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Comcast Wouldn't Cancel Service After House Burned Down


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April Fool's pranks can be unpleasant for the recipient. But there was nothing funny at all when the house of St. Paul, Minnesota, retired truck driver Jimmy Ware went up in flames on April 1. As the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported, he had been drinking a beer when he got the news. Ware drove to the house, which had been owned by his parents before him, turned around and headed back to the bar.

"I couldn't stand looking at it no more," the 66-year-old told the news organization. "Lost my checkbook. Lost everything." A downed power wire ignited dried vegetation, and the flame spread to take his home. Ware had no insurance on the building and was reluctant to ask help of anyone.

Apparently Comcast was more than willing not to offer any. It took a week of calling before the company would cancel Ware's cable television service, according to the Pioneer Press.

Ware's daughter, Jessica Schmidt, was trying to help her father piece his life and deal with important basics, like finding a place to live and rebuilding his life. Canceling cable service should have been a quick task, except that it wasn't.

When Schmidt called Comcast, she was told that she needed the account number to cancel. That was gone, along with every other record and belonging that Ware once had. Her father got on the phone and gave the company the last four digits of his Social Security number, but that apparently wasn't enough.

Corporate Policy

Comcast's policy had been put into place to protect privacy and keep one person from canceling another's service. But sometimes reality doesn't work by corporate rules.

"I've said to Comcast, 'Here's your choice, disconnect the service or send someone out to fix the cable, because it's not working,'" Schmidt said to the Pioneer Press. "The [Comcast] guy said, 'That doesn't make sense, because the house burned down.' I said, 'Exactly, shut the service off.'"

And still they didn't, though finally, at the end of what must have been a horrific week, Comcast relented, saying that customer service personnel had mishandled the matter. Not only did the company finally cut off service, backdated to the fire, but it said it wouldn't charge Ware for the equipment that was likely a puddle somewhere.

Comcast has a terrible reputation for customer service, as DailyFinance has reported before. It's twice won the title of most-hated company from the Consumerist blog. It reportedly got someone fired from his job over a billing dispute, according to AOL Jobs, and addressed customers in Spokane, Washington and the Chicago area by profanity or swear words on their billing statements. And that's a short list of publicized problems.


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