customer disservice
July 16, 2014

These days, calling a customer service number and getting connected to an actual human rather than an automated answering machine can seem like a novelty. But sometimes it can turn into a nightmare — as proven by tech journalist Ryan Block's call to Comcast on Monday, during which he was berated by the customer service rep when he called to cancel his service.

Despite Block's simple, calm request to end his Comcast service, the rep refuses to do so, instead repeatedly demanding a reason for his cancellation. The rep also forcefully insists that Comcast is the top-rated service in the country. Listen for yourself:

Comcast issued a statement yesterday apologizing for the behavior of their rep (whom Block declined to name to the public), assuring that "the way in which our representative communicated with [Block and his wife] is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives."

However, today Block dug up a fascinating Reddit thread detailing Comcast's incentives programs that seem to in fact encourage this type of relentless behavior. The thread's poster, who claims to have worked for Comcast Corporate for nearly nine years, reveals that Comcast's so-called "retention specialists" are paid in accordance with how many customers they do — or don't — save.

From Reddit:

Comcast uses "gates" for their incentive pays, which means that if you fall below a certain threshold (which tend to be stretch goals in the first place) then instead of getting a reduced amount, you get 0$. Let's say that if you retain 85 percent of your customers or more (this means 85 percent of the lines of businesses that customers have when they talk to you, they still have after they talk to you), you get 100 percent of your payout — which might be 5-10$ per line of business. At 80 percent you might only get 75 percent of your payout, and at 75 percent you get nothing. The CAEs (customer service reps) watch these numbers daily, and will fight tooth and nail to stay above the "I get nothing" number. This guy went too far, you're not supposed to flat out argue with them. But Comcast literally provides an incentive for this kind of behavior. [Reddit]

And with that, we wish you good luck in your next customer service call. Kimberly Alters

Quotables
10:41 p.m. ET
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The Vatican's top diplomat said on Tuesday that the legalization of gay marriage in Ireland is a "defeat for humanity."

At a news conference in Rome, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state and second to the pope in the church's hierarchy, said he was "deeply saddened by the result" of the vote. "The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelization," he added.

After Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote last week, archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin made a less inflammatory statement, saying, "It is very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people... [then the church needs] a reality check." The Guardian points out that Pope Francis has also referred to something as a "defeat for humanity," but in the pontiff's case, he was talking about war. Catherine Garcia

Emails
9:31 p.m. ET
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In a court filing, the State Department proposed to post online large bundles of Hillary Clinton's emails from her time as Secretary of State starting June 30, and then every 60 days thereafter.

"The Department will strive to produce as many documents as possible on each production date, and will file a status report one week after each production to inform the Court of the number of pages posted," Justice Department lawyers wrote. "The Department is keenly aware of the intense public interest in the documents and wants to get releasable materials out as soon as possible."

The State Department last week proposed that it have until January to produce the bulk of the emails, but U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered they release the emails on a rolling basis. The Department said it will get every email out by January, Politico reports, but hopes to get them all released before then. Catherine Garcia

scary
8:44 p.m. ET

A bomb threat made by an anonymous caller on Tuesday targeted EVA Air Flight 12 as it flew from Taipei to Los Angeles.

After it landed safely at around 3:30 p.m., the plane was directed to a secure area reserved for planes that are experiencing problems, CBS Los Angeles reports. At about 5:30 p.m., passengers began to get off the plane and were driven away in buses. FBI agents, Homeland Security officials, and Los Angeles Police Department officers are all on the scene, and in a statement, the FBI said that "all threats, regardless of known credibility, are taken seriously."

On Monday, at least six anonymous calls were placed threatening international flights as they headed to airports in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Authorities said those threats, which were not credible, could have been made by the same source, but did not say if there is a connection to the threat made against the EVA flight. Catherine Garcia

that's not good
8:19 p.m. ET
iStock

A new study published in The BMJ has found that women who take birth control pills that use newer types of the hormone progestogen have three times the risk of developing blood clots compared to women not taking the oral contraceptive.

Blood clots have been a known risk of taking the pill since the 1990s, and developers have been changing the progesterone levels of the pill since it was first introduced in 1960 in order to lower side effects like weight gain and acne. Those tweaks could be the reason why the risk of blood clots went up, considering that the scientists adjusted for factors like cancer, varicose veins, smoking, and obesity on the risk of blood clots, and the link between newer contraceptives and an increased risk of blood clots remained high, Time reports.

"Our study suggests that the newer contraceptives have a higher risk of [blood clots] than the older agents," Yana Vinogradova, research fellow at the University of Nottingham and lead for the study, told Time. "While [blood clots] are a relatively rare problem, they are serious and potentially avoidable with the appropriate drug choice. Doctors need to consider all health issues when prescribing contraceptives, selecting a drug type associated with the lowest risk for patients with particular susceptibilities." Catherine Garcia

media news
7:19 p.m. ET

Vox Media has acquired Revere Digital, the parent company of the tech website Re/code.

Re/code was started by journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg about 18 months ago after they left The Wall Street Journal, Mashable reports. In a post on Re/code, Swisher and Mossberg wrote that the site will "continue to publish under the same name and leadership, with editorial independence." Re/code will "collaborate where appropriate" with Vox Media's tech news site, The Verge, and and will "benefit from joining Vox Media by integrating Vox Media's various capabilities — including marketing, communications, audience development, sales, and production." Catherine Garcia

Cyber Crime
6:53 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

From February to May, data thieves were able to gain access to the tax return information for roughly 100,000 taxpayers, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday.

During those four months, the thieves attempted to get information 200,000 times through the agency's "Get Transcript" online application, Reuters reports, and were successful about half of the time. It wasn't a hack, since the cyber criminals already had names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and other personal information that they used to access the system. IRS data outside of the application was not affected, and the agency said it plans to strengthen its security measures.

Koskinen did not share any information on who might have been behind the attack, and said the data theft was intended to steal information in order to submit fraudulent tax returns next year. "We're confident these are not amateurs," he said. "These are actually organized crime syndicates that not only we but everyone in the financial industry are dealing with." Catherine Garcia

campaign 2016
5:50 p.m. ET
Facebook.com/BernieSanders

One month after officially announcing his intention to run for president in 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) officially kicked off his longshot campaign in Burlington, Vermont Tuesday. The self-described Democratic socialist, who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, will challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president by positioning himself as a populist alternative to the presumed frontrunner.

Sanders' campaign will focus on income inequality, campaign finance reforming, and fighting climate change. In his speech Tuesday, Sanders called out the lavish treatment of America's top one percent as unfair. "This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about," he said. Samantha Rollins

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