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back to article Listen: WORST EVER customer service call – Comcast is 'very embarrassed'

Comcast has apologized to a subscriber who was subjected to a haranguing customer service call when he tried to cancel his account. Ryan Block, a VP of product at AOL and a former tech blogger, was moving home and taking the opportunity to scrap his Comcast service after nine years. The only problem was that the customer service …

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VP of product at AOL

He probably deserved it for his sins.

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Re: VP of product at AOL

> VP of product at AOL

> He probably deserved it for his sins.

No kidding. I have fond memories of that entire working day I spent trying to cancel my AOL membership. Sometimes I still wake up screaming.

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Facepalm

BT did this too

There was this 1 asshole, in Birmingham I think it was, who's full time job was to take up calls *after* customers had cancelled and already been through the same shit you hear on this recording. The impression was given to customers that unless you'd been subjected to his drawn out rantings you hadn't really cancelled. It was you they answered to, you see.

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JLV
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Happy

Re: VP of product at AOL

Funny thing is the Reg ran this exact same storyline about 3-4 years back, with someone trying to cancel his AOL service and recording this exact same BS.

Shows these guys never learn. And, why should they? They can probably browbeat at least some of their customers most of the time.

On the other hand, it does look silly when it gets aired. Then, it is time for the company PRs to earn their salary, do their bit and swear that it was a rogue employee. Not like Comcast, or AOL, would ever condone aggressive and abusive customer retention tactics as a policy, oh no. Cross our hearts.

Scapegoat ahoy!

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Re: VP of product at AOL

I would hate to see the punishment for their sins of Best Buy and MSN (whatever its called today) VPs. They had to settle a rather large class action because Best Buy sales people were automatically signing people up for MSN's crappy service without their permission whenever punters bought a computer there. Karma at least will see that only old farts like me remember either's name in a decade.

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Mushroom

Re: VP of product at AOL

And who could ever forget those indestructible, un-recyclable, toxic-metal-waste plastic packages their CDs came in?

"We won't do the needful".....

"America offline..."

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Re: BT did this too

I had a painful experience attempting to cancel my BT broadband. Not quite as bad as this, but very long-winded. After the first person had finished their long routine, they passed by to another who would supposedly cancel my contract. The second person just started going through the same script as the first...

Who else have I had terrible call centre experience with...

Microsoft

Philips Whirlpool

Yorkshire Water

Smoothwall.net

Serif.com

Nationwide Building Society

I like it when the recorded message says the call is being recorded for training purposes. It usually means that the operative knows they're being watched.

For balance, just one company who are really do call centres properly: Coventry Building Society.

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Re: VP of product at AOL

Here's how I finally got AOL to cancel my account:

AOL: "Good afternoon, my name is Raj. How may I help you today?"

Me: "By canceling my account without asking me why or trying to change my mind."

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@Ron Christian

I'd still assign 55% of the blame to you. I may have still had a Compuserve account about the time that AOL was starting up, but I don't think so. I think I had move to local bulletin board services which were much easier to navigate. I looked at the AOL once. Couldn't stand the kiddie interface which at the same time communicated a Compuserve style service. Also the internet was just coming online and I had access to the raw internet without the need for a Compuserve/AOL/MSN front end. So I never signed up for the service. So it's not like the signs weren't there to warn a discerning consumer.

I did eventually grow to loathe them, but only because when I eventually started tech work, some of our clients were using them for their internet front end and I had no choice but to use them. Windows updates via their dial-up were nearly impossible.

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Re: BT did this too

Barclays too, I kept on saying, for 10 minutes I didn't want their credit card anymore but they kept on asking why.

Then I got all kinds of offers later on from them too. Credit card free now though.

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Re: BT did this too

You could always just have some fun at their expense rather than spend hours on the phone (unless you are making it a point of principle of course - in which case fill yer boots).

Rep: Why are you leaving us? <insert crying> What is the new ISP going to give you that we won't? We can save you £100/year!!

