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warning do not pay your cable company 20000

… like I did, by accident. I had gotten a wee bit behind on paying my cable bill. This might be because I’m on the cusp of canceling the service, but that doesn’t really matter. So, I go to my online bank and pay my now 60-day overdue cable bill via the online bill pay feature. Ah, the perils of online bill pay. Somehow, instead of paying Comcast $204.98, I pay them $20498.00. No doubt a typo, but who can say for certain? Of course, I actually have enough money in this account to actually pay this, although just barely.

I actually don’t notice this error until one of my repeating, auto-scheduled payments (my mortgage payment, actually), miserably fails due to lack of funds, some 16 days later. “Whaaa?” I think to myself. “How the hell could this happen?” I log on to the bank’s website, and pretty much immediately notice the giant sum of money going to the cable company.

So, I call the bank. They are understanding, but cannot actually do anything. They tell me that I must talk to Comcast to get anything done. So I call Comcast. Somehow, I still owe them money. In fact, it looks like my $20k never got there. Ok, so where the hell is it? If it isn’t at my bank, nor at Comcast, is it lost in the ether? After explaining my problem to the poor guy at the Comcast call center, he informs me that in his experience, they reject payments of over $500. I admit that sounds like a good idea, but reiterate that my money is actually missing. I get escalated.

This is where the story might make an unexpected turn for some of you. I actually get escalated to someone in the finance department of the particular Comcast unit that I deal with. I.e., someone local. A real human. Actually, a very nice person named Sharon. I have a chat with her about my problem, and she promises to do what she can, but needs some sort of evidence of this event to start. Fair enough. I fax her a bank statement, and the actual page from the online billing portion showing the payment. I call the bank again to see if they can help. They promise to send more information to Comcast, using the fax number I forward to them. Then I call Sharon again and tell her this. She tells me that she should be able to get their bank to find this transaction, as it will stand out. She will call me back. One hour (or so) later, she calls back. They have found my lost loot and will refund it, but it will take 3-5 business days. I thank her profusely, and take what I can get.

Three (business) days later, my money has returned. And the bank reversed the service charge I incurred when my mortgage payment failed. So, I’m not really out much money (3 weeks of interest on the $20k).

So, the moral of this story: 1) don’t pay your cable company $20k. 2) if you do, don’t be mean to the customer service people. They will help. 3) Comcast actually handled this very well. I sort of feel guilty canceling them.

Written on Aug 1, 2006.

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