to a specific account holder.

  10. Lyn Torden says:

    NEVER NEVER NEVER send the last 4 digits of your SSN in email. I cannot emphasize this enough. NEVER NEVER NEVER do that, EVER. Same goes for any part of your state ID card, drivers license, bankt account, or credit/debit cards, or any portion thereof.

    If Comcast THINKS they need it, then they are thinking wrong and someone there is STUPID (no surprise … it seems to be spreading among management). All they need is the account number and service address to pull up the account and verify it.

    And always be sure the email is going to COMCAST.COM (not .NET).

    • therealchriss says:

      Good thing that, at no point, was she told to send her last four of her SSN in an email then, huh.

  11. Michael Lehet says:

    I’ve had Comcast for 8 months in my new home and it’s been nothing but problems from the beginning. I think I’ve finally figured out Comcast.

    By law they HAVE to provide Customer Service (per the FCC) but the FCC does nothing to state “what kind” of customer service they have to provide….which means they always push you from one group to another with no one able to assist….but hey “it’s customer service”

    • Jawaka says:

      I guess that I’m one of the rare ones. I’ve had Comcast for about 8 years now and haven’t had any real problems with them. Every once in a while there may be a temporary outage but it seems to be resolved quickly.

      The only issue I’ve ever had with Comcast are their prices and promotions which always seem to be ending.

  12. Moniker Preferred says:

    There is no major issue here.

    The complainant had no issue with her own cable. The neighbors had no issue with their cable. She was only a neighbor, trying to advise Comcast that they might, eventually, have a problem. That’s nice, but the question in my mind is why she persisted, Email after Email, when it was clear Comcast couldn’t/wouldn’t do squat without an account number.

    Perhaps it was the first time she ever had to deal with a cable company?

  13. JJFIII says:

    So being nice once is ok, but that few moments doing a chat with an online rep was just too much? Sounds like she was looking to complain about something. Maybe Comcast would have questions about exactly where the issue was happening. Maybe they want to know is this a large nest, are there baby birds there, is this a Comcast piece of property or since it is not her actual property who do they need to contact to gain access. Of course being outraged at having to spend a little extra time answering the questions does not make for a good story. Instead she wasted MORE time bitching and complaining, when she could have had the issue resolved if she learned that just because SHE wants something done one way does not mean every other person has to react the way SHE wants. I guess she is the type who sees a victim of a shooting lying in the street. She calls the ambulance, but isnt willing to answer any of the other questions, or be bothered when the police want to find out more details.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      “So being nice once is ok, but that few moments doing a chat with an online rep was just too much?”

      Yes, it is too much. There’s not the slightest reason why she should have to do anything other than her first contact with them. The problem being that Comcast, like essentially every corporation and/or government entity in the world, is utterly incapable of doing anything “reasonable.”

      • JJFIII says:

        Then don’t bitch when your service goes out. Her account number is essential to any follow up that may be required. SHE is the one who noticed it and mentioned it. If you see a crime, report it, but then say I don;t want to testify or be involved it shows you are a douche bag, not a member of society. It is not that hard to give your fucking account number to help fix a potential problem that will most likely end up being hers. More ridiculous bitching for no reason. Quit spending the time bitching and do what needs to be done.

        • FredKlein says:

          Her account number is essential to any follow up that may be required.

          Why? This had nothing to do with her service, so why was her account number needed?

    • who? says:

      Online chat wasn’t going to do anything without her account number. Why should she have to go to the trouble?

  14. DrPizza says:

    A lot of species of birds are protected. There are HUGE fines awaiting companies who destroy nests of protected species. All they can do is wait until any babies have left the nest. Several companies (Verizon, and quite possibly Comcast) have had to hire bird experts to come in whenever there’s a nest that they’d like to disturb. Song birds? You’re not touching them. There’s even one variety of pigeon that’s protected.

    • markvii says:

      Maybe so, but Comcast should have figured that out in the beginning. What’s the gist of the customer’s request? Move birds…

  15. Tacojelly says:

    What are the birds going to do? Sue comcast for unlawful eviction?

    Also, they should know that they’re going there to remove birds. I ended my contract with AT&T after we finally got a service person to come out, and didn’t have the equipment needed to do the job. Inexcusable.

  16. sjb says:

    They probably contract out the customer service e-mail/phone support through ACT most likely. A lot of companies out-source there customer support to third parties companies so that they do not have to create an in-house support center. They will provide a set of “guild-lines” to these support centers that are then scripted on how the support person will handle customer issues.

    ACT is very inflexible on deviations from the scripts and unless its in the script they will not handle it. I work in one these type a places and will NEVER step into that place (if you lobotomize me first then maybe).

    The more intelligent call center come at a higher price but with this price comes a person who can use their judgment on working with a client; I work at one like this. Most calls in my area are in the 8~12 minute ranges and use that as the base-line norm for scheduling work load. Even though they use this time range, I can use my own judgment. I call in a tech support person who is more knowable in the problem I am working on, I can pull in a manager, I can pull in the agent next to me and we could all end up in a little phone party. The end result is to do what’s necessary so that the customer issue is handled the first time and does not need to make second call. I have had issues where a call took about 2 hours to handle correctly (mental issues with a difficult third party helper as a go-between at the customer end …)

  17. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    This must be a common Comcast problem. There’s a green Comcast box on the pole across from my house. One day, I came home from work, and its door was open. Weatherman was calling for rain, so I called and asked them if the door should be shut, or if someone left it open for some reason. That was a fun phone call.

    I got a wooden pole, and went outside and slammed the door shut before critters could nest in it, or it got rained on. I never figured out what happened, or who left it open. If I didn’t have their services, I probably wouldn’t have cared, but I didn’t want my TV/internet/phone to go out because the electronics got rained on.

