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Funerals for Stay Family in Texas; Break In at Kennedy Compound; Fox Offer to Buy Time Warner Declined; Comcast Employee Recorded Badgering Customer; Train of Death

Aired July 16, 2014 - 12:30   ET



DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: And, briefly, a few stories we're watching for you this hour, paramedics in Gaza say four children, 9- to 11-years-old, were killed today by artillery fired from an Israeli ship. Israeli military officials say they're investigating that report.

Also, Tariq Khdeir returns to states today. He's the American teenager whose vicious beating by Israeli police officers was caught on camera earlier this month. He's expected back in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, later today.

And people in Houston, reliving the shock and the sadness of nearly an entire family shot dead in their home, six funerals today, Steven and Katie Stay, the mom and dad, and four of their five children.

They were killed by a man who came to their home on a rampage looking for his estranged wife. The only survivor, a 15-year-old daughter, escaped by playing dead.

Police say a guy wearing a Captain America t-shirt and camouflage shorts broke into the Kennedy compound in Barnstable, Massachusetts. When officers asked him what he was doing there, well, he replied, quote, "looking for Katy Perry."

Fifty-three-year-old James Lacroix is charged with breaking and entering. Police found him in the kitchen with Ted Kennedy, Jr.'s teenage son who was not hurt.

And big news this hour, Fox's Rupert Murdoch made a huge offer to buy Time Warner last month. That offer was rejected by Time Warner. If you don't know, Time Warner is CNN's parent company. It owns us.

And once the report first came out in "The New York Times" this morning, shares of Time Warner soared more than 15 percent in early trading.

CNNMoney correspondent Cristina Alesci joins us now, and, Cristina, the board, Time Warner board seriously considered the offer. They considered the offer, we should say.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: They have to. They have a fiduciary duty to consider these kinds of offers when they come in, but they did issue a firm response rejecting this offer, saying that Time Warner, parent company of CNN, could generate more value by executing the strategic plan that CEO Jeff Bewkes has for the company than accepting this deal with Fox can.

It also in this rejection points out that most of this deal is actually in stock. That means that the Time Warner shareholders would get the majority of the value in the form of Fox's stock.

And Fox's stock is a nonvoting stock. So they say the quality of that stock isn't great and you have a valuation question there as to how much that stock is really valued.

Not to mention the fact that from Time Warner's standpoint, the company thinks it's in a pretty strong position and it may be thinking in advance, you know, down the line if we wait for some nontraditional player that wants to enter into content like a Google or an Apple, maybe down the line, those players could actually pay for for Time Warner than Fox can today and it may be worth it to wait.

These are all the things from Time Warner's standpoint that it may be thinking at this point.

FEYERICK: What about from Fox's standpoint? Because this is really interesting. You think of Fox trying to take over Time Warner. Time Warner owns CNN. There's a healthy competition between the two networks.

You've got to wonder kind of what's going on in Rupert Murdoch's mind. I'm not asking you to guess. I'm asking you what Fox is saying.

ALESCI: We know for a fact. Sources close to the situation spoke with me this morning, and they told me that Fox proposed actually spinning off or selling CNN to appease regulators to someone else.

So there's been a lot of speculation on other companies that might be interested in buying CNN. Some include -- some analysts have pointed out CBS may be interested, maybe Disney may be interested in buying CNN.

And, you know, we know for a fact sources close to this deal told me this morning as part of the proposal Fox said we would sell or spin off CNN to appease the regulators.

But of course regulators are going to take a look at any deal when you talk about two major content companies coming together, and of course this is happening against the backdrop of all the pipe companies coming together.

So Rupert kind of sees this -- he's looking out at the landscape and he's saying, Comcast is buying Time Warner. How do I make sure I can charge fees for my content? And that's to acquire more content so I have the leverage to do it.

That's the thinking that's going on in a lot of programmers right now.

FEYERICK: For nervous investors, the head of the company said the stock price here at Time Warner has tripled over the last few years, so interesting move.

You did mention Comcast, and so we're going to segue onto that now. If you call up your cable company, all right, and ask to have your service disconnected, well, most people say OK, but sometimes this happens.


RYAN BLOCK: I'd like to disconnect please.

COMCAST: OK, so why is it that you don't want the faster speed? Help me understand why you don't want faster Internet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help me understand why you just can't disconnect us.


FEYERICK: Can you imagine? Probably. And you haven't even heard the half of what just happened to a couple. Brace yourself. You're going to want to hear this.


FEYERICK: Let's be realistic. No company wants to lose customers. There are limits to their tactics.

