May 31, 2011 — -- When comedian Eugene Mirman was left without home Internet and telephone services for weeks because his provider missed appointments to repair and install his service, he channeled his anger into full-page newspaper ads.
Mirman published a humorous letter spelling out his grievances with Time Warner Cable and his vengeful fantasy in two weekly newspapers in New York last week, the New York Press and Greenpoint Gazette.
Mirman said Time Warner failed to show up to install cable, Internet and phone service as scheduled on April 23. When he called the company, he was told that the appointment was entered incorrectly and moved to May 4, without his knowledge.
His ad read, in part: "No big deal, why would a company check with someone to see if they are home on a Wednesday afternoon? Of course they are. Everyone is…It would be a waste of resources to call and talk to him. Did Stalin ever call people before he arrested them and sent them to die in Siberian work camps? No! Why should Time Warner Cable have a policy that is any different than Stalin's?"
His appointment was later changed to May 10, then to May 12 and finally May 6.
"Why does your company act like a controlling, abusive husband on an episode of Law and Order?" he wrote in the ad.
He also told Time Warner: "To give you an idea of how much I dislike your company, I have come up with plagues I hope God smites your board of directors with."
Mirman said he often works from home which made his need for in-home telecommunications especially acute.
"It's hard to communicate with a company when you don't have internet access," Mirman said, adding that other telecommunications options are limited in his neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The comedian is a regular on the HBO comedy, "Flight of the Conchords," and voices a character in a new animated series on Fox called "Bob's Burgers."
Mirman said the company's attitude and "sheer indifference" was what prompted his resolve to get the company's attention -- to the point of spending $1,100 for the two advertisements.
Mirman acknowledged that contacting the company publicly through mediums like Twitter can be effective in garnering a response, but he also wanted to communicate with flourish.
"I was trying to think of what I could do," Mirman told ABC News. "I could write them a letter but that would have no effect. I could read a letter on the stage but that wouldn't have the effect I want."
Mirman resolved to purchase the ads to express himself in a large way.
"I don't know that this would necessarily change anything, but I thought it would be fun to do because it was a ridiculous thing – because I'm a comedian," he said. "For me, it's important to do something ridiculous."
Mirman said he has not yet received an official response from the company, but a post in Time Warner Cable's blog acknowledged his advertisement and mentioned steps the company is taking to improve their service.
The company declined to comment to ABC News, but Time Warner Director of Digital Communications Jeff Simmermon posted this:
"We botched his install, and miscommunicated with him about it to boot. I really wish that this hadn't happened, and I really wish it never happened, but we can't hide from the truth: this is neither the first nor the last time that we've miscommunicated with a customer, inconvenienced them tremendously, and screwed up what appears to be a very simple task. I'm sorry this happened, and I'm sorry every single time it happens."
He went on: "Missed installs and clumsy customer communications are issues that have plagued us for too long. They're not unique to us, though — all of our peers and competitors struggle with the same problems, and not just in the United States, either. We have over 47,000 employees servicing 13 million customers."
Though he outlined some steps Time Warner is taking to improve its service, none really address the thing that enrages people the most: Companies that have little regard for their customers' time, constantly scheduling and breaking appointments.
Ruth Susswein, deputy director of national priorities with the consumer group Consumer Action, said she has not heard of other consumers going to such extremes but every once in a while a gripe goes viral.
"Whether it's a cable complaint or another complaint, we've certainly dreamt of doing that," she said.
This is not the first time that Mirman has beefed about a company publicly and with humor. About four years ago, Delta Airlines was the butt of a joke after the airline lost his luggage. He said that mistake seemed "reasonable" at first. But then he learned that the company knew the location of his luggage but failed to deliver it to him for a month.
Finally, another passenger whose luggage tag had been switched with Mirman's eventually gave him his luggage.
What's the Best Way to File a Complaint With a Company?
After that incident, Mirman explained the joke to audiences of his stand-up show and passed out 20,000 postcards addressed to Delta over the span of a year.
A spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission, David Torok, said if consumers have a complaint against a business, they should first go to the company directly. He said most companies have toll-free numbers to call.
"A customer service line is usually the best place to start. And slowly you can escalate the complaint if you're not satisfied," he said. "Ask for manager. If that doesn't work, ask for the next person."
Torok said some complaints that should be in writing because of their financial repercussions and consumer-protection laws, including disputes about credit card bills or with debt collectors.
If that doesn't work, Torok said you should bring your complaint to outside authorities, including filing a complaint on the FTC's website, or contacting your state attorney general's office.
Torok said the FTC received 27,000 complaints against satellite and cable television providers, which comprised only 2 percent of its total complaints. Most common last year was identity theft, with 250,000 complaints, 19 percent of the total. The second most common complaint was against the debt collection industry at 11,000.