Three Possible Reasons That Everyone Hates Comcast

Just bringing up the company’s name provokes raw anger. Why is that?

Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Last week I wrote that  “net neutrality is a dumb idea” in Forbes and received a ton of comments (most in bitter opposition to my take). But that’s cool. It’s an important issue and I came away from the experience with three lessons from the many who offered their opinions: People are very passionate about net neutrality, many do feel that the government should play a bigger role in the Internet, and the most obvious of all: Everyone —and I mean EVERYONE — hates Comcast.

Why? Why does everyone hate Comcast so much?

Just bringing up the company’s name provokes raw anger.  My wife, a genuinely non-violent person, starts throwing plates when I mention Comcast. Dogs howl and babies suddenly start crying the minute you bring up the company. Don’t believe me? Just try walking down the street with a friend and say a few nice things about Comcast. You’ll notice people begin to look at you strangely, and then they’ll start shoving and ultimately attacking you like those people in DiCaprio’s Inception dream world.

These are not isolated incidents. This is a national loathing. Even Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey mercilessly made fun of Comcast, sorry I mean “Kabletown,” on 30 Rock.  Consumerist has chosen Comcast as the “Worst Company In America” and the company was recently named along with Time Warner as the most hated company in the country.  Yes, as this website reported last week, everybody really does hate Comcast.

I’m not here to defend Comcast (or Xfinity, or whatever we’re calling them this year). They did not pay me to write this. In fact, I have never received a cent from the company. Comcast is a public company but mostly operated by the Roberts family. And both the senior Ralph and his son Brian seem like nice guys, if not oddly similar in appearance to Randolph and Mortimer Duke from Trading Places. The company has always maintained a good relationship with the community. They support the arts, the major charities, the city’s efforts to build a better infrastructure and economy. They’re a growing business and like any business have their battles and face competition from a dwindling number of others. But these don’t seem like bad people, do they? Of course there are horror stories, but how often does your TV, Internet or phone service go out? How many times have you not had access to your email? When did Comcast’s home security service fail you? It rarely happens to me. And when it does, is it that big a deal? Really? Yet I groan and moan and curse Comcast just like everyone else.

So why does everyone hate Comcast so much?

Is it the LargeCo effect? To me they (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, DirectTV, whatever) are pretty much all the same. These companies are all vying with each other to take complete control of our lives and Comcast is without question leading the way. I now realize that pretty much any form of communication making its way into and out of my house is stealthily flowing through Comcast’s pipelines. And the younger Roberts just told the world yesterday that Comcast isn’t going to budge. They’re selling energy and now they’re controlling my home security system too! So maybe it’s the creepiness of it all. These giant companies are slowly taking ownership of everything we do, watch, and play, and control the information we receive, our power and security all for just a low monthly fee! Maybe that’s why we hate them? Yet some of the same people I know who bitterly oppose the big brother-like presence of Comcast have no problem with a big-brother and relentlessly expanding government, or an omnipresent Google, a monopolistic Amazon or a controlling Apple in their lives.

Is it the helplessness effect? One of the major issues people have with Comcast having too much power on the Internet is that they have the ability to raise fees willy-nilly and what’s the general public going to do but bend over and take it. And that’s a reasonable concern. People feel helpless about those things we can’t control, particularly those things like what we watch, how we communicate, where we get our energy and who’s keeping us safe. Will Comcast continue to throttle our beloved Netflix and therefore cause us to pay more each month to watch House of Cards? Will we be helplessly subject to their whims? I’m not so sure this is justifiable. Large companies throughout history have been brought to their knees when their own abusive practices cause a big enough political and popular backlash (think Microsoft, Big Oil, Big TelCo).  I think the people running Comcast know this too.

Could it just be the customer service effect? That feeling you get when your Internet or cable goes down and you have to call their 800 number and have some podunk from God-knows-where humiliatingly walk you through a condescending set of instructions from 2006 starting with “please disconnect your router, wait 3 minutes, then reconnect.” Like we haven’t tried that. Or is it that, after navigating through multiple levels of automatic prompts you finally speak to a human who has maybe a 50 percent chance of being able to help you with your problem? Or are you as confused as I am about their complicated bills, confusing charges, complex rates and their nitpicking over a few pennies here and there? The truth is that Comcast’s customer service isn’t really so bad. They spend millions on training, have call centers around the country and have made significant investments in social media and other forms of technologies to help resolve problems fast. And even if you’re unfortunate enough to have to wait for a visit from a Comcast technician, you’ll likely find him/her to be capable, too.

Maybe it was that one bad experience you had with the company five years ago that put a permanent distaste in your mouth. Or that viral customer nightmare article you read online?  Or some type of arrogant comment made by David Cohen, the “real repairman” according to the New York Times.  Is this why everyone hates Comcast? All of the above? I’m still not sure. Maybe you’ve got a better reason. Yeah, you probably do.

Follow @GeneMarks on Twitter.

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  • Denise Rambo

    I’ll tell you why I hate Comcast … I can call them up about my bill this month, make some changes and be guaranteed that the price will be lower. The price is lower … for approximately 2 months … then it’s right back up where it was before.

