Who knew cancelling cable service could be so hard?

Customer service is supposed to be, well, about service. But a call recorded by former Engadget editor Ryan Block and his wife, video host Veronica Belmont, with a Comcast (CMCSA) customer service representative demonstrates in often maddening fashion how far some companies can stray from that goal.

Block wanted to cancel his service, and this particular customer service representative was determined to not let that happen. "My job is to have a conversation so you keep your service," the rep told Block early in the recorded joust, which lasted more than eight minutes.

Block asked repeatedly asks the man if he could cancel the service, and time and again he refused to say he could or would. Instead, the rep argued, delayed, disparaged the Internet provider Block said he was going to switch to and questioned Block's decision-making. Determined to not be the one to allow the cancellation, the rep then told Block to cancel the service at a Comcast storefront. Finally, the man relented, and allowed Block to cancel.

Comcast is apologizing for the now very public exchange, which has been posted and reposted on a variety of sites.

"We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize," Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said. "The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives.

"We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect."

The timing of the bad publicity for Comcast isn't ideal. The company is in the midst of having its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable reviewed by federal regulators. Both companies have fared poorly in customer service approval ratings.

  • Mitch Lipka On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.

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