The Most Hated Company In America

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In our recent poll about the most hated companies, Monsanto was the overwhelming choice of disinfonauts with a landslide 40% of well over 1,000 votes. However, The Verge is profiling Comcast (5th in our poll with just 5% of votes) as America’s most hated company, asking “What happens when the most unpopular company in the US merges with the runner-up?”

Comcast’s corporate headquarters, Comcast Center, is the tallest building in Philadelphia. It’s covered in mirrors, which makes it the perfect metaphor for the company, one former employee says; no matter where you go, the glare is in your eyes.

It seems a lot of people share that sentiment.

Comcast earned Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” title twice, first in 2010 and again this year, 2014. It ranks at the very bottom of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, underperforming even the rest of the cable industry, where “high prices, poor reliability, and declining customer service” are endemic.

In mid-July, AOL executive Ryan Block placed a call to Comcast customer service in an effort to cancel his service. What ensued was an 18-minute, Kafkaesque struggle with an overly persistent employee, which Block partially recorded and posted online. The recording went viral, and has now been listened to more than 5 million times. The interaction was covered by every major news network, immortalized in a New Yorker cartoon, and included in a David Letterman top 10 list (“Lesser-known Labors of Hercules”). “It hit the cultural zeitgeist something fierce,” Block says. “I guess it touched some kind of nerve. It was a keyed-up, aggressive version of a call I think most people have had.”

Thousands of Comcast customers across the country have experienced similar customer service nightmares when dealing with the company. Usually these involve multiple rounds of phone calls, missed technician appointments, and unexpected fees. In fact, forums like comcastmustdie.com and the Comcast section of Reddit have been created to give customers a dedicated space to vent.

Despite being reviled, Comcast is enormously successful. It’s the largest cable company in the US, the product of a deliberate, then aggressive, growth strategy that involved buying up short-lived companies from cable’s early days. Most recently, Comcast bought NBCUniversal as part of an effort to own more of the programming it serves, making it the largest media company in the world. It is also the 57th most profitable public company, ahead of Intel, Anheuser-Busch, and Goldman Sachs.

For its next act, Comcast wants to acquire Time Warner Cable: America’s second-largest cable provider with a similarly poor reputation of tormenting its customers…

[continues at The Verge]

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