This is what happens when you play these cards in the deck of misfortune

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By Christopher Elliott

Nancy Evans has a strong case. Too strong of a case. This is going to sound strange, but my advocates and I can’t help her because her case against Comcast sounds … too good to be true.

“Perhaps this is my last email as I will soon have my Comcast internet and TV turned off,” she writes.

What a great hook! But it gets better.

A terrible tale of misfortune in this Comcast case

Evans’ case shows that consumers aren’t the only ones who have to watch for too-good-to-be-true deals. So do consumer advocates. We turn down such cases not because they aren’t legitimate, but because there are simply too many red flags.

Don’t let that happen to you, or your own legitimate case could suffer the same fate.

Red flag number one. “This could be my last email.” Even if that were true, do you think you’d be sending an email to our advocacy team? I’d be on the line with my internet service provider, trying to keep the lights on.

Evans lists her occupation as “author,” which is a relevant detail. The problem isn’t with her Comcast account — it’s her friend’s account.

It was in my friend’s name (still is) who stayed with me for awhile and will turn it off as Comcast requires a $300-plus payment for simple internet speed and basic TV.

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She let me transfer the phone number so I have contact. I cannot get it in my own name as my son had it in my name who was disabled and since died and I am not able to pay his arrears nor his ex-wife. I do raise his son now. He wants to find a job and apply for Pell grants to get to go to a technical college. I am disabled with a small amount fixed income. I took care of my mom until she died. She was a Holocaust survivivor..[sic]


What is the Elliott Deck of Misfortune?

We have something called the Elliott Deck of Misfortune — a fictitious stack of cards that people who want special consideration will “play” in an effort to get special treatment. And Evans just played almost every card in the deck.

Among them:

  • Financial hardship (a.k.a. “fixed income”).
  • Disability.
  • Death in the family.
  • Family tragedy.
  • The Holocaust.

And then there’s the extra drama of the author who can’t spell the word “survivor.” She must be distressed.

Needless to say, my advocates urged me to go nowhere near this case. But I can’t help myself.

It isn’t that I don’t believe Evans’ story. For all I know, she may be bankrupt, in a wheelchair and surrounded by tragedy. If that’s the case, she has my sympathies.

We can’t take this Comcast case

The reason I can’t get involved is that she’s taking the wrong approach. When you have to fix a problem, you need facts on your side, not emotion. To sway a customer service representative, you’ll need to present that employee with hard evidence that the $300-plus bill was unwarranted.

Sure, play a card or two in the Deck of Misfortune, but please don’t play them all — even if you have all of them to play. Enough people will doubt your story that it could lessen the chances of a favorable resolution, even if the facts are on your side.

So, Nancy, if you’re reading this, here’s my advice: Send a brief, polite and unemotional email to Comcast, explaining your situation. If that doesn’t work, appeal your case to one of these Comcast customer service managers. And if that doesn’t work, please come back to me and I’ll handle this personally.

For the rest of you reading this, please don’t do what Evans did when you try to fix a problem with a company. There’s no faster way of relegating your perfectly valid complaint to the digital recycler.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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