Me: The really nice sales rep offered me a blow-job if I signed up with them.

Let's see them put _that_ in their call log :D

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Re: VP of product at AOL

"No kidding. I have fond memories of that entire working day I spent trying to cancel my AOL membership."

If there's an award for consistency, then AOL ought to have it. They were a bunch of cunts when I cancelled my subscription back in 1992. Which means that (even assuming they'd only just started that policy in '92) if they can keep it up for another few years they'll be able to proudly boast "Quarter of a century of the World's Worst Service".

And this consistency makes a mockery of the pathetic corporate apologies. The values of AOL (or "Comcast" as they now wish to be known) are inculcated in this history.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BT did this too

Let's see them put _that_ in their call log :D

The problem is that they seem to recruit from Jehovah's Witnesses for these roles, they generally don't even register humour and are tenacious as f*ck. Oh, and don't expect any answers to make a difference - they won't actually read it (it's a bit like an exit interview when you have resigned - nobody cares and you're just wasting time better spent with, say, drinking a cocktail at a beach somewhere). The *only* thing that counts for the company is retained customers. If they had any real interest in what you have to say they wouldn't use this vermin to hang on to your money.

Generally, I have a fairly short fuse for things like this. My reasons for leaving are mine, my personal life is non of their business and I will not engage in an exercise that costs me even more time and is geared towards hammering me into staying with the provider or to massage their statistics.

You have no obligations here, and most of this questionnaire is just there to ensure you don't hang up immediately so they can work on you some more. If I have decided to leave, there is certainly no way I will further remain with a provider who subjects me to this crap (switching me to a retained department is for me more a sign that so many customers are bailing that it is worth paying these people's salary - money that should have spent on the actual service). Screw that.

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Three

I had a very similar 30 minute exchange with one of Three's "customer representatives". Best part of it was I was actually calling them in the Three shop so every customer that came in could hear my exchange. Even the shop staff were incredibly embarrassed

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Re: Three

I had the same experience with Bell Canada. Came to the point where the store manager had to go on the line to finally get it done.

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Re: Three

Why? Same thing happened to me, 40 minutes to get a PAC from Three.

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Re: Three

I have six words for idiots like this:

"May I speak to your supervisor."

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Re: Three

I had almost this same conversation a year back with Clear Wireless. I tried invoking the "may I speak to your supervisor" conjuration, but they were too clever for me--I got the exact same treatment from the supervisor[1]. Wish I'd have recorded it.

[1] At least she claimed to be a supervisor. I have no empirical evidence this was the case.

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Re: Three

"May I speak to your supervisor."

Tried it on a numer of occasions, I haven't seen this make any difference other than speaking to a different droid.

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Re: Three

This!

A few years ago my sister wanted to leave 3 for Giffgaff. She was very clear to the retentions bird that she wanted to leave, that she'd found a better deal elsewhere, and that she wanted her PAC. 3 kept offering her different packages at different pricing levels (which, to be fair, were fairly generous for 3 at the time) but none of them satisfied her requirements or price point like the £10 GG did (with its unlimited internet at the time).

At one point, she was put on hold whilst the retentions woman looked up Giffgaff, and when she came back, outright told my sister she was LYING about the deal she was moving to, and that she'd be paying £25/mo for what she claimed. She literally could not accept she had a customer who wanted to leave.

It eventually turned into my sister just repeating "No, thank you - I'd just like my PAC". 3 eventually gave up after just under 45 minutes...

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Re: Three

I've posted my Three retention story on The Reg in the past, but here it is again in case you missed it.

"First time I rang, 40 minutes I spent and they just refused to hand me over my PAC Code. After reading up this was the norm, I decided a new tactic, I decided to come up with a load of lies that even they couldn't argue with. I told them I was the new CEO for Vodafone Northern Ireland and because of that it would be bad for my staff to see me using a Three phone and I get all the latest Vodafone phones for free with no cost to me. Still they wouldn't give up, took another 20 minutes of them, then their manager before I could get my PAC Code. I reckon they were googling my name in the background to see if it was true."