CNN's Nischelle Turner reports on one Comcast employee who went well above and beyond and stepped over the line.


BLOCK: I'd like to disconnect, please.

COMCAST: OK so why is it that you don't want the faster speed? Help me understand why you don't want faster Internet.

BLOCK: Help me understand why you can't just disconnect us.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It's the customer service nightmare everyone is talking about. The tech journalist calls Comcast to cancel his service. Instead of politely obliging him, the customer service rep incessantly hounds him in a circular argument.

BLOCK: The way you can help me is by disconnecting our service.

COMCAST: How is that helping?

BLOCK: Because that's what I want?

COMCAST: Why is it that's what you want?

BLOCK: Because that's what I want.

TURNER: He says he had been on the phone for 10 minutes before this eight-minute recording begins. The rep aggressively ignores his request, refusing to accept his answers.

COMCAST: Nine years, you've been a Comcast customer. Clearly, the service is working great. You weren't having any problems. What is it that makes you want to change that?

BLOCK: Because that's what we want to do.


BLOCK: OK, why is that what you want to do?

COMCAST: That's none of your business. Your business is to disconnect us please.

TURNER: More than two minutes later, the rep still insisting on knowing why he was leaving the number one provider, and berating him for wanting to switch.

COMCAST: OK, so why not keep what you know works? What you know is a good service?

BLOCK: Because we're not doing that, so please proceed --

COMCAST: You don't want something that works?

BLOCK: No, I don't, I guess I don't want thing is that works.

TURNER: Nearly 16 minutes into the call, explaining that he's not trying to argue, just trying to help, the rep finally concedes.

COMCAST: I'll go ahead and disconnect your service, OK --

BLOCK: Fantastic, thank you.

TURNER: Edging up to the 17-minute park. The sales pitch doesn't end there.

COMCAST: What about those savings, those services, are you not wanting?

BLOCK: Are you done? Because you literally just a moment ago said you would go ahead and disconnect our service.

TURNER: Finally, 18 minutes in --

BLOCK: I'm just going to wait until you can confirm that we've canceled service so I'm just going to hang out here.

COMCAST: It's disconnected. I'd like to thank you very much for being a great part of Comcast. Have a wonderful day.

TURNER: Nischelle Turner, CNN, New York.


FEYERICK: So clearly we know who won that argument. Comcast did issue a statement saying they're embarrassed and they've reached out to the family, to the man, to personally apologize.

They added, quote, "The way in which our representative communicated with him is not consistent with how we train our representatives. We're investigating the situation, and we will take quick action."

Joining me to talk about Comcast customer service debacle is senior media correspondent and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter, and CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins.

OK, so, first of all, Brian, was this man following a script? Could he have been penalized for losing a customer, for example?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Sounded like -- we've now heard from Comcast, biggest fan in the whole world, that guy, employee, who's so convinced of the superiority of Comcast.


STELTER: Somebody out there. It sure does sound like he's following a script. And customer retention is one of the most important things every cable company, every satellite company does.

They get judged by Wall Street, in part, on how much they retain their customers, so it makes sense there's a script. It makes sense that he might be judged based on how well he does.

That said, you know, that was badgering. That was crazy.

FEYERICK: Listen, Mel, let me ask you this question. We've all been on the end of the phone call where somebody is aggressively following a script. There's no room for engagement. They don't ask about your concerns. They simply go back to the top of the script.

It's very frustrating, and as a matter of fact, it seems like a total disrespect for the customer. We've all been there, whether it's a cable company, a credit card company --

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: But you know why they do it?

FEYERICK: It's an epidemic.

ROBBINS: You know why they do it? Because it works.

This guy -- look, I'm not saying the business practice is the right one, but the truth of the matter is this had been a Comcast customer for nine years, and the cost of acquiring a new cost for Comcast far exceeds what they're going to pay this guy that badgers the nine-year- long Comcast customer on the phone.

And the other thing that we know about a lot of these companies, I don't know this to be true about this particular salesman, is that they work in call centers with supervisors roaming around.

And they also, many of them are paid on commission. And if they're not paid on commission, you know what they are graded on? Performance. And what's the number one thing that we're going to grade you on? Whether or not you keep people signed up and whether you sign up new customers.

STELTER: Here's more evidence that Mel was right, by the way. Comcast has been shedding TV subscribers to companies like DirecTV and Verizon. They've been having a hard time keeping TV subscribers. They've been gaining lots in broadband.

