back to article Remember that tale of a fired accountant who blamed Comcast? It's kinda true, says telco

Comcast has publicly apologized to Conal O'Rourke, the accountant who claims he was fired for moaning about the ISP's lousy service. "What happened with Mr O'Rourke's service is completely unacceptable," said Charlie Herrin, Comcast's recently appointed VP of customer experience, in a company blog post. "Despite our attempts …

  1. Hud Dunlap
    Joke

    and 50 cents

    Only an accountant would say that.

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: and 50 cents

      On this website we use the word : 'Beancounter'...

    2. LarsG

      Re: and 50 cents

      "Mr O’Rourke was employed in one of our internal firm services offices. The firm terminated his employment after an internal investigation concluded that Mr O’Rourke violated PwC’s ethical standards and practices, applicable to all of our people. The firm has explicit policies regarding employee conduct, we train our people in those policies, and we enforce them. Mr O’Rourke’s violation of these policies was the sole reason for his termination."

      Translation:

      "We're not going to lose a 30 million quid contract over that one little fc*ker!"

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        FAIL

        @LarsG -- Re: and 50 cents

        Yeah, that Comcast PR dribble pegged my bullshit-o-meter, too.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: pegged my bullshit-o-meter, too.

          Yep. Talk about a prime example of a non-apology apology accompanied by a non-denial denial.

  2. Michael Hoffmann
    Meh

    Never quite got...

    ... the point of "wanting your old job back".

    Really? Why would you want to work at a place that treats you like that again? And that will put you on the top of the next inevitable round of layoffs?

    Is it a calculation to get back to a steady income in a holding pattern while immediately searching for something else? Or not having a "got fired" stain on your CV?

    Seems like the stress of going to work back at a horrid sh*thole while job hunting would be better avoided by taking the payout from the legal settlement, recharge those batteries and then get into the job hunt refreshed.

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: Never quite got...

      The money's good.

      1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Never quite got...

        It's easy to say "I don't want that job back" but if the pay was good enough it might be hard to get that amount elsewhere.

    2. John Tserkezis

      Re: Never quite got...

      "Really? Why would you want to work at a place that treats you like that again?"

      There are two reasons (probably more, but..)

      1. You're a pissant with no prospects, and are willing to take any job where your employer treats you like crap, because you can't find another job. (I'm not apologising for this one, there is NO excuse for going back to an employer who actively and publically treated you like shit. Pull out your nutsack, put up your chin and take it like a civilised human being. Your ex-employer is doing a good enough job of making themselves look like turds, don't help them and do it to yourself.)

      2. You don't want the job back, but you do want your ex-employer to ask you to come back, like a dog with its tail between its legs, that they are. If your ex-employer wants to put their own noose around their own neck, let them.

      1. Ken Starks
        Thumb Up

        That's what I'm talking about.....

        "2. You don't want the job back, but you do want your ex-employer to ask you to come back, like a dog with its tail between its legs, that they are. If your ex-employer wants to put their own noose around their own neck, let them."

        Come back to work and keep things casual then when you've accepted an offer from another employer, make sure the asshat that fired you knows how much you appreciate use of the company resources to find your new job. It also might be fun to let him know that the settlement money enabled you to take a nice long vacation with your family prior to starting your new position. Of course, all of that is just a lousy piece of advice if, by some cruel twist of fate, you might need to be hired there again. Stranger things have happened.

      2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: Never quite got...

        Option #3:

        You liked your job.

        (Yes some people do like working for their current employer and don't want to leave due to a cock up.)

        More than likely...

        There is a stigma in terms of getting fired from a job that will make it more difficult to get a new job. This is true if you're in a position of trust. (Like an accountant.)

        So you want your old job until you can land your new one.

        My guess is that he'll get his job back, but will have no chance of bonuses or raises. He essentially has a job until he finds a new one.

    3. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Never quite got...

      Nononono, you're looking at this the wrong way - he clearly wants that job back so when he gets it he can quit it himself with a victorious smirk an his face.

    4. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Never quite got...

      If you say you don't want your old job back then people who later assess any compensation for being fired may hold that against you - You don't want the job, you haven't got the job, what's the problem?

      You have to make it look like they ruined your life to get maximum compensation, not that they did you a favour, or you were likely to leave anyway.

      If they offer to take you back, even if you don't actually go back, it also means you can change the reason you are no longer in that job on your CV from "fired" to something else.

  3. Ross K
    Facepalm

    Sometimes You're Wrong Even When You're Right

    I read about this on Ars Technica the other day - fucking crazy story...

