The Difficulty of Canceling Cable

Warning: the linked sound recording may trigger annoyance, rage, and memories of similar experiences.

Ryan Block tried to cancel his cable service from Comcast, and after ten minutes of frustration, he started recording the conversation. He’d been transferred to a customer retention specialist, whose job is to NOT cancel his service. In the related thread at Metafilter, there are various suggestions for cutting through the BS and getting a real cancelation when they ask why you are canceling.  

I’m moving to Asia (or Australia, or Antarctica).

My boyfriend kicked out of the house and I’m homeless.

I was blinded in an industrial accident.

I don’t have a TV. No, I don’t have a computer, either.

I don’t want my children exposed to TV. Why do you want to ruin my children?

Because my father, the customer, died. No, I don’t want to keep cable on until we sell the house!

Then there was more than one Mefite who said they had no trouble canceling a cable account over the phone …but then they continued to be billed every month. Have you ever tried to cancel a cable account?  

(Image credit: Dave Winer)

Update: Comcast has responded, and is apparently blaming the customer service rep, as if he wasn't doing exactly what he was trained and incentivized to do.

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When I cancelled my satellite subscription it took me an hour of saying "No, I just want to cancel it." before I finally got to the point I was actually cancelling the account.
Sat co: "Well why do you want to cancel it?"
Me: "I don't watch anything except for one show and I'm going to put the amount of money I save into paying for a Y mempership, which is the same cost, instead of sitting on my ass in front of the tv rotting my brain, getting fat and paying for commercials. Is that a sufficient answer for you?"
Sat co: "I'll get that cancelled for you right away."
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The only times I've canceled cable was when moving an that took a matter of seconds (as opposed to getting cable or internet installed, which has resulted in some stories that take a long time to tell...).

But without cable currently, I get calls advertising cable. I've found if I hang up or don't give a response, they call the next day, whereas humoring them for 30 seconds makes them not call for another month or two. Telling them I don't have a TV works rather effectively: "Why don't we see what deals we have that are appropriate for you," "I don't have a TV," "Ok, none of our deals would be useful to you, have a nice day."

Except for one time that a guy wanted to grill me for why I don't have a TV. "How do you watch DVDs?" "I don't" "How do you watch movies at home?" "I don't" "How do you get news." "Not via TV" "What sports do you watch?" "I don't" And this went on for five minutes. I would have hung up or told him that such things were none of his business, but I was amused by how bewildered he was at my short, negative answers to all of his questions.

While a lot of company representatives are supposed to be pressuring on the phone to some degree and have a script they are supposed to go through, most can recognize when it is blatantly pointless and want to move on as much as you do. Considering what I've heard about what it is like to work on the other end of the phone, it seems those going off script are less likely to meet their quotas and don't have the script to cover their butt.
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The guy was trained to try to keep them on board but not to be a complete ass in the process. This is very much the CSRs fault. I've known some Comcast employees and the company is full of crap, but this kind of aggressive behavior with customers is not tolerated. Also, I don't know Comcast's specific rules but in other companies they are given a hard limit of 2 or 3 requests and then they are just supposed to move forward specifically to avoid incidents such as this one.
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