Two guys in Oakland, Calif., one 24 and the other 26 years old, are offering a $5 service for people to cancel their Comcast cable-TV subscription.
Whether the service will work, who knows because it's too early to tell.
This much is clear: They are a national sensation since launching last week, featured in stories on Yahoo, CNNMoney, Reddit, and Kai Ryssdal's Marketplace radio show.
Within hours of going live online on Friday, the company's website, airpaperinc.com, had 500 to 600 people looking at it simultaneously. The site crashed that day and subsequent days. "We were not expecting this at all," said one of the company's founders, Eli Pollak.
The $5 service seems to have tapped again the frustration among Comcast customers who rate the company's customer service as generally awful. The service is geared to those who are tired of dealing with Comcast directly.
Comcast said Wednesday that it would cooperate with the new service but would need to verify that customers really intend to stop their service.
Comcast has said this year that it would hire 5,000 more customer service reps and retrain its cable division employees to improve its standing with subscribers, though Comcast executives say this could take years.
"Instead of someone saying 'turn in your cable box,' these guys are saying 'we'll turn in your cable box,' " David Allan, marketing professor at St. Joseph's University, said Wednesday. It felt, he said, like a "social movement."
Pollak and partner Earl St Sauver said by phone they believe they can help consumers make end runs around government or corporate bureaucracies - "Bureaucracy Made Surprisingly Pleasant," its new site says.
They launched the company with the Comcast-cancellation service, Pollak said, because it was emblematic of what they want to do. They've also considered offering help for those applying for Chinese visas or San Francisco parking permits.
The Comcast idea came to St Sauver, 24, this spring after he spent about 30 minutes on the phone canceling his Comcast subscription before a long trip to Thailand.
They first looked at Comcast's legal terms of service, which say that a subscriber can cancel by phone, email, or letter, said Pollak, 26.
Pollak and St Sauver couldn't find a Comcast email for cancellation even after contacting Comcast, so they opted to send registered letters through the U.S. Postal Service.
Comcast said an email is mentioned in the terms of service but the preferred cancellation method is by phone.
Comcast subscribers who retain AirPaper must provide their name, address, account number, phone number, and email address. They pay the $5 fee through the online platform Stripe.com. Pollak said they will keep personal data private.
Comcast customers will have to return equipment such as set-top boxes, Pollak said. AirPaper also is experimenting in some markets with helping people return the equipment, he said.
The first batch of letters was sent to Comcast offices around the country on Saturday - by registered mail. Pollak did not say how many AirPaper mailed but he noted it was to Comcast offices throughout the nation, including in Philadelphia.
The first batch should have reached Comcast offices on Wednesday, Pollak said. "We're really excited for the process to move smoothly, and for Comcast to honor its terms of service with its customers."
Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Moyer said, "We will help our customers with any requests to change or cancel their service. We will need to proactively contact our customers and verify that they have authorized these account changes to make sure that their private information is not being used without their permission."