Sometimes, late at night, those who run companies lie awake, slapping their foreheads.
"Why did we do that?" they mutter, as they dribble. "Why?"
I wonder whether those who run Comcast might be wondering the same after asking staff to vote in the "Worst Company in America" competition run by the Consumerist.
It seems that someone at Comcast wasn't happy that last year the company won (or lost) the Consumerist's competition. So this year, discovering that the Consumerist's readers had nominated it again, they sent a memo out to staff, asking them to vote.
This memo read, in part: "We encourage you to participate in this poll and to vote with your heart to tell America that we are proud of our company. Participation is purely voluntary."
You already know this isn't going to have a happy ending, don't you?
The memo then encouraged employees to vote "from the office and at home on your personal computers and laptops. You can also vote via the Web browser on your cell phones, iPads, tablets, and other Web-enabled wireless devices."
This would seem to be an encouragement to vote many, many times. Somewhat unsurprisingly, this was an encouragement that those at Comcast who happen to be disgruntled passed on to the Consumerist, as well as, I am flattered to say, to me.
The Consumerist felt that this was not quite lacrosse. Indeed, it offered a tweet that read: "Hey @comcast we're seeing lots of traffic from teamcomcast.com to Comcast v Charter Worst Company Poll. Trying to game the system?"
You will need a cold compress and a banana daiquiri when I tell you that Comcast lost heavily in its first round match-up against Charter. (The competition is a March Madness style knockout system.) Comcast pulled 83 percent of the votes.
I confess to being somewhat pained by all this. As a customer of Comcast, I have to say the company's service isn't the worst in America. I have even had their service personnel offer to reduce my bill without my even asking, which made me sit down for a moment.
In any case, my own title for worst company has been claimed year-on-year by the American Airlines staff at Miami airport, whose sole need in life is to make me (and, I suspect, a few others) feel unwell.
However, I contacted Comcast to inquire about the company's thought process. A media representative for Comcast told me: "We were just entering into the spirit of a letter sent by the Consumerist, in which they asked us to rally our troops."
This letter, sent to all nominees, read, again in part: "We invite you and your staff to join us on Consumerist.com. Feel free to rally your troops and get them voting--for the competition, of course. We look forward to seeing you there."
The Consumerist points out that this was slightly sarcastic and wasn't exactly intended to get employees voting. To which the Comcast representative told me: "Our employees are our customers too."
The thing is that some of those employees aren't too happy about what one of them described to me as "ballot stuffing." And now Comcast, a company that surely has improved its service, has taken a headlong dive into a large jar of pickles.
I happen to wonder why Comcast got involved. Its reaction does seem the teensiest bit neurotic.
When you look at some of the companies in the Sweet 16 of this competition you see some that you might expect, like Chase, Bank of America, and Ticketmaster. However, you also see Sony and Apple. The latter managed to defeat Microsoft in the round of 32.
Apple doesn't seem to care about this competition. Should Comcast? In the Embittered 16, Apple now has to take on AT&T in something of a local rivalry. Comcast is up against Best Buy.
I won't encourage anyone to vote. But I might encourage Comcast to, well, not encourage its employees quite so much. The company might be at risk of another outage.