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Comcast quietly fired hundreds in direct sales before Christmas

Comcast didn't announce the layoffs of its sales force. The Philadelphia-based cable and entertainment giant faces fierce competition from AT&T/DirecTV and internet streamers.

The cable giant is based in the Comcast Center in Philadelphia.
The cable giant is based in the Comcast Center in Philadelphia.Read moreJeff Fusco

Hundreds of door-to-door salespeople for Comcast Corp. who walk neighborhoods and troll apartment complexes to pitch its telecom and TV services were called into company offices about two weeks before Christmas and fired, according to an employee and Comcast documents reviewed by the Inquirer, Daily News, and

The Florida employee asked not to be identified because he signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of a severance package.

Managers, supervisors, and direct sales people in Chicago, Florida, and other parts of Comcast's Central region, mostly in the Midwest and Southeastern United States, were terminated around Dec. 15, according to the documents that listed the number of employees who were terminated and kept in particular job categories.

More than 500 sales employees were terminated, company sources said.

Comcast executives told the former employees that it was reorganizing its direct sales force so that they covered bigger neighborhoods.

"The Central Division is creating a new territory-based sales model that will connect more closely with residential prospects and customers in their communities," Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Moyer said Thursday. "By giving highly trained sales professionals direct responsibility for entire neighborhoods, we can provide a better experience for those who are interested in our services, during and after the sale." Comcast offered severance and several months of health-care coverage, she said. Terminated employees also could apply for other Comcast jobs.

Comcast has not reorganized the direct sales forces and approach in the company's two other big divisions, which include Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Comcast/NBCUniversal employs about 159,000.

In late December, Comcast announced that it would hand out $1,000 bonuses to full-time employees, in response to the Trump tax cut that will slash its corporate tax rate. The fired employees will be eligible for a "$1,000 supplemental severance payment," Comcast said.

Comcast faces threats to its core cable-TV business from on-demand and live streamers, and price-cutting big telecom operators AT&T and Verizon. Comcast's cable-TV and internet operations in Texas and Florida also were battered by hurricanes last year. The nation's cable giant lost 125,000 pay-TV customers in the third quarter. Despite this setback, Comcast has told Wall Street that it will make its financial targets.

Rumors of an employee cutback among the salespeople at Comcast had been percolating for weeks. But the disclosure of the terminations came as a shock when the employees were called into a company meeting in the Southeastern U.S. in mid-December.

They were told that a new Comcast direct sales system requires fewer bodies "and as of today everyone in this room does not have a job anymore," the terminated employee said.

One employee kept holding his head and saying, "I can't believe it. I can't believe it." Another worried about how to find new health-care coverage. A third employee was close to purchasing a new home and feared the personal income hit.

Comcast direct sales employees earned $50,000 to $100,000 through a low base salary and commissions, the terminated employee said. The commissions ranged between roughly $75 for a new Internet Plus customer to $350 for a new customer who ordered a triple-play package with home security, the former employee said. Internet Plus is a package of television and broadband services. The triple-play with home security is a more valuable package for Comcast, which translates into higher commissions.

On a bad sales day, a Comcast direct sales employee knocks on 50 to 70 doors. On good days, or ones where people agreed to order Comcast services, a direct sales employee knocks on 10 to 20 doors because of the time it takes to close a sale.

"I think this is a stock thing," the employee said, referring to Comcast's share price, which fell around the time third-quarter results were announced but have since recovered somewhat. "I don't know how you do this right before Christmas."