  • jt

    Hating large companies has and will always exist. But all large companies, Apple for instance, aren’t hated. It’s what these large companies do, or in Comcast’s case, don’t do. They don’t treat you like a human being, the lie over and over again, their customer service department is staffed with inept morons and the list goes on. Brian Roberts personally allows this situation to exist & it is disgraceful.

    • Joseph

      No. You’re wrong, as some large companies ARE hated, such as Comcast.. You said that ALL large companies are NOT hated. (Perhaps you were trying to say that NOT ALL large companies are hated.) ??

  • Darrell Birkey

    This is not a mystery. almost everyone hates the cable company regardles of what cable company they have. More people hate comcast because they have more customers.

  • elijah

    it isn’t that it is big, Google is big and they are probably the most liked major corporation right now.
    I’m not sure the point that you are trying to get across in the helplessness paragraph. are you saying that just because people want to have consistent, agreed upon payments for their entertainment it makes them spoiled brats? Comcast deliberately confuse the truth under fine print. Forcing people to fight for what they paid for, grabbing more cash from people’s pockets than they deserve.
    Also, Comcast is controlling the market through if not illegal then unfair methods, consisting of bribery and intimidation. By bribing the governments of towns and cities, they are stopping the people from having a say. The people can’t bring down large companies if the law is with the companies side.
    I can almost hear you telling people to pull themselves up by their own boot straps. you are most certainly either disconnected with reality or purposefully writing an inflammatory article for page views

  • DeeMD215

    I’ve had other companies that don’t nickle and dime you to equal so that your bill goes up and up..from what the original amount was..they don’t really let you understand until your under contract that they charge get this $10 per connection to each room..then another $10 for rental of the modem..for me that $40 extra dollars per month..i can buy that moden ten time overs..then tack on other vague charges..and worst is their customer service..completely inept..and for a communiation company they have an automated system that will bug the hell out of you that DOES NOT will get call after call where it will not respond to prompts etc. so will hang up and proceed to call you tons of time over and over..also if your lucky enough to get a human..they are rude and condesending..maybe that why!! And of course whoever thought up contracts should be shot..if i am not happy with the service i get or the pricing as it increases i should not have to pay big money to get out of my contract..poor service and tagging on more fess or increases..should make the contract able to be ended!!

  • bill k

    I have used verizon fios, cablevision and comcast and comcast is easily the worst. They are the most expensive, they don’t carry channels I want to see, and their On Demand stops working more often.

  • Randi Berryman

    What planet does your Comcast originate from Mr. Marks? I ordered Comcast 9 months ago. Our Internet was 50 Mbps and at least monthly would drop so low our online banking would time out before account information would load. I would call Comcast and our speed would have dropped so the agent would have to raise it again. Our bill regularly went up $5 a month although we should have had 6 months service without a price change. When our six months was up I called to change packages was told I had the same package at slightly more a month found out the next month bill had nearly doubled. Called back was told it was fixed, bill should be back to what it originally was only difference was 25 Mbps Internet, ok that works for me. Turn on tv and to find we only get 3 channels. Called back to find department had closed so tech guy did the best he could restoring channels. Of all these conversations my shortest hold time was 37 minutes. I wish I could have had your experience, mine has been no where close to yours.

  • Susan

    Worst.Customer.Service.EVER. The auto-prompts to even GET to a rep is majorly annoying. And the bill changes and bounces each month – it’s like playing Whack-A-Mole — you never know what’s coming. It doesn’t ‘feel’ legal – I mean, I buy a package for an agreed upon rate. Then every 2 months the bill is different. When you call — the explanation is worse than the problem and completely confusing. IF you do call, they will generally drop the price for a month or 2, but then it bounces again. I had Verizon – it was worse for me (some say it’s better). Bottom line – We are all addicted/dependent on the net and TV and we all need them and they know this and can do whatever the hell they want. and THAT is why we hate them.

  • Lonn

    We have Comcast Triple Play. The overall service has too many glitches.

  • Miami Comcast Hater

    I had Comcast for six years. Paid the bill on-time with extra $20 every month. One month after six years I was traveling and missed a bill payment. They disconnected my service after 6 days. I canceled immediately and got AT&T U-Verse and loved it. Never again Comcast. I’d rather have no cable television than ever deal with them again.

  • anonymously annoyed

    I hate Comcast because they sent a bill to collections for equipment I returned to their store. They told me I didn’t need a receipt, and since they are a big company and I hadn’t been with them long enough to know better, I just assumed they had everything in order and that-would-be-that… I should have known better. Somehow, they ended up loosing my equipment and sent me a big fat bill for the things I had already turned in. To make it worse, while I was waiting for them to sort it out, which they said they would do, they ended up sending my bill to collections–WHILE I WAS WAITING FOR THEM TO CALL ME BACK TO UPDATE ME ON THE SEARCH THEY WERE SUPPOSEDLY DOING. In the end, they never righted the wrong and I’m still stuck with a big fat bill for their inventory error. The funniest part about it is that I know someone who had the exact same experience as I did, but actually had the common sense to get a receipt–but, you gotta learn your lessons somehow, I suppose, and the biggest one I learned from that experience is that Comcast truly, completely, utterly sucks.