    He might get a "get lost" payment from Comcast but whoever was right or wrong, his name is mud now and he's never going to work for PWC or anybody like them again.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes You're Wrong Even When You're Right

      Indeed. He might get the person who did the dirty at PWC into trouble, but who wants to be his next boss?

  4. Andrew Tyler 1

    About recording calls.

    I always take the "this call may be recorded" warning the companies I call tend to play to be a mutual understanding between us. I'm recording them, they're recording me, so "this call may be recorded."

    Is that a bad assumption to make? I don't usually like to start out conversations by saying things that suggest I'm going to be pain in the ass since usually just being friendly actually works better until it doesn't.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Is that a bad assumption to make?

      It is my understanding that yes it is a bad assumption to make, at least in New York.

      If you want the tape to be admissible (ie of any use whatsoever in a legal proceeding) you must inform the other party that you *are* recording the conversation.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Is that a bad assumption to make?

        You can always say "Thanks for allowing the call to be recorded, I am now recording" when the answering system says "this call may be recorded"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: About recording calls.

      Note: Americans have to give that warning because it's illegal to record calls without permission and courts in the US will not accept evidence obtained illegally.

      In the UK we have to give that warning because it's illegal to record calls without permission, but judges will accept pertinent evidence to a case, regardless of how it's actually been collected.

      1. MondoMan

        Re: About recording calls.

        @AC - actually, the laws (and thus the notification requirements) vary from state to state inside the US, and it gets even more complicated when the two parties to the call are physically in different states!

        In some cases, no notification is necessary; in some cases, just one party has to consent, and in others, both parties have to consent.

        As for the story author's suggestion that one record one's calls, from what I understand in this case, it's the alleged calls between Comcast and PWC about the accountant's job that are at issue, and the lawsuit against Comcast is intended to gain access to recordings of such calls via the discovery process.

      2. Andy Barker

        Re: About recording calls.

        UK law on recording calls is a bit vague. You can record a call without telling the other party, if that recording is not going to be given to a third party. Not sure how it works if you later want to give that recording to a solicitor, or produce it in court.

        http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/oftel/consumer/advice/faqs/prvfaq3.htm

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: About recording calls.

          I had some issues with a company many years ago, after they refused to deal with the problem by letter and , despite constantly claiming to be recording my conversations "for training purposes", but being unable to retain ANY information from them, I tried to record them myself.

          As soon as I repeated their own mantra back at them, they hung up on me.......

          EVERY TIME.

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: About recording calls.

            "I had some issues with a company many years ago, after they refused to deal with the problem by letter and , despite constantly claiming to be recording my conversations "for training purposes", but being unable to retain ANY information from them, I tried to record them myself.

            As soon as I repeated their own mantra back at them, they hung up on me.......

            EVERY TIME."

            When it comes to the point that you want to record conversations with them, before calling them again, send them one more letter - recorded delivery - and in that letter state that all future telephone conversations with them will be recorded.

            That way, you don't need to say it to the person answering the phone - and they in turn won't react by hanging up.

            (Been there, done that...)

            1. Hollerith 1

              Re: About recording calls.

              One final letter, and the next comes from your solicitor. I give them three calls and three letters, to demonstrate (if required) that I did all a reasonable person could do, and then I sic the law dogs on them, and you'd be surprised how fast a resolution happens. Worth every penny to the solicitor, especially as my experience is that the original trouble gets sorted out and I get some goodies for mental stress etc etc.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: About recording calls.

              A recording of their system telling you that they record calls followed by them hanging up when you say you're recording, will make for a pretty good indicator of bad faith if it goes near an ombudsman or judge.

              Businesses only object to recordings if they have something to hide.

              1. jonathanb Silver badge

                Re: About recording calls.

                "A recording of their system telling you that they record calls followed by them hanging up when you say you're recording, will make for a pretty good indicator of bad faith if it goes near an ombudsman or judge."

                I totally agree. Been there and done that with Vodafone.

        2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Re: About recording calls.

          UK law on recording calls is a bit vague. You can record a call without telling the other party, if that recording is not going to be given to a third party. Not sure how it works if you later want to give that recording to a solicitor, or produce it in court.

          The law is mainly about casual dissemination of recordings rather than use within legal proceedings. Limited disclosure solely for the purpose of legal proceedings is okay.

          As an earlier AC notes; the courts in the UK hold that evidence is evidence no matter how it is obtained. If evidence was obtained illegally that is a matter to be dealt with separately. We don't have the same 'get out jail of free' approach as America if something is done wrongly.

          Whether the recording and/or transcripts are admissible evidence or not is the real issue. If both parties agree it accurately represents what was said then it is admissible. If one party disputes it, it may be withdrawn as evidence, or there will be pre-trial proceedings to asses its admissibility.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: About recording calls.