An interesting thing is how hot a mobile phone gets when you have been talking to someone on it for 40 minutes.

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Unhappy

Re: I have six words for idiots like this:

I've tried that a couple of times. It hasn't worked. They won't transfer you to their supervisor.

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Re: Three

As soon as I saw 3 I knew something bad was going to follow.

Many moons ago I had a contract phone with 3, it was the best deal available to me at the time, and 3 had the best coverage in my area. About a month before the end of my contract I wanted to sign up to a new deal elsewhere. It was the period of half price for 6 months, with £150 cashback on top of it, basically made my new phone free for half a year. Signed up for that with somebody else, then called 3 to cancel.

I was on the phone for half an hour repeating the word no as the salesperson tried to get me to sign up for a new contract. I repeatedly refused stating I already had a new contract and was not interested, in the end he agreed and disconnected me. The next month I got a letter informing me about my new contract.

Cancelled all direct debits, called my bank an informed them not to process anything regarding 3 due to dispute etc, contacted 3 several times and the refused to do anything, they called debt collectors on me etc etc. Eventually got instructions from consumer advice to go through their... ombudsman is it? I can't remember. Effectively what 3 did was entirely illegal, but the process wound up costing me a fair bit of money in phone calls and a lot of stress. End result I got nothing back and 3 cancelled the contract. They lost nothing I lost money.

I can only imagine the number of people who have gone through the same thing but didn't bother fighting it. Since then I advise everyone to avoid 3 like the plague.

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Anonymous Coward

Vodafone UK

Slightly different tactic from Vodafone UK ... got cold called and was sold a 4G sharing device, which turned out to not be quite what it was sold as. (doesn't have its own bandwidth quota, yet you have to pay for an extra line for it).

So, I phoned back the _very next day_ to cancel it under the mandatory cooling off period. Can't be cancelled apparently, the device has already been dispatched. Am told I simply need to return it when it arrives.

Ok that sounds straight forward.

Device arrives in mail a few days later. I check that its undamaged but do not open it, and carefully ensure that the separate SIM card is kept with it. Realise after some research that I cannot simply drop it back at a store, I'm gonna have to mail it back - and for that I need a special return envelope.

Another lengthy phone call, during which they try to persuade me that I'll have to pay a cancellation fee. Not so I remind them, this is covered by the cooling off period. No such fee is required. Am told that an envelope has been dispatched.

Days pass, no envelope arrives.

Another lengthy phone call, again during which they try to persuade me that I'll have to pay a cancellation fee ... etc ... no return envelope has been despatched, transferred to another team ... another lengthy conversion, return envelope is finally arranged.

Days pass. Envelope eventually arrives a week later. I package up the device and SIM card and mail it straight back.

A couple of more days pass, I ring again and confirm that the package has been received and is being processed. Relieved that this is all over, I finish the call satisfied that the device has been returned and the new line will be cancelled.

A week or two passes. I then realise that the new line is still included in my bill!

Another lengthy call, during which they try to persuade me that I'll have to pay ... oh for fucks sake. Eventually arrange for someone to cancel the new line.

More time passes. The new line remains stubbornly on my bill.

A final lengthy phone call is made to Vodafone. Am suprised I don't get told about the cancellation fee yet again, but get transferred through about 4 different departments as one operative after another laboriously checks that the device was received back at the warehouse and then passes me to another colleague. I remain calm and stubbornly stay on the phone until I finally get confirmation that the line is indeed terminated and that my bill is being credited back - this is the accounts department I am speaking to by this point, so have some confidence that this is indeed the case.

At last, weeks and weeks after the original cold call, the line disappears from my bill. I have not yet seen any refund for the charges made after I had originally thought I had cancelled the order.

