Update, Oct. 8, 11 a.m.: Ars Technica confirmed the account described in this story over lunch last Friday with the man, Conal O’Rourke, in Northern California. O’Rourke was fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) earlier this year after his extended dispute with Comcast. Ars Technica reports that he provided “an astonishing amount of documentation” and is threatening to sue Comcast if the company does not apologize, retract its comments to his employer, restore his job, and pay him $100,312.50 by Oct. 14.
Innovative might not be the first word that comes to mind in describing Comcast. But are we giving the company credit where credit is due? Let’s face it, after that harrowing 18-minute customer service call went viral in July, it looked like Comcast had nothing more to strive for—it had reached peak horrible. Yet if reports this week are accurate, Comcast has continued to shine as an innovator in the competitive field of corporate terribleness: It got a customer’s employer to fire him for complaining about shoddy customer service.
The full story in all its sadistic glory is at Consumerist, but here’s the SparkNotes version. A customer named “Conal” started subscribing to Comcast service in early 2013. There were issues: erroneous charges, bills that never arrived, discounts that weren’t applied. Conal considered canceling his service, but decided to stick with it after a Comcast rep promised that the issues would be resolved and threw in some free perks. As another friendly gesture, the company also allegedly sent and billed Conal for $1,820 of equipment he’d never ordered.
This is where it gets crazy. Conal, understandably frustrated, decided to bypass the customer service department and take his complaints straight to the Comcast controller. During the call, he claims, he suggested that a private-sector oversight group look into Comcast’s billing and accounting issues. Shortly after that call, Comcast contacted Conal’s employer—a large accounting firm that Consumerist reports happened to do business with Comcast. The rep claimed that Conal had name-dropped his employer as leverage during the call; according to the story, the firm opened an investigation against Conal and then fired him from his job.
It’s hard to know who’s telling the truth here. Conal tells Consumerist that he never mentioned his employer and that someone at Comcast must have looked him up to figure out where he worked. Comcast, for its part, has allegedly refused to release any tapes of the phone calls it made on the matter. That’s a little strange: If Conal did invoke his company’s name in a threatening way, Comcast could easily prove as much by excerpting the relevant portion of his call. So much for monitoring “for quality assurance purposes.” If you want it done right, record the call yourself.