    • econobiker says:

      They will find you and charge you for interference with cable delivery, stealing cable, etc

  18. blue_muse says:

    The line of responses looks to me like typical Indian customer service responses. I get similar replies when dealing with Paypal.

  19. Brian says:

    Reminds me of an email exchange I had once with Time Warner’s ISP security dept. over a port scan coming from a customer of theirs. These guys try very hard not to do their jobs.

  20. vicissitude says:

    Recently we saw a Charter cable guy come out to do some work installing cable at a nearby apartment complex. Their boxes have a large hole in the bottom where birds fly up into and make their nests each spring / summer. The Charter guy opened the little box, took each baby bird out by hand, killed it and dropped it on the ground. Then he pulled the nest out and after completing his one minute’s worth of work, closed the box. Another Charter tech pulled up and they had a good laugh about it. Conversely the year before the Charter tech went in the same exact box, found the birds, but did his work, closed the lid and left the birds with nest intact. There is no danger in these boxes, since the voltage levels are extremely low and pose no hazard. If techs have to, just call and make an appointment with animal services. Oh yeah, RED States don’t have animal services, or laws generally to protect animals. Never mind that last…

  21. vicissitude says:

    I forgot to add that the Charter tech also took the time to twist and turn a nearby Dish Network Satellite Dish, pointing it towards the ground before he left. Pretty much insuring that a Dish tech would have to come out and re-set it up again, should the next occupant decide to go with Dish. A practice done by Charter representatives I’ve seen done in at least two States.

  22. NorthAlabama says:

    animal control? really??? call me old fashioned, but when a bird nest would get in the way at the home where i grew up, we grabbed a fallen tree branch and gently dislodged the nest.

    this probably saved the city several hundred dollars and allowed more time for tracking down rabid dogs. by the way, and no birds were ever harmed during this process…

    • Pagan wants a +1 button says:

      Your animal control tracks down rabid dogs?? Ours just tells us to trap the animal, try not to get bitten, and then call them when it’s confined.

  23. rlmiller007 says:

    All the connections that are in the box are waterproof/weatherproof. I worked from Comcast 9.5 years. For any of these situations don’t sweat them. Just call it in and leave it to them to correct it.

  24. A.Mercer says:

    Call it a fire hazard and report it to the fire warden.

  25. repete_7 says:

    When we had Adelphia, our internet went out. They couldn’t fix it, we had to switch to DSL, and they left the box ripped open and the cables laying all over the ground. Adelphia wouldn’t fix the mess, Comcast took over, they wouldn’t fix the mess, our cable TV went out, so we cancelled that, too. The guy that they sent to turn off the cable couldn’t find the box, because it was grown over with grass, I had to show it to him and told him if he fixed the mess, I would have my cable TV turned back on. He refused. Long story short, years later, the box is still ripped open and the cables are still all over the ground. Good thing I live in a rural neighborhood and don’t really care if that corner of the yard is mowed or not.

  26. sgmax2 says:

    Somebody else stuck in the Comcast Loop of Doom. I know that loop *so* well. CSRs don’t actually read your email, ask you to call. When you call, the rep. promises someone will email you with the information you need. Which is exactly the same as the information you started with (which was so confusing). Then you email to point this out, which starts off the Comcast Loop of Doom all over again.
    If our area Verizon CSRs weren’t so nasty and abusive, I’d consider switching to FIOS. But when the choice is between blase and incompetent or plain nasty, I suppose apathy wins.

  27. AjariBonten says:

    I don’t give a crap about this story, but that pic is AWESOME!!!!

  28. GrandizerGo says:

    Birds got into the one on the side of my house. Found out when my cable would go out and the techs could not find problems, would run a new cable, scope it for readings say everything was good and leave. Same day, same problems. It took someone who actually looked at the number of times someone came out to say, how many times did they take the ladder off the truck… NEVER I said. He shook his head, pulled the ladder and found that a birds nest and birds had made a home in there.
    The bird urine had shorted out the splitter on the ones facing up and was causing all the problems.
    10 minutes later, new splitter, box cleaned out and refastened and ALL worked again. Have not had a problem for 8 years now.

  29. MarkFL says:

    I would suggest that Animal Control should have been called first.

    1) You’ll probably get a prompt response from a real person who isn’t in a distant call center.
    2) They will know if the birds are protected (if you can identify it, or they can send someone to check that out).
    3) They are more likely to remove the birds humanely. There are various ways of dealing with birds that nest in places that might interfere with cable or power lines. In Florida, FPL will remove bird nests if they pose a risk to the power lines, but they consistently refuse to say what they do with the birds after they are removed. (Which pretty much tells you what they do, minus the details.)

    Worst case scenario, they will tell you to call the cable/electric company, but you won’t have to spend half the day to get that answer.

  30. iesika says:

    I hate this kind of “service” run-around.

    After the first tip off failed, I’d probably have put on some gloves and moved the birds myself – that would have cost a lot less time and effort.

  31. framitz says:

    If the equipment and cables in the box are properly set up and secured the birds won’t cause any disruptions, just a mess for the next cable guy (if he/she cares).
    The caller did all she needs to do unless the cable company wants to pay her for her effort.
    If the cable service does go flaky she needs to demand credit on her bill for the disruption.

    I spotted a flaky overhead inline amplifier some years back, I called and told the cable company about it. They went and fixed the problem. Then the next day they called me to thank me and offer me a job doing inspections. I wasn’t interested in working for them. I don’t even remember what company it was any more, it was in Moreno Valley CA.