This little saga is still nothing compared to a company called "Reach Telecom" who set up a new line in my name but physically connected to a neighbours line and kept billing me for it. It took 9 months, during which debt collector threats started arriving, and escalation to OFCOM (the UK communications regulator) to get them to cancel the line and reinstate my neighbours BT phone line.

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Mushroom

"May I speak to your supervisor."

I politely phrase it in such a way, that I get what I want very quickly.

"Would you care to put me through to someone who is paid well enough to handle the torrent of abuse, name calling, swearing, and threats of legal action, or do you want to bravely face all this alone?"

If they don't give me what I want, then you can't say they weren't warned.

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Re: Three

@wowfood

I don't know if it was too long ago for you to do this, but I had a similar experience with Vodafone and ended up taking them through the small claims court process at which point they coughed up for both my costs and my time (I settled for less mainly because I originally put my time at £50/hour which was my current contract rate).

They also put a black mark on my credit record, previously I couldn't care less what they did but when they did that it got serious (I was looking into getting a mortgage at the time).

If you can gather up provable costs incurred by their mistake, and a reasonable estimate of the amount of time spent messing about with it, then you can write to them to bill them. If they don't respond or refuse after a couple of attempts (give them a reasonable chance to make good on their error) then put in a small claims action at https://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk.

It may sound like a lot of hassle but it's really just a couple of letters and an online form and the courts sort the rest out for you. You might be surprised at how quickly they jump once the court letter comes through the door...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vodafone UK & Reach (in general, all of them)

You have two levers here: the regulator itself, and consumer sales laws. The problem is that users don't always know their rights, and shop staff as well as telesales staff *pretend* not to know them, or pretend to know them but in, umm, a strangely "modfied" form :)

I buy mostly on credit card because it gives me extra cooling off rights under the Consumer Credit Act.

In general, my experience is that sale recovery people pretty quickly realise I'm a lost cause - I quote chapter and verse at them and generally fairly quickly and firmly convince them they are better off not wasting their time with me. Oh, and I start with explicitly asking their name upfront and warning them that I'm recording the call - for some reason they don't seem to like that, despite them doing the same without me giving the option to avoid that (which you should actually have, btw).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: small claims court

It may sound like a lot of hassle but it's really just a couple of letters and an online form and the courts sort the rest out for you. You might be surprised at how quickly they jump once the court letter comes through the door...

Isn't there another rule somewhere that if they owe you more than £750 you can actually shut their doors until they have paid? It's been a while since I heard that, but apparently that has been used for some fairly spectacular cases.

Upvote for small claims - it does indeed help a LOT.

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Re: Three

I gather if you want to cancel a Mobile Phone contract it is best not to cancel but get a PAC Code instead even if you want to lose the number for good. Buy a 99p PAYG sim card in Tesco and get your number ported over, then let the Sim Card die naturally. It seems that this way because you are porting the closure of the old contract is done automatically and very rarely goes wrong.

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Re: Three

Same thing happened to me, with Comwave, in Canada.

The first guy wasn't a problem. The "supervisor" was the guy who haranged me for 20 min.

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Re: Three

The trick is to not ask bluntly, just steer the conversation until you reach the point where they realise they are no longer the right person to be talking to you. Something along the lines of:

You: I'd like you to do this for me.

Rep: I'm sorry sir, but I can't do that.

You: Okay, so who can do that?

Rep: I'm sorry sir, what do you mean?

You: Well somebody in the company must be able to do that.

Rep: I'm sorry sir, it is not a part of our procedures to do that.

You: Okay, so who can change the procedures?

Rep: I'm sorry sir, we are not allowed to change the procedures.

You: Well somebody in the company must be able to do that.

Rep: I'm sorry sir, but we do not have a procedure that let's us do that.

You: Okay, so who decides what to do when there is no procedure?

Rep: I'm sorry sir, but I do not know.

You: Well then, would your supervisor know what to do?

