Take, for example, the story of blogger Seth Clifford, who says though his parents’ New Jersey home survived Hurricane Sandy, all the homes in the area are currently in danger from a nearby ruptured gas line. But what really concerns Comcast is that Seth’s parents return their cable box.
She was trying to explain to them that they stood to lose the entire house in an explosion and that the authorities were having trouble even reaching the area to cut the gas to prevent this. She mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to return the cable box and equipment because the storm had basically destroyed the area, and the house was perilously close to being destroyed completely as well.
Comcast’s reply to her?
We’re very sorry, but the price of the equipment will be charged to your account if you’re unable to return it.
Lest you think this was one rogue Comcast employee, Seth’s mom says she spoke to a supervisor who, despite being “sympathetic to the situation,” said it was company policy to assess a fee for the unreturned equipment.
“Apparently, even in the face of utter devastation and potential loss of life, Comcast’s policy is to reclaim all equipment furnished, or issue charges against the accounts of equipment holders,” writes Seth. “You know, it’s not like my mom is lazy, or decided she didn’t feel like returning the box; she’d need to charter a boat or helicopter to even get to the house to get the box (which is probably underwater to some degree to begin with, so there’s got to be some kind of charge for that).”
We asked Comcast for comment and received the following reply:
We have already reached out to apologize for adding to his parents’ difficulties and to ask for his parents’ contact information so we can call to personally apologize and assure them that we are handling the equipment without the need for them to do anything further. Please know we are working with our teams to ensure we handle all customer calls on a case-by-case basis with sensitivity to the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on so many of our local communities and residents. Again, we are of course notating his parents account to ensure they are not charged for equipment they can’t return.
As easy as it would be to blame the by-the-book Comcast employees for refusing to see why Seth’s mom might have trouble getting to her cable box, the ultimate blame for errors like this needs to go straight to the leaders of Kabletown, which has apparently failed to train its CSRs on how to handle cases in which an exception needs to be made.
And it’s not just Comcast. Large companies frequently drill into their CSRs that it’s more important to follow hardline company policy than it is to think about the customers’ reality.