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Woman gets cable bill with derogatory name

Comcast customer LaChania Govan got bounced around when she called her cable company to complain. But when she got her August bill from Comcast she had no trouble understanding she'd made somebody mad.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Like most everybody, LaChania Govan got bounced around when she called her cable company to complain. She made dozens of calls and was even transferred to a person who spoke Spanish _ a language she doesn't understand.

But when she got her August bill from Comcast she had no trouble understanding she'd made somebody mad. It was addressed to "Bitch Dog."

"I was like you got to be freaking kidding me," said Govan, 25, of her reaction when she saw the bill. "I was so mad I couldn't even cuss."

Govan said the only thing she did to Comcast employees that might be considered rude came after a few dozen calls when she felt she was treated shabbily. "I did tell them, 'You know what, it has to be a qualification to work for your company that you have to be rude,'" she said.

Comcast officials said the name change shouldn't have happened.

"We only use the actual customers names on the bill," said Patricia Andrews-Keenan, a Comcast spokeswoman.

Two employees were fired after company officials went through records and identified them as being involved in the incident. It was unknown why they did it, Andrews-Keenan said.

"We are appalled by this treatment of our customer and want to extend our sincerest apologies" to Govan, the company said Wednesday in a statement. "This is not the way Comcast does business."

Govan said she talked to a supervisor about the bill and he said he'd find out what happened and get back to her. He also offered her two months free service, which she turned down. Then Wednesday, about two weeks after she got her bill, somebody from the company left a message on her answering machine in which the caller apologized.

Govan noted that the apologies and firings came only after her story was published in the Chicago Tribune and gained widespread media attention, but she also told the Tribune she appreciated Comcast's actions.

In another case, Peoples Energy customer Jefferoy Barnes started getting letters addressed to "Jeffery Scrotum Bag Barnes."

"I had no bad words at all. I guess the earliest letter is dated in May and from then on up until now my name has been listed as Jeffery Scrotum Bag Barnes and I have no idea why."

Barnes said he received an apologetic call from a company official. He also has contacted an attorney to determine if he can take legal action.

A Peoples Energy spokeswoman called the letter inexcusable.

"We are in the process of conducting a search of every single record that this person has touched and if any records are touched we are going to contact the customers immediately and those records will be corrected," said company spokeswoman Elizabeth Castro.

The Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, which investigates complaints about utilities and other service providers and received a call from Barnes, said such problems are relatively rare.

Part of the reason may be that it's easy to track down the culprit. "So an employee would be committing suicide by doing it," said Martin Cohen, the board's executive director.

Still, Cohen said the two recent name changes underscore the frustrations of both customers and customer service representatives.

To cut costs, companies have fewer people answering calls, meaning longer waits on the phone and increased anger from customers, Cohen said.

Cohen expressed sympathy for the employees fielding calls from dissatisfied customers. But, he said, "They have a responsibility to be professional. And a couple of them are going into a new line of work."