Rep: I'm sorry sir, but my supervisor will tell you we cannot do that.

You: Okay, that's great, you can transfer me to him so.

Rep: I'm sorry sir, but you do not need to speak with my supervisor

You: Well I don't mind. He might be allowed decide more than you realise.

Rep: I'm sorry sir, but I don't think he can help you.

You: Okay, so remind me, this call is being recorded yes? Are you telling me your supervisor doesn't have any discretion? Perhaps you could transfer me to his manager?

Rep: Uh... I'm sorry sir, uh, let me transfer you to my supervisor.

I've never been failed to speak with a supervisor when I've wanted to, sometimes there's a few levels to work through so you may have to pull the same trick with the supervisor. Just remain polite and reasonable, don't expect them to do something they are not allowed to do. Eventually you'll reach somebody with the relevant powers.

My favourite was when UPC had overcharged me a few months worth of bills. They told me they would credit it from my next bills but I wanted them to pay it back immediately. The rep stonewalled for a while, but eventually passed it to his supervisor who told me there was nobody in UPC who could write a cheque. I rather reasonably asked for it to be taken out of petty cash. I was told they don't do that so I asked what happens if they run out of milk in the canteen on a Friday afternoon. He had his manager call me back and I received a cheque in the post the following week.

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Devil

Having once dealt with Comcast

I can believe this. They were loathe to let me cancel my 'service' two weeks after signing up, apparently "It doesn't work, never has, and your engineers never showed up to fix it" wasn't quite a good enough reason to cancel.

Then they tried to bill me $500 for the Engineer Callout.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Having once dealt with Comcast

That sounds like VM.. tried to cancel their 50mb broadband back in the day after it'd failed to work properly since install - it took several calls, and they attempted to charge me a £300 termination fee (which they stuck on my bill without telling me - I only discovered it when one of the CS people mentioned it in passing).

I don't know why companies behave like this, because they just end up on my shitlist and I never give them any business again.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Having once dealt with Comcast

I don't know why companies behave like this, because they just end up on my shitlist and I never give them any business again.

That's why I have a well known bank on my permanent black list. I have some friends who have high end contacts there, and they have been trying to convince me to unlist them (as word gets around that they are refused service from us), but that's not going to happen.

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Silver badge

Quote: The recording has now been listened to by over half a million people and may well factor into their decision about who their next ISP might be.

Probably won't affect any decision because here in the States there really aren't "options" in spite of what Congress, FCC, etc. tell you. In any given area and if you're really lucky, you get a couple of cell companies, a DSL provider, and a broadband cable ISP.

With Comcast, I suspect that this is pretty much SOP for them as it is with the rest including satellite TV providers. If "good" customer service really mattered to them, they would have fixed the problem when the surveys said they were at the bottom of the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

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Big Brother

Not surprising

Given how US federal regulations have turned into protection for established market players (aka. campaign contributors) instead of fostering competition, it should come as a surprise to no one. It's a crime that such a nation can call itself "Land of the Free".

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Meh

Re: Not surprising

All I can say is thank you, Ofcom. I don't agree with all they've done but compared to what I hear about the US in these cases I think they deserve some credit. Most of us can at least choose the DSLAM or backhaul provider and when it comes to cost and customer service we all have lots of choice.

It's also quite cheap here which is nice but the flip side of that is the damage it does to the case for investment. Swings and roundabouts but I think on balance I prefer what we do. Someone stuck on a sub-2Mb/s line might not agree :-/

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Indeed. Ofcom gets a smooch from me

As does Neelie Kroes in our apparently reviled EU.

I can't really think of any example of where awarding a monopoly to anybody benefits the end user. Competition is messy, but good.

