Comcast is being criticized for rubbing salt in the wound of a New Jersey family that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy Monday night. The Clifford family of Mantoloking, N.J. had one home destroyed and their vacation home on the verge of explosion because of a gas leak, but multiple Comcast representatives told Mrs. Clifford that if she didn’t want to have an extra fee tacked onto her bill, she would need to wade through the wreckage of her family’s home and retrieve their cable box.  

Seth Clifford explained the seriousness of his family’s situation on his blog.

“The gas main on this street is also ruptured and hissing explosive fumes into the air. The street is inaccessible by anything other than a boat and completely devastated but their house is still standing as far as we know,” Clifford wrote. “However, she’s been told that if the wind shifts and the fire moves, this entire area could ignite. My parents would lose everything they have there as would everyone else on that street and likely the adjacent streets. She is, understandably, very upset about this.”

Mrs. Clifford reportedly explained this to Comcast customer service representatives to no avail. Despite the wreckage caused by the hurricane, Comcast could simply not bend their policy to help a family in need.

“Apparently, even in the face of utter devastation and potential loss of life, Comcast’s policy is to reclaim all equipment furnished, or issue charges against the accounts of equipment holders,” Seth Clifford continued on his blog. “You know, it’s not like my mom is lazy, or decided she didn’t feel like returning the box; she’d need to charter a boat or helicopter to even get to the house to get the box (which is probably underwater to some degree to begin with, so there’s got to be some kind of charge for that). Oh also, while she’s there getting the box for Comcast, the house might catch fire or the whole street might explode. So as you’d expect, it’s not something she’s likely to be able to do anytime soon anyway.”

The Consumerist verified the story with Comcast, who issued an apology in an apparent attempt to keep the company’s public relations representatives within a degree of sanity.

“We have already reached out to apologize for adding to his parents’ difficulties and to ask for his parents’ contact information so we can call to personally apologize and assure them that we are handling the equipment without the need for them to do anything further,” Comcast said.

“Please know we are working with our teams to ensure we handle all customer calls on a case-by-case basis with sensitivity to the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on so many of our local communities and residents. Again, we are of course notating his parents account to ensure they are not charged for equipment they can’t return.”