        "Note: Americans have to give that warning because it's illegal to record calls without permission and courts in the US will not accept evidence obtained illegally."

        That is only true in 2-party states where the call is intrastate. Interstate and 1-party state calls only need the knowledge of one of the call participants.

        "In the UK we have to give that warning because it's illegal to record calls without permission"

        Factually and substantially incorrect. It's perfectly legal to record a call for your own use.

        It's a privacy breach to publish a call without the other party's knowledge, however that's a civil case and the person on the other end of the call has to go to court over it with very low odds of claiming damages, especially if the recording shows them acting in bad faith. It's perfectly legal to publish a call transcript - and in a court case the transcript is usually provided with the recording being entered into evidence if/when the other party disputes it.

        In the UK, you do not need the other party's permission to record a call, but if you're publishing it, you do need to inform them it's being recorded for the reason given above.

        To my knowledge, noone has EVER been taken to court in the UK for publishing a recording of a call they've been on.

      4. ma1010 Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: About recording calls.

        In addition, laws vary from state to state. In some states, if you don't give warning that you are recording the call, not only is the recording inadmissible in court, but you are guilty of a crime for which you can be jailed.

      5. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: About recording calls.

        In the UK, you only need the permission of one of the parties to the call, so you can give yourself permission to record your own calls and not tell anyone else. You can't record calls made by other people in your household or business without telling one of the parties to the call, so that is why they have those recorded messages.

    3. John Tserkezis

      Re: About recording calls.

      I'm recording them, they're recording me, so "this call may be recorded."

      Always tell them. It works both ways too.

      If things go a bit bad, you can bet the other side will "select" the parts of the conversation that will be conductive to their case, and against yours.

      Don't risk losing your leverage by using the rest of the conversation simply by presenting it to court. You can be sure they're going to use that against you if it wasn't done by the book.

      The exact requirements are handled differently in different states and different countries. Make sure you brush up on your local laws, not just that I'm not a lawyer, it's the laws vary very widely.

      If you don't tell them you're recording, the laws still vary widely. It goes from you simply can't use the recorded call in court, to, if the other side finds out you recorded it and they were not alerted to the fact in the "correct" way, you could fall foul of wiretapping laws. Again, check your local laws, your milage may vary.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: About recording calls.

        As mentioned, New York is a 2 party consent state. However, New York will also accept a recording as evidence no matter how it is obtained if it is in the best interest of the court (generally, this also has to be in the best interest of the public). Many scam retailers have learned this the hard way in New York. Personally I can vouch for 1 incident in the realm of false advertising in the realm of photography.

        In all states that I've read up on, there isn't 1 that will not accept a disclosure recording at the beginning of a customer service call as being implied consent. If you do not acknowledge the recording, consent is implied through the language (obviously).

        The whole topic of recording calls is so sticky because it can wield extreme leverage. I believe this is the real reason many mobile operating systems (ie. Android) have started to make a push to stop recording natively and force the customers into using crude techniques. Corporations due stick together on concerns that give customers leverage, believe that.

        I love this topic, it's 1 of the few I could type about for hours. I've written all types of telephony software, probably more than any other aspect of computing, just love it! Since I never was paid to do any of it, I put it aside when my motherboards stop coming with ISA expansions. I have 2 PCI telephony boards left, but they are not compatible with PCI Express, so I haven't played with this topic in years. So, thank you very much for reminding me of something I've been missing :-). Now if only I can find a full duplex* PCI Express board that can record higher than 8khz.

        *You want full duplex so the snaky customer service reps can hear their own voice played back to them (it always makes them much more polite)!

    4. Andrew Norton

      Re: About recording calls.

      "This call may be recorded" - it can be viewed that that is granting permission, in that you MAY do that.

      And if they're recording the calls, they can't object to you doing it.

      That's the long and short of it (had a fun time in Federal court last year listening to two lawyers argue on that).

      1. Tom 13

        Re: had a fun time in Federal court last year

        Sadly, the problem with the current US justice system is that only applies to that particular instance of your particular case. That whole precedent thing is only pulled out if it agrees with the ruling the judge wants to render.

        I concur that OUGHT to be sufficient. In fact, I'm of the opinion that it shouldn't be illegal to record any call, only to misuse such a recording in an attempt to blackmail the other party.

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    After reading the update

    It would appear, since they didn't give any specifics, that having a urinating contest with a client is a violation of their Ethics and Compliance policy? And yeah... I'm guessing from all the reports on this, that a call was made from Comcast to PwC.