But you know what's happened in the last two quarters? They've been gaining TV subscribers again. So they're happy with their retention efforts, and maybe they're being a little more aggressive than they used to to keep that trend going in the right direction.

FEYERICK: Maybe because they're just badgering people to death.

The one interesting thing I thought about this. He actually says, is this a joke? Are you punking me right now? And then the man says, no, I'm trying to help our company do better. And the customer says, you're doing a great job helping your company do worse.

I really think that people -- there's a lack of respect when it comes to these people you want to help you, completely ignoring what your needs are or completely failing to engage with you not as a customer but as somebody whose time is valuable.

STELTER: Like one of those phone calls you make where you get these automated systems, and all you just press zero, zero, zero --


STELTER: It's almost like we heard that, but in real life, with this guy, who need to press zero, zero, zero, a dozen times.

ROBBINS: Can I offer something else? I don't buy Comcast's apology at all. Because I guarantee you, if after 20 minutes of badgering Block on the phone, they got him to stick with it, they would be playing that call as an example of exactly what you do in a very polite but very persistent way to keep somebody as a Comcast customer.

That is Sales 101, ABC, Always Be Closing. And the first step to getting a yes is to get somebody from a "no" to an "eh" to an "OK," and that's what that guy was doing.

FEYERICK: Yes, well, I'm finding myself hanging up a lot quicker these days on people. No patience.

All right, thank you, Mel Robbins and Brian Stelter. Stay with me. Hang on.

We're not done talking about this so-called "Comcastaside." What are your rights as a customer? Do you have to sit through this? The Comcast call I'm talking about. We're going to take a look in just a moment.


FEYERICK: The recording of a Comcast customer struggling to cancel his service is making the rounds on the Internet. Something to listen to. It's bringing up a lot of questions about consumer protections. And joining me to talk about what we can do to fight back against pushy companies is CNN senior media correspondent and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter, and CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins.

So, Mel, to you. Is there anything that customers can do to protect themselves from this kind of interaction, these kinds of calls?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Unfortunately, aside from hanging up the phone, this is so complicated, it's worse than the wiring that's underneath the streets that Comcast put in place. Basically I have scoured the FCC, which is the body that regulates the cable companies. You can bring an informal complaint, OK? You basically fill out a web form, which people do all the time.


ROBBINS: But here's the problem. There's not one regulation that's written by the FCC that governs how subscriptions should be canceled.


ROBBINS: Not one. And so you can file this informal complaint, but I'm not sure what they're going to do. And if you don't like that, you can spend $210 and file a formal complaint, where you're going to take it to court. So your best bet is to hang up, call, ask for another rep.

But the good news is, since they taped this, maybe there will be a groundswell -


ROBBINS: Like what we saw when people got upset that they couldn't carry their phone numbers to a new provider.

FEYERICK: Sure. Sure.

ROBBINS: And maybe we'll see new regulations.

FEYERICK: And, Brian, you didn't necessarily think that what this man did was overly aggressive or maybe it was overly aggressive but you don't thing it was necessarily the worse thing in the world.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, I see it from his perspective. At one point the customer service rep says, I want to know why you're leaving so that we can make your -- our service better for when you come back.


STELTER: There is a lot of churn in this industry. People go from one to the other then they end up coming back to Comcast a couple years later. And they do want to know how to make their service better. I think that's a true statement on Comcast's part. I think they would also say they don't want more regulation because they're policing themselves.


STELTER: Because incidents like this make them better. The reality is, though, Comcast's at the bottom of the list of all the cable and satellite providers in the country. You look at the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. You'll see Comcast. And the only one below it is Time Warner Cable, which is the company that Comcast is now merging with, trying to merge with. So they do have a bad reputation.


STELTER: Then again, they do have 20-plus million households that are signed up for that.

FEYERICK: Well, you know, but let me - but let me - but let me also talk about the husband, the man who was making this phone call. You know, he said, I don't owe you an explanation. I don't woe you an explanation. I want my service disconnected. Disconnect me --

STELTER: I guess he doesn't technically owe but why not help? Why not help? Why not give some feedback though?


FEYERICK: Our time is -- because the feedback is canceling the service. The feedback is, I'm leaving, good-bye, I'm going. There's no -- nobody -- you know, no company has the right to infringe on your time any more than needs be. And if this man - this mean was -- you know, the man just basically said, OK, I'm waiting, I'm waiting.


FEYERICK: Next question, how long is it going to take you to disconnect me? And the irony is, is that this consumer rep couldn't even give a complaint number or a customer service member confirming the account had been canceled. I mean there's just chaos to it.

