By now, many of you may have heard about the incident involving a Comcast repairman who lost his job after sleeping on it. Here is a recent post from the Comcast customer who created and distributed a video of the sleeping repairman. [6/28/06 update-The original post was not available today, and may have been removed. Here is a link to a related post.]

More than amusing, this incident is a lesson for companies, consumers, and communicators trying to judge the impact of social media on our lives. If it is still available when you see this, read the New York Times online article about the Comcast customer, Brian Finkelstein, a student at Georgetown Law School. The NY Times journalist stated that the video shot by Finkelstein “is one of several recent examples of angered customers taping their interactions with customer service, then putting the experience online.”

The customer is angry with the long wait time, sees the sleeping repairman, and decides that posting the video will somehow improve Comcast’s customer service. In reality, Comcast executives overreact by sending a squad of Comcast repairmen to fix Finkelstein’s digital issues, while also firing the sleeping repairman. Evidently full of remorse for causing the firing, Finkelstein unsuccessfully contacts Comcast officials to plead for a reversal of the firing. When he realizes that his pleas are falling on deaf corporate ears, Finkelstein strikes back with his blog. He writes:

If Comcast was trying to make me happy, they failed. I didn’t discuss this online until today because I was hoping that I could beg for the man’s job more efficiently by going directly to Comcast. That has failed, so I’m going to once again turn to the power of the Internet.

Comcast, do the right thing, hire back the technician.

The “power of the Internet,” Finkelstein? What about the “power of choice”? As one comment on Finkelstein’s post states,

My question is “What did you think would happen?” You are a smart guy; could you not predict this outcome? It was foreseeable to even a non-legal mind. It would be more honest to acknowledge that you disregarded the potential consequences to him in pursuit of whatever it was you sought to get out of all of this. Comcast has its faults but is firing a guy who is sleeping on a customer’s couch really one of them? I see this as an attempt to assuage your own (rightfully troubled) conscience.

I offer the following, forgive yourself, personally make amends to the fired technician, discover whether he has a sympathetic story that can be told (works multiple jobs to support a family, up all night with a sick kid, etc.), if so, tell it, and finally, make better use of your power in the future. Beating up on Comcast or yourself is, in my opinion, misplaced energy.

Be blessed and Be thoughtful!

I like the advice about blogging about the repairman’s situation, rather than striking out at Comcast. Of course, Comcast should hire someone quickly to help them learn how to engage in online conversations, rather than continue to draw fire by hiding behind the “no comment” garbage can lid to avoid the rotten tomatoes being tossed its way. Neither side handled this well. The main thing that I’m taking from this is the quote, “make better use of your power in the future.”

This post is getting long, so I’ll find another way to add my personal Comcast story from the last weekend. Another long wait by the repairman trying to reach his call center. Mine didn’t fall asleep on my couch, however. Would I have videotaped him? No, because of the way he communicated the facts to me. That’s another post!