  6. BryceP

    Fat luck on the recording

    Despite every IVR system warning me that a call is likely to be recorded I have only encountered actual recordings when the company believes I was at fault. Every single time that the company was in error they deny that a recording was ever made. When the company has been in violation of law and most deserving of a letter to the state's AG they have vehemently denied that any recording was ever made. This in spite of my policy of requesting calls be recorded the second I get an agent on the line.

    Record all calls yourself and let the courts sort it out. At the very least, the court of public opinion and the company's PR spin. Notifying the agent that you are recording will likely result in them terminating the call under the guise of not having the authority to consent.

    The odds are stacked against you at every turn, especially when you are interacting with regional or national monopolies. If you can't win legally, humiliate them, and see how fast they either cave or double down with a suddenly produced recording that was made after all.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Fat luck on the recording

      A friend who ran a small shop told me she had been conned into a very expensive utility switch. A famous energy company insisted she had agreed to a deal that she would (being canny almost to the point of being a Yorkshire lass) never have agreed, but were absolutely insistent she had assented on the phone.

      We asked for a recording and actually got one. Listening to it I had the almost incredulous realisation that it was fake. I was able to analyse it with Audacity and prove beyond any reasonable doubt (in no small part due to a very fortunately timed quiet but distinctive background noise - the shop door bell) that the 'yes, that's right' which was supposed to imply consent to the deal was in fact a copy/paste of the response she had given when asked to confirm her address. The forgery was, despite a few blunders apparent only under a reasonably technical analysis, pretty good. When the police listened to the call, they assured me they didn't think it sounded fake - until I showed them the waveforms; then they were stunned.

      Famous energy company, of course, blamed a rogue agent, and settled out of court, so unfortunately I was not a party to, as I had hoped, an actual fraud trial against them. Still my fee & reward bought me a new bathroom, so it wasn't too disappointing. But the moral is that call recordings, even when they are produced, may not be all they appear: record your own side (preferably on old fashioned cassettes with a nice bit of mains hum, and the radio on in the background) if you want to be sure.

    2. John Tserkezis

      Re: Fat luck on the recording

      "Record all calls yourself and let the courts sort it out. At the very least, the court of public opinion and the company's PR spin. Notifying the agent that you are recording will likely result in them terminating the call under the guise of not having the authority to consent."

      This can be a very bad move. In some juristictions, if you record a telephone conversation without the legally required consent, and the other side finds out, they will use it against you. You'll find out real quick how the wiretap laws work, and rest assured, you're not going to like them.

      In the event they hang up, this could be good for you. You can (with your documented recordings!) prove that THEY refused to negotiate with you, not the other way around. It may become a separate case, but their business is entirely based around law and leverage. You CAN use it to your advantage, instead of theirs. Remember, they want you to get fed up and go away, because it becomes their advantage.

      1. Christopher E. Stith

        Re: Fat luck on the recording

        If they've informed you that the call may be recorded, as most call centers do, then they've already consented to being recorded.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: find out real quick how the wiretap laws work,

        If you have any doubts about that for the US side of the pond, Google "Linda Tripp". Because that's the bit they used to threaten her when they didn't like what she was doing.

  7. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Hit the record button

    Record the call and let a court and your attorney sort out whether it's a good idea to try to use it. You could still make a transcript from the recording and submit that. I've never heard that a written transcript is illegal. The judge could always compare the recording with the transcript without entering the recording into evidence.

  8. Brian 3

    He'll have violated the policy which says you can't threaten clients. Moral of the story is, don't threaten to call the cavalry, just quietly do so. Also, most call centers record ALL calls. The US helpdesk I worked at recorded every call and saved them indefinitely.

    Calls MAY be recorded for training purposes. - Means they are always being recorded, but not always used for training! Consent is assumed because you are still on the line. Lots of call centers are set up to give every call enough hold time to get the statement, regardless of call volume. Why risk the staffer forgetting?

    1. Raumkraut

      He'll have violated the policy which says you can't threaten clients.

      Perhaps, but based on what evidence? Comcast appear to be adamant that there is no recorded evidence of any threats made by anyone. So if that were the reason, PWC would be doing Comcast's bidding without any evidence of wrongdoing - which could be grounds for a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against PWC.

      Personally, I think it's more likely that PWC have enormously byzantine ethics rules, and they found some minor infraction (like using the wrong kind of smiley face in an old email, or such) they could use to justify hanging the guy out to dry.

      1. Rol Silver badge

        Yep. Maybe PwC needs an ethics inspection, 'cos if they're willing to swing the axe based on nothing but hear say from a customer, then what kind of a blind eye audit will hard money buy you?