STELTER: Right. Right. You know the flip side of all of this is Netflix. You know, Netflix is seen as this challenger to Comcast -


STELTER: And to all of these new companies. In reality, Netflix is really a complementary service. People have Netflix and Comcast. But you know what Netflix does that I think is very smart? They make it as easy as humanly possible to start up and then to disconnect, to cancel.


STELTER: Because they think if it's easy to cancel, you're more likely to come back later.


STELTER: They're try to leave on a happy note rather than on a sour note like this. FEYERICK: It can be exhausting sometimes. Anyway -

ROBBINS: (INAUDIBLE) that is exhausting, you're absolutely right.

FEYERICK: Yes, exactly, exactly. Funny, exhausting and totally relatable.

OK, Brian Stelter, Mel Robbins, thanks so much. Appreciate you being on the show today.

STELTER: Thanks for having us.

ROBBINS: Thank you.

FEYERICK: And a train so dangerous it has the ominous nickname "the train of death." Find out why and see the scars this beast has left behind.


FEYERICK: Jose Antonio Vargas, perhaps the country's best-known undocumented immigrant, is a free man, at least for now. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who once worked for "The Washington Post" has been released after being briefly detained at a Texas airport yesterday. Vargas admitted to border officials that he does not have a visa to be in this country. Vargas was brought to the United States at age 12 from the Philippines. And four years later he learned that he didn't have legal immigration papers. He revealed his undocumented status back in 2011.

And for weeks we've been showing you pictures from the U.S. border with Mexico, where thousands of immigrants, many of them unaccompanied children, are being stopped and held as they try to illegally cross the U.S. border with Mexico. Well, their presence and sheer numbers are bringing the immigration debate to a boiling point. Missing until now from this discussion, the dangers many of these children face in getting here. CNN's Gary Tuchman traveled that road, riding north on that infamous train of death.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the most notorious freight train in the world. Its nickname is "the beast." It's also known as "the train of death." And it's just rolled into this small southern Mexican town.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): It is called "the beast," or "the train of death." And it's heading north, arriving in the southern Mexico Pueblo of Ixtapec (ph). When it's in the midst of its journey across Mexico, hundreds of migrants sit on top and in between its cars. Many people get hurt or killed boarding or getting off while it's moving. And that's why it's known as "the train of death."

The train in Ixtapec is making a pit stop. And many of the people on top of the train, for as many as eight hours, are getting off for food and water. This Honduran man was one of the passengers. He says the ride wasn't so bad. That he left Honduras to find better

work. Like many of the passengers, he is extremely hungry.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Most people get off "the beast" right now to go to a nearby shelter and will catch the next train. But some people, like these guys up there, will stay on this train because they don't want to miss this when it leaves.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The shelter in Ixtapec provides food, water, medical care and is well known among migrants who can spend as much time as they want here. Two-year-old Richard of Honduras is here. His foot was cut off when he and his mother were run over by one of the train wheel when they were trying to get off. The arm of his mother Emily was partially detached. She pulled her son off the tracks with her good arm just before her son would have been killed.

She says, "I couldn't believe what was happening while it was taking place. One of the things I thought was if this is God's will, then it's God's will."

Unaccompanied children share this facility with adult migrants before they go back to "the beast" for the rest of the journey north. Volunteers, many from the United States, help take care of them. Emily is an artist, a painter, who dreamed of practicing her craft in the U.S. I ask if she and her two-year-old will continue their journey to the United States.

She says, "yes, so none of this will be in vain."

"The beast" will be leaving soon.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This guy's waiting to get on the train right now. He's waiting for it to slow down and up and he says he wants to go to the United States and he's going to stay on it until he gets to the U.S. border.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The journey with other train connections will take no less than 12 or so days. For many, much longer if they make it at all.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Once people start boarding, they have no idea when it actually will start its trip to the north. It starts and stops for a while while they get it back on track. And I'm not going to go for a ride. I'm going to get off before it's going very fast. But it's anybody's guess when it will get to the United States. I'm getting off now because it's starting to go fast.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is a life for the very motivated and very desperate.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The train, at this point, sometimes goes all the way to the United States and sometimes does not, but the transit flight, about 300 miles north of here, where the trains then divide into four different lines. One line goes to the California area. Three other lines to different parts of Texas. So there's lots of transferring generally for these immigrants to make it, if they make it.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Ixtapec, Mexico.


FEYERICK: The risks people take just for a better life.

Well, that will do it for me. I'm Deborah Feyerick. Thanks so much for watching. Wolf Blitzer starts right now.