BT and Virgin are both doing rather well at getting fibre into the ground (as they trash-talk each other)

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Comcast v. Verizon

Actually... Comcast's greatest fear is when Verizon FIOS hits a neighborhood. I've watched our neighbors one by one switch to Verizon. I can tell collectively we are still with it by the wireless routers available. I got tired of the nickel and dime. I'd call them up to get the discount after my "special" expired, get sent to "retentions" and quite politely mention the great Verizon deal I am staring at, Comcast would do the right thing and give me the "special" pricing. After last go-round , I tired and switched to Verizon with lifetime DVR+triple-play, etc. they don't play the game , after special, my price went up all of 10-15 bucks, no biggie. The in-laws went with Comcast... I spent 3 months and a number of phone calls on their behalf just to get that $200 Visa debit card. You have to fight tooth and nail for those things.

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Re: Not surprising

Pm,

I always thought of it as "the land of the fee", or am I being too cynical?

j.

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Big Brother

Re: Not surprising

"and may well factor into their decision about who their next ISP might be – if they have any choice at all.

CHOICE?? What effing choice! As others have pointed out, here in the US there is no choice. In our community, Comcast has the local municipal franchise and others are locked out. There is absolutely no recourse ... except dial-up ... bwaaahaahaha ... competition?

The tape is only a small indicator of the contempt Corporate America shows the consumer.

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Of course there are options

No one needs live pay TV. Gen Z doesn't buy it. And my family has never had it; we do just fine on a diet of NetFlix, Amazon prime, and over-the-air broadcasts. Some of the best shows ran years ago; if it's good, it's worth waiting for.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not surprising

I'd give as much or more credit to consumer surveys as Ofcom. Ofcom are good for the really bad stuff that people have to go to some trouble to complain about, but I find consumer groups like Money Saving Expert and their surveys more useful for making a decision on which provider to use.

I suppose we're lucky that, being such a small nation geographically, pretty much every provider covers most or all of the country, and there's no monopoly. So if providers are shit (I'm looking at you, BT and TalkTalk), they get called out pretty quickly. When I called Sky with the intention of leaving, they were walking on eggshells when asking me why I wanted to leave, and ended up offering me an awesome deal to stay.

And like another poster said, once a company wrongs you, it makes your shitlist. After reporting me to a credit reference agency as a "defaulted account" for failing to to pay my final £50 bill (which I was disputing with them officially as they'd charged me long after the service had stopped) and wrecking my credit for years, BT (Bastard Telecom) has earned its place on my shitlist for LIFE.

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Re: Not surprising

It's a crime the truth that such a nation can call itself "Land of the Free".

FTFY! (Hint: look closely at the 'last word'.)

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Comcast v. Verizon

Yes, competition works. It's the only thing that strikes fear into them.

Sadly most people who have a choice prefer to whinge rather than switch. Quite why anyone is on Comcast when FiOS is available is beyond me.

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Just tell them you've sold your house

That should do it. Ask them to send you an info-pack and say that you'll be sure to recommend them to the new owners. They always lie to you so why shouldn't you lie to them.

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Pirate

Re: Just tell them you've sold your house

Then they just insist you should take their service at your next place of abode.

They'd probably still say that if you told them the account holder had died...

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Re: Just tell them you've sold your house

"Then they just insist you should take their service at your next place of abode."

Then tell them you're emigrating to the Outer Hebrides.

-Oh, you don't have coverage there? What a pity.

-Oh you do have coverage there? My mistake I meant to say I was emigrating to Mururoa Atoll.

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Re: Just tell them you've sold your house

I tried something like that back in 2007 when I called AT&T and asked to have my cellphone service cancelled.

The nice lady said, "Oh, we can move your service to another location".

I said I was moving to India (true). She hesitated and then said, "let me check".

A minute or so later, she says, "Nooo, sorry. We have no service plans there. You'd be on roaming- very expensive."

But, she was not done.

"How about keeping the number until you get back?" "No I said, I'll be gone for 2 years-minimum."

"How about a relative who would like that number?"

"No", I said.

She finally gave in and cancelled the service.

Her parting shot...

"When you came back give us a call here at AT&T."

JB

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