        I can suggest this as I am no longer looking to work for them in this lifetime.

        Maybe keeping a check on the numbers in hell might be one of the cushier jobs and so I retract my previous besmirch in favour of a less hellish afterlife.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Qui audits Auditores?

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "Really? Why would you want to work at a place that treats you like that again? And that will put you on the top of the next inevitable round of layoffs?"

    Problem is, there's no way he'll get his old job back. Although investment firms seem to act rather shady in some aspects, they are subject to SEC regulation (among others) and have some ethical rules employees are expected to follow. One of these is to not use your investment influence for personal vendettas, or threaten to do so. I do feel bad for him... what is it with these cable companies and random cockups? Of course if the recording turned up and he didn't say anything he'd be exhonerated and owed every penny; however, how likely is it that Comcast would pursue anything if he didn't say something first?

    1. Cipher

      "how likely is it that Comcast would pursue anything if he didn't say something first?"

      And how likely is it that PWC made the statement they made without hearing the tape wherein the beancounter said something to the effect of:

      "Do you know who I am? I work at PWC, I'm important and I can reign down hell on Comcast if you don't kiss my ring and resolve this to *my* satisfaction."

      No love for Comcast here, but this may a case of a jerk getting what he deserved...

  10. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Record how?

    Where can I buy a decent answering machine that records to SD card?

    That would be the easiest way to transfer the recording for editing.

    Most devices seem to just have a memo function that stops after three minutes.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Record how?

      You can get a cheap gadget to connect to phone line and laptop line in

      Or put on speaker phone and use mic on laptop.

  11. Stretch

    god i'm so fucking sick of the human race

  12. Identity
    Joke

    TYPO

    PWC, as I remember, was involved in some shady or negligent accounting scandal a while back, but even so, an accounting firm should be exacting and not allow typos in their public statements. To wit,

    Mr O’Rourke was employed in one of our infernal firm services offices. The firm terminated his employment after an infernal investigation concluded that Mr O’Rourke violated PwC’s ethical standards and practices, applicable to all of our people. The firm has explicit policies regarding employee conduct, we train our people in those policies, and we enforce them. Mr O’Rourke’s violation of these policies was the sole reason for his termination.

    1. Fatman Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: an accounting firm should be exacting and not allow typos in their public statements.

      I see what you did there????

      I would do the same thing when I had to write a check to the Infernal Revenue Service.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A different view on the matter...

    PwC was right to fire him. They (PwC, KPMG and Deloitte) do all the big audits and cannot afford even a sniff of impropriety. It sounds like this guy attempted to extort preferred service from Comcast by threatening them in some unspecified way. Whether that is what he intended or he was just frustrated, I'm going to presume that the conversation was sufficiently explicit and he was sufficiently low on the totem pole to force the ethics dept to act when the tape was provided to them.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comcast trying to avoid being held accountable

    Comcast just doesn't want another criminal conviction nor to have to pay out millions in damages - as they should.

    IME, Comcast is a very unscrupulous company as many other folks have documented and they need to be held accountable for ALL violations of law and abuse of their customers.

    Comcast convictions by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

    http://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/062-3166/comcast-corporation-pennsylvania-corporation-united-states

  15. OmgTheyLetMePostInTheUK

    Comcast should hire this guy and make him a Senior Vice President of Customer Service. He has obviously been on the bad end of Comcast CS, and would know oh so well, what not to do.

    At least at Comcast, it should be easy to make Customer Service better. Its so bad now, how do you go any lower?

    What bugs me is that I hear nobody calling for the Comcast CEO to step down, even though in the end, he is the one responsible for the crappy CS. And he seems to be quite proud of his crappy CS too. This is probably due to the fact that most cable companies operate on local government required monopolies, and as such, they are beholden only to their shareholders. Since the customers must take the cable service that is available in their area, anyone living in a Comcast area, must get it from Comcast.

    I believe that instead of letting Comcast and Time Warner merge, they should both be broken into smaller companies, and forced to compete with each other all over the country. In fact, all cable companies should have to compete with at least 1 other company in any town over 30,000 people in it, and at least 2 companies in any city over 75,000. These are minimums. Basically, any cable company that wants to offer their services to a town or city, should be able to do so. Some might well fail, but that is how things go in business. Some will succeed, and become wealthy. Some will not. But only by doing this will cable CS get better, prices stop going up, and programming be expanded to keep up with the competition.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporate power subverts democracy

    Total subversion of the democratic process. What the government can't do to you, corporations can and it's all about money. And yet we have the nerve to go around the world and preach to people about the democracy they need and which we do not have. I don't know where this is all headed, but it cannot be good.

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